Amazing Movie Roles That Almost Went To Other Actors

(c) MGM/courtesy Everett Collection

Picking the perfect cast is one of the most difficult and most important things when it comes to making a movie. It can sometimes take years to find the right actor or actress because lead cast members can seriously affect how the film is received by viewers and critics, so it has to feel right. When there’s a special role on the table it’s not uncommon for several actors to go up against one another, and with so many movies being made each year, it’s also not uncommon for an actor to pass on a role due to scheduling conflicts! We’ve compiled a list of 17 iconic roles that could have gone to other actors. Check it out:

17. Matthew McConaughey in Titanic

In a recent appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Kate Winslet revealed that when she originally auditioned for the role of Rose in Titanic, she was reading with Matthew McConaughey, not Leonardo DiCaprio! “I auditioned with Matthew, isn’t that weird? I never said that in public before!” she joked. The story goes that Paramount actually wanted McConaughey for the role, but it was James Cameron who insisted on going with Leo.

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16. Charlize Theron in Chicago

Chicago goes down in history as one of the greatest movie musical adaptations ever! While the cast that made the final cut was amazing, including Renee Zellweger, it’s sad to hear that Charlize Theron could have also played the part of Roxie Hart! “The director kicked me off it. I was really bummed about it. And I think because I had it, I was like, ‘Ah…I’m gonna make this movie’ and I got kicked off it,” said Theron while on Howard Stern’s SiriusXM radio show.

/ Miramax/courtesy Everett Collection

15. Julia Roberts in Sleepless in Seattle

Julia Roberts has no shortage of iconic roles on her resume, but she could’ve had one more! In an interview with InStyle magazine back in 2014, she revealed she was originally offered the leading role in Sleepless in Seattle. “I’d been offered Sleepless in Seattle, but couldn’t do it. [Meg Ryan] and Tom Hanks are just such a jewel of a fit in that. I guess what they did for that moment in time is sort of what Richard [Gere] and I were doing across town (in the 1990 film Pretty Woman), you know?” she said.

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14. Gwyneth Paltrow in Titanic

This actress has passed on some pretty epic films like Boogie Nights, but her biggest of all must have been James Cameron’s 1997 Titanic. “My mother [Blythe Danner] will kill me that I’m talking about turning down movie roles. She says it’s not ladylike,” she said to Howard Stern while on his SiriusXM show. When Stern tried to get more of an answer out of Paltrow by saying it must have killed her to see how successful it became, to which she replied: “Then you do other stuff. I know that the story is that I turned it down. I think I was really in contention for it — I was one of the last two. I look back at the choices I’ve made and think, ‘Why the hell did I say yes to that? And no to that?’ And you know, you look at the big picture and think: There’s a universal lesson here. What good is it to hold onto roles?”

Featureflash Photo Agency / 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved. Courtesy: Everett Collection.

13. Johnny Depp in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Johnny Depp and Matthew Broderick are two very different actors, so it’s hard to imagine how Ferris Bueller’s Day Off would have looked if Depp took on the leading role. The teen comedy has become a cult classic, so it’s surprising to think that the Pirates of the Caribbean actor turned it down, but he did! In an interview on Inside the Actors Studio, Depp said he was offered the part, but had to turn it down due to scheduling conflicts.

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12. Miles Teller in La La Land

La La Land was the biggest film of 2016, so it was surprising to hear Miles Teller supposedly passed on the Oscar-winning film during its early stages. While talking to Esquire in Sept. 2015, he said he was abruptly dropped from the project and told he wasn’t “creatively right” for the part. It was later reported by Page Six that Teller turned down the part because he wasn’t offered enough money, which he later denied in an interview with Vulture. “I’ll go to my grave knowing that when push came to shove I expressed extreme loyalty to Damien and that movie. That’s sorta all I can say.” When Damien was asked about Teller’s comments, he said the casting of this film took six years and went through many permutations. He confirmed Teller was once attached to it but that it didn’t end up “lasting or working out.”

/ Robinette / ©Summit Entertainment / courtesy Everett Collection

11. Sandra Bullock in Million Dollar Baby

The role of Margaret “Maggie” Fitzgerald was an Oscar-winning role for Hilary Swank, but the project it was originally spearheaded by Sandra Bullock! Both actresses are phenomenal and it all worked out in the end, but afterward, Bullock had to fight reports that she’d snubbed the role. The truth was that she had scheduling conflicts for Miss Congeniality 2. “We had Million Dollar Baby with someone else for a while, trying to get it made. I couldn’t get it made. We tried and tried and tried. (They were like) Female boxing movies don’t sell. I was like, ‘This is the most incredible piece.’ I then started doing Miss Congeniality 2 and they got [Hilary Swank] and, they got Clint,” she said. Thankfully, Bullock isn’t bitter. “When things like that happen, that’s the way they’re supposed to happen.”

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10. Sandra Bullock in The Matrix

Sandra Bullock was approached to play Neo in The Matrix after Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Will Smith pulled out. Producers were ready to make Neo a girl for Bullock, but ultimately, the Oscar-winning actress pulled out. Years later, Bullock admitted that she wished she had taken the role. “At the time, it wasn’t cast with Keanu, and I didn’t see myself with the person they wanted,” she said. “Later I saw the movie and loved it. It was sexy and great because of Carrie-Anne (Moss) and Keanu.”

