Johnny Depp & Jim Carrey
Ian Smith / Flickr & Wikimedia Commons

Famous Roles That Almost Went to Someone Else

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Maya Rudolph & Mindy Kaling
MingleMediaTVNetwork / Flickr & Montclair Film / Flickr

Narrow Misses

Can you imagine Magnum P.I. as Indiana Jones, or Wolverine trading his claws for a martini, shaken not stirred? It's a small world in Hollywood, and actors are always competing for the same roles. Sometimes an actor turns down a role because of creative differences or scheduling conflicts, but sometimes they just don't make the cut. Here are some iconic movie roles that almost went to someone else.


Related: 26 Actors Who Absolutely Nailed the Icons They Portrayed


Daniel Craig & Hugh Jackman
Daniel Craig & Hugh Jackman by Liam Mendes & Dick Thomas Johnson (CC BY-SA)

James Bond | 'Casino Royale'

Played by: Daniel Craig

Almost Played by: Hugh Jackman


Every time a new James Bond is announced, there's always some fanfare and a bit of an uproar, no matter how perfect the actor is for the role. Now imagine what the response would have been if Hugh Jackman, best known for playing Wolverine, played 007 in "Casino Royale" instead of Daniel Craig. Frankly, it seems like a good fit.



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Audrey Hepburn & Marilyn Monroe
Wikimedia Commons

Holly Golightly | 'Breakfast at Tiffany's'

Played by: Audrey Hepburn

Almost Played by: Marilyn Monroe


When Truman Capote wrote the novella "Breakfast at Tiffany's," he may have been inspired by Marilyn Monroe's real life Cinderella story. He wanted her to play Holly, but she lost out to Audrey Hepburn. They were competing for many of the same Hollywood roles, but for Hepburn, the role became career-defining. 


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Keanu Reeves & Will Smith
Governo do Estado de São Paulo / Flickr & Wikimedia Commons

Neo | 'The Matrix'

Played by: Keanu Reeves

Almost Played by: Will Smith


Going from the fresh prince of Bel-Air to Neo in "The Matrix" would have been quite a leap, and Will Smith almost pulled it off. He was in the running for the role but ultimately turned it down, paving the way for "Men in Black" instead.


Harrison Ford & Tom Selleck
Harrison Ford & Tom Selleck by Mireille Ampilhac & Dominick D (CC BY-SA)

Indiana Jones | 'Indiana Jones'

Played by: Harrison Ford

Almost Played by: Tom Selleck


Harrison Ford has had a few iconic movie roles, but he almost never got to be Indiana Jones. Tom Selleck was slated for the role first, but ended up turning it down because of contractual obligations with "Magnum P.I."

Michael J. Fox & Eric Stoltz
Michael J. Fox & Eric Stoltz by Paul Hudson & oscalito (CC BY-SA)

Marty McFly | 'Back to the Future'

Played by: Michael J. Fox

Almost Played by: Eric Stoltz


Eric Stoltz was Marty McFly for a few weeks, but he wasn't fitting into the role well. Director Robert Zemeckis wasn't impressed with his attempt at the script or the lighthearted comedy, and canned him for Michael J. Fox instead — who was initially unavailable due to scheduling conflicts with filming "Family Ties" — launching his movie career.


Leo DiCaprio & Matthew McConaughey
Leo DiCaprio & Matthew McConaughey by Thore Siebrands & David Torcivia (CC BY-SA)

Jack Dawson | 'Titanic'

Played by: Leo DiCaprio

Almost Played by: Matthew McConaughey


It's hard to imagine anyone playing Jack Dawson besides Leo DiCaprio, but Matthew McConaughey was almost on that floating door instead. He auditioned and read lines with Kate Winslet, but director James Cameron apparently appreciated Leo more. Maybe McConaughey would have been able to stay on that door?


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Kate Winslet & Claire Danes
http://www.andrearaffin.com/ & iDominick / Flickr

Rose DeWitt | 'Titanic'

Played by: Kate Winslet

Almost Played by: Claire Danes, Gwenyth Paltrow


Not only was the role of Jack almost played by other actors in "Titanic," Rose could have been someone besides Kate Winslet as well. Two actresses could have been Rose: Claire Danes and Gwenyth Paltrow. Daines turned down the role because she had just finished making another romance with DiCaprio, "Romeo + Juliet," and didn't feel ready for the fame that she thought would come along with "Titanic." Paltrow apparently was one of the last finalists for the role, but director James Cameron ultimately chose Winslet. 


