A big part of a movie’s creative development is the casting process. Sometimes a role is offered to many different actors before it makes its way to who we end up seeing on screen. Here is a thread of actors who turned down, or were replaced in, major roles in big movies.
Emily Blunt auditioned for and landed the role of Black Widow but had to turn it down due to scheduling conflicts with Gulliver’s Travels. The role ended up going to Scarlett Johansson, turning her into a household name in the process.
After Mary Harron sold American Psycho to Lionsgate w/Christian Bale, the studio tried to get her to recast w/ Leonardo DiCaprio (who wanted a different director), Edward Norton (who she didn’t think was attractive enough) and Ewan McGregor (who turned it down at Bale’s request).
Rooney Mara was originally cast as Celeste in Brady Corbet’s Vox Lux but had to depart the project as Corbet wasn’t able to get proper funding for the role until Natalie Portman was eventually cast in the role.
Tom Holland was offered the role of Lance Corporal Tom Blake in Sam Mendes’ 1917 but had to turn it down due to scheduling conflicts with the Chaos Walking reshoots. The role eventually went to Dean Charles Chapman.
Miley Cyrus was originally attached to voice Mavis in Hotel Transylvania alongside Adam Sandler but was fired after photos of her posing alongside a penis-shaped birthday cake were posted online. Selena Gomez was eventually asked to replace her.
Both Drew Barrymore and Reese Witherspoon were originally offered the lead role of Sidney Prescott in Wes Craven’s Scream with both turning it down due to scheduling conflicts. The role went to Neve Campbell while Barrymore was offered a cameo role instead.
Emma Roberts was originally cast (and even screentested) as Brit in Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers but dropped out due to “creative differences”. The role eventually went to Ashley Benson.
Kelvin Harrison Jr. was reportedly offered the role of Teen Kevin in Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight but turned it down because he felt that he “wasn’t ready” for it. Jharrel Jerome was eventually cast instead.
Ari Aster offered the role of Mark in Midsommar to his Hereditary leading man Alex Wolff who had to turn it down due to scheduling conflicts. The role eventually went to Will Poulter instead.
Dr. Dre originally wanted Michael B. Jordan to play him in Straight Outta Compton but he had to turn the role down due to scheduling conflicts with Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four. Corey Hawkins went on to play Dr. Dre in the movie.
Matt Damon and Joaquin Phoenix were offered the roles of Ennis and Jack in Gus Van Sant’s planned adaptation of Brokeback Mountain before the project fell apart. Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Ryan Phillippe were also considered for the roles.
Mark Wahlberg revealed in an interview that Ang Lee offered him one of the lead roles in Brokeback Mountain but that he turned it down because he was “a little creeped out” due to the “graphic” nature of the movie.
Matt Damon turned down the lead role in James Cameron’s Avatar (and 10% of the box office earnings that Cameron offered to convince him to sign on) because he felt like he “couldn’t do it”. The role went to relative newcomer Sam Worthington instead.
Joaquin Phoenix was almost cast in the lead role in Marvel’s Doctor Strange but the role ended up going to Benedict Cumberbatch for undisclosed reasons.
Jonah Hill was set to star in Josh and Benny Safdie’s Uncut Gems back when it was first announced in 2017 but departed the project to work on his directorial debut Mid90s. The role ended up going to Adam Sandler, who received critical acclaim for it.
Shia LaBeouf was set to star as Oliver in Call Me By Your Name but was dropped by the studio due to his legal and personal troubles at the time. The role ultimately went to Armie Hammer.
Director Bill Condon wanted Beyoncé for the role of Plumette in his live action remake of Beauty and the Beast, saying that he thinks Beyoncé “would have been a good feather duster”, but she passed on it due to how small the part was. Gugu Mbatha-Raw was later cast in the role.
Charlie Hunnam was announced as the lead in 50 Shades of Grey but had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts with both Sons of Anarchy and Crimson Peak. Jamie Dornan was cast as his replacement in the film and its sequels.
According to Matthew McCounaghey, he turned down a role (speculated to be Ego) in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, choosing to star in The Dark Tower instead. Kurt Russell eventually landed the role of Ego in the film.
