Maybe it’s just us, but don’t you ever wonder how certain actors respond to being cast in undesirable roles. Like how would someone react to getting a casting call for a “disgusting slob” or a “fat and ugly friend”? Sure, they probably don’t name them so bluntly, but these are smart people; they know what’s going on. Imagine the mixed feelings of an actor who landed a role, but the role is “nasty-looking freak.” Should the actor be happy getting a paid role like that? Are they to be proud that the casting director said, “you’re exactly what we were looking for in this part”? There’s no doubt these actors are being insulted, but the truth is, they’re not complaining about it. At least, not to us they aren’t. These roles are given to bit players and people don’t do interviews with “fat grocery boy #2”. So, what about the stars? Do they get offered roles that insult them? Yeah. It turns out they do.
Even stars are insulted by roles they’ve been offered. Hell, many of the stars on this list even took the roles, only admitting that they were offended or regretful during filming or after. So, what type of roles are these? Well, they range from racist roles to sexist roles, low-ball offers to inconsequential parts. Some are offended by the way their characters are described, whereas others were worried about how they will be perceived afterward. Let’s get right into it. Here are 15 times actors were insulted by the roles they were offered.
15. Imelda Staunton – Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter
Before she was offered the part of Dolores Umbridge, actress Imelda Staunton was suggested she look at the part by a friend. It was this suggestion, says Staunton, that insulted her, even though she would go on to take the part anyways. Staunton recalls the discussion, “Well, let’s put it this way, when the book first came out, a friend called and said, ‘You’ve got to read the new Harry Potter book, there’s a part in it that’s perfect for you when they make the film.’ I thought, ‘Oooh, how lovely.’ Then I read the description in the book of a short, fat, ugly woman who was like a toad! Perfect for me, hmm? Thanks a lot. But she’s a great personality. I never care what my character looks like as long as the role is good. That’s why they call me No Make-Up Staunton!”
14. Rose McGowan – Adam Sandler Movie
Technically, this was only a call for an audition, but we’ll include it because it’s a good story. Rose McGowan, best known for playing Paige on Charmed and Pam in the Grindhouse double feature, took to Twitter to call out the casting call for an unnamed Adam Sandler project. She posted the note that accompanied the script, “Please make sure to read the attached script before coming in so you understand the context of the scenes. Wardrobe Note: Black (or dark) form fitting tanks that shows off cleavage (push up bras encouraged). And form fitting leggings or jeans. Nothing white.” For making this public, McGowan’s agent fired her as a client. This led to McGowan taking to Twitter again, getting some responses and support from other women in the industry.
13. Katherine Heigl – Allison Scott in Knocked Up
After the scripts were sent out, the casting calls were made, the roles were filled up, the filming completed and the checks were all cashed, that was the moment that Katherine Heigl decided that her role in Knocked Up was offensive. It might seem like convenient timing for the despicable Heigl because it is. Being critical of her film and television jobs is nothing new for the actress though. She’s been known to take jabs at the people who pay her and who made her famous. When Heigl first read the Knocked Up script, she didn’t seem to have any issues with it. It certainly didn’t insult her enough to turn down the part. It was only once everything was done that she announced she was insulted by the sexism within, stating, “It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys. … I had a hard time with it, on some days.” It paints you as a shrew Heigl because you are a shrew.
12. Natives – Natives in Ridiculous Six
News came out fast when about 12 native members of the cast of The Ridiculous 6 walked off the set during filming. Among those members was Loren Anthony, a Navajo Tribal member. Anthony explains his own thought process in walking out, “I was asked a long time ago to do some work on this and I wasn’t down for it. Then they told me it was going to be a comedy, but it would not be racist. So, I agreed to it but, on Monday, things started getting weird on the set.” By “weird,” Anthony means that the jokes were felt to be culturally insensitive and racist. “We were supposed to be Apache, but it was really stereotypical and we did not look Apache at all. We looked more like Comanche,” Anthony said. “One thing that really offended a lot of people was that there was a female character called Beaver’s breath. One character says ‘Hey, Beaver’s Breath.’ And the Native woman says, ‘How did you know my name?'”
