22 Hollywood Stars Who Regret Turning Down Lead Roles

If we think about Anne Hathaway’s career, we can’t help but remember her brilliant portrayal of Fantine in Les Miserables. When it comes to Heath Ledger’s career, his role as The Joker in The Black Knight is the first thing that pops into our mind. Just like these two, many actors have risen to stardom after landing one huge life-changing role, but some others have actually turned down the roles of their lifetime. Here’s a list of 22 famous Hollywood actors and actresses who have passed up huge career-changing roles. I bet you didn’t see #12, #6, and #3 coming!

Photo: Courtesy of Urbanian

#22. Lindsay Lohan Turned Down The Role Of Jade In The Hangover

Lindsay Lohan will always be remembered for her role in the kids’ comedy film The Parent Trap, but she never got her big break as an adult. Some might say she lost her chance, as she passed up the role of Jade in the comedy classic The Hangover.

Photo: Courtesy of ScreenRush

Apparently, she refused the part because she felt it lacked potential. If you ask me, this was the comeback that the actress very much needed. The role went to Heather Graham, and the rest is history.

#21. Angela Bassett Turned Down The Role Of Leticia In Monster’s Ball

Angela Basset is a talented actress and singer who received her first and only Academy Award nomination for her role as Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do with It. Over a decade later, she was offered the lead role in the crime drama film Monster’s Ball, but she turned it down. But why?

Photo: Courtesy of History Garage

Apparently, Bassett felt the character was too cliché.

“I wasn’t going to be a prostitute on film. I couldn’t do that because it’s such a stereotype about black women and sexuality“, she said.

Halle Berry took on the role and won an Academy Award for her brilliant work. Basset, you lost your chance!

#20. Halle Berry Turned Down The Role Of Annie In Speed

But just as Halle Berry went on to star and win an Oscar for her role in Monster’s Ball, she turned down the role of Annie in the action film Speed. The part went to no other than Sandra Bullock.

Photo: Courtesy of Yahoo News

Let’ be honest, though, it’s not like that role would’ve earned her an Oscar, it was a pretty lousy film. Besides, Berry’s acting career has been successful enough, or am I wrong?

#19. Leonardo DiCaprio Turned Down The Role Of Dirk Diggler In Boogie Nights

American actor Mark Wahlberg had his big break with the drama film Boogie Nights, where he played the 80s porno star Dirk Diggler. However, DiCaprio was initially offered the part.

My biggest regret is Boogie Nights. I’m a huge fan of [director] Paul Thomas Anderson but the first time I met him for that role I hadn’t really seen much of his previous work. Now I love that movie“, said the actor.

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But this wasn’t the only time DiCaprio turned down a major role. In 2014, Lionsgate offered the Titanic star $20 million for playing Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, but he chose to star in Gangs of New York instead.

#18. Keanu Reeves Turned Down The Role Of Private Chris Taylor In Platoon

From The Matrix to My Own Private Idaho, American actor Keanu Reeves has starred in his fair share of classics. However, when he was taking his first steps in the film industry, he wasted his ticket to fame after turning down a career-changing role.

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In 1986, he was offered the part of Private Chris Taylor for the Academy Award-winning war film Platoon. The character was eventually played by Charlie Sheen.

#17. Matt Damon Turned Down The Role Of Harvey Dent In The Dark Knight

Matt Damon is one of the most famous Hollywood actors out there, but his fame could’ve been even greater had he accepted the role of Harvey Dent in the superhero film The Dark Knight Rises.

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Damon was left with no choice but to reject the role because of scheduling conflicts.

I couldn’t [appear in The Dark Knight]. It was a scheduling thing. But, I never spoke to Chris Nolan“, the actor said.

#16. Nicholas Cage Turned Down The Role Of Green Goblin In Spider-Man

William Dafoe has received 4 Academy Award nominations throughout his career, but his most famous role is probably that of Green Goblin in the 2002 version of Spider-Man.

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Did you know that the role of Green Goblin was initially offered to Nicholas Cage? It turns out this was not the only time Cage passed up a major role, having done the same in The Wrestler and The Breakfast Club.

#15. Julia Roberts Turned Down The Role Of Margaret In The Proposal

Julia Roberts turned not only one, but two lead roles in major films. First, the Pretty Woman star passed up the role of Margaret in The Proposal after failing to come to an agreement on the salary.

