20 Actors Who Almost Turned Down Roles That Made Them Megastars

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Actors can be an indecisive bunch. Indeed, while some will agree to star in a film only to quickly get cold feet, others turn down a role only to suddenly realize its true potential. So, here’s a look at 20 who initially considered passing on the part that took their career to another level.

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20. Michael Keaton (Beetlejuice)

Michael Keaton and Tim Burton became an unlikely dream team in the late ‘80s. However, the former wasn’t particularly convinced of the latter’s famously offbeat vision at first. Indeed, Keaton nearly turned down the titular role in Beetlejuice due to these misgivings. Oh, and because he wanted to spend more time at home, too. The pair also went on to work together on Batman.

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19. Harrison Ford (Star Wars)

Even generation-defining blockbusters don’t always seem like a path to riches. Harrison Ford was offered just $1,000 a week to take on the legendary role of Han Solo in Star Wars, a sum that he initially felt was an insult. However, he eventually relented and has since gone on to appear in a further three installments of the sci-fi phenomenon.

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18. Christian Bale (Batman Begins)

Sticking with Batman, Christian Bale nearly bailed on playing the Caped Crusader in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy. In fact, the actor panicked every time he put on the claustrophobic Batsuit. As a result, at one point he felt that he’d have to quit the franchise entirely. However, after giving himself a pep talk Bale overcame his fears and subsequently played Batman in two further films.

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17. Heath Ledger (A Knight’s Tale)


A Knight’s Tale was the film that put Heath Ledger onto the A-list. Nevertheless, its use of a Queen anthem nearly caused him to turn down the project. The Australian was initially skeptical about combining a medieval storyline with classic rock songs such as “We Will Rock You.” However, he soon got on board with the idea and the rest is history.

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16. Bruce Willis (Die Hard)

Bruce Willis was forced to initially turn down the role of John McClane in the iconic thriller, Die Hard, due to his commitments on hit TV show Moonlighting. However, when co-star Cybill Shepherd fell pregnant, producers gave him nearly three months off to do his very own bit of moonlighting. Of course, the part transformed Willis into one of his generation’s ultimate action heroes.

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15. Alan Rickman (Die Hard)


Die Hard could also have had a different villain if Alan Rickman had followed his gut instinct. The celebrated actor, who’d spent most of his early career on the stage, initially balked at the idea of appearing in an action movie. Thankfully, once he realized how witty the script was, he threw himself into the role of evil mastermind Hans Gruber.

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14. Matthew Broderick (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)

Ferris Bueller was the teenager every ’80s kid wanted to be – well, apart from the guy who actually played him. Matthew Broderick had major doubts about taking on another character who talks directly to the camera, having just done so in Ladyhawke. Nevertheless, his wise agent believed that it was the role of a lifetime and Broderick wisely listened.

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13. Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games)


Jennifer Lawrence’s quick rise from virtual unknown to Hollywood’s highest-earning actress was almost solely down to the The Hunger Games franchise. However, the actress had to be convinced by her mother to take on the iconic part of Katniss Everdeen. Lawrence didn’t initially know if she could cope with such a high-profile role, but in this case, mum definitely knew best.

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12. Val Kilmer (Top Gun)

“There’ll be jets and whooof! Your hair’s going to be great!” That’s how Tony Scott eventually managed to persuade Val Kilmer to star in the film that would make him a household name. Indeed, Kilmer initially turned down several meetings with the Top Gun director, before Scott proved that persistence can pay off.

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11. Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy)


Before Guardians of the Galaxy came along, Chris Pratt was best known for being the schlubby guy in Parks and Recreation. After its release, he instantly became Hollywood’s next big thing. However, having suffered an embarrassing experience during an audition for G.I. Joe, the actor initially believed that trying out for the role would be futile.

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10. Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Terminator)

A reluctance to play the bad guy nearly cost Arnold Schwarzenegger the role which transformed him from bodybuilder into Hollywood heavyweight. The Austrian told The Terminator director James Cameron that taking on the robotic role would be detrimental to his career. Luckily, however, Cameron managed to persuade him that The Terminator wouldn’t just be any ordinary old villain, and a star was born.

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9. Leonardo DiCaprio (Titanic)


James Cameron also had to use his persuasive powers on Leonardo DiCaprio when casting his Oscar-winning blockbuster Titanic. Having previously only taken darker and quite challenging roles, the actor initially had little interest in playing the romantic lead opposite Kate Winslet. But Cameron eventually convinced him that playing the straight man was often more challenging than playing the tortured soul.

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8. Tom Hanks (Big)

Tom Hanks was already a familiar Hollywood face in 1988. But his Oscar-nominated performance in body-swap comedy Big sent his career stratospheric. However, Hanks very nearly missed out on the role because of other work commitments. In fact, he was only given another opportunity to star in the film when his replacement, Robert De Niro, was forced to abandon the project, too.

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7. Uma Thurman (Pulp Fiction)


Quentin Tarantino may have become Hollywood’s hottest thing following the success of Reservoir Dogs, but Uma Thurman couldn’t have cared less. In fact, she nearly missed out on starring in Pulp Fiction – and on its iconic poster – because she was unsure of the director, and of the inclusion of the film’s rape scene. Thurman, who played Mia Wallace in the blockbuster, has since admitted she can’t believe she was so hesitant.

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6. Josh Hartnett (Pearl Harbor)

Josh Hartnett may not have earned much respect from critics for appearing in Pearl Harbor. But the actor did, however, earn a fortune financially. In fact, his pay packet increased to $2m per film after starring in the World War II epic. And yet Hartnett admits that he almost refused the role because he wasn’t sure he wanted all the fame.

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5. Dakota Johnson (50 Shades of Grey)


50 Shades of Grey famously lost its first Christian Grey when Charlie Hunnam pulled out of the project. And it very nearly lost its first Anastasia Steele, too. Dakota Johnson told The Telegraph that she was unsure about whether to take the role in the steamy series. Moreover, her reservations continued during and after the shoot as well.

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4. Alicia Silverstone (Clueless)

Alicia Silverstone’s lack of confidence in her comic abilities almost prevented her from taking the part which would launch her to worldwide fame. But 20 years on from the classic teen movie’s release, the actress told Entertainment Tonight that she immediately found the Clueless script hilarious. It’s just that at the time, she didn’t know if she could do its witty one-liners justice.

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3. Mia Farrow (Rosemary’s Baby)


An unreasonable Frank Sinatra almost stopped Mia Farrow from taking the role which landed her a Golden Globe nomination. The legendary singer demanded that his wife turn down the lead in Rosemary’s Baby to star in The Detective with him instead. Luckily, Farrow stuck to her guns. Sinatra, however, retaliated by visiting the horror film’s set and issuing her with divorce papers.

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2. Mark Wahlberg (Boogie Nights)

Boogie Nights helped turn Mark Wahlberg from the crotch-grabbing leader of the Funky Bunch into a credible movie star. However, he was initially deterred from the project because of its risqué subject matter. Wahlberg thought playing a 1970s porn star would do more harm than good to his career. But after meeting with director Paul Thomas Anderson, he realized its potential.

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1. Richard Dreyfuss (Jaws)


Richard Dreyfuss initially had little interest in starring in Steven Spielberg’s classic 1970s horror Jaws. However, after watching his own acting in The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz in disgust, the self-critical star realized he may not get another chance like that again. And so Dreyfuss subsequently begged the legendary director to cast him as oceanographer Matt Hooper.