17 Celebs Who Turned Down Iconic Roles

Photo: Everett Collection/REX USA; Courtesy of Touchstone Pictures.
This story was originally published on April 6:
Update: Christina Applegate revealed she passed on one of the biggest roles, ever — and regrets it. Applegate was almost Elle Woods in Legally Blonde. The actress told Entertainment Tonight that she saw the script right after her time on Married...With Children and was afraid of repeating herself. "What a stupid move that was, right?" she confessed.

Imagine you’re watching Titanic. Jack and Rose are creeping their way up to the head of the boat. They're about to do that arms-spread, king-of-the-world scene. Except, Leo doesn't have his arms around Kate Winslet. Instead, he's gently caressing the torso of one Gwyneth Paltrow.

Doesn't make sense, right? But, that's almost how it was. Paltrow was nearly all like, "Paint me like one of your French girls, Jack." She's just one of many actors who turned down now-iconic parts. Ahead, 17 actors who said, "Thanks, but no thanks" to the roles we couldn't possibly imagine them in now.

More Entertainment Stories:
31 Celebs You Forgot Were Child Stars
Celebrities' Kids Who Are Stealing The Spotlight
9 Unsung Female Characters Of Mad Men
Advertisement
1 of 35
Photo: Everett Collection/REX USA.
Ben Stiller
Role: Director for Good Will Hunting

What Happened?
Stiller had no idea who Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were, even though a casual survey of anyone in Massachusetts could have told him they are basically Boston royalty. "I remember my agent sent me the script for Good Will Hunting to direct, and I was like, 'Who are these guys, Affleck and Damon? And, why are they attached to this project? No, thank you!'" he told Cinema Blend.
2 of 35
Photo: David Heerde/REX USA.
Gus Van Sant
You know who didn't care who Affleck and Damon were? This guy. And, he got an Oscar nom out of it. Van Sant is probably too mature to pull a "How ya like them apples?" to Stiller, but this would be a totally appropriate moment to do so.
Advertisement
3 of 35
Molly Ringwald
Role: Vivian Ward, Pretty Woman

What Happened?
Ringwald casually dropped this little nugget in a 2012 reddit AMA. In the words of Vivian herself: "Big mistake. Huge."
4 of 35
Photo: Courtesy of Touchstone Pictures.
Julia Roberts
Though, Ringwald doesn't seem to be too bothered by passing up this opportunity. "Julia Roberts is what makes that movie," she wrote in the AMA. "It was her part. Every actor hopes for a part that lets them shine like that." Roberts was nominated for an Academy Award for it, too.
5 of 35
Photo: BRENDAN BEIRNE/REX USA.
Whitney Houston
Role: Sondra Huxtable, The Cosby Show

What Happened?
ABC News reported she turned down the role because she was going to focus on singing and had to free up her schedule to tour. It's especially interesting because at the time she didn't even have a record deal.
6 of 35
Photo: Courtesy of Carsey-Werner Company.
Sabrina Le Beauf
The role later went to Le Beauf, who went on to star in other TV shows such as Fatherhood and Star Trek: The Next Generation.
7 of 35
Photo: David Fisher/REX USA.
Robin Wright
Role: Maid Marian, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

What Happened?

She dropped out when she learned she was pregnant. But, now that we've seen her as Claire Underwood, we can't really picture her in this role, anyway.
Advertisement
8 of 35
Photo: Warner Bros./Everett/REX USA.
Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio
Mastrantonio didn't receive any critical acclaim for her role. But, the film did pretty well at the box office.
9 of 35
Photo: Everett Collection/REX USA.
Sarah Michelle Gellar
Role: Cher, Clueless

What Happened?
Gellar couldn't commit due to "scheduling conflicts."
10 of 35
Photo: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.
Alicia Silverstone
It's hard to imagine anyone but Silverstone as Cher. Though, please take a few moments to consider the next-level makeout session that would have been Gellar and Paul Rudd, who we know for a fact is a lovely and soft kisser.
11 of 35
Photo: ARALDO DI CROLLALANZA/REX USA.
Will Smith
Role: Neo, The Matrix

What Happened?
Smith says the thing about this movie that we're all thinking, but don't often utter: It's a hard concept to understand for some people.
12 of 35
Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Keanu Reeves
Smith went on to say that he wasn't a "smart" enough actor for the role. "Keanu was smart enough to just let it be. Let the movie and director tell the story, and don't try and perform every moment." Subtle shade from Smith? Perhaps. But, I personally believe every action movie should have Keanu. (See: John Wick.)
Advertisement
13 of 35
Photo: R. Hepler/Everett/REX USA.
John Travolta
Role: Forrest, Forrest Gump