11. Idris Elba – Heimdall in Thor: The Dark World
When Idris Elba was offered the part of Heimdall in Thor, he was happy, or so it seemed. When he was contractually brought back to reprise the role in Thor: The Dark World, that’s when he became insulted. He was insulted because he felt the role was below him. He had just finished filming Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and, in comparison, Thor was a joke to him. Though he’s retracted (or tried to clarify) what he said since, here were his actual words, “in the actual scene my hair was different, my… [Sigh] I was like, ‘This is torture, man. I don’t want to do this.’ My agent said: ‘You have to, it’s part of the deal,’” He continued, “I’m actually falling down from a spaceship, so they had to put me in harness in this green-screen studio. And in between takes I was stuck there, fake hair stuck on to my head with glue, this f***ing helmet, while they reset. And I’m thinking: ‘24 hours ago, I was Mandela.’ … Then there I was, in this stupid harness, with this wig and this sword and these contact lenses. It ripped my heart out.”
10. Rooney Mara – Tiger Lily in Pan
Rooney Mara may not have been insulted to receive the offer to play the native character, Tiger Lily, in Pan, but she certainly regretted her decision and is well aware of how the role is seen as insulting to others. Mara voiced her regret after filming, stating, “There were two different periods; right after I was initially cast, and the reaction to that, and then the reaction again when the film came out. I really hate, hate, hate that I am on that side of the whitewashing conversation. I really do. I don’t ever want to be on that side of it again. I can understand why people were upset and frustrated.” When asked if she felt the casting was inappropriate, the star responded, “Do I think all of the four main people in the film should have been white with blonde hair and blue eyes? No. I think there should have been some diversity somewhere.”
9. Sean Connery – Gandalf in Lord of the Rings
When Sean Connery was asked to take on the role of Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings, he turned it down with some confusion. Truth be told, the Scottish actor was insulted by the offer because he hadn’t the slightest idea what was going on, “I read the book. I read the script. I saw the movie. I still don’t understand it.” What ish thish old man doing walking around with a bunch of little boysh? What the hell are Orcsh? What should Frodo Bagginsh keep shecret and shafe? Who do they shink I am, a schientisht? When you think about it, Connery’s comprehension skills must have greatly depleted over the years if he struggled to understand The Lord of the Rings but had no problem understanding and filming Zardoz.
8. Jackie Chan – The Expendables
When The Expendables movies were being made, many fans pointed to the omission of action star Jackie Chan from the cast list. But Chan wasn’t there because he was overlooked; he wasn’t there because the role was not something he was interested in. Though he never used the words “insulting,” Chan felt that the low screen time was undeserved. He wanted a much larger role in the film, but that was not something that Sylvester Stallone was ready or able to offer Chan. Retelling the conversation, Chan said, “this morning I did hear – the office called – Sly [Stallone] wants me for Expendables 4. I said, ‘Okay.’ Because they already asked me to be in two and three, but I refused. Well, I didn’t refuse, but I said, ‘Sly, can’t we just do you and me? Not just a bunch of people and me only coming out for five minutes.’ Because then the audience is, ‘Oh!’ And then I’m gone.”
7. Denzel Washington – Unnamed Racist Movie
Denzel Washington has the great story about a role he was offered in 1986 in an unnamed film that was so racist, he was forced to turn it down. The role that he affectionately calls, “the [N word] they couldn’t kill.” It was a film about a black man who r*ped a white woman and was sentenced to death. The executioners tried a number of methods to dispose of the man, but each of them failed. Washington said to the Jewish filmmakers that putting a rope around his neck was the equivalent of having a Jewish actor being put into a gas chamber. While it might be a difficult comparison, it proved his point. Six months after turning down the part, Washington was offered a role in Cry Freedom, a role that he would receive an Academy Award nomination for.
