Can you imagine anyone actors other than Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones and Han Solo? Don’t you feel Al Pacino was practically born to play Michael Corleone? And doesn’t Sir Ian McKellen just embody Gandalf?
Well, there were other actors who were considered for these iconicroles and ended up turning them down. Some of them regret turning down or missing out on such roles. And who knows, maybe you would have wished to see some of your favorite actors take on these roles.
For example, could you imagine Tom Selleck as Indiana Jones? What about Jack Nicholson as Michael Corleone? And why did John Travolta turn down the role of Forrest Gump? What was the other role he decided to take instead?
Let’s take a moment to look at a few actors who turned down massive roles…
The 1980s were the decade that Tom Selleck truly became a household name. While he began his career in the late 1960s and worked in film and television in the 70s, it was in the 80s when he had some of his biggest hits.
This was the decade where he starred in films such as High Road to China, Lassiter, Runaway, Three Men and a Baby, and An Innocent Man. The 1980s was also the decade where he starred in the hit TV series Magnum PI.
Throughout this culturally significant decade Selleck was at the top of his game and was one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. He was one of America’s most popular leading men, and it was only natural that he’d get offered roles in major films.
One of the roles that he was offered during this era of his carreer was the role of an archaeologist. This might not sound too great off the bat – but what if we told you that this archaeologist was none other than Indiana Jones?
He was offered the part of Indiana Jones but turned it down as he was committed to his role in Magnum PI. Steven Spielberg eventually offered the role to Harrison Ford who played Indiana Jones in 4 films – with a fifth installment currently under development.
While some of us may have wished that he took on the role of Indiana Jones, there’s no doubt that Tom Selleck has had a great career despite missing out on some significant roles.
In the 90s, he continued appearing in great films and TV shows. His notable film appearances during this decade included roles in Quigley Down Under, Mr. Baseball, Open Season, In & Out, and The Love Letter.
His TV appearances in the 90s included recurring roles in The Closer and Friends. In the 2000s, he played Jesse Stone in 3 TV movies. He also appeared in a few episodes of Boston Legal as “Ivan Tiggs.” He continued to appear as Jesse Stone in 3 more TV movies in the 2010s. There’s also one more Jesse Stone project in development.
But his biggest success in the 2010s and 2020s has been in the police drama series Blue Bloods in which he plays Frank Reagan. This is the role that he’s most known for among newer fans.
It seems for now that Frank Reagan and Jesse Stone is what we’ll most know Tom Selleck for. But some of us can’t help thinking of how Indiana Jones would have turned out if he had agreed to that role!
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It’s rather challenging to name a great film that Christopher Walken hasn’t been in! But even he missed out on some major film roles.
Christopher Walken began his career as a child – with his first appearance as Kevin Acton in an episode of The Wonderful John Acton when he was 10 years old! His first film role was as a supporting cast member in the 1969 film Me and My Brother.
But he really launched his film career in the 1970s. He appeared in The Anderson Tapes in 1971, The Mind Snatchers the following year, and had a brief role in Annie Hall in 1977. But the film that propelled him into stardom was The Deer Hunter in 1978.
No doubt, this is a role he remembers fondly as it was the one that truly jumpstarted his career as a brilliant character actor. But, around the late 70s there was another role that he was also considered for. This film also made a star of the actor who eventually landed the role.
He was asked to audition for the role of Han Solo in Star Wars. Many upcoming stars were likewise asked to audition for the role. No doubt Christopher gave an excellent audition. But it was Harrison Ford’s audition that eventually won him the part.
Still, missing out on Han Solo didn’t halt Christopher Walken’s career at all! In the 80s, he chilled audiences with one of the most terrifying Bond villians, Max Zorin, in A View To A Kill. He began 1990 as Frank White in King of New York – no doubt one of his most iconic roles.
He’s showing no signs of slowing down today. He had 3 releases in 2020 – The War With Grandpa, Percy VS Goliath, and Wild Mountain Thyme. He’s also appearing in the TV series Severance and Outlaw – both of which premiered in 2021.
Still, imagine how Star Wars would have turned out if he was Han Solo!
John Travolta was without question one of cinema’s biggest stars in the 70s and 80s. It’s hard to imagine anyone playing Tony in Saturday Night Fever or Danny in Grease. Let’s not forget that he had also appeared in Carrie, Urban Cowboy, and Blow Out. He also played Vinnie in the hit TV series Welcome Back Kotter.
His career continued in the 90s with the Look Who’s Talking films among others. But these weren’t the roles that best suited his talent.
This changed in the mid-90s when he would get cast in one of his most iconic roles ever.
But John had a choice to make. He either had to appear as Forest Gump in the film of the same name or take on a different role in a film by a fledgling independent filmmaker who had only made one feature film before!
