Sometimes, life is full of regret whether it be over a failed relationship or a missed opportunity. Oftentimes, it can be hard to let that go. And sometimes, that regretful feeling can last forever. Making a decision isn’t always as simple as choosing A or B; it can be much more complicated than that.
Actors often find themselves in similar situations when it comes to a major movie role. It’s impossible to predict if a film is going to be successful. At the same time, many actors fear being typecast and stuck in a role. Deciding to take a role probably seems like a simple task. But for many actors, it can become a defining moment. Several of the world’s most famous actors have taken on some of the most iconic roles. Despite the success that came with the part, many actors surprisingly regret their major role. It might be a bit surprising to know that some actors wish they never took the role of some of the most beloved characters. On the other hand, many actors have turned down roles that could have turned them into major stars. They regret their decision to not have taken on a character that has gone on to transcend time. Here is a look at 8 Actors Who Regret Their Iconic Roles and 8 Who Turned Down Major Roles.
16 John Travolta – Forrest Gump (Turned Down)
Forrest Gump was the highest-grossing film of 1994. It starred Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise, and Mykelti Williamson. It won several awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor. Hanks managed to become an even bigger star than he already was. However, the role almost went to a different actor in John Travolta. Travolta had been a huge star in the late ‘70s after starring in Saturday Night Fever and Grease. However, his career stalled and went into a major decline. He was offered the role at a time when his career was going nowhere. He now regrets not taking the role of Gump. However, his career rebounded, appearing in Pulp Fiction that same year. Recently, he was praised for his portrayal of Robert Shapiro in the FX series The People vs. OJ Simpson. Additionally, comedian Dave Chappelle regrets turning down the role of Bubba (Myketli Williamson).
15 Katherine Heigl – Knocked Up (Regrets)
Katherine Heigl’s breakout role was as Alison Scott in the Judd Apatow comedy, Knocked Up. During the promotion of the film, she made several controversial comments that made many feel like she disliked the role. At the time, Heigl was a Hollywood star on the rise. In 2005, she began portraying Dr. Izzie Stevens on Grey’s Anatomy. However, her starring role in Knocked Up elevated her status in Hollywood. During a Vanity Fair interview, she called the film “a little sexist” and said, “It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys.” She received significant backlash and tried to clarify her comments by saying, “My motive was to encourage other women like myself to not take that element of the movie too seriously.” Her co-star, Seth Rogen, later admitted that the initial comments actually hurt his feelings, although he eventually got over it.
14 Josh Hartnett – Bruce Wayne, Batman Begins (Turned Down)
Christian Bale became a world famous actor after his universally-praised performance as Bruce Wayne/Batman. Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy is critically and commercially acclaimed. Bale’s career reached heights that he likely never dreamed of. Nolan originally offered the role to Josh Hartnett, who was on the rise in Hollywood. Josh was best known for his roles in Pearl Harbor, Black Hawk Down, and Sin City. He turned down the role of Batman because he was worried about getting pigeonholed and wanted to spend time with his family. However, he clearly wishes he had taken on the role that could have elevated his career. He said, “I learned my lesson when Christopher Nolan and I talked about Batman. I decided it wasn’t for me. I should have been part of the relationship with this guy, Nolan, who I felt was incredibly cool and very talented. I was so focused on not being pigeonholed and so scared of being considered only one thing as an actor.”
13 Robert Pattinson — Edward Cullen, Twilight Saga (Regrets)
It’s very likely that when Robert Pattinson is walking down the street, some teenage girl is yelling, “I love you, Edward Cullen!” Robert Pattinson has received praise for his roles in Water for Elephants, Cosmopolis and The Rover. However, he is often linked to his breakthrough performance as Edward Cullen in the commercial hit, The Twilight Saga. The Saga included 5 films and starred Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, and Taylor Lautner. Pattinson portrayed the troubled teenage vampire from 2008 to 2012 and became synonymous with the character. Pattinson actually had a pretty deep hatred for Edward and once said, “The more I read the script, the more I hated this guy.” He went on to say, “So that’s how I played him, as a manic-depressive who hates himself.” It also appears that he wasn’t very fond of the attention he got from thousands of teenage fan girls. He described their screams of affection as “the sound you hear at the gates of hell.”
12 Denzel Washington – David Mills, Seven (Turned Down)
Despite having a hugely successful career, Denzel Washington still regrets turning down a starring role in the critically-acclaimed thriller Seven. Denzel won two Academy awards for his roles in Glory and Training Day. He also starred in several memorable films, including Malcolm X, Philadelphia and Fences. David Fincher’s Seven was released on September 22, 1995 and starred Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, and Gwyneth Paltrow. It was well received by critics and was the breakout performance for Pitt. Denzel was originally offered the role of David Mills (Brad Pitt) but turned it down. To this day, he regrets having turned down the role. He said, “I turned down the movie Seven. That was a mistake. I just didn’t think anybody was going to see it. I don’t know what I made instead, I can’t remember, but I turned down Seven. I guess Brad Pitt is happy about that.”
