Everyone has heard the story of the bright-eyed kid with a dream to make it big in Hollywood. It’s a classic rags to riches story as old as Tinseltown. For generations, aspiring actors have fought for roles in audition after audition, all while working day jobs as waiters, hosts, and bartenders, hoping for their big break.
A lucky few get their breakthrough role, the one that gets them shortlisted for closed call auditions, maybe even role offers without auditions. Suddenly they have a choice in what comes next in their career, as they and their agents decide on what move will be the right one to help launch them into celebrity A-list status.
Here’s the thing: anyone is capable of a career move blunder, no matter how rich, famous, or successful. Even some of the most well-known stars in the world have suffered role regret from passing on a part that became a number one hit, award winner, or franchise favorite. It’s hard to imagine many of these parts played by anyone else but the lead we know today, however things could’ve been very different in the world of entertainment had these 12 stars taken the leap and accepted these iconic roles:
12 Dana Delany - Sex and the City
Dana Delany has been a busy working actress since the early 1980s with her role as series lead Colleen McMurphy on the 1988 television show China Beach. It provided her with a lot of attention, notoriety, and a liberal choice of roles for the better part of a decade. In the late 1990s Delany was offered up the role of a lifetime, on a platter: to play Carrie Bradshaw on the HBO series Sex and the City. She is said to have turned down the role because she didn’t want to be in a show about sex, and because she didn’t feel stylish enough to be the Manolo Blahnik-loving blonde. Apparently Delany didn’t learn her lesson, turning down a role on the series Desperate Housewives three times before she eventually accepted the role of Katherine Mayfair on the show.
11 Sandra Bernhard - Sex and the City
A good script means a lot to actress and comedian Sandra Bernhard, and apparently what she read for Sex and the City didn’t meet her standards. In an interview with Howard Stern, Bernhard said the script she read wasn’t very good. Sandra Bernhard became a household name for her role of Nancy Bartlett on Roseanne, and has had her choice of roles ever since. When she was offered the role of Carrie Bradshaw’s no-nonsense bestie Miranda Hobbs, she turned it down, and the role went to Cynthia Nixon instead.
10 Freddy Prinze Jr. - Spiderman
Freddy Prinze Jr. was a part of the 1990s version of the “brat pack” and starred in many of the most popular teen flicks of the time. He met his wife Sarah Michelle Gellar on the set of the 1997 film I Know What You Did Last Summer. But did you know what Freddy Prinze did when he was offered the role of Peter Parker in the 2002 film Spiderman? He turned it down. Turns out he wasn’t the only one who passed on a role in the film — Kate Hudson passed on the chance to play leading lady Mary Jane Watson in the film as well. In his time post-film icon, Prinze Jr. has regularly worked as a producer for WWE and continues to act.
9 Emily Browning - Team Edward & Team Jacob
Emily Browning was first known for playing lead Violet Baudelaire in the film adaptation of the books A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, alongside comedic legend Jim Carrey. When she was asked to audition for the role of Bella Swan in the Twilight films, she declined, preferring to take a break after having just finished working on horror movie The Uninvited. She also felt that she didn’t have the energy to be involved in yet another trilogy of films. To this day the actress stands by her choice and says that she was too young to handle all of the media attention the cast of the series received.
8 Christina Applegate - Legally Blonde
After the series Married with Children concluded, Christina Applegate wanted to select her next role wisely. She felt that accepting the role of Elle Woods in the film Legally Blonde could lead to her being forever typecast as the ditzy blonde girl. Applegate openly regrets the move, but praises Reese Witherspoon for her portrayal of the very blonde lawyer selected for the film. Applegate said, “Reese deserved it, and she did a much better job than I ever could.” This honest humility shows why she remains a popular casting choice today.
7 Pamela Anderson - The X-Files
When it comes to iconic duos, there are few that can compare with the dynamic between The X-Files partners Agent Dana Scully and Agent Fox Mulder. The way that David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson worked together had viewers everywhere wanting to believe. Turns out show producers originally wanted another Anderson to fill Dana Scully’s sensible shoes, Pamela Anderson. Pamela Anderson was well-known and had the body, and body of work that they felt fans would follow. After Pamela turned the role down, the virtually unknown Gillian Anderson was offered the part instead.
6 Paul Shaffer - Seinfeld
The summer of George wasn’t in the cards for Paul Shaffer. According to Shaffer’s memoir, the musician best known for his long time place as sidekick, band leader and musical director on late night talk show Late Night with David Letterman turned down the opportunity to play the neurotic slacker George Costanza on the hit sitcom Seinfeld. Apparently Jerry Seinfeld himself left a message on Shaffer’s answering machine offering him the role, but the musician didn’t bother to return the call. Most people couldn’t imagine the show without Jason Alexander seeking “Serenity Now!”
5 Julia Roberts - The Proposal & The Blind Side
In the 1990s Julia Roberts had a real knack for picking fantastic roles. Since that time perhaps the price tag of her services dictates her project selections more than the script. Reportedly Roberts turned down the lead in The Proposal because they weren’t offering enough cash. Roberts also rejected an offer to play the lead in The Blind Side. Both of these parts went to Sandra Bullock, who took home multiple awards in 2010 for her performance in The Blind Side, and won big with the younger Rom Com-loving crowd earning Teen Choice awards for The Proposal.
4 Katie Holmes - Orange Is The New Black
Katie Holmes became a household name when she was introduced as Dawson Leary’s lovable neighbor Josephine Potter on the WB series Dawson’s Creek. When the actress married Tom Cruise she spent more time on the tabloids than on film and TV, so one would think she would embrace the chance to get out there and support her craft. Orange Is The New Black creator Jenji Kohan says that she is a big fan of Holmes and wanted the brunette to play lead role, Piper Chapman. Katie Holmes was “busy” with other projects when offered the role in the unknown Netflix original and didn’t commit, so Taylor Schilling was cast instead.
3 Dustin Hoffman - Taxi Driver
Dustin Hoffman has had his fair share of amazing roles and awards in his career having won two Oscars, 57 awards, and 50 other notable nominations, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some regrets. The actor has recounted meeting Martin Scorsese many years ago, but not knowing who he was. He said that Scorsese didn’t have a script and quickly described the plot at a mile a minute. Thinking that the guy was crazy, Hoffman turned down the chance to star in Taxi Driver and the role was awarded to Robert De Niro instead.
2 Michelle Pfeiffer - The Silence of the Lambs
Michelle Pfeiffer has starred in many great roles, but she’s also turned down a number of regret-worthy parts. The blonde turned down playing the role of Clarice Starling in the 1991 film The Silence of the Lambs because she didn’t like the darkness of the film. The role was also offered to Meg Ryan, who also declined, and eventually Jodie Foster was cast, and won her second Oscar for her amazing portrayal of the Boston cop. Pfeiffer also reportedly turned down the lead role in both Pretty Woman and Basic Instinct.
1 Al Pacino - Han Solo
It’s probably hard to imagine Al Pacino alongside Chewbacca as everyone’s favorite loveable scoundrel; so unbelievable in fact that Pacino turned down the offer to play Star Wars lead Han Solo immediately. Most would agree that the right choice was made when Harrison Ford was cast as the vest wearing gambler, and that Al Pacino, George Lucas and Harrison Ford should count their lucky stars things turned out the way they did for the epic space series. Other actors who auditioned or were considered for the role of Han Solo included Christopher Walken, Nick Nolte, and Kurt Russell.