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9. Katie Holmes and Kate Hudson in 10 Things I Hate About You

Katie Holmes and Kate Hudson both auditioned to play Kate Stratford in 10 Things I Hate About You and both of them were strongly considered for the part. Casting director Marcia Ross told The New York Times, “I loved Katie Holmes. She was about to get Dawson’s Creek, and we had to make a decision really fast. The other person I loved was Kate Hudson. But her mom [Goldie Hawn] didn’t like the script for her, so she passed.”

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8. Kate Winslet in Shakespeare in Love

We’re not sure what Gwyneth Paltrow’s career would have looked like had she not played the role of Viola in Shakespeare in Love. It earned her worldwide recognition and both an Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Actress. Things could have looked much different for her because just as the role of Rose in Titanic was offered to her, Kate Winslet was offered the role of Viola de Lesseps! She reportedly turned it down because she wanted to focus on making independent movies.

s_bukley / Collection

7. John Travolta in Forrest Gump

Tom Hanks’ leading role in Forrest Gump was career-changing. Not only has the movie lived on as one of the most iconic films, but his performance earned him an Academy Award and a Golden Globe award. This makes it hard to believe anyone would ever turn down the opportunity to play Forrest Gump, but John Travolta, Chevy Chase, and Bill Murray all said ‘no’ before it was finally offered to Tom Hanks. Travolta has been especially vocal about his regret. He ended up going for a totally different part in Pulp Fiction which was an equally amazing film.

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6. Molly Ringwald in Pretty Woman

Back in the ’80s, Molly Ringwald was the ‘it’ girl after doing several iconic films like The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink, so it’s not surprising that she was also up for the lead role in Pretty Woman (which at the time was called $3,000). In a Ask Me Anything forum on Reddit (she posted this photo as proof of her identity), the actress said she has no regrets about not getting the part. She wrote, “I think I saw an early draft and it was called ‘$3,000.’ I don’t specifically remember turning it down. The script was okay but I gotta say, Julia Roberts is what makes that movie. It was her part. Every actor hopes for a part that lets them shine like that.”

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5. Leonardo DiCaprio in Hocus Pocus

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Hocus Pocus director Kenny Ortega revealed that Leonardo DiCaprio auditioned for the film. “He’s just the most sincere and most centered and a wild child at the same time. He was feeling awkward. He was like, ‘I just feel really bad being here because I’m up for two other movies and I really want them both and I don’t want to lead you on.’ I was like, ‘That’s okay, I was already warned. What are the movies?’ One of them was This Boy’s Life and the other one was What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. Obviously, he left and incredible things happened for that young man and to this day, but meeting him awakened me to the kind of spirit and fun and sincerity that I was looking for in an actor and when Omri Katz came around, I fell in love again and he was our Max.”

Everett Collection

4. Lindsay Lohan – The Hangover

This role isn’t necessarily iconic per say, but the movie went on to be a huge hit and could have really helped Lindsay’s depleting career. The character Jade in The Hangover was originally offered to Lohan, but she turned it down. Not because she didn’t like the script, but because it wasn’t really age-appropriate for her. She was only 20-years-old at the time. “Honestly, it felt like she ended up being too young for what we were talking about,” said director Todd Phillips. “People love to attack her for everything, like: ‘Ha, she didn’t see how great The Hangover was going to be. She turned it down.’ She didn’t turn it down. She loved the script, actually. It really was an age thing.” The role eventually went to Heather Graham who was able to do it justice! Masi/©Warner Bros./Courtesy Everett Collection

3. Emma Watson in La La Land

Could you imagine Emma Watson as the leading lady in La La Land? During the early stages of production, she was attached to the project! “The casting of this movie during the six years it took to get made went through lots of permutations, and it’s true there was a moment where Emma Watson and Miles Teller were doing it,” said director Damien Chazelle in an interview with Uproxx. Of course, the part ended up going to Emma Stone instead of Watson, who was critically praised for her performance while Watson, on the other hand, was free to star in Disney’s live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, so it’s a win-win!

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2. Anne Hathaway in Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook is one of Jennifer Lawrence’s biggest credits, and her performance earned her an Oscar award for Best Actress! What many people don’t know is that Harvey Weinstein’s first choice for Tiffany was Anne Hathaway. She turned down the role because of creative differences with director David O. Russell, but it’s all good because similar to Lawrence, she won an Oscar award for her performance in Les Miserables.

Broadimage / Rex Features/JoJo Whilden/©Weinstein Company/courtesy Everett Collection

1. Christina Applegate in Legally Blonde

Legally Blonde is no doubt one of Reese Witherspoon’s most iconic roles, and it almost didn’t go to her! Christina Applegate revealed to E.T. Online that she was sent the script with the thought that she’d play Elle Woods, but she was scared it was too similar to her role on Married…with Children, so she passed. “I got scared of repeating myself. What a stupid move that was, right?” she joked. But similar to many of the other actors on this list, she chooses not to regret her decision. “Reese deserved that. She did a much better job than I ever could, and so that’s her life. That’s her path.”

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Katherine G

Katherine G

Katherine is the Managing Editor for Health and Parenting, but she has a soft spot for entertainment. She loves binging shows on Netflix, reality TV is a guilty pleasure, and country music is her go-to playlist. When she's not writing, she's spending time outdoors, especially with her puppy Zoey!