When it comes to movies, it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing iconic lead roles. Take Titanic, for example. Can you imagine anyone but young Leonardo DiCaprio playing Jack? Well, behind the scenes, the directors were actually considering a certain Texas-born actor whose trademark catchphrase happens to be “alright, alright, alright.”
It goes to show that fans never know what is happening behind the scenes or in the heads of the casting directors. We could have wound up with Britney Spears in The Notebook if Rachel McAdams didn’t show up in time! Keep scrolling; you’re going to be surprised by some of the actors who lost out on starring roles.
Britney Spears – The Notebook
Who needs beautiful piano music when we could have had Britney Spears’ album for the score of The Notebook? The singer was considered for the iconic role of Allie, opposite Ryan Gosling. Spears made it pretty far in the casting process, doing a table read with Gosling to see how their chemistry was.
According to the actor, Spears wasn’t half bad. During an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Gosling said, “We met with a lot of actresses, and they were all very good. [Spears] was really good, actually. She did a really nice job.” At the end of the day, the part went to Rachel McAdams.
Ryan Gosling – The Lovely Bones
Poor Ryan Gosling went through a lot during The Lovely Bones. Not only was he given the part of the grieving father, but when he went all-in for the role, he was fired. For the character, Gosling packed on quite a bit of weight, admitting to drinking melted Häagen-Dazs ice cream when he was in need of a beverage.
Well, when he turned up on set a whopping 210 pounds, he was fired. Apparently, the director and producer never told the actor to put on the weight! Gosling was fired days before production, being replaced by Mark Wahlberg.
John Travolta – Forrest Gump
Personally, we don’t know if we could have taken Forrest Gump seriously if John Travolta landed the role of Forrest. We mean, come on, is anyone else picturing the character with Danny Zuko hair, or is that just us? Regardless, the film went on to be a huge success, landing Tom Hanks his second Oscar for Best Lead Actor.
As for John Travolta, he turned the role down, having to watch the awards for the film flow from the sidelines. Instead, he opted to take on an edgier role opposite Samuel L. Jackson in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction as Vincent Vega.
Matthew McConaughey – Titanic
It’s one of the opening scenes of the iconic film Titanic, and you see a young Matthew McConaughey sitting at the table playing poker. But instead of telling his friend that he won’t be seeing his mother for a long time, he says, “alright, alright, alright” and puts his winning hand down.
Yup, the Texas-born actor was first in line to play the role of Jack Dawson. Kate Winslet, who plays Rose, even did a reading with McConaughey before he was officially offered the part. But when James Cameron saw a young Leonardo DiCaprio walk into the room, all bets were off, and Jack was recast.
Sean Connery – Lord Of The Rings
Who would turn down the chance to play a role as iconic as Gandalf? Sean Connery, that’s who. Not only did the infamous James Bond actor turn the role down, but he also walked away from a few hundred million dollars! Well, not that he necessarily needs it.
Apparently, Connery turned the role down due to the storyline, which he did not understand. During an interview, the actor said, “I read the book, I read the script, I saw the movie, I still don’t understand it. Ian McKellen, I believe, is marvelous in it.”
Will Smith – The Matrix
In the late 1990s, Will Smith was landing roles left and right. The Fresh Prince was such a hot commodity that almost every director wanted to get their hands on him for lead characters. So, it wasn’t too much of a surprise when the Wachowskis came knocking to offer him the part of Neo in The Matrix.
Instead of taking on the role of Neo, Smith went on to star in Wild Wild West. Even Smith admits, though, that the movie wouldn’t have been nearly as good if he accepted the part. The role ultimately went to Keanu Reeves, cementing his place in Hollywood history.
Molly Ringwald – Pretty Woman
We don’t know about you, but we can’t see anyone else playing sassy Vivian Ward in Pretty Woman. Julia Roberts absolutely nailed the part! But when directors were looking for their leading lady, Molly Ringwald was the first on their list. The actress was already known for a string of popular films, including The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles.
In the casting directors’ minds, Ringwald was a perfect choice. Some sources say she turned the role down because she wanted something more challenging, while others say she didn’t want to portray such a risque character. Well, this source is saying that Ringwald might regret turning the role down!
Jack Nicholson – The Godfather
The Godfather is considered to be one of the greatest films ever made, so it’s hard to imagine someone else playing to role of Michael Corleone, the head of the infamous mafia family. Believe it or not, director Francis Ford Coppola was dead set on hiring Jack Nicholson for the part, giving him an offer he couldn’t refuse and all that jazz.
Well, Nicholson turned the part down. But in 1972, a gangster movie was a risky move in Hollywood, so Coppola went on to ask other big names to star in his film. In the end, the part went to Al Pacino.
Nicolas Cage – Lord Of The Rings
The quest to restore the King of Gondor to the throne would have been a lot different had Nicolas Cage accepted the role of Aragorn. One, the Declaration of Independence would probably have made a cameo in Middle Earth, and two, Viggo Mortenson was born to play the role of the ranger.
And while Cage was approached about playing the role, he ultimately turned it down. Apparently, he couldn’t make the commitment, as filming was in New Zealand and he didn’t want to be away from home for that long. Cage has also stated that he can actually enjoy the trilogy since he doesn’t watch any of his own work.
Lindsay Lohan – The Hangover
Can you believe that Lindsay Lohan as asked to be part of one of the most beloved comedies of the 2000s? Yup, Lohan almost played Jade, the exotic dancer who winds up marrying Stu during the infamous blackout night in The Hangover. Of course, the role ultimately went to Heather Graham.