No doubt Tom Hanks’ performance in Forest Gump was tremendous, and it was one of the best decisions of his career to choose the film. But John Travolta didn’t miss out by turning down the role of Forest Gump.
That’s because he read the script of Pulp Fiction and felt it was one of the best he’d ever read. He ended up playing the character Vincent Vega in Quentin Tarantino’s film, resulting in a major resurgence in his career. His dance performances in Saturday Night Fever and Grease were already memorable, and his dance with Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction also became iconic.
Could you imagine if he had chosen to play Forest Gump? Who would have done a better job as Vincent Vega?
Burt Reynolds has portrayed some of our favorite characters in American cinema. Whether it’s Lewis in Deliverance, Bandit in the Smokey and the Bandit series, or Jack Horner in Boogie Nights.
But even Burt Reynolds turned down some great film roles – many of which he later regretted. He offered to play James Bond. But he turned it down and told producer Albert Broccoli that audiences wouldn’t accept an American playing the British secret agent. Nevertheless, he regretted his decision in later years.
He also offered to play Han Solo before Harrison Ford’s audition won him the role. Burt Reynolds not interested in the role at the time but likewise later said he regretted not taking it.
He even had a chance to take on Richard Gere’s role in Pretty Woman. Burt turned it down and upset at himself years later for not taking it! Notice a trend?
He even missed out on Jack Nicholson’s role in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Bruce Willis’ role in Die Hard.
But there was one role that he turned down at first and later changed his mind on. That was as Jack Horner in Boogie Nights – which became one of his most iconic roles. Apparently, he didn’t have a good working relationship with director Paul Thomas Anderson and later turned down a role in Anderson’s next film Magnolia as well.
But after disliking a rough cut of the film, he later stated that he thought Boogie Nights was a great film despite his initial reservations. His role as Jack Horner won him critical acclaim, the respect of the audiences, and even a couple of awards.
Burt Reynolds died in 2018 at the age of 82. He is fondly remember as one of America’s most iconic actors. His final film role as Chester in Defining Moments which released posthumously in 2021.
Jack Nicholson is another great actor with no shortage of great film roles. Each decade of his acting career is filled with great films and iconic performances. So, it’s hard to imagine that he turned down any great roles.
But there are a few really great roles that he did turn down.
He declined the role of Michael Corleone in The Godfather – telling director Francis Ford Coppola that the role should be played by an Italian. In the end, the role went to Italian-American actor Al Pacino who shot to stardom after appearing in the film!
Jack Nicholson also consider for the film Bad Santa and loved the script. But he committed to another movie, About Schmidt, and had to turn down the role. The part ended up going to Billy Bob Thornton, and it became one of his most well-known roles of his career.
Jack also turned down the role of Richard Nixon in Oliver Stone’s film Nixon which eventually went to Sir Anthony Hopkins. He also turned down the role of Father Karras in The Exorcist, which instead went to Jason Miller.
He was one of the original choices to play Dr. Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs which again, went to Sir Anthony Hopkins. Would the film have been even more frightening with Jack Nicholson? We will never know.
And it wasn’t just Tom Selleck who turned down the role of Indiana Jones! Jack Nicholson was strongly considered for the role before Harrison Ford won it.
Still, Jack Nicholson has appeared in great films including Easy Rider, Carnal Knowledge, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Chinatown, The Shining, Batman, A Few Good Men, Hoffa, Mars Attacks, As Good as It Gets, and, of course, The Departed.
It’s no wonder he currently holds the record of being the most nominated male actor in the history of the Academy Awards!
Sir Sean Connery was an iconic actor who appeared in great films on both sides of the pond. For many, he’ll always be the best James Bond and no other actor can take his place.
Yet, there was a role in recent years that he turned down despite being the first choice. He turned down Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings films – which eventually went to Sir Ian McKellen.
The role would have required him to fly to New Zealand which he wasn’t willing to do. He later remarked that he had read the books and seen the films and still didn’t understand them!
In his native Scotland, he was also interested in playing the character of Winston in the TV series Still Game which he eventually decided against. The role eventually went to Paul Riley who was nominated for a Scottish BAFTA for his performance.
Apart from his role as 007 in the original James Bond films, Sir Sean Connery appeared in many great films including The Man Who Would Be King, A Bridge Too Far, Cuba, Time Bandits, The Name of the Rose, Highlander, The Untouchables, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Rock, The Avengers, Entrapment, Finding Forrester, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. NOTE TO NARRATOR: YOU CAN JUST CHOOSE A COUPLE
His final film role was as the voice of Sir Billi in the 2012 film Sir Billi. Sir Sean Connery passed away in 2020 at the age of 90 and left behind a great body of work for us to remember him by.
Now, we’d like to hear from you:
Do you think these roles were played by the right actors? Or would any actors have done a better job if they hadn’t turned down these roles?
Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.
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