Don’t you just hate it when you were in the running for the perfect job, but you were kind of playing hard to get so you wouldn’t come off too desperate and some kid that’s less qualified than you grabs the job, so you spend the rest of your life growing more and more bitter, drinking from 8 AM until whenever it is you pass out, cursing that kid with every breath you take? That can happen if you’re an actor too!
Showbiz is a rough ride, and it’s even rougher if you turn down a role that later turns out to be the lead in the movie of the year. Perhaps your rival could even get an Oscar for it. You’d actually be surprised how much this happens. Most iconic roles we now associate with a certain actor, were written for other actors at first. Either there were scheduling conflicts or financial disagreements, but one thing is for certain: for some reason, these people didn’t accept the role that would later turn out to be quite the success for the other guy. Or gal.
Let’s take a look at some iconic roles and the actors that were first cast and ended up getting the part.
Neo (The Matrix) – Will Smith
Yup. Imagine turning that one down. Will Smith was actually first considered for the iconic role of Neo, later performed by Keanu Reeves. Granted, the Matrix script probably looked very bonkers at the time so Will probably didn’t want to risk it. Fun sidefact: Will Smith was also first considered for the role of Django in Django Unchained, which he turned down to do After Earth with his son. I’ll let you guys guess which movie was a box office hit and which movie flopped. Small hint: Will made the wrong call again!
Forrest Gump – John Travolta
While it’s hard to imagine anyone but Tom Hanks playing the “what he lacks in intelligence he makes up for in kindness” character that is Forrest Gump, they initially had John Travolta in mind. Not saying John is a bad actor, but I can’t honestly see him pull off Forrest like Tom Hanks did.
Jack (Titanic) – Matthew McConaughey
Back in a time when neither Leonardo DiCaprio nor Matthew McConaughey were the stars they are today, both of them were connected for the lead part in the Titanic movie. I’d be more than willing to watch a remake with Matthew as the male lead, I wonder how that would turn out.
Aragorn (Lord of the Rings) – Russel Crowe
Yup. I can see that happening. Not saying Viggo didn’t do a good job, just saying I’m pretty sure Russel would do an equally good one. This guy really shines in his medieval/fantasy roles, and he loves playing them too (well, at least I’d hope so, considering how many he’s done).
Ren (Footloose) – Tom Cruise
First of all: starring in a movie that rhymes with your name – that’s a definite “yes” from me. Second of all: Tom Cruise is good at everything he does. Third of all: he can’t be worse than the guy they cast for the remake.
Johnny Castle (Dirty Dancing) – Val Kilmer
Yeah, sorry Val. No beating Patrick Swayze in this. Thank God Val didn’t get cast.
John McClane (Die Hard) – Richard Gere
Noooooope. Pass on this one. John McClane is essentially Bruce Willis doing what Bruce Willis does best, and I can’t imagine Richard Gere playing in a violent action movie.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – Johnny Depp
Aww jeez, now I want to see this movie with a young Johnny Depp. Probably would’ve been better. Weirder though, but better.
Batman – Bill Murray
What? No, heavens no. Why would you cast Bill Murray as Batman, the superhero that couldn’t tell a joke to save his life?