Emma Stone was offered a role in Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters but turned it down because she didn’t want to do another franchise so soon after The Amazing Spider-Man.
Emma Watson and Miles Teller were originally cast in Damien Chazelle’s La La Land but were replaced by Emma Stone (due to scheduling conflicts in Watson’s case) and Ryan Gosling (who Chazelle ended up preferring over Teller, who he thought wasn’t “creatively right” for the role).
Gwyneth Paltrow turned down the role of Rose in James Cameron’s Titanic due to unspecified reasons. Kate Winslet ended up playing the role, which landed her an Academy Award nomination.
Hugh Jackman was approached for the role of James Bond after Pierce Brosnan in Casino Royale but declined after finding out he wouldn’t be involved in the development process of the films. Daniel Craig was later cast as James Bond in the movies.
Both Tom Hardy and Jake Gyllenhaal were offered the role of Rick Flag in Suicide Squad, a role that ultimately went to Joel Kinnaman in the end. Hardy dropped out due to scheduling conflicts while Gyllenhaal was simply not interested.
Jake Gyllenhaal was attached to co-star in the film adaptation of the musical Into the Woods as Rapunzel’s Prince, a role that would have seen him both sing and dance, but he had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts with Nightcrawler. Billy Magnussen ended up playing the role.
Emma Roberts was offered the role of Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad but turned it down, choosing to star in Ryan Murphy’s Scream Queens instead. Margot Robbie was eventually cast as Harley.
Quentin Tarantino wrote the role of Daisy Domergue in The Hateful Eight with Jennifer Lawrence in mind but due to a packed schedule, she had to decline the role, which ultimately went to Jennifer Jason Leigh (and got her her first Oscar nomination as well).
Jennifer Lawrence was offered the role of Alice in Steve McQueen’s Widows but turned it down. It eventually went to actress Elizabeth Debicki.
Vince Vaughn, Zooey Deschanel, Mark Wahlberg and Angelina Jolie were all attached to Silver Linings Playbook at one point or another, with the roles ultimately going to Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence who both received Oscar nominations for the movie.
Tom Cruise was offered the role of Edward Scissorhands in Tim Burton’s movie of the same name but turned it down because Burton couldn’t answer specific questions, like how the character went to the bathroom, for him.
Nicolas Cage was cast as the lead in Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler but dropped out because he felt that he couldn’t bulk up enough in time for the role. Mickey Rourke was eventually cast.
Al Pacino was approached to star as Han Solo in Star Wars but turned it down because he couldn’t “grasp the script”. The now-iconic role went to Harrison Ford in the end.
Emma Stone was originally cast as Meg in Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of Little Women but had to drop out due to promotional commitments for The Favourite. Emma Watson was eventually cast in the role.
Jordan Peele offered Tiffany Haddish the role of Georgina, which ultimately went to Betty Gabriel, in Get Out but she turned it down because she wasn’t a fan of horror movies.
Selena Gomez was offered the role of Mitchie Torres in Camp Rock but turned it down, recommending Demi Lovato, her best friend at the time, to the producers instead. The role ended up launching Lovato’s career.
Nicolas Cage passed on the role of Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings trilogy because he felt like he couldn’t commit three years of his life to the production. The role was eventually played by Viggo Mortensen instead.
Tom Hardy was cast to play Elton John in Rocketman but after the film got stuck in development hell, he dropped out and was replaced with Taron Egerton.
Mark Wahlberg was originally cast as the lead in Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko but dropped out due to creative differences; he wanted the character to have a lisp while Kelly didn’t. The role eventually went to Jake Gyllenhaal.
Ryan Gosling was set to star in Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones but after he gained 60 pounds because he thought the character should be overweight, he was fired and replaced with Mark Wahlberg, leaving him, in his own words, “fat and unemployed”.
Harry Styles auditioned for and got the part of Prince Eric in Disney’s live action The Little Mermaid remake but ended up turning it down for undisclosed reasons. Jonah Hauer-King was eventually cast instead.