35 Celebs Who Rejected Major TV & Film Roles — D'oh!

Certain film and television roles seem tailor-made for certain actors and actresses. Can you really imagine someone other than Sarah Jessica Parker playing Carrie Bradshaw or a different actor drawing out the phrase "life is a box of chocolates" in Forrest Gump? You may not be able to picture it so easily in your head, but some of the most iconic film and television roles could have gone to very different actors — many of whom were the first choice and turned it down.

Which film and TV stars declined huge roles that went on to the highlights reel of the actor who did decide to take the part? Here are 35 celebrities who turned down huge roles.

by Kaitlin Reilly

Dana Delany

Sex and the City almost looked very different. The role of sex columnist Carrie Bradshaw was originally offered to Delany, who turned down the role — she didn’t want to take on another “sexy” role. Delany also turned down the role of Bree in Desperate Housewives only to accept the role of Bree’s neighbor Katherine later on in the series. But she wasn’t the only actress to decline a role in Sex and the City

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Sandra Bernhard

The actress told Howard Stern on his radio show that she turned down the role of Miranda Hobbs, Carrie’s lawyer pal because she didn’t want to play “third fiddle” to Sarah Jessica Parker.

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Leonardo DiCaprio

DiCaprio was reportedly offered $20 million to star in Mary Harron’s adaption of Bret Easton Ellis’ controversial novel American Psycho, but turned it down. The role went to Christian Bale, who totally killed it. (No pun intended.)

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Craig T. Nelson

The star of NBC’s Parenthood revealed that he turned down the role of Jay Pritchett on Modern Family when Parenthood offered him more money. The role went to Nelson’s lookalike Ed O’Neill.

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Matthew Broderick

Walter White was almost played by none other than Ferris Bueller. Broderick was offered the role of the meth dealer before Bryan Cranston snagged the role.

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Mark Wahlberg

Wahlberg turned down the role Jake Gyllenhaal would eventually play in Brokeback Mountain, allegedly because he was “creeped out” by the gay sex scene. If that’s true, can we get a collective eye roll, please?

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Will Smith

The former Fresh Prince turned down the role of Neo in The Matrix. He went on to star in other sci-fi flicks like I, Robot and After Earth, the latter of which we should probably have turned down.

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Nicolas Cage

Cage declined the offer to star in 2009’s The Wrestler — but that wasn’t the only major role he turned down. He also said no to taking on the lead roles in Crank, Constantine, and The Matrix.

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Molly Ringwald

The star of Pretty in Pink turned down a pretty sweet movie role — the lead in Pretty Woman. Ringwald has no regrets: She told Reddit that it was the perfect role for Julia Roberts.

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John Travolta

It’s hard to imagine Forrest Gump without Tom Hanks — he won the Best Actor award for the role — but it was originally John Travolta who was offered the part in the 1994 film.

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Sandra Bullock

Bullock was offered the role of Maggie in Million Dollar Baby, but backed out of the part last minute when the film conflicted with the Miss Congeniality sequel. The role went to Hilary Swank who went on to win her second Oscar.

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Hugh Jackman

It’s every actor’s dream to score an iconic role like James Bond, right? Actually, wrong: Jackman was offered the role before Daniel Craig, but didn’t want to be known around Hollywood as only an action star. Maybe it’s for the best: He gave an excellent performance in the 2012 musical Les Miserables.

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Sarah Michelle Gellar

Gellar was offered the role of Cher in the iconic ’90s film Clueless, but turned it down due to scheduling conflicts with soap opera All My Children. Gellar went on to star as another iconic high schooler — Buffy Summers.

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Lindsay Lohan

Lohan turned down the role of the stripper who marries Stu in The Hangover because, at 20, she felt too young for the role. Maybe she was right: The role eventually went to Heather Graham, who was 37 during filming.

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Tom Hanks

Hanks almost had us at hello. The titular role in Jerry Maguire was written specifically for Hanks, but Tom Cruise snatched it up instead.