What Happened?
I mean, that would just be kind of weird, right? Travolta has since admitted he regrets turning down this opportunity.
14 of 35
Photo: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.
Tom Hanks
Fun fact: Travolta was also considered for two other roles in which Hanks was later cast: Splash and Apollo 13.
15 of 35
Photo: RICHARD YOUNG/REX USA.
Jim Carrey
Role: Buddy The Elf, Elf

What Happened?
This one's kind of complicated. According to Splitsider, Carrey was set to star when he first saw the script in 1993. But, by the time the movie was actually ready for filming 10 years later, he had just starred in How The Grinch Stole Christmas. You can't be a kindly elf and the Grinch. It's confusing for the kids.
16 of 35
Photo: Courtesy of New Line Cinema.
Will Ferrell
He nailed it. And, he was probably the better casting choice, anyway.
17 of 35
Photo: Moviestore Collection/REX USA.
Johnny Depp
Role: Bueller, Ferris Bueller's Day Off

What Happened?
Another one of those "scheduling conflicts."
Advertisement
18 of 35
Photo: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.
Matthew Broderick
And, First Lady Barbara Bush used some of his dialogue in a 1990 commencement address at Wellesley College.
19 of 35
Photo: Moviestore Collection/REX USA.
Tom Selleck
Role: Indiana Jones, Raiders Of The Lost Ark

What Happened?
Despite any rumors you've heard about why he and his beautiful mustache turned down this role, Selleck told David Letterman it was because CBS didn't allow him to take it .
20 of 35
Photo: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.
Harrison Ford
The Indiana Jones role may be iconic, but not as iconic as Ford himself has now become.
21 of 35
Photo: MGM/Everett/REX USA.
Katie Holmes
Role: Buffy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

What Happened?
Holmes actually turned it down for a really good reason: She wanted to go to high school.
22 of 35
Photo: 20th Century Fox/Everett/REX USA.
Sarah Michelle Gellar
See? A much better fit for her than Clueless.
Advertisement
23 of 35
Photo: Matt Baron/BEImages.
Denzel Washington
Role: Curtis, Dreamgirls

What Happened?
He reportedly said, "Thanks very much, I don't sing."
24 of 35
Photo: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.
Jamie Foxx
Though Foxx initially turned down the role, too, he changed his mind once Beyoncé and Eddie Murphy joined the cast.
25 of 35
Photo: Stewart Cook/REX USA.
Anne Hathaway
Role: Tiffany, Silver Linings Playbook

What Happened?
Harvey Weinstein told Howard Stern the film was originally supposed to be Hathaway and Mark Wahlberg. But, Hathaway and director David O. Russell had "creative differences."
26 of 35
Photo: Courtesy of Weinstein Company.
Jennifer Lawrence
Have you ever shipped two people quite as hard as you shipped these two? The answer is no.
27 of 35
Photo: Matt Baron/BEImages.
Angela Bassett
Role: Leticia, Monster's Ball

What Happened?
Bassett felt the role of Leticia was a "stereotype about black women and sexuality," and that it wasn't a role she would feel proud of 10 years later.
Advertisement
28 of 35
Photo: Courtesy of Lee Daniels Entertainment.
Halle Berry
She won the Oscar for Best Actress for the part — and was the first black actress to do so.
29 of 35
Photo: BEImages.
Gwyneth Paltrow
Role: Rose, Titanic

What Happened?
In an interview with Howard Stern, she seemed to express some regret over not taking it. But, she said it wasn't ladylike to talk about turning down roles. "I know that the story is that I turned it down. I think I was really in contention for it — I was one of the last two."
30 of 35
Photo: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox.
Kate Winslet
She was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actress for this one. Winslet also sparked a controversy over whether or not that door could have fit her and Leo.
31 of 35
Photo: Carolyn Contino/BEImages.
Ja Rule
Role: Edwin, Fast & Furious franchise

What Happened?
Oh man. John Singleton, director of 2 Fast 2 Furious really blew up his spot here. In an interview with the Guardian, Singleton says, "Ja got too big for himself. He turned it down [...] He was acting like he was too big to be in the sequel. He wouldn't return calls."
32 of 35
Photo: Courtesy of Universal Pictures.
Ludacris
You know who was returning calls? Luda.
Advertisement
33 of 35
Photo: Jim Smeal/BEImages.
Christina Applegate
Role: Elle Woods, Legally Blonde

What Happened?
The actress told Entertainment Tonight she saw the script right after her time on Married ...With Children and was afraid of repeating herself. "What a stupid move that was, right?" she confessed.
34 of 35
Photo: Courtesy of MGM.
Reese Witherspoon
It's hard to imagine things any other way, right?
35 of 35
Like this post? There's more. Get tons of entertainment news, celebrity updates, and cat videos on the Refinery29 Entertainment Facebook page. Like us on Facebook — we'll see you there!
Advertisement