Hollywood can be a fickle beast. Certain actors turn down a role, only to have that same role propel someone else into superstardom. On the other hand, actors can fade into obscurity with a couple of lackluster performances. Choosing what roles to accept and which to decline can be tough when you are a desirable actor. Sometimes they make the right call, and other times, they don’t. Here are 12 extremely popular and successful actors that passed up some potentially major roles in huge films. Number 8 in particular missed out on being in the highest-grossing box office hit ever.
#12 Molly Ringwald Turned Down The Lead Role In Pretty Woman
Thanks to her roles in iconic 80s films like “The Breakfast Club,” Ringwald was among the biggest Hollywood stars in her generation. Thus, she was a major front-runner for the main role in “Pretty Woman.” However, she turned the role down. It ultimately went to Julia Roberts, and turned her into a superstar.
#11 Christopher Walken Turned Down The Role Of Han Solo
Christopher Walken has done pretty well for himself in his film career, but “Star Wars” would have been a welcomed addition to his resume. He almost secured the role of Han Solo, but ultimately turned it down. It is hard to imagine the role being played by anyone but Harrison Ford.
#10 Jack Nicholson Was Almost Michael Corleone
Nicholson is a legend in the business, and almost secured an equally legendary role. While he would have been great as Michael Corleone in “The Godfather,” it is hard to argue that Al Pacino wasn’t perfect for that role. We doubt Nicholson is losing any sleep over this missed opportunity though.
#9 Numerous Stars Turned Down Edward Scissorhands
“Edward Scissorhands” looks like a role created for Johnny Depp. However, he wasn’t even among the first three choices. Jim Carrey, Tom Cruise, and Robert Downey Jr. all turned it down. While Depp got the role here, he turned down a different role that comes up in a few entries.
#8 Matt Damon Turns Down A Role In Avatar
Damon is without a doubt among the biggest movie stars on earth, but this is one missed opportunity he’d probably like to get back. He was offered the lead role in “Avatar,” but turned it down. The film went on to be the biggest box office hit of all time. We bet you can’t even picture the next man in the role he turned down.
#7 John Travolta Turned Down The Role Of Forrest Gump
It is hard to argue that “Forrest Gump” wasn’t one of the defining roles of Tom Hanks’ career. He received a ton of praise and acclaim for his portrayal of the titular character. However, he wasn’t the first choice, as John Travolta was offered the role first. It seems hard to imagine Travolta playing this role, so we feel it went to the right person.
#6 Johnny Depp Was Nearly Ferris Bueller
Matthew Broderick was a huge cultural icon in the 1980s and he has Johnny Depp to thank for that. Depp turned down the role of Ferris Bueller, which allowed Broderick to step in. This isn’t the only Broderick entry on the list — he turned down a role in what ended up being one of the best shows in the last decade. Click through to #3 if you’re curious!
#5 Sandra Bullock Turned Down The Lead Role In Million Dollar Baby
Bullock has enjoyed an amazing career, but she may have missed out on another Oscar. She was offered the lead role in “Million Dollar Baby.” Instead, she turned the role down after several delays and Hilary Swank went on to take the role and won an Oscar for her efforts.
#4 Hugh Jackman Was Almost James Bond
Hugh Jackman could have had the rare distinction of being called James Bond. He was offered the role of Bond in “Casino Royale,” but declined it as he didn’t want to be typecast as an “action-only” star. As a result, Daniel Craig picked up the role and went on to be regarded as one of the best Bonds in the franchise.
#3 Matthew Broderick Almost Became Walter White
Bryan Cranston was a successful actor in “Malcolm in the Middle,” but it was his role as Walter White that most know him for. This role gave him a second chance in Hollywood, and he made the most of it. However, it almost didn’t happen as Matthew Broderick was offered the role first. He turned it down because he was skeptical of AMC as a network.
#2 Sean Connery Was Almost Gandalf
That’s right, Connery could have played one of the biggest roles in the “Lord of the Rings” series. He turned it down because he didn’t “get” the script, and passed on the role. In the end, having Connery in this role could have tanked the series, so I’m sure most people are glad that it went to Ian McKellen.
#1 Will Smith Turned Down The Role Of Neo In The Matrix
Keanu Reeves played Neo in the 1999 sci-fi tentpole “The Matrix,” and became A-list practically overnight. However, that’s all because another young, famous actor turned the role down. Will Smith was offered the role, but turned it down to work on “Wild Wild West” instead. In retrospect, this may not have been the best idea.
For some small-time actors, missing out on these dynamite roles could have spelled the end of their careers. While these 12 actors are doing just fine, they could likely have a few extra million in their bank account. Also, the possibility that some of them could have taken some major awards for these missed roles is high. If these actors would have taken these roles when they were offered to them, we would also be without a few of the best performances of all time. I mean, can you imagine anyone other than Tom Hanks playing Forrest Gump? We sure can’t.