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Julia Roberts

Roberts scored the role in The Blind Side, but turned it down to do the ensemble film Valentine’s Day. (Hold your laughter, please.) Interestingly, this wasn’t the first time that Roberts was replaced by Sandra Bullock — Bullock also took over the role in The Proposal after Roberts allegedly turned it down.

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Tom Cruise

Cruise proved he could dance at the end of Tropic Thunder but he may have proved it earlier if he accepted what would end up being Kevin Bacon’s iconic role in Footloose.

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Jena Malone

We had the opportunity to see double of The Hunger Games actress — Malone revealed that she turned down Lindsay Lohan’s eventual role in The Parent Trap “three times.”

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Paul Giamatti

Giamatti was almost a TV boss. He turned down Steve Carell’s eventual role of Michael Scott on NBC’s The Office.

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Garrett Hedlund

Hedlund was supposedly offered the part of Christian Gray in the steamy Fifty Shades of Grey adaption, but turned it down. Apparently the role has bad luck, because the first actor to accept the role, Charlie Hunnam, backed out of the project. The role is now in the hands of The Fall’s Jamie Dornan.

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Pamela Anderson

It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Gillian Anderson playing Dana Scully on The X-Files, and even harder to believe that the role could have gone to Baywatch babe Pamela Anderson. But, yep, it happened. Gillian Anderson told Metro that Pamela Anderson was the first choice for the role — now that’s seriously unbelievable.

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Thomas Jane

The Hung actor could have starred as a different kind of ladies man. He was offered the role of Don Draper on Mad Men but turned it down. The role would go on to make Jon Hamm a household name.

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Michelle Pfieffer

Pfieffer was the first choice to place Clarice in the Oscar-winning Silence of the Lambs. She turned down the chance to go head to head with Hannibal Lecter and the part went to Jodie Foster instead.

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Al Pacino

Can you imagine Al Pacino romancing Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman? Neither can I, but apparently the producers of the film could — he was offered the role before Richard Gere.

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Jack Nicholson

Jack Nicholson was Paramount’s go-to guy when casting the mafia film The Godfather. Nicholson turned down the part and Al Pacino swept it up, in what would become one of his most iconic roles to date.

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Johnny Depp

It’s hard to imagine the serious actor playing the troublemaking Ferris Bueller, but that’s exactly the role he was tapped for in the iconic ’80s flick Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The part eventually went to Matthew Broderick instead.

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Matt Damon

Up-and-comer Sam Worthington scored the role, but the studio behind Avatar wanted Matt Damon to play lead Jack Sully. The director James Cameron preferred Worthington, and got his way when Damon turned it down.

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Helen Mirren

You may remember a makeup-free Mariah Carey as a social worker in tearjerker Precious, but it wasn’t always her role. Mirren was originally offered the part and turned it down.

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Angela Bassett

Bassett turned down the role in Monster’s Ball that won Halle Berry an Oscar, stating that she thought the affair Berry’s character had in the film stereotyped black women.

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Reese Witherspoon

The actress was reportedly offered the lead in tongue-in-cheek slasher flick Scream, but turned it down. The part of Sidney Prescott went to Neve Campbell instead. Witherspoon wasn’t the only one who turned down a role in the franchise.

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Joaquin Phoenix

Phoenix could have played Sidney’s boyfriend, Billy, in the first Scream flick, but turned down the part. It went to Skeet Ulrich instead.

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Denzel Washington

Washington admits that he made a mistake by turning down the titular role in Michael Clayton due to his issues with working with a first-time director. The part went to George Clooney instead.

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Chevy Chase

It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Kevin Spacey playing jaded dad Lester in American Beauty, but the part was originally offered to Chevy Chase, who turned it down out of fear that it would hurt his family-friendly image.

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Katie Holmes

The Dawson’s Creek alum was originally offered Sarah Michelle Gellar’s iconic role of Buffy Summers but turned it down to finish high school.

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Anne Hathaway

Hathaway was cast as Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook, but turned it down due to scheduling conflicts. The part went to Jennifer Lawrence, who nabbed the Best Actress Oscar for the role. But don’t cry for Anne Hathaway — she scored a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Les Miserables that same year.

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