6. Kevin Hart – Alpa Chino in Tropic Thunder
When Kevin Hart was offered the role of the rapper Alpa Chino in Tropic Thunder, a role that eventually went to Brandon T. Jackson, he turned it down because the character was gay. Hart defends his decision by first saying that he loves the gay community, but the part was meant to be much different than it was in the final cut, much gayer. Here’s what the comedian had to say, “the part was way more … in the beginning, the dude was doing a lot of stuff in the draft that I read. I’m not saying it. It was real flagrant… “It was a lot of stuff, and I was like, ‘I can’t do this.'” For Hart, playing a gay role isn’t in the cards for him, “not because I have any ill will or disrespect… It’s because … I don’t think I’m really going to dive into that role 100 percent because of insecurities about myself trying to play that part. Does that make sense? Like, what I think people are going to think while I’m trying to do this is going to stop me from playing that part the way that I’m supposed to.”
5. Aziz Ansari – Call Center Guy in Transformers
If you’ve watched Aziz Ansari‘s show Master of None, you’ll be familiar with his dislike of racial quotas and Indian actors being pigeonholed in film and TV. As Ansari tells it, he’s turned down several roles because they required him to play up his Indian-ness, including a bit part in the first Transformers film. Of the part, Ansari said, “It was a role for like a call-center guy who has an accent. And I was like, ‘No, I’m not doing it.’ And then [friend and costar] Ravi [Patel] was like, ‘I’ll do it.’ And Ravi did it and made some decent money. And I don’t have anything against someone who does the accent. I understand. You got to work, and some people don’t think it’s a problem.”
4. Josh Brolin – George W. Bush in W
Usually when we imagine actors being offended by a role, we think about the looks of the character, not their actions. Even then, if we did, we would picture serial killers and weirdos not former Presidents of the United States. Well, that’s how it went down with actor Josh Brolin when he was offered the role of George W. Bush in W. Speaking of the insult, Brolin said, “When people approach you about roles, you understand why they would make the connection. But when [Oliver Stone] came to me about Bush, I couldn’t understand it. I couldn’t make any connection whatsoever. I was a little insulted. He said, ‘There’s something very Americana about you. There’s something bucolic about you… I had such a visceral reaction against it. But then I thought about it, and I had to get up and read the script. I read it one morning, and I thought it was amazing. I didn’t love the story, but as a character, following a guy from 21 to 58 was an incredible challenge for an actor that I didn’t think I could pull off.”
3. Meryl Streep – Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada
For the legendary Meryl Streep, it wasn’t the role of Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada that offended her, it was the pay for the role. Streep has always been one to stand up for others in the industry and in the world, but she was never one to stand up for her own pay, until this film. Streep says that she wanted the role, but when it came time to discuss money, she was aghast: “The offer was, to my mind, slightly, if not insulting, not perhaps reflective of my actual value to the project… There was my ‘goodbye moment,’ and then they doubled the offer. I was 55, and I had just learned, at a very late date, how to deal on my own behalf.”
2. Will Smith – Django in Django Unchained
Even though Will Smith has changed his tune a little in the time since the release of Django Unchained, the reasons why Smith turned down the title role seem fairly obvious. Most recently, Smith has said, “I wanted to make that movie so badly, but I felt the only way was, it had to be a love story, not a vengeance story… We can’t look at what happens in Paris [the terrorist attacks] and want to f— somebody up for that. Violence begets violence. I just couldn’t connect to violence being the answer. Love had to be the answer.” Now, if you had been paying attention, this is a much different answer than the one Smith originally gave, the one where he essentially states he was insulted because he was only the star by title, not in the actual film: “Django wasn’t the lead, so it was like, ‘I need to be the lead,'” Smith said. “The other character was the lead! I was like, ‘No, Quentin, please, I need to kill the bad guy!'”
1. Jack Nicholson – Michael Corleone in The Godfather
More insulting than insulted, Jack Nicholson has said that the reason he turned down the offer to play Michael Corleone in The Godfather was because he wasn’t Italian and that wasn’t right. In recent years, Nicholson has admitted that his stance on the matter has changed slightly, but, the actor said, “back then, I believed that Indians should play Indians and Italians should play Italians … There were a lot of actors who could have played Michael, myself included, but Al Pacino was Michael Corleone. I can’t think of a better compliment to pay him.” You know, come to think of it, he’s right.