Photo: Courtesy of Radar Online

Next, she turned down the lead role in The Blind Side, which ended up earning Sandra Bullock her first and only Academy Award. It was not a very wise choice, as while The Blinde Side earned nearly $320 million worldwide, the film Roberts starred in that very same year, Mirror Mirror tanked the box office.

#14. Tom Cruise Turned Down The Role Of Ren McCormack In Footloose

Tom Cruise may well be one of the greatest and highest-paid actors in Hollywood, but back in the early 80s, he was still making a name for himself in the entertainment world. This being said, it wasn’t too wise for him to turn down the role of Ren McCormack in the iconic musical Footloose.

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Apparently, the casting directors had settled on Cruise after watching his famous dance moves in Risky Business, but unfortunately for them, the actor had already taken a role in All the Right Moves. As you probably know, Kevin Bacon took on the role of Ren.

#13. Robert Pattinson Turned Down A Role In There Will Be Blood

Robert Pattinson is the sexiest vampire out there, and there’s no arguing about that. However, he once confessed that he’ll never forgive himself for having passed up a role in the Oscar-winning drama film There Will Be Blood.

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He was offered the part of Daniel Day-Lewis’ son, and even though it was just a minor role, it sure would’ve helped boost his career.

I remember reading the script and thinking it was the best script ever. I just couldn’t do it,” Pattinson said. “I was so pissed off afterwards. I was gonna go into the audition, but I was just, like, I can’t do it“, the actor told Hotfix.

#12. Will Smith Turned Down The Role Of Neo In The Matrix

If you ask me, I’d say that Keanu Reeve’s most iconic role is that of Neo in The Matrix franchise. But here’s a fun fact nobody ever told you: before Reeves auditioned for the role, they offered the part to Will Smith.

Photo: Courtesy of Closer Weekly

Even though Smith is a major fan of the film, he doesn’t regret his decision.

I watched Keanu’s performance – and very rarely do I say this – but I would have messed it up. At that point I wasn’t smart enough as an actor to let the movie be. Whereas Keanu was smart enough to just let it be“, he told Wired.

#11. Brad Pitt And John Travolta Turned Down A Role In Apollo 13

Released in 1995 and directed by Ron Howard, Apollo 13 is one of the greatest drama films of the 90s. While the lead role was played by Tom Hanks, two other famous Hollywood actors turned down the role at first.

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The actors we’re talking about are nobody else than John Travolta and Brad Pitt. As regards Pitt, he was too busy shooting the film Se7en, so refusing the role was actually a good call.

#10. Denzel Washington Turned Down The Role Of Detective David Millis In Se7en

Can you believe Denzel Washington passed up the role of Detective David Millis in the crime-drama film Se7en? He had the chance of starring in one of the fan-favorite cult films ever, but he chose to work on the thriller Devil in a Blue Dress instead.

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Washington has admitted he regrets his decision (duh, who wouldn’t?).

They offered me the Brad Pitt part, but I was like, ‘This is so dark and evil’. Then, when I saw the movie, I was like, ‘Oh, shoot'”, he told Entertainment Weekly.

#9. Mark Wahlberg Turned Down The Role Of Jack In Brokeback Mountain

American actor Jake Gyllenhall earned his first and only Academy Award nomination for playing a gay cowboy named Jack in the romantic drama film Brokeback Mountain. But initially, the role of Jack had been offered to Mark Wahlberg.

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Wahlberg rejected the role because the idea of shooting gay kissing scenes freaked him out. I think someone has masculinity issues.

“I met with Ang Lee on that movie, I read 15 pages of the script and got a little creeped out. It was very graphic, descriptive – the spitting on the hand, getting ready to do the thing“, Wahlberg said in an interview.

#8. Tom Selleck Turned Down The Role Of Indiana Jones In Raiders Of The Lost Ark

Golden Globe winner Tom Selleck became a TV legend after starring in the crime series Magnum, P.I. for nearly a decade, but he never really had his big break in Hollywood. And here’s why.

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Believe it or not, Selleck turned down the role of Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark, which became one of the greatest and highest-grossing blockbusters of all time. Now there’s something he’ll never forgive himself for.

