Despite million dollar budgets, academy-award winning directors and all-star casts, predicting the success of a movie or a TV show is almost entirely a gamble. While production companies, actors and marketers can give it their best shot, and might be sure they’ve got a hit on their hands, nobody ever truly knows how the public will react to a film or television series. Although high-quality pieces will often reap their justified rewards, countless great productions often slip under the radar. In the same way that some horrible movies, panned by critics, manage to take in unworldly amounts at the box office (like most of Adam Sandler‘s body of work, for example).
With this is mind, it’s easy to see that getting things right isn’t straightforward in the entertainment industry. In fact, picking and choosing roles can be a nightmare for celebrities and their agents. Although some of the biggest stars may be guaranteed a million dollar paycheck whichever direction they choose to go in at the height of their careers, it’s in these actors’ and actresses’ best interests to choose their roles carefully. Bad roles can lead to a bad reputation, and a bad reputation means that filmmakers won’t be hanging around to offer you the prime roles for much longer. Of course, a script is a far cry from the finished product, so celebrities and their agents must be incredibly discerning when it comes to choosing their next big projects.
Some of Hollywood’s most lucrative and iconic roles were, in fact, turned down by incredibly famous celebrities. In some cases, the dismissal of a role ended up costing the performer in question hundreds of millions of dollars, but it may well have been the saving grace of some of these movies. Can you imagine Gladiator without Russell Crowe? It nearly happened. Read on to learn how some of Hollywood’s biggest actors turned down some of Hollywood’s biggest roles.
8. John Travolta – Forrest Gump
John Travolta solidified his place amongst the world’s most beloved actors after his roles in Saturday Night Fever and Grease. Despite finding fame in the 1970s, Travolta’s success has remained strong for decades. In 1994, he starred in Pulp Fiction, a film which is generally hailed by critics as one of the best of all time. However, Travolta missed a huge opportunity when he turned down the lead role in Forrest Gump. The film, which tells the tale of a dim-witted young man with a love for sport, was a massive success worldwide, grossing almost $700 million dollars in the box office. It won six Academy awards, including a Best Actor for Tom Hanks, who was given the role after Travolta passed on it.
7. Tom Cruise – Ferris Bueller
Tom Cruise is one of the most successful actors of his generation. At just over 50 years old, the actor is worth a staggering $500 million. Cruise is known for his acting chops as much as for his very active involvement in Scientology and his high-profile relationships, notably with Nicole Kidman and Katie Holmes. Despite Cruise’s box-office success, however, it could be said that he doesn’t always know a good role when he sees it. In the 1980s, Cruise turned down the eponymous role in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, a film that would become one of the standouts of the 20th century. The role eventually went to Matthew Broderick, although Johnny Depp was also considered. Still, today, with a bank balance quite a bit larger than Broderick’s, we doubt Cruise cares that much!
6. Mel Gibson – Maximus, Gladiator
Mel Gibson is well known for his action-packed roles, as well as the thrilling films he directs. He has some impressive titles under his belt, such as Braveheart, The Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto. It’s surprising, then, that Gibson turned down a role that, considering his filmography, would have suited him very well. According to IMDB, Gibson was offered the role of Maximus in Gladiator. Gibson turned it down because of his age (which is surprising, as he was only 44 at the time). The role eventually went to Russell Crowe, who won the academy award for Best Actor for his performance. The film was a commercial success worldwide.
5. Emily Browning – Bella, Twilight
Emily Browning is an actress that has only recently stepped into the global spotlight. The young Australian has starred in A Series of Unfortunate Events and The Uninvited, but as of yet has failed to nab a huge role. However, she certainly missed a big opportunity for one. The producers requested Browning in their audition process for Bella Swan in the Twilight film franchise. Browning states that she turned it down, and that she does not regret her decision. “I was asked to audition and I declined because I’d just done a horror film, The Uninvited, which had wrecked me, physically and emotionally, and I wanted to take another break. I wasn’t ready to be involved in a trilogy.” This may be true, but there was a huge amount of money on the cards. Browning is worth $5 million, which contrasts hugely with Kristen Stewart’s $55 million.
4. Tom Selleck – Indiana Jones
Tom Selleck is worth over $20 million dollars, thanks to a string of high-profile roles in television shows such as Magnum, P. I. and Las Vegas. Selleck also cameoed as Monica’s wealthy boyfriend in Friends. However, Selleck turned down a role in one of the most well-known film franchises in history: Indiana Jones. This became known a few years ago after an audition tape of Selleck surfaced. Selleck had auditioned for the iconic role before Harrison Ford. He was offered the role, but ultimately decided to pass on it in favour of television work. Harrison Ford became Indiana Jones, and starred in a franchise that earned billions worldwide.
3. Gwyneth Paltrow – Rose, Titanic
Despite her fame, Gwyneth Paltrow‘s filmography isn’t hugely impressive. She’s had a few interesting and critically acclaimed roles, such as Margot in Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums, but compared to others in the industry, Paltrow’s body of work falls a little flat. Her only blockbuster film is Iron Man, which contributed heavily to her $45 million net worth today. You may be surprised to know that Paltrow actually turned down a role that could have seriously boosted her filmography – that was, Rose in Titanic. Titanic won 11 Academy awards, and became the first film to gross over $1 billion dollars worldwide. Kate Winslet nabbed the role of Rose, putting her on the map.
2. Nicolas Cage – Aragorn, The Lord of the Rings
Nicolas Cage is the nephew of the famous filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola. Cage is worth almost $40 million, and has a reputation for being one of the most prolific actors of his generation. On average, Cage features in at least one film per year. Unfortunately, his busy schedule cost Cage a lot of money. Before Viggo Mortensen was brought into the picture, Cage was offered the role of Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. However, because Cage had already signed up to do so many films, a contract for a trilogy was impossible to fit into his timetable, so he had to turn it down. Mortensen eventually snapped up the role, which was to become one of the most iconic performances of the trilogy. This role would earn Mortensen millions of dollars.
1. Sean Connery – Gandalf, The Lord of the Rings
Sean Connery is certainly one of most well-known actors in Hollywood, and with over $120 million dollars to his name, he certainly isn’t doing too bad. Despite his riches, though, he must be pretty annoyed that he turned down the role of Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The studio were so keen to have Connery on board that they offered him $6 million dollars per movie, as well as a 15% cut of box office profits. This deal sounds too good to be true nowadays, considering the incredible success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It has been calculated that this rejection cost Connery a whopping $450 million! The reason Connery gave for rejecting the role? He didn’t understand the movie. However, Connery has since expressed the opinion that Ian McKellen made a fantastic Gandalf.