The actors and actresses cast in movies or televisions often makes or breaks the show. If they are right for the job, it makes the show stronger and it’s also evident when this is not true. Often times the actor who gets casted wasn’t the first choice.
Keep in mind, shocking may not be only the story told or script; most times we find ourselves surprised by a very different actor that would have played the part differently. Sometimes turning down the role was a good idea, and other times it’s hard to say if it was the right choice.
Honorable mentions go to Matt Damon for the role in Avatar, Julia Roberts in The Proposal and Sean Connery passing on Lord of the Rings. For Connery, this one is debatable, but he probably just needed a break at the time. These were all “interesting” cases of actors turning down a job, but not all that surprising when you think about it.
Grab your popcorn because we’ve got missed opportunities, cases where it’s good to be king (or rich) and others that are just plain choosey on whom they decide to portray. Once again, your 11 stars that decided to pass on these (eventual) golden tickets.
11 Eminem - Elysium
Rapper Eminem was the initial choice to play the lead role in Elysium. Damon eventually took the role in Neill Blomkamp’s movie. The reason Eminem didn’t want to play the part had little to do with the script and more to do with the fact that the director refused to shoot the movie in the city of Detroit. Was this a good move for the self-proclaimed rap god? At this point, it’s pretty obvious Eminem isn’t looking to be a prolific actor, so no loss. Also, Damon is a pretty good second choice…
10 Tom Selleck - Raiders of the Lost Ark
The story goes that Tom Selleck decided against playing Indiana Jones so he could focus on his television show Magnum P.I. Given his show had a pretty good run, it’s hard to argue that he made a wrong decision - despite the movie being a big hit. Could Selleck have been a bigger star on the big screen had he taken this role? Some actors are cut for television and Selleck (and his mustache) really fit on the small screen. Magnum P.I. lasted eight years and was shot in Hawaii - not a bad gig if you can get it!
9 Michelle Pfeiffer - The Silence of the Lambs
This is a case of trying to cast the "it" girl. Michelle Pfeiffer was one of Hollywood's hottest actresses in 1991 and anything she was cast in was a big deal. Ultimately, the role went to Jodie Foster, who was the right choice, but Pfeiffer was the first choice of Jonathan Demme to play the role opposite Hannibal Lecter. For most actresses, this would have been a big miss in their career, but already at this point she was very famous and could choose what she wanted to do. (Pretty much anyone who starred in Scarface had this attitude at this time.)
8 Christopher Walken - Star Wars
Harrison Ford wasn’t the first pick to play Han Solo in Star Wars - that offer was made to Christopher Walken. The reason was because Lucas never liked to cast actors he had already worked with, and Ford was in American Graffiti. We all know Walken turned down the role and Lucas went to Ford. Walken has been in so many movies, but has never really been known as a “lead” guy. This could have been his moment to shine, or maybe it wasn’t right and the Star Wars empire would not be what it is today. If you were Walken and got a chance to “do it all over again,” you probably give it a shot, right?
7 Jack Nicholson - The Godfather
Clearly, this one worked out for the best and that is not a shot at Jack Nicholson. Nicholson was considered over Al Pacino for the role of Michael Corleone in The Godfather. Nicholson had some memorable roles, but he would never been able to play this particular part as well as Pacino. Okay, maybe in The Godfather 3, but that’s only because that movie is so bad compared to the first two. On second thought, even that wouldn’t have worked. If it’s any consolation, I don’t think older Pacino could play the part Nicholson plays in The Departed, so that’s something.
6 Molly Ringwald - Pretty Woman and Ghost
Molly Ringwald will always have The Breakfast Club and 16 Candles to hang her hat on. She was a major star in the 1980s and continued to receive major offers into the 1990s. However, I hope she fired her manager (or managers) for passing on both Pretty Woman and Ghost, two iconic movies that would have further launched her acting career. It’s a tough pill to swallow knowing what Pretty Woman did for Julia Roberts and her career.
5 Al Pacino - Pretty Woman
If you are into “alternate endings,” often available on DVD releases, you may be especially intrigued by this one. Having Al Pacino play Richard Gere’s character in Pretty Woman would dramatically change the movie. The question is whether it would be for better or for worse? Gere nailed the part (no pun intended), but Pacino was already moving into the part of his "over-acting" part of his career that adds a lot of comedy to any role he plays. Pacino could have added a little extra spice to the role. A little more insanity opposite Roberts (or Ringwald) may have been interesting.
4 John Travolta - Forrest Gump
This move altered the movie business. For John Travolta, this was the time of his big comeback, but it wasn’t as the character Forrest Gump, but instead as Vincent Vegas in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. Forrest Gump beat out Pulp Fiction for Best Picture; however, Travolta was “cool” again and got a lot of work due to his choice to play the edgier character. Pulp Fiction influenced a lot of directors in the years to follow. The movie isn’t as good without Travolta, so it’s possible some of these movies never happen. This is clearly a case of the butterfly effect here and a good call by Travolta.
3 Leonardo DiCaprio - Boogie Nights & American Psycho
Leonardo DiCaprio was offered the roles of Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights and Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. The role of Diggler, the adult film star, eventually went to Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale played the part of Bateman. In the end, the shock factor (and bad publicity) of American Psycho was too much and let’s face it, Wahlberg was the perfect guy to play Dirk. Regardless, Leo has played a lot of edgy roles and continues to get his choice of work. Whatever choices made up to this point have been the right ones, even if us as fans would have liked to see how he would have played the roles differently.
2 Will Smith - The Matrix
Will Smith was on a hot streak when he was asked to play the lead here, one that eventually went to Keanu Reeves. This was right after Smith starred as the lead in Independence Day and Men In Black. Smith instead decided to make the movie Wild Wild West. Looking back this was a wrong choice all around. The script and story was so strong that Reeves looked good. Smith would have been an even bigger star had The Matrix series been on his resume. Let’s hope his decision wasn’t purely based on the rap song he made also titled “Wild Wild West.”
1 Matthew Broderick - Breaking Bad
First, let’s get this out of the way; Bryan Cranston crushed the role of Walter White in the Breaking Bad series. The funny thing is that Cranston was Vince Gilligan's choice from the very start, but studio executives liked Matthew Broderick more. Now if you have followed Broderick’s career after Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, you would know he's had a lot of great, dramatic roles. Actually, I think Broderick could have pulled off this role, there’s just no way he could have done it at the same level of Cranston. When a television series is known as one of the greatest of all time, the right guy was cast as the lead character.
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