So here’s a quick rundown of some of the most headline-making movie “no thank yous” in Hollywood history, as these celebs nixed the chance to play James Bond, Jack Sparrow, Batman, and more…
Why These Actors Turned Down Amazing Movie Roles
Will Smith as Neo in The Matrix
Along with passing on the role of Superman in 2006’s Superman Returns, Will Smith famously bowed out of being the lead in the Matrix because of the Wachowskis’ overall inexperience at the time.
Sean Connery as Morpheus in The Matrix and Gandalf in LOTR
Will Smith wasn’t the only one to opt out of The Matrix. James Bond legend, and Oscar-winner, Sean Connery turned down the role of Morpheus because he didn’t quite understand the script. And then right afterward he said no to playing Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings for similar reasons. These choices led made him to say yes to League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, even though he still didn’t get the story. It was a bad choice.
Al Pacino as Han Solo in Star Wars
Speaking of stars not being able to fully grasp epic fantasy stories, Al Pacino, who was a huge commodity in the ’70s, was asked to play Han Solo in Star Wars and politely declined because he didn’t understand the script when he read it.
Burt Reynolds as James Bond and Han Solo
Another huge star in the ’70s was Burt Reynolds, who was offered both the Han Solo role in Star Wars and the opportunity to take over as James Bond after Sean Connery retired following Diamonds Are Forever. For Bond, Reynolds thought fans would never accept an American 007 and for Han Solo he just “didn’t want to play that kind of role at the time.”
Hugh Jackman as James Bond
Another actor who was offered the James Bond role, albeit decades later, was Hugh Jackman. Following X-Men, Jackman felt that if he was both 007 and Wolverine he’d “never have time to do different things.”
Michelle Pfeiffer as Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs
Michelle Pfeiffer was director Johnathan Demme’s first choice to play Clarice in The Silence of the Lambs, but the actress turned the role down due to the gruesome nature of the material. A few years later, Jodie Foster herself would say no to returning for the sequel, Hannibal, for some of the same reasons.
Pierce Brosnan as Batman
Pierce Brosnan, after not becoming James Bond in the ’80s due to his TV series Remington Steele, met with Tim Burton about starring as Bruce Wayne/Batman. But, as the actor wrote in a Reddit AMA back in 2015, he thought “any man who wears his underpants outside his pants just cannot be taken seriously.”
John Lithgow as The Joker in Batman
“Actors are not necessarily smart people,” John Lithgow said a few years ago about his decision to pass on the Joker role in Tim Burton’s Batman. “I tried to persuade [Burton] I was not right for the part, and I succeeded. I didn’t realize it was such a big deal.”
Emily Blunt as Black Widow in Iron Man 2 and the MCU
One star who has no regrets about missing out on a role is Emily Blunt, who was taken out of Iron Man 2 due to a Fox clause that made her do Gulliver’s Travels instead. “Like why even reminisce about what could’ve been?” Blunt said. “[Scarlett’s] it and she nailed it and I love The Avengers, I really found it to be really good fun.”
Amanda Seyfried as Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy and the MCU
Marvel had its eye on Amanda Seyfried for Gamora in James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy but the actress, thanks to some advice from X-Men franchise star Jennifer Lawrence, decided she didn’t want to spend hours becoming green in a makeup chair.
Jim Carrey as Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
Conflicts with the film Bruce Almighty, along with Jim Carrey’s overall aversion to being in sequels to his own movies (that doesn’t always hold – see: Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls and Dumb and Dumberer), lost Carrey the role of Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
Jude Law as Superman in Superman Returns
Jude Law was approached to play the Man of Steel for 2006’s Superman Returns but declined after seeing the suit. “I was always worried about the outfit,” he said in 2016. “I just didn’t fancy it.”
John Travolta as Forrest Gump
John Travolta turned down the role that would wind up winning Tom Hanks his second Oscar: Forrest Gump. Don’t feel too bad for Travolta though since he did Pulp Fiction instead and the landmark Tarantino film revived his career. In 2007, Travolta explained that “if I didn’t do something Tom Hanks did, then I did something else that was equally interesting or fun.”
Josh Hartnett as Superman, Spider-Man, and Batman
Following 1997’s Batman & Robin, the superhero cinema scene stalled for a little bit. And that’s one of the big reasons Josh Harnett passed on playing Superman in Superman Returns, Spider-Man in the Sam Raimi films, and Batman for Christopher Nolan. “I somehow knew those roles had potential to define me,” Hartnett said back in 2014, “and I didn’t want that. I didn’t want to be labeled as Superman for the rest of my career. I was maybe 22, but I saw the danger.”
Eddie Murphy in Ghostbusters and Star Trek IV
Recently, Eddie Murphy said he turned down Ghostbusters, which was written with him in mind, because he was doing Beverly Hills Cop. Dan Aykroyd, however, said in 2003 that Murphy thought the story was a “crock of s***.” A few years later, Murphy, a Star Trek fan, met with Trek director/star Leonard Nimoy about a role in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home as an astrophysicist. After Murphy declined, due to not liking the role, the part was switched to that of a marine biologist played by Catherine Hicks.What other celebs almost landed huge franchise roles? Let’s discuss in the comments!
Matt Fowler is a writer for IGN and a member of the Television Critics Association. Follow him on Twitter at @TheMattFowler and Facebook at Facebook.com/MattBFowler.
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