Once an actor takes on an iconic role and makes it their own, it’s almost impossible to imagine someone else playing the part. However, when it comes to big Hollywood movies, most of the time there’s an extensive catalog of potential stars that are approached for the role.
While the best actor for the role usually gets the part, there are a variety of factors in the development period that can deter the initial prospects. Creative differences and scheduling conflicts are a few of those reasons, but sometimes it just comes down to being beat out by the competition.
Casting can make or break a movie and the right role can help catapult an actor’s career into an A-list territory. Here are 16 Hollywood stars who almost ended up playing highly coveted roles that eventually went to someone else.
1. Clarice Starling – The Silence of the Lambs.
Jodie Foster was praised for her performance in Jonathan Demme’s celebrated serial killer thriller, which won her the Best Actress Oscar, but she wasn’t the director’s first choice. Demme initially had his eye on casting Michelle Pfeiffer, who he had previously worked with, but she turned down the role because of the film’s violent nature.
2. Ferris Bueller – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
It was the titular character of John Hughes’ classic teen comedy that gave actor Matthew Broderick his star-making role. However, the part was initially offered to Johnny Depp, who turned it down due to scheduling conflicts.
3. Bridget Jones – Bridget Jones’s Diary.
Renée Zellweger truly made the character of Bridget Jones her own. However, another English actress was in consideration during the auditioning phase. Kate Winslet, hot off of Titanic’s monstrous success, would be an easy casting choice, but she was eventually deemed too young to play the 30-something character.
4. Forrest Gump – Forrest Gump.
It was a role that won Tom Hanks his second Oscar, and one he accepted immediately after he finished reading the script, but he wasn’t the first choice. John Travolta was offered the role prior to Hanks, however, he decided to pass on the future classic.
5. Elle Woods – Legally Blonde.
Reese Witherspoon proved her knack for comedy when she took on the infectiously bubbly character of Elle Woods. However, Married With Children’s Christina Applegate was offered the role first. She turned it down out of fear that she would get typecast as the dumb blonde, but has since admitted she regrets the decision.
6. Jordan Belfort – The Wolf of Wall Street.
There isn’t an actor who would pass up the opportunity to work with acclaimed director Martin Scorsese, which is why some serious stars auditioned for the lead role. Chris Evans and Joseph Gordon-Levitt both auditioned for the part that eventually went to Leonardo DiCaprio.
7. Allie Hamilton – The Notebook.
Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling solidified their place in the romance genre with their star-crossed love story. However, McAdams had to beat out one mega superstar for the part. Gosling screen-tested with his former Mickey Mouse Club co-star Britney Spears for the roles of Noah and Allie, but McAdams’ stellar audition ended up landing her the part despite being relatively unknown at the time.
8. Mad Max – Mad Max: Fury Road.
While Tom Hardy eventually ended up being cast, there was a lot of speculation and rumors swirling during the super long development period. Jeremy Renner is one actor who campaigned for the highly coveted role but lost out to Hardy.
9. Vivian Ward – Pretty Woman.
Gary Marshall’s celebrated romantic comedy wasn’t always so heartwarming. Before Julia Roberts took on the role, the script was titled $3,000 and had a much darker tone than what the end product ended up being. During this time, Molly Ringwald was being highly considered for the part.
10. Jane Smith – Mr. & Mrs. Smith.
There have been few casting pairings that have affected pop culture as much as Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt as a married couple in the action comedy. However, Nicole Kidman initially had the part but had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts.
11. Sam Wheat – Ghost.
Jerry Zucker’s romantic fantasy thriller ended up being an outstanding commercial success, which is in part thanks to the chemistry between Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore. However, the role was initially offered to Moore’s then-husband Bruce Willis who turned it down because he thought the premise was too cheesy.
12. Amy Dunne – Gone Girl.
Due to the book’s success and David Fincher’s involvement, there were numerous actresses who wanted to play the versatile character. Olivia Wilde, Abbie Cornish, and Julianne Hough all submitted audition tapes and met with the director, but eventually, Rosamund Pike was cast.
13. Diana – Wonder Woman.
Gal Gadot became a household name after she appeared as the Amazonian warrior. However, before casting Gadot, there were a number of actresses who were considered throughout the years. One was Kristen Stewart who reportedly passed on the opportunity, which is likely due to not wanting to be tied to another franchise after the Twilight films.
14. Patrick Verona – 10 Things I Hate About You.
Ashton Kutcher may have achieved a status as a teen heartthrob, but there’s one now-classic teen movie he missed out on. Kutcher auditioned for the love interest in 10 Things I Hate About You only to be beat out by Heath Ledger.
15. Mia Thermopolis – The Princess Diaries.
It was a star-making vehicle of a role for Anne Hathaway, but she was lucky to land it after it was initially offered to some big names, including Cameron Diaz, Katie Holmes, Kirsten Dunst, and Kate Hudson, who all declined.
16. Russell Hammond – Almost Famous.
Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story at one point had Brad Pitt set to play the rock star. However, he eventually dropped out and was replaced by Billy Crudup.