Disney is arguably the biggest name in entertainment. But that isn’t to say every Hollywood star jumps at the chance to appear in one of its movies. In fact, there have been a number of notable names over the years to turn down a part in a Disney film. Indeed, sometimes roles that have been made famous by a particular actor were originally earmarked for someone else entirely. So some of the following names may shock you.
20. Patrick Stewart
Established thespian Patrick Stewart is perhaps best known for his portrayal of Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Not unfamiliar with any number of movie genres, Stewart was nonetheless unconvinced about the merits of not one, but two Disney roles – so much so that the Englishman turned both down.
Both roles that Stewart reportedly refused came up during his celebrated run upon the Enterprise. The first part was as Cogsworth, the grandfather clock in Beauty and The Beast. The second was as bad guy Jafar in Aladdin. However, Stewart did later take up the option to work with the studio, going on to voice the character of Mr. Woolensworth in Chicken Little.
19. Woody Allen
Woody Allen established himself as one of the most successful writers and directors in movie history with hits such as Midnight in Paris and Manhattan. Of course, he starred in many of his own movies, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in Annie Hall.
Intriguingly, Allen was involved in somewhat of a tug-of-war between Disney and rival producer DreamWorks to voice major roles in movies. You see, he turned down Disney, passing on the opportunity to voice Tantor in Tarzan. And instead he took a starring turn in DreamWorks’ Antz, all because the company reportedly promised to distribute any movies he made himself in future.
18. Tim Curry
Tim Curry has played some memorable roles down the years, perhaps most notably that of Dr. Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Yes, and the English actor has lent his voice to a host of well-known characters, including Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. So it’s perhaps unsurprising that Curry was approached by Disney to voice Simba’s nemesis Scar in The Lion King.
As we know, The Lion King has subsequently become one of Disney’s most popular animated movies, spawning a live-action remake and a popular stage production. However, Curry had to turn down the role of Scar due to scheduling conflicts. The part was eventually played, memorably, by another English actor, Jeremey Irons.
17. Eddie Murphy
Eddie Murphy has starred in many family favourites, including Dr. Doolittle, the Shrek series and The Nutty Professor. Indeed, the actor and comedian has a bulging back catalogue of movies. Yet another family smash Murphy could have added to his filmography was Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? was groundbreaking at the time of its 1991 release due to the combination of live-action and cartoon scenes. Yet the lead male role of Eddie Valiant went to English actor Bob Hoskins, reportedly because Murphy demanded too much money. The movie was a smash, and Murphy reportedly regretted his decision to price himself out of the role.
16. Billy Crystal
Toy Story is one of the most beloved animated film franchises of all time. With four films in the series to date, it tells the tale of a lovable collection of toys, led by Woody and Buzz Lightyear, voiced by Tom Hanks and Tim Allen respectively.
Yes, spaceman Buzz Lightyear is undoubtedly one of the stars of the movie series. But according to reports, it was Billy Crystal who was originally earmarked for the role, and he turned it down for unknown reasons. Crystal did go on to play Mike Wazowski in the Monsters, Inc. movies. And he later said his decision concerning Buzz was, “the only regret I have in the business of something I passed on.”
15. Warren Beatty
Warren Beatty is not a name that you’d immediately associate with Disney. Indeed, the actor’s played hard-hitting roles, including Bonnie and Clyde, Bugsy and Reds. Believe it or not, though, the iconic actor was targeted by Disney for a role in Aladdin.
Yes, Beatty reportedly turned down the part of Iago, the comedic parrot sidekick of Aladdin. And the man who eventually voiced the bird, Gilbert Gottfried, claimed that Beatty had refused it because it reminded him of one of his previous parts in a flop movie. That movie, in fact, was Ishtar, which he did alongside Dustin Hoffman.
14. Lily Tomlin
Lily Tomlin has often been a trailblazer in Hollywood circles, and she’s respected for her forthright views. And the star was equally refreshingly honest when being offered the voice role of superhero Edna Mode in the Disney production The Incredibles. This would’ve seen her play the short and stout fashion designer.
