We’ve recently seen actors turn down some amazing roles. Famous actors are often faced with tough decisions when it comes to deciding which roles to take on and which to turn down. Common reasons to turn down roles include scheduling conflicts with a different role they’re wanting to take on instead, existing contracts that won’t allow them to take on any new roles, an attempt to not be a typecast actor, or simply being unconvinced that the TV series or film will be a hit.
For example, the most sought-after actors will sometimes be offered multiple roles that are going to be filmed at the same time, and due to scheduling conflicts they have to make a choice with regards to which roles to turn down and which role they’ll accept. When they make the wrong choice, and the role they turned down ends up being a huge hit, they’ll never hear the end of it. Similarly, if an actor turns down a role because they are themselves convinced it won’t be a hit, it’s kind of hilarious (and sad) when they’re wrong. Here are 10 actors who turned down incredible roles.
10 Katie Holmes - Piper Chapman, Orange is the New Black
Who knew that the Netflix original series Orange is the New Black would end up being such a hit? Katie Holmes certainly wouldn't have guessed- which may be why she turned down the role of the main character, Piper Chapman which went to Taylor Schilling instead.
The creator Jenji Kohan, approached Holmes about the possibility - but Holmes had other commitments. Although she may have been able to fit Orange is the New Black into her schedule, it’s understandable that she didn't want to make Orange is the New Black a priority given the fact that in those stages, nobody had a clue the series would amount to anything.
Fun fact: Way back in the day, Katie Holmes also turned down the lead role of Buffy in Buffy the Vampire Slayer in order to be able to finish high school. While that’s admirable, it may have been the wrong choice. Buffy the Vampire Slayer made a huge impact on pop culture and was a tremendous success.
9 Jennifer Love Hewitt – Robin, How I Met Your Mother
How I Met Your Mother co-creators Craig Thomas and Carter Bays revealed that their first choice for Robin Scherbatsky was in fact Jennifer Love Hewitt, but Hewitt had another offer on the table – of which the filming would conflict. Wait for it: Jennifer Love Hewitt chose to do The Ghost Whisperer instead of How I Met Your Mother!
Considering HIMYM’s ridiculous popularity and success, Hewitt has got to be kicking herself for making the wrong choice. The Ghost Whisperer had success, but it is incomparable to the success of HIMYM. However, Hewitt’s choice to turn down the role meant everything to Cobie Smulders, the Canadian actress who ended up getting the role of Robin instead. Before HIMYM, Smulders was an unknown actress who had landed a few small roles and hadn’t even given much thought to acting. Everything changed for her when she landed the role of Robin. The viewing public are grateful that Hewitt turned down the role, too. Why? Because Smulders is the perfect Robin: down to earth, real and raw.
8 Jonah Hill - The Hangover
The Hangover director Todd Phillips approached Jonah Hill with an offer to play his choice of any of the three lead roles in the movie The Hangover. Jonah Hill wanted to focus on chasing more serious roles, as he feared he’d be typecast as a certain type of actor if he continued to act in goofy comedies. Thus, Jonah Hill turned Phillips down.
Several people have mixed feelings on whether or not this was the right move for Jonah Hill. On one hand, The Hangover was a huge hit, both in the box office and among the public, as it won the hearts of millions of viewers and made it onto our lists as a top comedy. However, Jonah Hill’s career isn’t exactly hurting – despite having turned down that hit feature film. Hill continued on to land roles in other massive hits such as Moneyball and The Wolf of Wall Street - and his performances were exceptional. They even got him Oscar nominations. Jonah Hill may have turned down a hit or two, but he’s still killing it.
7 Tea Leoni - Rachel, Friends
Tea Leoni was the Friends producers’ first choice for the part of Rachel. However, Leoni turned down the role (which was given to Jennifer Aniston) and chose to instead play the lead role in a TV show called The Naked Truth, which only ran for three seasons. Apparently, what appealed to Leoni was that she’d get more camera time as the lead in The Naked Truth rather than one of 5 leads in Friends. When Friends blew up, she obviously realized she made the wrong decision – but it was too late.
Although Leoni still continued to find success in acting, it’s absolutely nothing compared to Jennifer Aniston’s success. Friends jump-started Aniston’s career, which skyrocketed her into being an A-list celeb, starring in countless feature films. Had Tea Leoni taken on the role of Rachel, who knows where she’d be in her acting career – probably much farther along, though.
6 Sarah Michelle Gellar – Cher, Clueless
The now-iconic role of Cher in the hit ‘90s romantic comedy Clueless could have belonged to Sarah Michelle Gellar, instead of Alicia Silverstone. She had to turn down the role due to scheduling conflicts for the soap opera she was in, All My Children. Considering Clueless became wildly popular and is now a classic romantic comedy that to this day is watched, quoted and re-watched by our generation, Gellar may be kicking herself just a little – but that’s the risk of signing a contract for a typical soap opera: You never know if you’ll end up having to turn down a great role because of it. Good news for Alicia Silverstone, who became a household name and captured the hearts of viewers around the world with her excellent and charming portrayal of Cher Horowitz.
5 Anne Hathaway – Tiffany, Silver Linings Playbook
Harvey Weinstein, producer of the hit feature film Silver Linings Playbook, had his sights set on Anne Hathaway to play one of the film’s lead roles – the role of Tiffany. Hathaway didn’t agree on some of the creative details of the film, and ultimately turned down the role, which went to Jennifer Lawrence instead.
Silver Linings Playbook was a big hit, and Jennifer Lawrence even won an Oscar for her performance as Tiffany. Clearly, Hathaway shouldn’t have turned that role down. She’s been incredibly successful regardless, but the more Oscar-winning roles the better – for any actor.
4 Reese Witherspoon – Sidney, Scream
Reese Witherspoon turned down the lead role in the absurdly popular teen horror movie, Scream which went to Neve Campbell instead. Witherspoon felt it was best to stick to rom-coms, and although we can all agree that she’s great in rom-coms, would broadening her experiences have been so bad? Scream was a huge hit, but perhaps Witherspoon is an actress who actually likes being typecast.
3 Paul Rudd – Nick, Horrible Bosses
Paul Rudd was attached as Nick in Horrible Bosses, but ultimately dropped out due to scheduling conflicts with other projects. The role went to Jason Bateman, and the film was such an enormous hit, there’s now a Horrible Bosses 2.
While this hilarious comedy and box office hit would have been a nice addition to Rudd’s resume, we know he’s doing just fine without it and has never failed to score hit roles.
2 Vince Vaughn, Donnie Darko
Donnie Darko was a unique film that was produced perfectly and was very successful. The lead role was initially offered to Vince Vaughn, but Vaughn was in his 30s and was concerned that he might not be the right fit for the role since the role was for a troubled teenager and Vaughn was a bit too old to portray that well.
Jake Gyllenhaal, 19 at the time, took the dark role and did an amazing job. The lead role in Donnie Darko could have been an excellent vehicle for Vince Vaughn, but he probably made the right choice turning down the role as it wasn’t a good fit.
1 Dana Delany – Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City
Saving the best for the number one spot: The most iconic role on one of the most influential TV series of all time was turned down by Dana Delany. Yes, Delany turned down the role of Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City because she felt she had recently played roles that were too similar to the role of Carrie, and she didn’t want to be a typecast actor. The role went to Sarah Jessica Parker instead, and we honestly couldn’t picture Carrie being played by anyone else. SJP was the perfect Carrie.
Delany lost out on millions of dollars, being one of our generation’s greatest icons, worldwide recognition, and on playing one of the greatest characters ever seen on TV – a role that won Sarah Jessica Parker an Emmy and a Golden Globe.