Sometimes we can’t imagine another actor or actress in the starring role of our favorite films. Believe it or not, many of the most famous and beloved roles in some of the biggest movies belonged to another actor before they had to drop out or pass on the role. Some of these missed opportunities seem like good ideas, while others will make you cringe. Camera, Lights, List!
10. Will Smith – Neo, The Matrix
Will Smith passed on the role of Neo as did Ewan McGregor. Will Smith said, “You know, The Matrix is a difficult concept to pitch. In the pitch, I just didn’t see it. I watched Keanu’s performance – and very rarely do I say this – but I would have messed it up. I would have absolutely messed up The Matrix. 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. Let the movie and the director tell the story, and don’t try and perform every moment.” Will Smith went on to star in I, Robot.
9. W.C. Fields – Wizard, The Wizard of Oz
The part of the Wizard was written for W.C. Fields and it seems that it was perfect role, a traveling con man. He turned down the role for the most famous of reasons…money. He was only offered $75,000 by MGM but he wanted $100,000. Other sources say he turned it down to write You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man. The role went to Frank Morgan.
8. Cary Grant – James Bond
The producers of the James Bond films originally approached Cary Grant about playing the role of Britain’s 007 agent. Cary declined the role because he didn’t want to be tied to a film series. The role went to Sean Connery starting with Dr. No in 1962. Fleming wasn’t entirely happy with the choice. “He’s not exactly what I had in mind,” said Fleming.
7. Bette Davis – Scarlett O’Hara, Gone with the Wind
Bette Davis turned down the role of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind. The role went to Vivien Leigh. Davis decided to pass on the role when she thought Errol Flynn would by playing the part of Rhett. She had refused to work with him earlier.
6. Sean Connery – Gandalf, Lord of the Ring Trilogy
Amazingly, Sean Connery turned down the role of Gandalf from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy. His reason for passing on the role was due to the length of time for filming – 18 months. Sir Ian McKellan won the role and everyone couldn’t be happier. Mr. Connery said he had never read Tolkein and when he read the script he referred to the hobbits as bobbits.
5. Daryl Hannah – Vivian, Pretty Woman
Daryl Hannah turned down the role of the hooker, Vivian, because she felt it was demeaning to women. Strangely, she later appeared in Dancing at the Blue Iguana in the role of a stripper. Even more unbelievable, Molly Ringwald also passed on the role of Vivian. Vivian’s role was soon nabbed by Julia Roberts.
4. Kevin Costner – Bill, Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Vol. 2
Mr. Costner turned down the role of Bill in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and Kill Bill: Vol. 2. He opted instead to direct Open Range in yet another poor career choice…cough, cough Water World.
3. John Cusack – John Bender, The Breakfast Club
I think John Cusack is one of the finest actors of my generation and I’m very disappointed that he didn’t get to be part of The Breakfast Club. Of course, he was a mainstay in the teenage angst movies of the 80s, so I’m happy. He was originally the actor chosen to play John Bender. Unfortunately he was unable to fit it into his schedule and Judd Nelson ended up in the role.
2. Bruce Willis – Sam Wheat, Ghost
Bruce Willis turned down the role of Sam Wheat in Ghost “because he didn’t think the plot would work and that playing a ghost would be detrimental to his career”. Ironically, he played a ghost in The Sixth Sense and he would have played opposite his now ex-wife, Demi Moore.
1. Al Pacino – Han Solo, Star Wars
Al Pacino, Nick Nolte and Christopher Walken were all considered for the role of Han Solo. Even harder to imagine, supposedly Burt Reynolds turned down the role. Harrison Ford took the part and the rest is box office history.