Now, director of The Incredibles, Brad Bird, originally completed voice work for Edna Mode himself, with the intention of asking Tomlin to later fill in the role. However, Tomlin was so impressed with what Bird had produced that she said she couldn’t improve on it. So that was the end of that.
13. Gregory Peck
Gregory Peck is regarded as one of the golden greats thanks to his starring roles in movies such as To Kill a Mockingbird and Roman Holiday. And although a Disney role was never something that Peck could include on his resume, things could have been very different.
You see, Peck had the honor of having a role specifically written for him in the Disney smash Pocahontas. But upon learning more, Peck used his experience to convince producers that it would be much better suited to a woman. Old Man River therefore became Linda Hunt’s Grandmother Willow.
12. Michael Douglas
As the son of screen legend Kirk Douglas, Michael Douglas knows a thing or two about the movie industry. But even second-generation actors can make a mistake from time to time. Douglas admitted his regret at passing on the chance to voice a character in the incredibly popular Frozen movie.
Yes, while making an appearance on The Late Late Show with James Corden, Douglas spoke honestly about the mistake he’d made in passing up the opportunity. Douglas told Corden he couldn’t remember the part specifically, although it was likely the Duke of Weselton, or perhaps Ana’s and Elsa’s father. Either way, it would have been a lucrative role.
11. Jack Nicholson
One star you definitely wouldn’t associate with cuddly Disney films is Jack Nicholson, who’s played a host of menacing bad guys down the years. Unsurprisingly, it was a dark role that Nicholson was approached to play for Disney: that of Hades, God of the Underworld, in Hercules.
Alas, Nicholson never did get to voice Hades, and instead it was James Woods who filled the role. “We wrote the villain Hades as Jack Nicholson,” remembered director and writer John Musker. Unfortunately, Nicholson’s financial demands for the role were too high. And so the part went to Woods, who was a “delight to work and invent with” according to Musker.
10. Julie Andrews
The movie business is littered with examples of stars turning down sequels, often believing the second movie will be a dud. And often those hunches are correct. But there are actors who’ve appeared in sequels – and in different parts from the first movie. Sadly, Julie Andrews is not one of those.
You see, Andrews cemented her legendary status as Mary Poppins in the 1964 Disney film of the same name. And 54 years later, she turned down a cameo part in Mary Poppins Returns because she didn’t want to steal the thunder of the new star. Director Rob Marshall told Entertainment Weekly, “[Andrews] said ‘This is Emily [Blunt’s] show, and I really want it to be Emily’s show.’”
9. Will Smith
Sometimes actors make the right choice when turning down a Disney part. That can be especially true if they take up another role with the entertainment giant in a movie that enjoys considerably more success. This was the case when Will Smith reportedly turned down the role of Holt Farrier in Disney’s live-action remake of Dumbo.
Instead, Smith signed up for the role of the Genie in the remake of Aladdin, and the movie went on to be significant in Smith’s career. Just 36 days after it was released, it became Smith’s biggest success to date at the box office. Yes, it surpassed his old record from Independence Day 23 years’ previous.
8. Ryan Gosling
Disney’s 2017 live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast turned out to be one of the studio’s biggest earners of all time. Indeed, it took more than $504 million at the U.S. box office. And that was despite having the relatively unknown Dan Stevens in the role of the Beast.
Now, Stevens had made a name for himself in British TV drama Downton Abbey. But originally, a much better-known star had reportedly been lined up for the role: Ryan Gosling. It’s not known why the La La Land star declined, however the Canadian has forged a career playing unconventional characters as opposed to taking on big-budget smashes.
7. Emma Watson
Emma Watson is known and loved by movie audiences for her portrayal of Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series. And she memorably did Disney’s live-action remake of Beauty and The Beast in 2017, too. Yet Watson had earlier turned down another lucrative Disney part.
