Molly Ringwald, one of the famous Hollywood Brat Pack, turned it down. The part went to the relatively unknown Roberts, and it very effectively launched her to superstardom. [Photo by David Shankbone]
Offered to Tom Selleck - who even screen tested Karen Black - but he had to pull out due to scheduling conflicts with "Magnum, P.I.". It was Steven Spielberg that convinced George Lucas to go with Ford as his replacement. Ford has played Jones in four films, with a fifth rumored to be in the works. [Photo by ElHormiguero]
Scottish actor Ewan McGregor turned down the role to star in "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace" (which was universally hated). The part was apparently also offered to Will Smith before it finally arrived at Reeves’ doorstep, who not only made the part his own, but starred in three Matrix films. [Photo by GabboT]
Throughout much of its development, the role of Tony Stark was attached to Tom Cruise. He eventually pulled out, paving the way for Downey’s most famous role to date. He has since played Iron Man in four films, with more on the horizon. [Photo by Justin_in_SD]
Sean Connery turned down the role of Gandalf the Wizard in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The role, of course, eventually went to Sir Ian McKellen, and he played the role in the trilogy, and the new Hobbit films. In addition to the immortality that comes with a large role in such monumental films, McKellen has made somewhere in the vicinity of $250 MILLION from the role. So far. By his own admission, Connery just didn’t “get it”. And Connery also famously turned down the role of Morpheus in “The Matrix”. [Photo by twm1340]
The role was first played by Eric Stoltz, who actually completed about five weeks of filming before the filmmakers decided it just wasn’t working. Fox replaced him - stepping into his first cinematic starring role - and they started from scratch. Talk about pressure. The rest, as they say, is history. You can actually find some Stoltz footage on YouTube. [Photo by Alan Light]
Sylvester Stallone was all set to play the lead role in what would have been a much more action oriented film. He pulled out two weeks before filming began, and the script was reworked as a comedy. Murphy stepped into the part and went on to make four "Beverly Hills Cop" movies. [Photo by David Shankbone]
Tom Hanks won his second Best Actor Oscar (in as many years) for the role, but it was first offered to John Travolta, Bill Murray, and Chevy Chase, all of whom turned it down for various reasons. [Photo by ElHormiguero]
Perhaps the quintessential 80’s "bad" boy, the role was basically Nicolas Cage’s for the taking. Apparently, his salary demands were too high, and he negotiated himself right out of the role. The producers were forced to look elsewhere. Enter Judd Nelson, and he made it his most famous performance.
Sarah Michelle Gellar was first cast in the lead role, but she turned down the part. Silverstone, who had previously done only a few music videos, launched her career. Gellar didn’t have to feel bad for too long...she would go on to star in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" starting in 1997.
Michelle Pfeiffer turned down the iconic role of Clarice Starling due to the film’s violent content. Foster turned the role into her second Best Actress Oscar, and the film swept every major award category that year. [Photo by Alan Light]
Is there any role more closely associated with its star than Captain Jack? But it almost didn’t happen. Jim Carrey was in the mix early in development for the first film. Depp was eventually convinced that only he could play the part, and the producers happened to agree. [Photo by ATempletonPhoto.com]
If an actor is lucky, he or she will have that one star-making and unforgettable role. It's the kind of performance that leaves the audience speechless, and movie lovers come back again and again.
Sometimes it's a matter of hoping for the best and timing to land these roles. And, more often than you might think, it lands in your lap when someone else bows out or turns it down.
Hard to imagine anyone else in these twelve roles, but they almost didn't happen. Successfully picking a great role - or job, career, anything - is as much blind luck as anything else. But the potential payoff is fantastic. One can only imagine how the actors who turned these roles down feel in hindsight.
We may never know why they turned them down (except in rare cases like Sean Connery's admission that he just "didn't get" the Lord of the Rings films). But celebrities are no different from any of us. What makes anyone refuse something that has the potential to give them a major career, or life bump? A gut instinct? A hunch? Bad advice from someone you trust? Scheduling conflict (although this one feels more like an excuse...if you really want something, you find a way to make it work)? Ultimately, as it all-too-often does, it comes down to fear.
Perhaps the actor was afraid that they couldn't reliably portray the character. They didn't want to look bad. Or maybe they were afraid that the finished film, wouldn't be very good, or worse, an absolute embarrassment. Why? Maybe an unproven scriptwriter, or a first-time director, but it's entirely likely, that the actor was unwilling to take a risk.
So, what does this all mean to you and your career, or life? Kick fear to the curb. Take calculated risks. Don't be afraid of the unknown, or working with an, "unproven" individual, or company (remember that everyone from Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Facebook were all "unproven" at one point). It's a cliche, but you don't want to be lying on your death bed decades from now, full of regret over the job or promotion you didn't take, or the new city you didn't move to, or not switching careers when an opportunity came along. It's perfectly acceptable to stay the same, but when you're faced with a dilemma, or decision, never let fear be the deciding factor. Never let fear, or worry about what others might think of you, influence doing what is best for you, even if it's risky. If you never take a risk, you'll never fail. But you'll never really succeed, either.
These actors let fear deny them an iconic role. Don't let the same thing happen to you.