As with everything in life, when we watch a film, we’re seeing the culmination of countless moments and chance happenings. The actors who are cast needed to be available, interested and capable. Most films begin with a plan but end up being a series of successfully executed backup plans. It’s rare to find a film that had everything work out the way that the filmmaker initially envisioned. Likewise, actors find themselves rejected from roles they really wanted, and landing roles they never expected. It’s part of what makes Hollywood so unpredictable and exciting.
We don’t often hear the stories of rejection. We tend to picture all our favorite stars as flawless, perfect beings, but the truth is, they stumble like the rest of us. Yet, some of these stumbles, turn into something amazing. By digging into the stories of these failed auditions, we have uncovered a series of amazing roles that were the result of those prior failures. Because these stars were rejected from one audition, they became available for another. This list adds a little more weight to already incredible roles, as if a touch of fate makes it that much more important. Here are 15 famous roles that were the result of a failed audition.
15. Josh Hutcherson, Peeta – The Hunger Games
When Josh Hutcherson was auditioning for Peeta, he played his cards close to his chest. Sure, he advertised loudly that he wanted the role, saying, “I love Peeta. The character is so much who I am—self deprecating, a people person. And he’d be such a great character to play! Like in the third book? Oh my God.” But when asked what he thought his chances were, he appeared to be very modest. Yet, it seems that there might have been a touch of fear in Hutcherson’s apprehension because the only reason he was able to audition for Peeta and The Hunger Games in the first place was because he had just lost out on the starring role in The Amazing Spider-Man. Fans of The Hunger Games should be thanking Andrew Garfield.
14. Daveigh Chase, Samara – The Ring
Daveigh Chase is a little-known name in the big world of film, but she’s been a part of some major films. Easily her biggest role, that of Samara in The Ring, is one that few even know she did. The craziest thing about this role is that it almost never happened for Chase. She was originally up for the role that Kristen Stewart won in Panic Room. Here’s what the star had to say regarding roles that she lost out on: “I would be lying if I said I didn’t want every role I auditioned for, otherwise why would I waste my time? But there were some that stood out, that I really, really did want and was so close and even thought I might get… but unfortunately I didn’t. One was to play Robin Williams‘ daughter in RV, that singer girl got the part. Another was for the movie Panic Room, I was one of a few girls up for it, lost it to Hayden Panettiere who is on Heroes now, but she got fired from the movie I was told, and I was then up for it again but, this time, lost it to Kristen Stewart…. so it wasn’t meant to be.”
13. January Jones, Betty Draper – Mad Men
January Jones played one hell of a Betty Draper on Mad Men, but landing that role was the fortunate result of being denied another Mad Men role, the part of Peggy Olson. Jones was called in twice to audition for Peggy but neither time ended well. For whatever reason, the creator, Matt Weiner, didn’t like her in that part, but he loved Jones and wanted to find a way to fit her in. Speaking to Jones about potentially getting the part of Betty Draper, Weiner told the actress, “Well, there’s another role, but I don’t really know what’s going to happen with her.” Jones then went on to say that Weiner “didn’t have any scenes for me, so he quickly wrote a couple.”
12. Emma Stone, Jules – Superbad
Before Emma Stone took on the role of Jules in Superbad, the one that would help her become one of Hollywood’s leading ladies, she was trying out for the role of the cheerleader in Heroes. When her audition had finished, she walked out of the room and sat around, waiting. One the next girls who went in to audition was Hayden Panettiere. Of that moment, Stone recalls, “I could hear that, in the other room, a girl [Panettiere] had just gone in and they were saying, ‘You are our pick … On a scale of 1 to 10 you’re an 11’… I went home and just had this meltdown.” Fortunately, this rejection opened up Stone’s schedule to audition for other films like the aforementioned Superbad.