Julia Roberts & Molly Ringwald
Julia Roberts & Molly Ringwald by David Shankbone & Pgianopoulos (CC BY-SA)

Vivian Ward | 'Pretty Woman'

Played by: Julia Roberts

Almost Played by: Molly Ringwald


Molly Ringwald played a coming-of-age teenager in so many Brat Pack movies in the 1980s that playing a prostitute in "Pretty Woman" may have been pretty jarring. The part opposite Richard Gere ended up going to Julia Roberts, who fit into the part like a glove.


Jamie Foxx & Will Smith
Jamie Foxx & Will Smith by Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA)

Django | 'Django Unchained'

Played by: Jamie Foxx

Almost Played by: Will Smith


Quentin Tarantino often has specific actors in mind when he writes film scripts, and he wrote Django's character with Will Smith in mind, not Jamie Foxx. He sat down and discussed the role with Taratino for a long time, but ultimately passed for a number of reasons, including a commitment to "Men in Black III," a movie that bombed.


Al Pacino & Jack Nicholson
Embajada de EEUU en la Argentina (US Embassy of Argentina) & Wikimedia Commons

Michael Corleone | 'The Godfather'

Played by: Al Pacino

Almost Played by: Jack Nicholson


"The Godfather" would feel very different without Al Pacino, but it could have happened. Jack Nicholson turned down the role of Michael Corleone because he felt it should be played by an Italian. Nicholson went on to many of his own iconic roles without the help of "The Godfather."  


Johnny Depp & Jim Carrey
Ian Smith / Flickr & Wikimedia Commons

Jack Sparrow | 'Pirates of the Caribbean'

Played by: Johnny Depp

Almost Played by: Jim Carey


The "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies have turned into a movie franchise giant, and much of that success can be attributed to Johnny Depp's performance as Jack Sparrow. But an unlikely actor known for his comedic roles turned down the part first: Jim Carey. It's hard to imagine the suave Sparrow played by the guy who did "Dumb and Dumber.”


Letitia Wright & Amandla Stenberg
Letitia Wright & Amandla Stenberg by Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA)

Shuri | 'Black Panther'

Played by: Letitia Wright

Almost Played by: Amandla Stenberg


"Black Panther" turned out to be a cultural phenomenon, but one actress decided to pass on the role of T'Challa's science whiz sister, Shuri. Amandla Wright, a bi-racial actor, didn't feel like she was right for the role alongside the main cast of dark-skinned actors playing Africans. She explained in an interview that she recognizes "100% that there are spaces that I should not take up."

Harrison Ford & Al Pacino
Mireille Ampilhac / Flickr & Embajada de EEUU en la Argentina (US Embassy of Argentina) / Flickr

Han Solo |'Star Wars'

Played by: Harrison Ford

Almost Played by: Al Pacino


After scoring a leading role in "The Godfather," it's difficult to think of Al Pacino as anything but a mobster. But he almost played Han Solo in the original "Star Wars" movies in the 1970s and '80s. He reportedly didn't understand the script well, so it went to Harrison Ford instead. Maybe he's just not a sci-fi fan.


Jodie Foster & Michelle Pfieffer
Wikimedia Commons & Jeremiah Christopher / Flickr

Clarice Starling | 'Silence of the Lambs'

Played by: Jodie Foster

Almost Played by: Michelle Pfieffer 


Jodie Foster was not "Silence of the Lambs" director Jonathan Demme's first choice to play Clarice Starling. He wanted Michelle Pfieffer, but she was concerned about the dark subject matter of the piece. He eventually cast Jodie Foster, and clearly things worked out because she won an Oscar for her portrayal. 


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Sam Neill & Harrison Ford
Mireille Ampilhac / Flickr

Alan Grant | 'Jurassic Park'

Played by: Sam Neill

Almost Played by: Harrison Ford


It made sense that Steven Spielberg, the director of "Jurassic Park", had offered the role of Alan Grant to Harrison Ford — they had worked together before on the Indiana Jones series. But Ford must have turned him down, because the role was eventually played by Sam Neill. 


Mike Myers & Chris Farley
Wikimedia Commons & https://voicesfilm.com/chrisfarley/

Shrek | 'Shrek'

Played by: Mike Myers

Almost Played by: Chris Farley


"Saturday Night Live" alum Chris Farley was all set to voice the character of Shrek in the DreamWorks movie. He even recorded almost all the dialogue for the character. But tragically, he died before production was finished, and the studio ended up recasting the part with Mike Myers, who gave the ogre a Scottish accent. If you're curious what Shrek could have sounded like, there are some of Farley's recordings on YouTube.