11 Christopher Plummer – Captain Von Trapp, The Sound Of Music (Regrets)
The Sound of Music is one of the most well-known musical films. It was released on March 2, 1965 to mostly mixed reviews, although it was a massive success at the box office. It starred Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. It would become a defining moment in the careers of both, but Plummer greatly detests the film that made him a Hollywood star. When asked about Sound of Music, he has often expressed negative feelings. In fact, he often refers to the film as “The Sound of Mucus.” He has noted that it’s a well-made film and that he enjoyed working with Julie Andrews, but other than that, he pretty much hates it. He noted that he was “a bit bored” with the character of Captain Von Trapp. He tried to make the character interesting but compared it to “flogging a dead horse.” He called the film “awful and sentimental and gooey.”
10 Will Smith – Neo, The Matrix (Turned Down)
The groundbreaking film, The Matrix, became one of the most important and influential films of the ‘90s. The film was such a massive hit that it spawned two more sequels. It starred Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne and was met with universal praise. Keanu is now synonymous with the character, Neo, although he wasn’t the first choice. Will Smith had his breakthrough with his role on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. He went on to star in a wide range of films, such as Men In Black, Ali, and Concussion. Despite his critically-acclaimed performances and being one of the top actors in the world, he still wishes that he accepted the offer to play Neo. Smith was first approached about starring in the film. He regrets not agreeing to be Neo and said, “You know, The Matrix is a difficult concept to pitch. In the pitch, I just didn’t see it. At that point, I wasn’t smart enough as an actor to let the movie be.”
9 Sean Connery – James Bond (Regrets)
Oftentimes, actors will become synonymous with their character and struggle to move away from the role. Many actors considered themselves versatile and hate getting stuck in the same role. That’s how legendary actor Sean Connery eventually felt about playing 007 James Bond. Connery was the first actor to portray Bond in film and starred in the first 7 movies starting in 1962. Connery was hesitant to take the role but knew that it would be good for his career. Initially, he felt that he should have been paid more for the first few films. Eventually, his pay went up. But at that point, he was tired of portraying Bond. He once said, “I have always hated that damned James Bond. I’d like to kill him.” Connery went on to have a great career and appeared in Marnie, The Hunt for Red October, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. He won an Academy Award for his role in The Untouchables.
8 Emily Blunt – The Black Widow Marvel Cinematic Universe (Turned Down)
Emily Blunt had the chance to play a butt-kicking superhero but was forced to turn it down. Iron Man 2 is the third film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and starred Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, and Scarlett Johansson (as The Black Widow). Scarlett has reprised the role in several MCU films with The Black Widow becoming a major part of the franchise. Blunt had her big breakthrough with her role in The Devil Wears Prada. Later, she starred in The Young Victoria, Edge of Tomorrow, and Sicario. However, she still regrets turning down the role of The Black Widow. She was offered the role first but was forced to turn it down due to scheduling conflicts with Gulliver’s Travels. To make matters worse, The Black Widow is now becoming a household name, and Gulliver’s Travel bombed at the box office.
7 Marlon Brando – Stanley Kowalski, A Streetcar Named Desire (Regrets)
Marlon Brando is an iconic yet controversial Hollywood figure and is widely regarded as one of the greatest actors of all time. He won two Academy Awards for his iconic performances in On the Waterfront and The Godfather. He starred in a series of critically and commercially acclaimed films, including The Wild One, Last Tango in Paris, and Apocalypse Now. However, for years, he was often associated with his breakout performance as Stanley Kowalski in the film version of Tennessee Williams’ play, A Streetcar Named Desire. Streetcar was released on September 18, 1951 and is credited with launching the then unknown Brando’s career. The film was a huge success at the time and is now considered a classic. Eventually, Brando began to resent the character and the handsome outlaw image associated with Stanley. Brando even started to hate Stanley and once said, “I detest the character.”
6 Al Pacino – Han Solo, Star Wars And John McClane, Die Hard (Turned Down)
Al Pacino has truly done it all in Hollywood. He’s played gangsters, cops, and real estate salesmen. However, he regrets having turned down two iconic roles despite all of his success. He has starred in several critically and commercially acclaimed films, including The Godfather Trilogy, Scent of a Woman, and The Insider. Pacino is still kicking himself for turning down the role of Han Solo in 1977’s Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. George Lucas offered the role to Pacino but he didn’t think it was going to be successful. He said, “(the role) was mine for the taking, but I didn’t understand the script.” Later, Pacino was offered another role that he (again) regretfully turned down. He was offered the role of John McClane in the first Die Hard. However, he turned it down, and Bruce Wills became a star. Pacino said, “I gave that boy a career.”
