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20 Celebrities Who Regretted Not Taking Hit Movie Roles

celebrities who regretted turning down movie roles
Source: MEGA

Apr. 20 2024, Published 5:00 a.m. ET

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Al Pacino in ‘Star Wars’

al pacino in star wars
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Al Pacino starred in 'The Godfather,' 'Serpico,' 'Dog Day Afternoon' and more before turning down the 'Star Wars' offer.

Al Pacino was tapped to play Han Solo's role in Star Wars, but the Hollywood legend turned down the offer.

"Well, I turned down Star Wars. When I first came up, I was the new kid on the block," he said when he attended an event at the 92nd Street Y in New York (via Variety). "You know what happens when you first become famous. It's like, 'Give it to Al.' They'd give me Queen Elizabeth to play."

Pacino added, "They gave me a script called 'Star Wars.' They offered me so much money. I don't understand it. I read it. So I said I couldn't do it."

He also joked about giving Harrison Ford, who ended up playing the character, a career.

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Brad Pitt in 'Bourne Identity'

brad pitt in bourne identity
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Brad Pitt also turned down 'The Matrix' and 'Shawshank Redemption.'

To work in Spy Game, Brad Pitt did not accept a role in Tony Scott's Spy Game. Matt Damon replaced him instead in the paranoid thriller and played Jason Bourne's role.

Russell Crowe and Tom Cruise were also considered for the role before Damon entered the negotiations with the film's creator.

Bruce Willis in 'Ghost'

bruce willis in ghost
Source: MEGA

Bruce Willis also missed starring in 'The English Patient.'

Fans almost saw Bruce Willis play Sam Wheat's character in Ghost instead of Patrick Swayze. He reportedly passed because the plot suggested a romantic relationship between a ghost and a living person, and he reportedly regretted it.

The 1990 film became a huge hit and pushed Swayze to the spotlight.

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Christina Applegate in 'Legally Blonde'

christina applegate in legally blonde
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The 'Dead to Me' star confessed she feels 'trapped' in a 'darkness' due to her MS.

In her interview with Vanity Fair, Christina Applegate opened up about not accepting the role of Elle Woods in Legally Blonde and regretting her decision. Reese Witherspoon eventually played the lead character.

"I wouldn't toy with the idea of 'Legally Blonde' because it felt too fresh getting out of 'Married…With Children.' It was very similar on paper," she said, adding that her decision was a "big f------ mistake."

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David Schwimmer in 'Men in Black'

david schwimmer in men in black
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Chris O'Donnell was also offered the role.

Before Will Smith, David Schwimmer's name was linked to the Men in Black franchise. However, he turned down the role of Agent J and did not lead the movie with Tommy Lee Jones.

Years after the franchise began, Schwimmer finally revealed to The Hollywood Reporter why he rejected the project.

"It wasn't even like a choice," he revealed.

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Denzel Washington in 'Michael Clayton'

denzel washington in michael clayton
Source: MEGA

Denzel Washington will lead the Broadway 'Othello.'

Speaking during his appearance on "WTF With Marc Maron," writer/director Tony Gilroy disclosed the alternate versions of his project, Michael Clayton, and how it almost starred Denzel Washington.

Addressing his decision, Washington revealed to GQ what pushed him to make the decision.

"With 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. It happens," he shared.

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Don Johnson in 'Die Hard'

don johnson in die hard
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Bruce Willis ended up leading 'Die Hard.'

Don Johnson was one of the actors considered for the lead role in Die Hard, but Bruce Willis got the spot in the end.

"When it went to Willis, I was a big fan of Moonlighting, but nobody picked him as an action guy," screenwriter Jen Stuart told Slash Film. "So in terms of getting the character right, they nailed that. I mean, it was just making sure that the audience could buy the fact that he's not this glib guy from Jersey. And Bruce brought that to the table. I think nobody doubted it after that point."

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Eddie Murphy in 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit'

eddie murphy in who framed roger rabbit
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Eddie Murphy also starred in 'Dolemite Is My Name.'

During an interview on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, Eddie Murphy disclosed the fact that Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd wanted him to be part of the original Ghostbusters in 1984. However, he rejected the job.

"Yes, because I did Beverly Hills Cop," he said. "It wasn't like I turned it down, in as much as I wasn't available because I did this other movie. The only movie that I have turned down that became a big hit was Who Framed Roger Rabbit…I was going to be the Bob Hoskins dude,"

He added, "I was like, what? Animation and people sounds like bullshit to me. Now every time I see it, I feel like an idiot."

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Halle Berry in 'Speed'

halle berry in speed
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Halle Berry was supposed to star with Keanu Reeves.

Halle Berry opened up about the main factors that pushed her to turn down a Speed role that Sandra Bullock ended up playing.

"I turned down Speed because I thought, 'I don't want to drive that bus,'" she said, highlighting the issues in the script's discussion. "There wasn't a whole lot of dialogue."

Berry continued, "I admit, I just don't get it when I read action stuff like, 'The bus flies 100 miles per hour over an overpass.' One of the script versions they sent me, the bus never got out of Dodger Stadium, it just kept driving around and around the parking lot!"

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Henry Winkler in 'Grease'

henry winkler in grease
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Henry Winkler released his memoir, 'Being Henry,' in October 2023.