Contrary to popular belief, Lohan was all for the role, but she lost out on it because of one little thing. According to the director Todd Phillips, “[Lohan] loved the script, actually. It was really an age thing.” At the time of the film, Lohan was only 20 years old, while Graham was 37.
Anne Hathaway – Knocked Up
Interestingly, Hollywood golden girl Anne Hathaway was originally offered the role of Allison Scott in the comedy Knocked Up. Can you imagine Princess Mia yelling profanities while giving birth? It could have been funny but the world will never know, as the part went to Katherine Heigl.
For Hathaway, she wasn’t too keen on the birth scene, as she wasn’t yet a mother herself. During an interview with Allure, the actress said, “My issue with it was that having not experienced motherhood myself, I didn’t know how I was gonna feel on the other side about giving birth.”
Leonardo DiCaprio – American Psycho
It’s hard to imagine a young Leo playing the role of psychotic Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. And while his later films show the actor’s “mad-man” range, he took advice from feminist icon Gloria Steinem and opted not to move forward with the part.
According to a film published by Vice News, DiCaprio dropped out of the film because of some of Steinem’s advice. She said, “Coming off of Titanic, there is an entire planet full of 13-year-old girls waiting to see what you do next, and this is going to be a movie that has horrible violence toward women.” The part ultimately went to Christian Bale, who killed it!
Ashton Kutcher – 10 Things I Hate About You
The iconic rendition of the Shakespearean play Taming of the Shrew almost turned out to be much different. Fans of the romantic comedy 10 Things I Hate About You almost saw Ashton Kutcher dance across bleachers singing “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” as a way to get Julia Stiles to fall in love with him.
Instead, Kutcher went on to film Dude, Where’s My Car? while Australian heart-throb Heath Ledger snagged the role of Patrick Verona. Ledger went on to become one of America’s favorite actors, performing iconic roles in movies such as A Knights Tale, Brokeback Mountain, and The Dark Knight.
Annette Bening – Batman Returns
Try as they might, no one has really lived up to Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman in Batman Returns. And, if it was up to the directors, she might never have had the chance to wear the iconic leather suit. Instead, they had their sights set on critically acclaimed actress Annette Bening.
Bening even accepted the role, but soon had to quit because she found out she was pregnant. The casting directors shuffled through many people, considering talents such as Cher, Madonna, and Bridget Fonda before finally offering Pfeiffer the role.
Mel Gibson – Gladiator
While the role of Maximus won Russell Crowe an Oscar, he wasn’t first in line for the character. Mel Gibson was very close to yelling “are you not entertained” after defeating foes in the gladiatorial arena. Although he loved the script and the character, Gibson wound up turning the role down for a very simple reason.
The actor believed he was getting too old to be taking part in such huge action films. Not wanting to throw out his back or hurt himself in another way, Gibson declined the offer. Crowe went on to star in the film, a breakout role that shot him to stardom.
Eric Stoltz – Back To The Future
Eric Stoltz was already on Hollywood’s radar with his role in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. So, people were excited to see him play Marty McFly in Back to the Future. Well, unlike others on this list, Stoltz was given the role, and then the directors opted to go back to the future and recast him due to different “comedy sensibilities.”
During an interview with Moviehole, Stoltz said, “In retrospect, I think just getting through that difficult period helped me realize how freeing it really was.” We’re not sure if we believe getting fired from a huge project was a “good thing,” but we’ll take his word for it.
Liam Neeson – Lincoln
Steven Spielberg had a game plan ten years before filming Lincoln, and it included actor Liam Neeson. The director made Neeson promise to star in the title role of the film, something the actor agreed to. But when it came time to read the script, Neeson backed out.
During an interview with GQ, Neeson said, “We started reading this, and there was an intro, and then I see Lincoln: where I have to start speaking, and I just — a thunderbolt moment. I thought, ‘I’m not supposed to be here.” Spielberg recast Daniel Day-Lewis, who went on to win his third Oscar for the role.
Sylvester Stallone – Beverly Hills Cop
People can say what they want about Sylvester Stallone, but there are a few things that are generally agreed upon when it comes to the actor. One is that he is typically great in dramas and action films, and he is one heck of a screenwriter. But when he struggled with the comedic aspect of Beverly Hills Cops, rewriting the script, no one was amused.
The rewrite was not well-received, and Stallone was recast by Eddie Murphy. The film went on to be the highest-grossing in 1984. We bet Stallone wished he was a bit more in tune with his funny side!
Jennifer Hudson – Precious
Director Lee Daniels had his sight set on Jennifer Hudson for the role of the title character in Precious. It made sense since Hudson had just won an Oscar for her role as Effie in Dream Girls. Interestingly, Hudson turned the role down for a very specific reason.
Hudson didn’t want to gain weight, something she had to do for Dream Girls. In her biography, Hudson wrote, “I had done that with Effie…and as much as I was moved by the film, I wanted to try a role that had nothing to do with my weight whatsoever.” The role went to Gabourey Sidibe, earning her an Oscar nomination.
Tom Hanks – Jerry Maguire
Ironically, according to director Cameron Crowe, the script for Jerry Maguire was actually written with the sports agent title character in mind for a very specific actor, Tom Hanks. Unfortunately for Crowe, Hanks was already working on a project, That Thing You Do!, and wasn’t able to accept the role.
After Hanks’ rejection, the hunt was on for a new title character. Crowe immediately thought of Tom Cruise. It was a good thing, too, because Cruise loved the script and offered to ly out for an audition. He landed the part, and the rest, as they say, is history!