I’ll Pass: Actors Who Turned Down Huge Roles

July 15, 2014  |  
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We’ve all made bad career moves that we wish we could take back, much like these actors who turned down huge roles that could’ve been, quite frankly, the role of a lifetime.

Hugh Jackman

Many actors have vied for and campaigned to play the woman-loving spy James Bond. But for Hugh Jackman, he just couldn’t be bothered. Despite being forever known as Wolverine, Jackman turned down the iconic role because he didn’t want to be typecast as an action hero. Daniel Craig walked away with the role instead. Now that some time has passed, Jackman has changed his mind about playing Bond.

John Travolta

John Travolta snagged the role of a lifetime when he danced his way into America’s hearts as Danny Zuko in “Grease.” But he could’ve been a part of another iconic film as well. Travolta was offered the part of Forrest Gump in the Oscar-winning movie but he turned it down. Tom Hanks had to wait for Bill Murray and Chevy Chase to pass before it finally went to him. Hanks can also thank Travolta for passing up on “Splash” and “Apollo 13” because he starred in those films as well.

Will Smith

For a while Will Smith had a good run as the king of Fourth of July with one box office smash after another. But he could’ve been a part of another moneymaking franchise hit as well. The “Men In Black” star passed up the opportunity to play Neo in “The Matrix.” Smith didn’t understand the film and didn’t think he could pull it off. That’s when Keanu Reeves was given the opportunity to don the black trench coat. Smith also rejected the part of the bounty hunting former slave in “Django Unchained” as well.

Dana Delany

It took a long time for actress Dana Delany to finally land her own show, but the star of “Body of Proof” could’ve been a household name a long time ago. Surprisingly, Sarah Jessica Parker wasn’t the first choice to play Carrie Bradshaw on HBO’s “Sex and the City.” Bradshaw was originally offered to Delaney but she passed up on the project because she didn’t think the part was stylish enough. Parker almost passed up the role too because she wanted to focus on her film career instead of television.

Pamela Anderson

Pamela Anderson will forever be remembered for her slow motion running across the beach in an orange bathing suit. But the “Baywatch” star was this close to chasing aliens on Fox’s “The X Files.” The original Agent Scully was supposed to be a tall, leggy woman with curves and producers of the show preferred Anderson. However, the buxom babe wasn’t known for her acting skills and Gillian Anderson’s portrayal of the character won them over.

Matt Damon

Matt Damon has played a lot characters but there’s one that he walked away from: Harvey “Two Face” Dent in “The Dark Knight.” It wasn’t because he didn’t want to play the part, though, Damon was busy shooting another film and couldn’t be in two places at one time. He praised Aaron Eckhart for playing the villain in an interview about the role. “Aaron is a great actor, so the movie didn’t suffer for it,” he said. “Every once in a while you get [an acting opportunity] and you can’t do it.”

Mark Wahlberg

Jake Gyllenhaal received a lot of praise and accolades for his role in “Brokeback Mountain” and he even earned an Academy award nomination but could that have went to Mark Wahlberg instead? The Boston native passed up on the role to play because he found it a tad creepy. “I met with Ang Lee on that movie, I read 15 pages of the script and got a little creeped out,” Wahlberg said. “It was very graphic, descriptive – the spitting on the hand, getting ready to do the thing. I told Ang Lee, ‘I like you, you’re a talented guy, if you want to talk about it more…’”

Matthew Broderick

Matthew Broderick reprised his iconic character Ferris Bueller for a Honda commercial that aired during the Super Bowl and while that role helped define his career, Broderick almost landed another role of a lifetime. “Breaking Bad” executives wanted him to play Walter White but the show’s creator had another idea for the main character. Vince Gilligan wanted Bryan Cranston all along and his guest spot on “The X Files” helped convince the higher ups that he was the right choice as well.

Sandra Bernhard

We loved her as the fun-loving friend on “Roseanne” but Sandra Bernhard could’ve been more famous as “Sex and the City’s” Miranda Hobbs. The sassy comedian was offered the role on the HBO series but passed on the project because the script she read was horrible and she wasn’t offered enough money. Cynthia Nixon took the role and became apart of one of the most well-known female foursomes on television.

Mel Gibson

There was a point in time Mel Gibson was one of the most sought after stars in Hollywood. The troubled actor hasn’t been able to fully recover from his DUI arrest or his Anti-Semantic rant but before he was virtually blacklisted he was wanted to play Maximus in “Gladiator.” However, Russell Crowe ended up with the part and an Oscar for his mantle. Gibson also passed on the role to play Harvey “Two Face” Dent in 1995’s “Batman Forever” because he was already booked to shoot “Braveheart.”

Molly Ringwald

Julia Roberts owes a huge thank you to Molly Ringwald. “The Breakfast Club” actress was offered the role of Vivian Ward from “Pretty Woman” but she passed on the project. Roberts ended up in the film and it proved to be just the part that she needed to get her career off of the ground. In a crazy twist of fate, Ringwald also passed on the movie “Ghost.” Demi Moore was cast as the role of widowed Molly Jensen.

Paul Giamatti

Steve Carell was born to play Michael Scott on “The Office” but there was a chance that the role would’ve been someone else’s. When the hit U.K. show was first brought over here, executives had their eyes on Paul Giamatti. Riding the fame from the recently released “Sideways,” Giamatti preferred to work on his film career as opposed to doing television. The hit NBC sitcom helped jumpstart Carell’s career in Hollywood.

Michelle Pfeiffer

Anthony Hopkins played the psychopathic killer in “Silence of the Lambs” but instead of sitting across from Jodie Foster, it was almost Michelle Pfeiffer who was cast as Clarice Starling. Foster wanted the part from jump but the director preferred to have Pfeiffer. However, the “Dangerous Minds” star was turned off by the gore and dark content of the movie.

Paul Shaffer

He’s made a career out of playing David Letterman’s sidekick on late night television but Paul Shaffer could’ve been one of television’s most well-known sitcom sidekicks. Shaffer was the first choice for “Seinfeld’s” George Costanza. Jerry Seinfeld was interested in having Shaffer play the part because of his strong resemblance to the show’s co-creator Larry David and the inspiration behind Costanza. However, Shaffer didn’t even bother to give Seinfeld a call back.

Emily Browning

Can you imagine passing up on a role of a box office franchise film? Emily Browning can because she did. The Australian star had just wrapped up shooting “The Uninvited” and wanted to take some time off for herself so Browning didn’t even bother auditioning for the role of “Twilight’s” Belle Swan. Stewart got the role and started to move away from her former child star image. She also fell in love with and started dating her co-star Robert Pattinson. But don’t cry for Browning because she was recently named the face of Chanel.

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