In his interview with People in 2023, Henry Winkler called his past self "dumb" for not accepting the role of Danny Zuko in Grease. John Travolta ultimately played the character that helped his career to skyrocket even more.

"I spent so much energy, so much time - I spent so many sleepless nights thinking, how do I not get typecast?" he asked. "You go with the flow. What you do is you prepare to reinvent yourself. You do something completely different and then come back to center."

Nicolas Cage
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Jack Nicholson in 'The Godfather'

jack nicholson in the godfather
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'The Godfather' launched lesser-known stars' careers.

The Godfather featured Pacino, but Jack Nicholson was initially attached to the film. Although he was enthusiastic about being part of the project, he did not pursue the character because "Italians should play Italians."

"Mario Puzo had written such a great book that if you go back to it you'll see so much of what was special about the movie. 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," he explained to Movieline.

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Jim Carrey in 'Pirates of the Caribbean'

jim carrey in pirates of the caribbean
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The Johnny Depp-led' Pirates of the Caribbean' franchise grossed $4.5 billion worldwide.

Before Johnny Depp, the Pirates of the Caribbean creators welcomed actors who wanted to do the titular role of Captain Jack Sparrow. Jim Carrey auditioned, but he turned down the role because of a conflict in schedule with his Bruce Almighty.

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John Travolta in ‘Forrest Gump’

john travolta in forrest gump
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Sources claim Travolta 'makes little to no effort' to leave the house.

Travolta said in 2007 that he got the chance to play the lead role in Forrest Gump. However, he had to let it go to work in Pulp Fiction instead.

"No, because if I didn't do something Tom Hanks did, then I did something else that was equally interesting or fun. Or if I didn't do something Richard Gere did, I did something equally well," Travolta explained.

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Kevin Costner in 'Shawshank Redemption'

kevin costner in shawshank redemption
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Costner is reportedly indulging in spray tans, hair plugs, botox and more.

During The Shawshank Redemption's 20th anniversary, Vanity Fair released an article that revealed that Kevin Costner passed on the role of banker Andy Dufresne — played by Tim Robbins. He was reportedly busy doing Waterworld, which ultimately bombed in theaters.

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Madonna in 'The Matrix'

madonna in the matrix
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Madonna debuted as an actress in 'A Certain Sacrifice.'

The Matrix almost had Madonna, but the Queen of Pop made a regretful decision not to become part of it.

"Can you believe that? I wanted to kill myself," she told Jimmy Fallon, adding, "That's like one of the best movies ever made. A teeny-tiny part of me regrets just that one moment in my life."

Carrie-Anne Moss played Trinity's role until the character's death in The Matrix Revolutions.

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Matt Damon in 'Avatar'

matt damon in avatar
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Matt Damon almost brought home $250 million pay because of the blockbuster hit.

Damon prioritized his work as Jason Bourne, so he ended up turning down James Cameron's Avatar, which remains the highest-grossing movie of all time.

"I had a contract," Damon said. "I was in the middle of shooting the 'Bourn'e movie and I knew that we were going to need work at the end and I had to get it all the way to the finish line and I would have to leave the movie kind of early and leave them in the lurch a little bit and I didn't want to do that. I desperately wanted to work with Cameron. I mean, because he worked so rarely."

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Mel Gibson in 'Gladiator'

mel gibson in gladiator
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Russell Crowe was 35 when he played the lead role.

Because of his age, then-43-year-old Mel Gibson turned down the chance to play Maximus in Gladiator. Russell Crowe got the role in the end, furthering his status in the industry.

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Michelle Pfeiffer in 'Silence of the Lambs'

michelle pfeiffer in silence of the lambs
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Jodie Foster won an Oscar for her performance in 'Silence of the Lambs.'

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Nicolas Cage in 'The Lord of the Rings'

nicolas cage in the lord of the rings
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Nicolas Cage denied Hila's deposition request, calling it "unduly burdensome, harassing, oppressive, vague, and irrelevant."

In 2022, Nicolas Cage confirmed to People that he turned down offers to be part of The Lord of the Rings and The Matrix due to personal reasons.

"I didn't want to go to New Zealand for three years or Australia for three years because I needed to be home with my son Weston," he shared.

In another interview with Newsweek, Cage said he wanted to look forward to more opportunities rather than leave his son and play Aragorn. Viggo Mortensen scored the role.

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Will Smith in 'The Matrix'

will smith in the matrix
Source: MEGA

Will Smith was not home at the time of the incident.

Smith uploaded a video on YouTube explaining why he decided not to take Neo's role in The Matrix, which eventually went to Reeves.

"After we made Men in Black, the Wachowskis, they came in, and they had only done one movie, I think it was called Bound, and they made a pitch for The Matrix," he recalled.

Smith continued, "As it turns out, they're geniuses, but there's a fine line in a pitch meeting between a genius and what I experienced in the meeting. This is the actual pitch that they made for The Matrix. 'Dude, we're thinking like, imagine you're in a fight, then you jump, imagine if you could stop jumping in the middle of the jump.'"

According to the actor, he did not think the film would have been the same if he had accepted the role, especially since "Keanu was perfect, Laurence Fishburne was perfect."



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