11. Tom Hiddleston, Loki – Thor
Almost everyone who learns that Tom Hiddleston came in to read for the part of Thor in Thor is surprised. But we want to make it clear that not only did Hiddleston read for the part, he was considered. When looking back on the audition, Hiddleston said, “I was waiting to hear whether I’d got the job of Thor or not, but they called Chris on a Wednesday and they called me on a Thursday. Kevin [Feige] and Ken [Branagh] called me personally and said, ‘Well, you’re not going to play Thor but we would like you to play Loki.’ Ken said to me, ‘Actually, this is the role that I would want to play.’ In a way, it was a gift – and I have no regrets about it at all. I’ve never once thought, I wish I were playing Thor.”
10. Rachel McAdams, Regina George – Mean Girls
Lindsay Lohan and director Mark Waters had just finished shooting Freaky Friday, so Lohan was basically given the role of Regina George in Waters’ next film, Mean Girls. The filmmaker just had to find someone to play the lead character, Cady Herron. Rachel McAdams came in for the part, but Waters felt she was too old and too confident for Cady. Then something happened. Freaky Friday was released in theaters and it was a hit. Lohan became a sensation. The producers changed their tune on her role, saying, “We have to have Lindsay play the lead in Mean Girls. It’s just not going to work having her play the villain, because she now has an audience that won’t accept that.” Lohan was switched to play Cady and Waters had McAdams come back in to test for Regina. This turned out to be a perfect move. Waters, when discussing the dynamic between the two actresses, said, “when Lindsay was acting with Rachel, she got very shy, because Rachel was older and a very accomplished actress… [McAdams would] come in the room and not talk to Lindsay — she was very focused. Lindsay kind of got nervous around her, and I thought that, more than anything, was going to be the deciding factor, the fact that she affected Lindsay in that way.”
9. James Franco, Harry Osborne – Spider-Man
Before Tobey Maguire landed the part of Peter Parker, many big-name stars came through reading for the part. One of the actors who read and then screen-tested for the role was James Franco, the actor who would eventually get the part of Harry Osborne. When speaking about the test, Franco said, “People bring up the fact that I auditioned for Peter Parker and I tested, and it was huge test. It must have been thousands of dollars just for this test. There were cranes and sets and they kept me waiting about six weeks. And then Tobey got the role and…I mean nobody believes when I say that I think he’s perfect for the role. I think he has done a better job than I would do in that role. But after the test, after Tobey got it, I guess Sam [Raimi] and I got along well enough that he wanted me in the movie. And as far as I know he didn’t audition anybody else for Harry. He just called me up and asked me if I wanted to play that role.”
8. Iwan Rheon, Ramsay Snow – Game of Thrones
Iwan Rheon might not have the most recognizable name, but, unless you’ve lived under a rock the last few years, you know his TV character, Ramsay Snow from Game of Thrones. There’s an interesting story behind Rheon getting the role of Ramsay. It turns out that he was actually auditioning for another Snow early on, Jon Snow. The casting director had narrowed the contenders down to two people, Rheon and the man who would eventually get the part, Kit Harington. It wasn’t all bad for Rheon though. Sure, he missed out on a starring role in the biggest show on television, but he would get a call back from the show heads offering him the part of Ramsay Snow/Bolton. When asked how he got the part, Rheon said, “I auditioned for the pilot of Game of Thrones, and was down to the last two for Jon Snow, so I guess they knew me.”
7. Cillian Murphy, Scarecrow – Batman Begins
When Cillian Murphy came in to audition for Batman Begins, it wasn’t for the part of Scarecrow, which he would get in the end; it was for the title hero, Batman. Murphy said that he was invited to audition because the director, Christopher Nolan, was a fan of 28 Days Later. Murphy said his audition wasn’t ideal, “In fact, I did an awkward audition in the Batsuit. I think [Nolan] saw something interesting in that screen test somehow, though, because he said, ‘Hey, would you be interested in playing this other part?'” For Murphy, that one audition helped lay out the next decade or so: “It began the start of a relationship, and now I’m just about to start working with him on Dunkirk. It’s worked out really nicely for me. He’s been very loyal to me over the years.”
