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D'oh! 22 actors who turned down huge film roles

Life could have been very different.

MICHAEL KEATON MAY be best known for his 1989 role as Batman, but he revealed this week that he turned down another huge role as the lead in Groundhog Day because he simply “didn’t get it”.

Keaton is not alone.

Harrison Ford wasn’t originally sought out to play Han Solo, nor was Scarlett Johansson the original choice for Marvel’s Black Widow.

And we might have seen Brad Pitt in a very different role if it wasn’t for his kids.

We rounded up 23 actors and actresses who turned down possible career-changing roles.

Michael Keaton

Film: Groundhog Day

Role eventually played by: Bill Murray

Michael Keaton told Entertainment Weekly he turned down the lead in 1993′s Groundhog Day because he simply “didn’t get it”.

“This guy sounds like the kind of wry, sardonic, glib young man I’ve played — and it ended up being so great,” Keaton tells EW.

But you can’t do it better than Bill Murray did it.

Bill Murray

Film: Forrest Gump

Role eventually played by: Tom Hanks

The tables were turned when Murray told Howard Stern on his SiriusXM programme that the part didn’t interest him.

“I did have ‘Forrest Gump’ conversations,” Murray said. “I think I had the original book and all that sort of stuff.”

Murray says he never saw the script for the film. When Stern asked Murray if he regretted passing on the film, he said he never saw it.

Matt Damon

PastedImage-9932 Wikimedia / Warner Bros Screengrab Wikimedia / Warner Bros Screengrab / Warner Bros Screengrab

Film: The Dark Knight

Role eventually played by: Aaron Eckhart

Damon told MTV he had to turn down the iconic role of Harvey Two-Face Dent because of filming conflicts.

I couldn’t [appear in The Dark Knight]. It was a scheduling thing. But I never spoke to Chris Nolan. He had no qualms regarding Nolan’s final choice for the villain.

Look, Aaron is a great actor, so the movie didn’t suffer for it. Every once in a while you get [an acting opportunity] and you can’t do it.

Leonardo DiCaprio

PastedImage-54833 PA Wire PA Wire

Film: American Psycho

Role eventually played by: Christian Bale

Lionsgate reportedly offered DiCaprio $20 million to play serial killer Patrick Bateman in “American Psycho.” After the actor expressed interest, the studio went so far as to issue a press release saying he would star.

DiCaprio also exited the World War II film “The Imitation Game,” which will star Benedict Cumberbatch. Early screenings of the film already have critics buzzing about it for Oscar season.

Christian Bale

'Skyfall' Premiere - Sydney Rob Griffith Rob Griffith

Film: James Bond

Role eventually played by: Daniel Craig

According to the Christian Bale biography, The Inside Story of the Darkest Batman, Bale’s former publicist says the actor wasn’t interested in “being committed to a franchise that was very British“ after Pierce Brosnan’s contract was up as Bond.

“He thought that James Bond represented every despicable stereotype about England and British actors. Besides, he quipped: ‘I’ve already played a serial killer.’”

 Angela Bassett


Film: Monster’s Ball

Role played by: Halle Berry

Angela Bassett turned down the role, openly telling Newsweek she didn’t want to fit a cliché.

I wasn’t going to be a prostitute on film. I couldn’t do that because it’s such a stereotype about black women and sexuality.

The role earned Berry a Best Actress Oscar, making her the first African-American to receive the award.

Angelina Jolie

Film: Gravity

Role played by: Sandra Bullock

According to Variety, Angelina Jolie was originally set to play the lead in Alfonso Cuaron’s Oscar winner; however, she passed on the role in summer 2010.

Nicolas Cage


Film: Spider-Man

Role played by: Willem Dafoe

In a CNN interview, Nicolas Cage once addressed a number of roles he turned down including the lead in “The Wrestler” and the Green Goblin in “Spider-Man.”

Michelle Pfeiffer

PastedImage-73339 Shutterstock / Featureflash Shutterstock / Featureflash / Featureflash

Film: Pretty Woman and Basic Instinct

Roles played by: Julia Roberts and Sharon Stone

Pfeiffer passed on two huge roles offered her way, declining the role in Basic Instinct because of its nudity, according to an interview with Contactmusic.

“I just couldn’t do that one, because of the sexual parts, the nudity,” she said. “My father was still alive. I’m kind of prudish … And honestly? I am not that uninhibited about my body. I’m modest.”

Julia Roberts


Film: The Blind Side and The Proposal

Roles played by: Sandra Bullock

Julia Roberts passed on not one but two roles that ended up going to Sandra Bullock instead.

The actress declined The Proposal after reportedly refusing to accept a pay cut. Bullock took the role instead at the lower salary. To date, The Proposal has earned more than $317 million worldwide.

She also passed up The Blind Side, based on a real-life story. Bullock received a Best Actress Oscar for the role.

Al Pacino

Film: Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

Role played by: Harrison Ford

Al Pacino turned down a lot of big roles, including an offer to play Han Solo in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

According to The Atlantic Wire, Al Pacino was very selective when it came to movie roles. He passed on a bunch of big parts including Han Solo in Star Wars, Martin Sheen’s role in Apocalypse Now, a role in The Usual Suspects, and the lead in Pretty Woman.

Jack Nicholson


Film: The Godfather

Role eventually played by: Al Pacino

Nicholson acknowledged in a 2004 interview with Movieline that he passed on the iconic role because he knew it wasn’t his to play.

“Back then I believed that Indians should play Indians and Italians should play Italians … There were a lot of actors who could have played Michael, myself included, but Al Pacino was Michael Corleone. I can’t think of a better compliment to pay him.”

2009 Vanity Fair article references multiple actors who were considered for Corleone’s role, including Warren Beatty, Robert Redford, and Martin Sheen.

