It takes just one role to start an actor’s career. Well, it takes the right role. Whether it’s the part that catapults a newbie’s career into a non-stop adventure or a script that completely changes the trajectory of an actor’s future, choosing the right roles is key to success in the entertainment business. So what would happen if an actor was offered a role that would become of one the most beloved characters of all time, but he or she looked over the script and decided to pass on the opportunity?
That’s what happened to these celebrities. They’ve all been offered roles that have become staples of the Hollywood world and iconic characters throughout American film and television. And because of this, it makes it hard not to ask the questions, “What if John Travolta had taken the part as Forrest Gump instead of Tom Hanks?” or “Would Pretty Woman be as beloved as it is now if Molly Ringwald played the part of Vivian Ward?” Are these roles iconic because of the actors who played them or simply because the characters were written to perfection right from the start?
15 John Travolta: Forrest Gump, Forrest Gump
Life is like a box of chocolates, or so the fans have learned from this classic and beloved film. According to some IMDB trivia, John Travolta wasn’t the only A-list actor who turned down the part of the lovable and memorable Forrest Gump. Both Bill Murray and Chevy Chase passed over it as well before it landed into the hands of Tom Hanks, who went on to snag a second Oscar win in 1995 - coming the year directly after his win for his work in Philadelphia - for the role. And with no surprise, Travolta has since admitted that he regrets his decision.
14 Dana Delaney: Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City
Dana Delaney may be most known for her role as Katherine Mayfair on Desperate Housewives but she also had the opportunity to play the sexy, stylish writer, Carrie Bradshaw, from the popular, hit series Sex and the City. But according to an interview with Daily Mail, she didn’t want to be in a show about sex and even though it catapulted Sarah Jessica Parker into worldwide stardom, she has no regrets passing on the chance. Although, it’s quite hard to imagine anyone else but SJP playing the fashion-icon, Delaney was actually the first choice to fill the role.
13 Katie Holmes: Piper Chapman, Orange is the New Black & Buffy Summer, Buffy the Vampire Slayers
In 2014, E!Online reported that Katie Holmes almost starred as Piper Chapman in the Netflix original series, Orange is the New Black. Based on the memoir by Piper Kerman, the TV show has become a worldwide hit and career changer for not only Taylor Schilling who snagged the role as bisexual, felon Piper but for many other actors on the show such as Uzo Aduba who plays Crazy Eyes. That wasn’t the only major character that Holmes almost played, she also auditioned for the role of Buffy in Buffy the Vampire Slayer but was eliminated due to her age at the time.
12 Molly Ringwald: Vivian Ward, Pretty Woman
Thinking of Vivian Ward without the smile and laugh of Julie Roberts is hard to comprehend, but that iconic grin was almost never a part of this romantic comedy classic. The Telegraph tells us that the role was actually first offered to the sassy, red-head Molly Ringwald who has been quoted saying, “Julia Roberts is what makes that movie it was her part. Every actor hopes for a part that lets them shine like that.” This is the movie that truly started Roberts’ career and without it her resume may look quite different today.
11 Sarah Michelle Gellar: Cher Horowitz, Clueless
Even though Sarah Michelle Gellar had her own career-changing role and iconic character as Buffy in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she could have had an entirely different future by playing Cher Horowitz in Clueless just a couple years before she started her supernatural adventure. According to Complex, Gellar wasn’t able to film this classic, teen movie because of scheduling conflicts with All My Children, which may have been the blessing she needed to book Buffy and completely change her life turning that character into a pop culture phenomena while Alicia Silverstein was allowed to steal the show as Cher.
10 Thomas Jane: Don Draper, Mad Men
Jon Hamm as Don Draper is sexy and debonair, but who almost played the suave ad executive in Mad Men? EW reported that in an interview with Marc Maron, Hamm divulged that Thomas Jane, from HBO’s series Hung, was wanted for the part. They even went to Jane directly but was told that he didn’t do television, ironically enough. At the time of casting, Hamm was still an unknown without any noteworthy credentials and the directors didn’t know who he was. And with a Golden Globe win, 4 Golden Globe nominations and 8 Emmy nominations for the role, they must be pretty pleased with their choice.