6. Chris Hemsworth, Thor – Thor
When we spoke about Tom Hiddleston missing out on the role of Thor above, you probably thought that Chris Hemsworth was a shoo-in when he tried out for the part. Well, you’d be wrong. Hemsworth did try out, but he was rejected: “I auditioned for Thor, and I didn’t get called back. I was intimidated by the director, Kenneth Branagh. To me, he is Shakespeare,” Chris said. It was his brother, Liam Hemsworth, who was being seriously considered. Here’s how Chris reasoned his landing the role in the end: “My manager said, ‘If you liked Liam, maybe you’ll also like his older brother’… [The second] time, I was pissed off. I didn’t care about Shakespeare anymore; swagger got me the part.”
5. Tom Felton, Draco Malfoy – Harry Potter
When picturing Draco Malfoy in your mind, Tom Felton fits the image to a T. Yet, Felton hadn’t auditioned for the role of Draco in the beginning. First, he went out for Harry and was not cast. Then he tried out for the Ron Weasley part but was not cast. Finally, he gave Draco and go and nailed it. When thinking about what could have been, Felton is happy how everything ended up: “I’m very grateful I am in the film at all, but even more grateful that I got the character of Draco,” Felton said. “I think Rupert and Dan, there’s no question in my mind, there’s no one else in the world that, A) could have played the character better, but B) could have handled the behind-the-scenes pressure those guys have dealt with over the last decade.”
4. Rainn Wilson, Dwight Schrute – The Office
Rainn Wilson‘s Dwight Schrute is one of those characters who you could never envision with another actor; it feels like you’re committing adultery even thinking about it. Well, in addition to being the first person to audition for any role, Wilson first auditioned to play Michael Scott, a part that would eventually go to Steve Carell. In the audition for Michael Scott, Wilson described his attempt as a “terrible Ricky Gervais impersonation,” a side-effect of watching the entire series of the British version of The Office. Carrell, in contrast, only watched a few minutes of pilot in fear that he would borrow too much from Gervais if he watched more. Well, Wilson would also audition for Dwight Schrute and the producers loved it and cast him not long after.
3. Henry Cavill, Superman – Man of Steel
Back in 2002, McG was preparing to shoot a Superman film called Superman: Flyby. When they were looking for Clark Kent, one familiar name caught their eye: “ironically, we liked Henry Cavill a lot, but we hadn’t cast him yet,” the would-be director said. But the film never got off the ground. A few years later, Christopher Nolan was casting for Batman and Cavill was one of the serious candidates for the role. He would eventually be rejected, but his name would stay relevant for them. When it came time to cast for Man of Steel, Nolan, a producer on the film, had Cavill come back in and test for the role. You know the rest of the story.
2. Heath Ledger, The Joker – The Dark Knight
It’s impossible to see Heath Ledger in any other Batman role other than the Joker, but he was a real consideration for the role of Batman in Batman Begins. If Christian Bale‘s name hadn’t come into play, there’s a chance that Ledger would have got the role and, in turn, never played the Joker. When Bale’s name was thrown in, he was given the part, but Ledger did enough to impress the group, so they invited him back to read for the villain, the Joker, when it came time to cast for The Dark Knight. Looking back, should we be thankful for how this all went down?
1. Robert De Niro, Vito Corleone – Godfather II
One of the most famous failed auditions in history comes from one of the world’s greatest actors, Robert De Niro. We’ve seen his audition tape when he tried out for the role of Sonny Corleone. He looked amazing, but we know the result. James Caan got the part and De Niro was sent packing. But the director, Francis Ford Coppola, would remember him. A couple of years later, when it came time to cast for The Godfather II, De Niro was brought back in for a reading and would land the part. For playing a young Vito Corleone, De Niro would win an Academy Award and make a huge leap in showcasing to the world his talents.