Halle Berry & Angela Bassett
Halle Berry & Angela Bassett by Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA)

Leticia | 'Monster's Ball'

Played by: Halle Berry

Almost Played by: Angela Bassett


Halle Berry famously won an Academy Award for her lead role in "Monster's Ball" — the first Black woman to do so. But Angela Bassett almost played the role of Leticia instead. She turned down the job because she felt the character was a stereotype about Black women and sexuality, though she doesn't begrudge Berry's historic win


Ian McKellen & Sean Connery
Wikimedia Commons & http://ardapedia.herr-der-ringe-film.de/index.php/Bild:IanMcKellen.jpg

Gandalf | 'Lord of the Rings'

Played by: Ian McKellen

Almost Played by: Sean Connery, Christopher Plummer


Ian McKellen is fabulous as Gandalf the wizard in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, but his performance almost never happened. Former James Bond Sean Connery first turned down the role despite being offered $6 million per movie because he didn't understand the complicated script. Christopher Plummer of "Sound of Music" fame also turned down the role, but because he didn't want to spend the years in New Zealand that were required to film it. 


Maya Rudolph & Mindy Kaling
MingleMediaTVNetwork / Flickr & Montclair Film / Flickr

Lillian | 'Bridesmaids'

Played by: Maya Rudolph

Almost Played by: Mindy Kaling


"Bridesmaids" has an ensemble cast of seriously funny women, but one could have been different. Bride Lillian could have been played by Mindy Kaling instead of Maya Rudolph. She got a call to audition for the part and practiced her lines, but it just wasn't meant to be. 


Rachel McAdams & Brittany Spears
Gage Skidmore / Flickr & Steve Baker / Flickr

Allie Hamilton | 'The Notebook'

Played by: Rachel McAdams

Almost Played by: Brittany Spears


Ryan Gosling, the lead in the epic romance "The Notebook,” was on the "Mickey Mouse Club" with Brittany Spears when they were kids. But they hadn't seen each other in a long time when she read for the part of Allie. It's probably good that Rachel McAdams eventually got the part, because Gosling and Adams ended up dating after filming.


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Gabourey Sidibe & Jennifer Hudson
Gabourey Sidibe & Jennifer Hudson by Greg Hernandez & David Torcivia (CC BY-SA)

Claireece "Precious" Jones | 'Precious'

Played by: Gabourey Sidibe

Almost Played by: Jennifer Hudson


Gabourey Sidibe's acting debut came in Precious as the title character. She was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Oscar for her moving performance, so it's difficult to imagine anyone else playing it, but Jennifer Hudson was almost cast instead. She turned the role down because she didn't want to gain the weight necessary to play it, especially after previously gaining weight for a role in "Dreamgirls." 


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Whoopi Goldberg & Bette Midler
Whoopi Goldberg & Bette Midler by David Shankbone & Alan Light (CC BY)

Deloris | 'Sister Act'

Played by: Whoopi Goldberg

Almost Played by: Bette Midler


Bette Midler has an amazing voice, so it's easy to imagine her as the showgirl-turned-nun musical "Sister Act." (And let's not forget that musical number in "Hocus Pocus.") And while the film's writer had Midler in mind while creating the script, she turned the role down, paving the way for Whoopi Goldberg. 


Related: 35 Best Movie Musicals of the Past 70 Years

Russell Crow & Mel Gibson
Eva Rinaldi / Flickr & Wikimedia Commons

Maximus | 'Gladiator'

Played by: Russell Crow

Almost Played by: Mel Gibson


Mel Gibson reportedly turned down the lead role of Maximus in "Gladiator" because he felt he was too old for the part. Russell Crowe, who is 8 years younger than Gibson, ended up filming it instead, nailing the famous line, "are you not entertained?"


Related: Actors With Bad On-Set Reputations


Dakota Johnson & Emilia Clarke
Pietro Luca Cassarino / Flickr & Wikimedia Commons

Anastasia Steele | 'Fifty Shades of Grey'

Played by: Dakota Johnson

Almost Played by: Emilia Clarke


Can you imagine the Mother of Dragons as the lead role in "Fifty Shades of Grey"? It almost happened. Emilia Clarke turned down the role of Anastasia because she didn't like the attention that doing nudity early on in "Game of Thrones" had attracted. She was tired of being asked about it, so she avoided doing a movie in which sex scenes were a must.


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