#7. Tom Hanks Turned Down The Role Of Andy In The Shawshank Redemption

The Shawshank Redemption is with no doubt one of the greatest prison films in history, and its whopping 7 Academy Award nominations prove my point. I wonder if Tom Hanks regrets having turned down the role of Andy, since the director offered him the part before giving it to Tim Robbins.

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To be honest, I doubt he has any regrets. He rejected the part due to scheduling conflicts, as he was shooting Forrest Gump that very same year. He went on to win an Oscar for his role as Forrest, and personally, I doubt he would’ve even been nominated had he played Andy in Shawshank Redemption.

#6. Michelle Pfeiffer Turned Down The Lead Role In Pretty Woman

Michelle Pfeiffer turned down not one, but two potentially career-changing roles. First, she passed up the role of Vivian in Pretty Woman, which ended up earning Julia Roberts her first Academy Award nomination.

Photo: Courtesy of Woman’s Own

However, she also said no when they offered her to co-star alongside Michael Douglas in the 1992 mystery-drama Basic Instinct. This time, the reason behind her decision was that she was reluctant to film any nudity scenes.

” just couldn’t do that one, because of the sexual parts, the nudity. My father was still alive. I’m kind of prudish“, she said.

#5. Al Pacino Turned Down The Role Of Larry King In Pretty Woman

Rumor has it that Al Pacino has always been extremely picky when it comes to picking a role. The first major role he turned down was that of Hans Solo in the first installment of the Star Wars franchise, which as we all know was played by Harrison Ford.

Photo: Courtesy of Worldemand

But over a decade later, he rejected the role of Larry King in the 1990 comedy Pretty Woman. We all know what happened next: Richard Gere took the part and it was the role of his lifetime.

Sometimes it’s just not the right role for you and you don’t feel you belong in that part”, the actor said in an interview.

#4. Mel Gibson Turned Down The Role Of Maximus In Gladiator

When Russell Crowe took on the role of Maximus in the 2000 epic film Gladiator, little did he expect to win his first and only Academy Award. But here’s a fun fact you probably didn’t know about Gladiator: Can you guess who was meant to play the lead role?

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Initially, director Ridley Scott thought Mel Gibson would make the perfect Maximus, so he was offered the part before Crowe. Gibson allegedly passed up the role because he considered being too old. This wasn’t the only time Gibson turned down a life-changing role, however. He did the same in 1995 when he refused to play Two-Face in Batman Begins. Boy, is he picky!

#3. Elvis Presley Turned Down The Role Of John Norman In A Star Is Born

Did you know that music legend Elvis Presley acted in 30 movies? That’s right, the King of Rock was a Hollywood star of his own. Giving his skills as a singer and actor, he was the perfect candidate for starring in the 1976 remake of the musical-drama film A Star Is Born.

Photo: Courtesy of The Independent

Barbara Streisand really wanted Elvis to co-star the film, so much so that she went all the way to Las Vegas to meet up and offer him the part. However, Elvis’ manager, Tom Parker, convinced him to pass out the offer, so the role was played by Kris Kristofferson instead.

#2. Ralph Macchio Turned Down The Role Of Marty McFly In Back To The Future

Released in 1985, Back to the Future is one of the greatest sci-fi films out there and it has become somewhat of a symbol in American popular culture. While the lead role of Marty McFly went to Michael Fox, it was originally offered to Ralph Macchio.

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Macchio is mostly known for his role in the 1984 action film The Karate Kid, but truth be told, he never made it to the Hollywood elite. Do you know what the worst part is? The actor turned declined the offer because he figured it was just a dumb movie about a kid, his car, and plutonium bills.

#1. Johnny Depp Turned Down The Lead Role In Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Matthew Broderick rose to fame at a super young age after starring in the iconic teen comedy film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. But can you believe Johnny Depp turned down the lead role of Ferris Bueller before they settled for Broderick?

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Apparently, director John Hughes thought that such a creative and sly character would be perfect for Depp, who nonetheless turned down the offer due to scheduling issues. We shouldn’t feel sorry for Depp though, he went on to become one of the highest-paid actors on Earth!

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    Hernán Tamargo

    Teacher. Political Scientist. Writer. Feminist... and much more!

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