For you see, Cinderella was arguably the movie that began the recent trend of live-action versions of previous animated favorites. And Watson turned down the opportunity to star in the 2015 remake, with the role eventually being filled by Lily James. As we now know, James has forged her own lucrative career as a result.
6. Leonardo Di Caprio
Movie stars don’t come much bigger than Leonardo Di Caprio. However, pre-Titanic stardom, the actor was offered the chance to earn his spurs in Disney’s Hocus Pocus. But he declined to hang on for another role that was in the pipeline. It was a dangerous game of brinkmanship that Di Caprio was playing with his career.
In a 2014 interview with Variety Di Caprio recalled that he turned down “more money than I ever dreamed of” by rejecting the role of Max in Hocus Pocus. In fact, he was holding out for a part in indie film What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? Di Caprio told the magazine, “I don’t know where the hell I got the nerve.”
5. Selena Gomez
Selena Gomez is strongly associated with the Disney brand, thanks to her breakout part in Wizards of Waverley Place, a series which ran between 2007 and 2012. But it turns out that Gomez didn’t necessarily see herself as being beholden to her Disney bosses.
You see, in 2008 Gomez turned down the opportunity to appear in a Disney Channel TV movie. In fact, the part of Mitchie in Camp Rock later went to Demi Lovato, who’d appeared with Gomez in Barney & Friends. The Disney Channel’s head of entertainment at the time, Gary Marsh, told E! Entertainment, “She wasn’t ready to explore that part of her talent yet. She wanted to build her acting base first.”
Robin Williams will forever be remembered as one of the most beloved comic and family entertainers. The star of movies such as Mrs. Doubtfire and Dead Poets Society, he’d already cemented a strong relationship with Disney by voicing Genie in 1992’s Aladdin. Yet by the mid 1990s, Williams was not on such good terms with the studio.
Indeed, Williams and Disney got into a dispute about the former’s image rights regarding the role of Genie. For Williams believed that Disney had broken its agreement not to use his Genie image and voice for merchandising purposes. So by the time the studio came knocking for him to voice Woody in Toy Story, the actor turned it down. The part went to Tom Hanks, and the rest is history.
3. Kristen Bell & Idina Menzel
Disney has enjoyed almost a century of success, but even seasoned executives must have been staggered by the popularity of Frozen. The animated movie, and its sequel Frozen 2, have become two of the company’s biggest hits ever. Yet it’s worth noting that the two main stars of the films were both overlooked for a previous Disney role.
Bell and Menzel, who voice Anna and Elsa respectively in Frozen, were both reportedly turned down for the role of Rapunzel in Tangled. The part eventually went to Mandy Moore, but it is believed that Disney bosses always intended to cast Bell and Menzel as the snow queen and her sister in the latter movie. It was an inspired choice indeed.
2. Anne Hathaway
You have to be somewhat established to turn down a prestigious role in a Disney film. But it takes a certain faith in your own ability and considerable star-power to instead suggest another role for yourself. Yet that is exactly what Anne Hathaway did with the 2010 live-action remake of Alice in Wonderland.
You see, Hathaway felt that the role of Alice wasn’t right for her, citing that she’d “done that sort of pretty-girl-in-a-fairy-dress role” before in The Princess Diaries. Instead, the star lobbied to play the White Queen, which she subsequently landed and then reprised in 2016’s Alice Through the Looking Glass. Mia Wasikowska ended up playing Alice in both those movies.
1. Bill Murray – Buzz Lightyear
Although there have been numerous actors who’ve turned down a major role in a Disney movie, there aren’t many who can claim to have done it twice. Yet that is exactly the case with Bill Murray, the popular star of Groundhog Day. According to reports, Murray was another actor who passed on the opportunity to voice Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story, to Tim Allen’s gain.
However, Murray did accept the chance to test for the role of Sulley in Monsters, Inc. But according to director Pete Docter, the star never picked up the phone when producers tried to inform him that he’d been successful. “We took that to mean ‘no,’” Docter later said. And so the part went to John Goodman instead, who reprised the role in Monsters University.