Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 30 November 2020

John Travolta as Forrest Gump? 10 stars who turned down famous film roles

Forrest Gump, Black Widow, Indiana Jones … these well-known Hollywood characters were almost played by other actors

Big screen favourites Forrest Gump, Black Widow and Indiana Jones were almost played by completely different stars. Courtesy Paramount
Big screen favourites Forrest Gump, Black Widow and Indiana Jones were almost played by completely different stars. Courtesy Paramount

Hollywood is like a perpetual game of sliding doors, so for every role that's won, another is lost or missed out on. And these 10 famous parts almost went to other stars.

1. Black Widow in 'The Avengers'

Emily Blunt and Scarlett Johansson
British actress Emily Blunt lost the role of Black Widow to Scarlett Johansson. AFP, Paramount pictures

Played by: Scarlett Johansson

Missed out: Emily Blunt

The British actress was the first choice to play the Marvel superhero, but the role went to American star Scarlett Johansson. When asked if she regretted turning down the part Johansson will have played in nine films when Black Widow comes out next year, Blunt insists she doesn’t.

“I’m never regretful about not doing something; I didn't do it at the time because it wasn't the right time and I was contracted to do something else,” she told Screenrant. “But Scarlett has done such a phenomenal job – she's it! Like why even reminisce about what could've been? She's it and she nailed it and I love The Avengers.”

Interestingly, the Mary Poppins Returns actress also passed on the role of agent Peggy Carter in Captain America: The First Avenger, which then went to Hayley Atwell.

2. David Mills in 'Se7en'

Denzel Washington & Brad Pitt
Denzel Washington passed on the role of David Mills in 'Se7en'. AFP, New Line Cinema

Played by: Brad Pitt

Missed out: Denzel Washington

Double Oscar winner Denzel Washington has called turning down the role of Mills in 1995 film Se7en a “mistake”, with the part eventually going to Brad Pitt who won critical acclaim for his portrayal.

“I turned down the movie Se7en. That was a mistake,” he told The Grio. “I just didn’t think anybody was going to see it. I don’t know what I made instead, I can’t remember, but I turned [Se7en] down. I guess Brad Pitt is happy about that.”

3. Forrest Gump in 'Forrest Gump'

John Travolta & Tom Hanks
John Travolta almost played Forrest Gump, arguably Tom Hanks's most famous role. AFP, Paramount Pictures

Played by: Tom Hanks

Missed out: John Travolta

It’s hard to imagine anyone else playing the role that won Tom Hanks a Best Actor Oscar (his second) at the 1995 Academy Awards, but Forrest Gump was almost played by John Travolta.

“If I didn't do something Tom Hanks did, then I did something else that was equally interesting or fun,” he told MTV. “Or if I didn’t do something Richard Gere did, I did something equally well. But I feel good about some I gave up because other careers were created.”

The same year Forrest Gump came out, Travolta appeared in Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction in a role that reinvigorated his career.

4. Annie Porter in 'Speed'

Halle Berry & Sandra Bullock
Halle Berry almost played Annie Porter in 'Speed'. AFP, Twentieth Century Fox

Played by: Sandra Bullock

Missed out: Halle Berry

Admitting it was "stupid" to have turned down the role that made Sandra Bullock a household name, Halle Berry says her decision was based on the fact she saw a completely different script, and she didn’t know Keanu Reeves would be involved.

“I stupidly said ‘no’. But in my defence, when I read the script the bus didn't leave the parking lot. I was like, 'no, no, no, no',” said Berry, who would go on to become the first black woman to win the Best Actress Oscar. She said she was convinced the film would flop, “[but] then I see the movie and I'm like, ‘arrrrghh’.”

5. Indiana Jones in 'Indiana Jones'

Tom Selleck & Harrison Ford
Tom Selleck even did a screen test to play Indiana Jones. AFP, Paramount Pictures

Played by: Harrison Ford

Missed out: Tom Selleck

Harrison Ford might have wowed his Star Wars director George Lucas when he played Han Solo, but when it came to taking on the role of Indiana Jones, Lucas, who was executive producer on the Steven Spielberg-helmed series, needed some convincing.

Lucas had his heart set on Tom Selleck donning the famous fedora, and Selleck even did a screen test to play the adventurous archaeologist. But due to filming obligations with Magnum PI, Selleck was out and Harrison was in.