Will Smith

Film: The Matrix

Role played by: Keanu Reeves

Yes, Neo could have been played by Men in Black actor Will Smith. Instead, Smith made Wild Wild West, which spawned this gem.

Smith told Wired he was OK with his decision, though.

“I watched Keanu’s performance — and very rarely do I say this — but I would have messed it up,” Smith said. “At that point I wasn’t smart enough as an actor to let the movie be. Whereas Keanu was smart enough to just let it be.”

Emily Blunt

PastedImage-59797 Warner Bros., Disney / Marvel Warner Bros., Disney / Marvel / Marvel

Film: Iron Man 2

Role played by: Scarlett Johansson

The Edge of Tomorrow actress was the first choice to play the Black Widow in Iron Man 2. While Blunt has said she backed out because of timing, Deadline reported the recast resulted from a low paycheck for the actress.

Blunt told Screenrant she had no regrets about missing out on the role but that she was still open to playing a super-heroine in the future.

“I’m never regretful about not doing something; I didn’t do it at the time because it wasn’t the right time and I was contracted to do something else,” Blunt said. “But Scarlett [Johansson] has done such a phenomenal job — she’s it! Like why even reminisce about what could’ve been? She’s it and she nailed it, and I love ‘The Avengers,’ I really found it to be really good fun.”

Ian McKellan

potter harry 01- The launch of the 5th Harry Pott The launch of the 5th Harry Pott

Film: Harry Potter

Role taken by: Michael Gambon

The actor turned down the role of Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore after Richard Harris died.

McKellen said people always asked him if he wished he played Dumbledore, but because the actor played the wizard Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings, he declined.

He also had personal reasons for turning down the role:

[S]eeing as one of the last things he did publicly was say what a dreadful actor he thought I was, it would not have been appropriate for me to take over his part. It would have been unfair.

Tom Selleck

Tom Selleck PA Archive / Press Association Images PA Archive / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

Film: Raiders of the Lost Ark

Role played by: Harrison Ford

Tom Selleck was offered the role but turned it down because of scheduling conflicts with Magnum P.I.

You can watch his screen test for Indiana Jones here.

Harrison Ford

Film: Jurassic Park

Role played by: Sam Neill

According to /FILM, Steven Spielberg said he offered the lead role to Harrison Ford during a 30th anniversary screening of Raiders of the Lost Ark in Los Angeles.

“You know who I offered ‘Jurassic Park’ to? This guy. Alan Grant, ’Jurassic Park,’ right here,” Spielberg said. /FILM says Ford quickly changed the conversation.

Denzel Washington

Film: Se7en

Role played by: Brad Pitt

Washington could have had Brad Pitt’s role. However, he turned down “Se7en,” deciding to work on detective thriller “Devil in a Blue Dress” instead.

The actor later told Entertainment Weekly he regretted the decision after seeing a screener. ”They offered me the Brad Pitt part, but I was like, ‘This is so dark and evil,’” Washington said. “Then, when I saw the movie, I was like, ‘Oh, shoot.’”

In a recent interview with theGrio, Washington said it was a “mistake.”

“I just didn’t think anybody was going to see it,” Washington said. “I don’t know what I made instead, I can’t remember, but I turned [Se7en] down. I guess Brad Pitt is happy about that.”

Charlie Hunnam

Jamie Dornan launches Calvin Klein male model competition - London PA Archive / Press Association Images PA Archive / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

Film: Fifty Shades of Grey

Role played by: Jamie Dornan

The “Sons of Anarchy” star was originally cast in the lead for the highly anticipated adaptation, but he later dropped out, telling Moviefone he had a “nervous breakdown.

“I just said, ‘I can’t, I can’t,’” Hunnam said. “Fifty’s going to be massive, it’s going to be huge. I really didn’t want to fail on such a grand scale and I just couldn’t transition from Jax Teller to Christian Grey in 48 hours. I bit off more than I could chew and it was painful. I loved the character and I wanted to do it … It was one of those damned if you do, damned if you don’t situations.”

Brad Pitt


Film: 12 Years A Slave

Role played by: Michael Fassbender

According to the New York Post, the “12 Years a Slave” producer turned down one of the lead roles of a mean slave owner saying, “I didn’t want my kids to see me in this role.”

Instead, he took on the much smaller role.

Anne Hathaway

2014 Met Costume Institute Gala - New York Dennis Van Tine Dennis Van Tine

Film: Silver Linings Playbook

Role played by: Jennifer Lawrence

Harvey Weinstein told Howard Stern both Anne Hathaway and Mark Wahlberg were set to star in the Oscar picture.

“Silver Linings Playbook was originally going to be with Anne Hathaway and Mark Wahlberg,” Weinstein said. “And then Anne wasn’t doing it. And she’s marvelous, and wonderful and she was my choice, I love her.”

According to Weinstein, Hathaway and director David O. Russell had a few issues on set.

“Well, David and Anne had some creative differences,” Weinstein said. “They didn’t see eye to eye.”

Jonah Hill

Film: The Hangover

Roles played by: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis

Jonah Hill told Bullet Magazine he had the opportunity to play any of the leads in Warner Bros.’ The Hangover. He also had a chance to star alongside Shia LaBeouf in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

“A genuine fear of mine was that I was going to be known as ‘The Guy from Superbad’ for the rest of my life,” Hill said.

“They were both really big decisions, and ones that most people didn’t understand,” he added. “I knew I could be a dramatic actor, but I also knew I couldn’t go from Superbad to Schindler’s List.”

Hill went on to receive Oscar nominations both for 2011′s Moneyball and for 2013′s The Wolf of Wall Street.

More: Irish lads perfectly parody American Psycho’s business card scene… with pints

Read: Adam Sandler is producing four exclusive movies for Netflix

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