9 Jack Nicholson: Michael Corleone, The Godfather
According to Complex, Jack Nicholson knew The Godfather was going to be an amazing film but he didn’t think he was right to play Michael Corleone, later filled by the incredible, Al Pacino. Nicholson believed that an Italian role needed to be played by none other than an Italian and it was for no other reason than that for which he passed over the part. And according to a 2009 article by Vanity Fair, Robert Redford, Martin Sheen and Wareen Beatty were some of the other A-list actors that were considered for the role of Corleone.
8 Reese Witherspoon: Sidney Prescott, Scream
Neve Campbell has become synonymous with her iconic character’s name, Sidney Prescott, from the hit movie trilogy, Scream. But, the role was actually offered to Reese Witherspoon who turned it down! Thinking it was just another B-list, horror film, she didn’t even want to audition for the role which would later turn into a blockbuster franchise. It didn’t seem to hurt Witherspoon’s career as she is not only an Oscar-winner but also one of the most sought-after, highest-paid actresses in Hollywood.
7 Johnny Depp: Ferris Bueller, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Imagining Johnny Depp as Ferris Bueller seems a bit odd but it’s not actually that far-fetched. According to Virgin Media, John Hughes wrote the script for this smash-hit with Matthew Broderick in mind, but it was Johnny Depp who was offered the role first. Fortunately enough for fans, Depp was unable to commit and Broderick was cast as the widely-loved role. Johnny Depp has made more than an amazing career since then, so it’s doubtful that he’s too regretful.
6 Sandra Bullock: Margaret “Maggie” Fitzgerald, Million Dollar Baby
Shape tells about how fan-favorite actress, Sandra Bullock, was originally cast to star in Million Dollar Baby as Margaret Fitzgerald. But because of scheduling conflicts with Miss Congeniality 2, Hilary Swank scooped up the opportunity to play the role and come out with an Oscar win! The passing didn’t seem to hurt Sandra Bullock ‘s career though, she went on to win her own Oscar in 2010 for her part as Leigh Anne Tuohy in The Blind Side.
5 Tom Hanks: Jerry Maguire, Jerry Maguire
In an article by Splitsider every comedic role Tom Hanks got close to but passed or was passed on is revealed, including that of Jerry Maguire, popularized by leading man, Tom Cruise. Cameron Crowe, writer and director of this classic comedy, had his eyes set on Tom Hanks for the role but had to forgo the part because of his responsibility with That Think You Do! as both writer and director. But Hanks has been quoted in the past saying that Jerry Maguire was perfect and no one else would have played the part but Tom Cruise.
4 Jim Carrey: Edward Scissorhands, Edward Scissorhands
According to more IMDB trivia, Jim Carrey was one of the A-list actors that was considered to play the title part of Edward Scissorhands in the Tim Burton film. But at the time, Carrey didn’t have the experience or dramatic chops to play the more sullen, darker role. Johnny Depp eventually got cast as the lead, lost 25 pounds for the role and began a lifelong friendship with creative genius, Tim Burton.
3 Tom Cruise: Ren McCormack, Footloose
Even though it doesn’t seem too bizarre to imagine Tom Cruise in Ren McCormack’s shoes, it was Kevin Bacon who originated the role instead. Paste Magazine reports how Cruise was actually the first choice to play the Footloose lead, but had a conflicting schedule since he was, at the time, filming All the Right Moves. Known for doing all of his own stunts, one is to wonder if a dance double would have been needed if Cruise had taken the part.
2 Bette Midler: Deloris Van Cartier/Sister Mary Clarence, Sister Act
Sister Act was written and pitched with one leading lady in mind, Bette Midler. But when the actress turned down the role, fearing that her fans wouldn’t want to see her play a nun, the hunt to fill Sister Mary Clarence’s habit began. Whoopi Goldberg eventually took the part and not only went on to do Sister Act 2, based on the original movie’s success, but widened her fan base and expanded her bank account.
1 Emily Browning: Bella Swan, Twilight
According to MTV, the rumors are not true. Browning did not turn down the part of Bella Swan from the cult-phenomena book and film, Twilight. She was asked to audition though, but since she had just finished up filming, The Uninvited, she decided she wanted to take a break. Although, author of Twilight, Stephenie Meyer, had posted on her blog that her favorite choice would have been the stunning, Emily Browning.