20 Hollywood A-Listers Who Turned Down Iconic Movie Roles

Everybody makes mistakes, but when an A-list actor passes on what turned out to be the movie role of a lifetime, that mistake could have cost them millions of dollars and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Sadly, this sorry situation has happened to some of the industry’s biggest names, and they’re not afraid to admit that they’ve lived to regret their decisions.

20. John Travolta – Forrest Gump

John Travolta has admitted he would “trade a few movies with Tom Hanks,” including 1994’s Forrest Gump. That one must be especially frustrating for Travolta considering the fact that he actually turned down the role and Hanks won an Oscar for it.

19. Hugh Jackman – Casino Royale

In 2013 Hugh Jackman jokingly told Fabric magazine, “I cry myself to sleep every night” over his decision to turn down the part of James Bond. Jackman said he was already playing one seminal role in Wolverine and didn’t want to take on another.

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18. Gwyneth Paltrow – Titanic

Rumor has it that Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow passed on Kate Winslet’s role of Rose in mega-hit Titanic. Still, the Iron Man star told Howard Stern in 2015 that she was “in contention for it” and that she “would throw a fit that [she] turned that down!”

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17. Leonardo DiCaprio – Boogie Nights

Leonardo DiCaprio admitted to GQ in 2008 that he regretted turning down the chance to play porn star Dirk Diggler. “Boogie Nights is a movie I loved and I wish I would’ve done,” he said. He did Titanic instead, and Mark Wahlberg did Boogie Nights.

16. Reese Witherspoon – Scream

Reese Witherspoon apparently didn’t assume the role of Sidney Prescott in Scream because she falsely believed it to be a cookie-cutter horror flick. However, the hugely successful original – with Neve Campbell as Prescott – spawned three blockbuster sequels.

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15. Julia Roberts – The Blind Side

It’s been claimed that Julia Roberts opted for ensemble rom-com Valentine’s Day in favor of biopic The Blind Side. That’s too bad considering Sandra Bullock went home with an Academy Award for The Blind Side, while Time reckons Valentine’s Day is “just plain boring.”

14. Denzel Washington – Michael Clayton

In 2012 Denzel Washington explained to GQ why he passed on George Clooney’s Oscar nominated role in Michael Clayton. “It was the best material I had read in a long time, but I was nervous about a first-time director, and I was wrong,” Washington said.

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13. Sean Connery – The Lord of the Rings

Sean Connery reportedly didn’t play Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings trilogy because he “didn’t understand” the screenplay. The role, of course, went to Ian McKellen, who is now loved throughout the world for his performance.

12. Angela Bassett – Monster’s Ball

When Newsweek asked Angela Bassett in 2002 why she passed on Monster’s Ball, Bassett told the magazine she “couldn’t do that because it’s such a stereotype about black women and sexuality.” Halle Berry had no such worries, however, and she wound up with the part and an Oscar.

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11. Dustin Hoffman – Taxi Driver

Back in the ’70s Martin Scorsese apparently approached Dustin Hoffman about the lead in Taxi Driver. Hoffman reportedly said of their meeting, “I was thinking, ‘What is [Scorsese] talking about?’ I thought the guy was crazy!” Robert De Niro eventually took the iconic role.

10. Michelle Pfeiffer – The Silence of the Lambs

Michelle Pfeiffer has admitted to turning her back on Pretty Woman and Thelma & Louise, among others, but she told The Telegraph in 2013 her biggest regret was passing on “Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs.” The role earned Jodie Foster an Oscar.

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9. Al Pacino – Star Wars

At the Toronto International Film Festival in 2014 Al Pacino revealed that he could have been Han Solo in the original Star Wars. “I remember not [understanding the script] when I read it,” he explained to MTV. That was good news for Harrison Ford.

8. Cher – Thelma & Louise

Cher described her “biggest disappointment” to The Mail on Sunday in 2013 as her being “too sick to do Thelma & Louise. She went on, “It’s still a great film, but I have a saying: ‘What belongs to you, comes to you.’”

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7. Kevin Costner – The Shawshank Redemption

Kevin Costner might have been The Shawshank Redemption’s Andy Dufresne had he apparently not been toiling away on Waterworld. Unfortunately for Costner, Waterworld was a bit of a damp squib while Shawshank is a perennial favorite with audiences.

6. Bruce Willis – Ghost

“I passed on Ghost because I thought, ‘a romance with a dead guy?’” said Bruce Willis on the website Ain’t It Cool News in 2007. His confusion over the concept certainly paid off for Patrick Swayze, though.

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5. Tom Selleck – Raiders of the Lost Ark

Steven Spielberg and George Lucas originally wanted Tom Selleck for Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Luckily for Harrison Ford, Selleck was committed to the TV series Magnum P.I. at the time and couldn’t be released from his contract.

4. Emily Browning – The Twilight Saga

Amazingly, Emily Browning passed on Twilight before she even auditioned for the part of Bella, which eventually went to Kristen Stewart. Browning told HuffPost Live in 2014 that she isn’t comfortable with that level of fame. “I don’t think I would have been able to handle it,” she said.

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3. Nicolas Cage – The Lord of the Rings

Nicolas Cage hinted to Newsweek in 2015 that he “probably would have benefited from” taking the role of Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. He dropped out because of “different things going on in my life at the time,” which was good news for Viggo Mortensen.

2. Christina Applegate – Legally Blonde

Christina Applegate could have had Reese Witherspoon’s career if she’d accepted the part of Elle Woods in Legally Blonde. Applegate told ETonline in 2015 that it was because she’d already played a similar role on TV. “I got scared of kind of repeating myself. What a stupid move,” she joked.

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1. Josh Hartnett – Batman Begins

Josh Hartnett deeply regrets not taking on Batman for director Christopher Nolan. “I was so focused on not being pigeonholed and so scared of being considered only one thing as an actor,” he told Playboy in 2015 of his decision. And, of course, eventual Batman Christian Bale majorly benefited from Hartnett’s unwise choice.

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