You can watch Selleck's audition here:

6. Andy Sachs in 'The Devil Wears Prada'

Rachel McAdams & Anne Hathaway
Anne Hathaway (right) was not the first choice for her role in 'The Devil Wears Prada', Rachel McAdams was. AP, Twentieth Century Fox

Played by: Anne Hathaway

Missed out: Rachel McAdams

“I had to be patient. I wasn’t the first choice,” Anne Hathaway says of the role of Andy Sachs in the surprise hit film, The Devil Wears Prada. In fact, producers approached Canadian star Rachel McAdams several times for the role, but the Mean Girls actress repeatedly turned it down.

And Hathaway remembers the moment she got the call to say the part was hers, telling People: “I had some buddies over. I remember running out in my living room, half dressed, screaming – I got The Devil Wears Prada! I got The Devil Wears Prada!”

7. Aragorn in 'Lord of the Rings'

Nicolas Cage & Viggo Mortensen
The time commitment of moving to New Zealand to film discouraged Nicolas Cage from taking on the role of Aragorn in 'Lord of the Rings', which ultimately went to Viggo Mortensen. AFP, Courtesy New Line Cinema

Played by: Viggo Mortensen

Missed out: Nicolas Cage

With the Lord of the Rings trilogy filmed back to back in New Zealand, the cast have spoken about what a huge commitment it was when they took the roles.

And it was time constraints that led Hollywood star Nicolas Cage to turn down the role of Aragorn.

“There were different things going on in my life at the time that precluded me from being able to travel and be away from home for three years,” Cage told Newsweek.

He said he was happy to enjoy the films as a fan rather than their star.

8. Albus Dumbledore in 'Harry Potter'

Ian McKellan & Richard Harris
Ian McKellan was in the running for the role of Dumbledore in the Harry Potter movies. AFP, Courtesy Warner Bros.

Played by: Richard Harris and Michael Gambon

Missed out: Ian McKellan

To be fair, veteran British actor Ian McKellan not so much missed out on the role of Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore, as turned it down in tribute to the late Richard Harris.

Irish star Harris played Dumbledore in the first two films, 2001’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in 2002.

But when he died in October 2002 at the age of 72, the hunt was on for a replacement.

“There was a question as to whether I might take over from Richard Harris,” McKellan told The Guardian.

“But seeing as one of the last things he did publicly was say what a dreadful actor he thought I was, it would not have been appropriate for me to take over his part. It would have been unfair.”

9. Christian Grey in 'Fifty Shades of Grey'

Charlie Hunnam & Jamie Dornan
Charlie Hunnam, left, was announced as Grey before Jamie Dornan took over the role. AFP, Courtesy Universal Pictures

Played by: Jamie Dornan

Missed out: Charlie Hunnam

Sons of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnam’s announcement as Christian Grey was made with much fanfare back in October 2013, but he dropped out just days later. And 11 days after that, model-turned-actor Jamie Dornan stepped into the role.

Hunnam later admitted his decision was driven by a fear of failure.

“I just said, ‘I can’t, I can’t,” he told Moviefone. “Fifty’s going to be massive, it’s going to be huge. I really didn’t want to fail on such a grand scale and I just couldn’t transition from Jax Teller [in Sons of Anarchy] to Christian Grey in 48 hours.”

10. Django in 'Django Unchained'

Will Smith & Jamie Foxx
Creative differences caused Will Smith to drop out of the lead role in 2012’s 'Django Unchained'. AFP, The Weinstein Company

Played by: Jamie Foxx

Missed out: Will Smith

Creative differences are what led Will Smith to drop out of the lead role in 2012’s Django Unchained, which also featured Leonardo DiCaprio and Kerry Washington.

“To me, it’s as perfect a story as you could ever want: a guy that learns how to kill to retrieve his wife who has been taken as a slave,” Smith told The Hollywood Reporter.

"That idea is perfect. And it was just that Quentin [Tarantino] and I couldn't see eye-to-eye."

But when the director wouldn’t budge on making love, not revenge, Django’s motivation, Smith dropped out.

“I just couldn't connect to violence being the answer,” he said. “Love had to be the answer.”

Updated: October 5, 2020 06:14 PM

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