5 Kate Winslet – Rose DeWitt Bukater, Titanic (Regrets)
Kate Winslet doesn’t regret being in Titanic or being closely associated with the role of Rose. She actually regrets her own performance and has been heavily critical of herself. The critically and commercially acclaimed film, Titanic, is one of the highest-grossing films of all time. It was released in 1997 and starred Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. The success of the film turned Winslet and Leo into the world’s biggest stars. Winslet portrayed a young American girl aboard the Titanic, Rose, who is unhappy that her life is all planned out for her. Despite being universally praised for her role and receiving an Academy nomination, she cringes at her performance. When discussing her American accent with CNN she said, “My American accent, I can’t listen to it. It’s awful.” Additionally, she picked apart the quality of her performance and said, “Every single scene, I’m like, ‘Really, really? You did it like that? Oh my God.’”
4 Christina Applegate – Elle Woods, Legally Blonde (Turned Down)
The hugely popular courtroom comedy, Legally Blonde, starred Reese Witherspoon, Luke Wilson, and Selma Blair. Witherspoon’s portrayal of the “dumb blonde” turned lawyer with a keen fashion sense was her breakout role. She has since gone on to become one of the most famous celebs in the world. However, the role was originally offered to Christina Applegate. She’s best known for her role as Kelly Bundy on the sitcom Married…with Children. Applegate turned down the role of Elle Woods because she didn’t want to play another dumb blonde character. She openly admits that she regrets having turned down the role. She said, “The script came my way, and it was after I had just finished Married…with Children. I got scared of kind of repeating myself. What a stupid move.” She later admitted that she feels Reese was perfect for the role. Applegate went on to have a very successful career, most notably starring in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and the sequel, Anchorman: The Legend Continues.
3 Carrie Fisher – Princess Leia, Star Wars (Regrets)
Carrie Fisher is best known for her iconic portrayal of Princess Leia in the beloved Star Wars franchise. However, a part of her always regretted taking on the role. Carrie starred in the original Star Wars trilogy from 1977 to 1983. She returned to the role in the 2015 film, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. She appeared in several other films, such as Shampoo, Hannah and Her Sisters, and The ‘Burbs. However, she was always associated with Leia and struggled to get out of her shadow. She also struggled with her bipolar disorder and addiction. In 2008, during an interview on The Today Show, she openly admitted that she would have never taken on her most memorable role had she known she’d become incredibly famous for it. When she returned to the role in 2015, she noted that it was because it’s difficult for a woman over 30 to find work. Carrie Fisher died in 2016, and her final role will be in Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi.
2 Dustin Hoffman – Travis Bickle, Taxi Driver (Turned Down)
Academy Award winner Dustin Hoffman is considered one of the finest actors of his generation. He has appeared in a plethora of critically-acclaimed movies, including The Graduate, Kramer vs. Kramer, and Rain Man. However, he still regrets having turned down a role in one of the greatest movies ever made. Taxi Driver was released on February 8, 1976 and starred Robert De Niro. Travis Bickle is one of the most iconic anti-hero characters. Director Martin Scorsese actually offered the role to Hoffman first. Before Scorsese had a script, he met with Hoffman. However, Hoffman didn’t know who Martin was and said, “I hadn’t seen any of his films and he talked a mile a minute telling me what the movie would be about.” He went on to say, “I thought the guy was crazy! The film was Taxi Driver. I made so many dumb mistakes (turning down hit movies). The list is endless.”
1 Harrison Ford – Hans Solo (Regrets)
Over the years, Harrison Ford has had an intense love-hate relationship with his most iconic role as Han Solo. Ford’s big breakthrough came when he was cast as Han Solo. He also portrayed Indiana Jones in the Indiana Jones series. Additionally, he starred in several highly-praised films, including Blade Runner, Witness and The Fugitive. However, he is often associated with the wise-cracking pilot, Han Solo. Ford starred in the all three films in the original Star Wars trilogy from 1977 to 1983. He was always grateful to play Han but by the third film, was ready to see him die. Ford tried to convince George Lucas to kill off Han at the end of Return of the Jedi. He felt that it would give the series a good conclusion and was tired of playing the role. In 1983, he said, “Three is enough for me. I was glad to see that costume for the last time.” He returned to the role in the 2015 Star Wars film, The Force Awakens, where he finally got his way.