Burt Reynolds is, in many ways, one of the most successful actors in Hollywood history. His massive influence is acknowledged by an impressive filmography for which he got honored with 11 awards and 11 nominations; including an Academy Award. The actor is also one of the only two people to ever be ranked #1 in Quigley’s famous “Top Ten Money Making Stars Poll” for five consecutive years. The list, which was published every year for nearly a century from 1915 to 2013. It includes Reynolds among many household names like Sylvester Stallone, Harrison Ford, and Jack Nicholson.
But what many may not know is that all of those men have one more thing in common with Burt Reynolds. All three of them ended up starring in roles that Reynolds had previously turned down. Join Facts Verse as we look at these, as well as many other roles that Burt Reynolds has regretted not taking throughout his long career. Watch until the end to learn about all the roles that could have made Reynolds even more of a star!
From his very first audition for a movie role in 1957, Reynolds told that he looked like the rising star and Hollywood heartthrob Marlon Brando. This resemblance both helped and harmed the aspiring actor for many years into his career, as some directors thought those looks would bring attention to their projects despite the young actor’s lack of experience, but others did not want to risk angering Brando himself.
While Reynolds managed to ascend to fame through a number of initial TV roles and then his acclaimed performance as Lewis Medlock in the thriller Deliverance, his similarity to Brando cost him an opportunity to star in another and much more acclaimed 1972 production.
Francis Ford Coppola offered Reynolds the role of Michael Corleone in his now classic film, The Godfather. However, Marlon Brando, already cast in the other starring role as Don Vito Corleone. And Brando refused to work with Reynolds, even threatening to quit if his look-alike cast! Reynolds later said that he “was flattered” by Brando’s strong reaction. Given the older actor’s reputation for being difficult to work with, Reynolds may have actually dodged a bullet by avoiding the production. Still, it’s hard not to regret passing on The Godfather. Reynolds’s role instead given to Al Pacino, who became a household name and an acclaimed actor for his performance.
While Burt Reynolds probably wouldn’t have been able to play in The Godfather, the actor passed up some other iconic roles purely on his own.
A few years later, George Lucas approached Reynolds to bring the captain of the Millenium Falcon, Han Solo, to life. While Reynolds could have been a natural fit for the role of the rugged anti-hero, he refuse to play a space cowboy. Instead, he appeared on screen in a different 1977 picture alongside Star Wars, playing a more conventional cowboy character in “Smokey and the Bandit”.
While Reynolds’ regretted passing on the opportunity later, given the Star Wars franchise’s success, at the time, he simply did not like science fiction movies and didn’t want to work on one.
While many of the roles Burt Reynolds’ passed on seem like terrible mistakes to us now, he justified a number of his decisions at the time based on his inability to see himself in a role.
For example, Reynolds actually offered the role of the dashing secret agent James Bond all the way back in 1970. While he could have become the first-ever American to play Bond, the actor rejected the offer specifically because of his nationality. He told the producer Albert R. Broccoli that an American actor in the role “just can’t be done”. The movie starred the original Bond actor, Sean Connery, instead.
Another movie that Reynolds couldn’t imagine himself in was the hit romantic comedy Pretty Woman. The actor passed on the opportunity to play the businessman Edward Lewis alongside his love interest and endearing prostitute played by Julia Roberts. Reynolds couldn’t see himself portraying the character and regretted that decision decades later, telling talk show host Andy Cohen that he rejected the offer because he’s “an idiot”.
But Reynolds passed on some roles even though they were, objectively, perfect for him. Before we tell you about one of those roles, we’d like to remind you that if you’re enjoying the video so far, make sure to like this video and subscribe to Facts Verse for more fun celebrity stories!
The 1983 comedy-drama Terms of Endearment brought in 5 separate Academy Awards, one of them for “Best Supporting Actor” that went to Jack Nicholson playing the neighbor and retired astronaut Garrett Breedlove. This role not only offered to Burt Reynolds first but it actually written specifically for him! But Reynolds passed on the part and a potential Academy award. When asked bout it later, the actor said that it’s one of the many “stupid decisions” he made at that time.
While Boogie Nights ended up as one of Burt Reynolds’s best performances, earning him his one and only Academy Award nomination, he almost passed it on as well. Even though this is the only role on the list that Reynolds’ didn’t turn down in the end, that wasn’t for a lack of trying. The actor turned down the part of the porn filmmaker in Paul Thomas Anderson’s acclaimed picture not once, not twice, but a whopping seven times! Because of that, Boogie Nights definitely deserves a spot on this list, even though Reynolds convinced to take the job.
While Boogie Nights helped return Reynolds’s career back to its heights, another role that he wasn’t keen on taking may have helped him become a star faster in the first place. Before his hit role in 1972’s Deliverance, Reynolds also offered to play the villainous husband in the 1968 horror movie Rosemary’s Baby. While his reasons for rejecting the role are unclear, the actor may have dismissed the genre film as outside of his interests. Even though Rosemary’s Baby is less recognize in the mainstream today than movies like Star Wars; it is still consider as one of the best horror movies ever made. It has even preserved in the Library of Congress.
Burt Reynolds offered quite a range of famous action hero parts throughout his career. One of these roles was the title character in Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky, now synonymous with the ever-present training montage and invigorating action scenes. While Stallone ended up playing the lead role himself, he initially struggled to get approval for that casting from movie studios. Hollywood executives didn’t want a newcomer like Stallone to be the face of Rocky, and so they offered the part to Burt Reynolds, who was already an actor with a stellar reputation and renown. But Reynolds turned the role down, and in the end, Stallone insisted and starred in his movie himself.
Reynolds also had the chance to star as Travis Bickle in the 1976 drama Taxi Driver. However, he turned it down, reportedly because the morally gray and unusual protagonist would have been difficult to play. Instead the role went to Robert De Niro, who propelled to stardom by his performance.
The details surrounding some other roles that Burt Reynolds reportedly turned down are a little more murky, but given how famous and acclaimed these movies are they deserve mention.
One of these iconic roles in the lead of 1988’s blockbuster action movie Die Hard. While Bruce Willis is synonymous with the stoic detective John McClane now, at the time, he was mostly unknown in the industry and wasn’t the director’s first choice. Instead, the role was reportedly first offered to Burt Reynolds, who rejected the offer. Reynolds later stated that he doesn’t remember passing on the part, but the details are murky.
An earlier and more sinister cult classic that Reynolds allegedly didn’t choose to work on is One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The 1975 movie that brought the horrors of a fictional psychiatric hospital to the public’s imagination apparently initially meant to star Burt Reynolds as the rebellious patient Randle McMurphy. However, the role ended up going to Jack Nicholson who, as previously mentioned, would later end up taking the role in Terms of Endearment instead of Reynolds as well. While some claim that the actor chose to turn down the role, other accounts state that the film’s team chose Nicholson over Reynolds in the first place.
It’s hard to imagine how different classic movies like The Godfather or Die Hard would have been if Burt Reynolds decided to take the parts offered to him instead. But even a long and fruitful career like Reynolds’s can filled with mistakes and potential regrets. While the actor spoke about those missed opportunities more than ones at the end of his life, the projects he chose to work on instead may have been better for him all along.
Do you agree that Burt Reynolds should have regretted turning down these iconic roles, or do you think that the actors that played these parts in the end were better suited? Either way, let us know in the comments down below, and make sure to mention which role you were most surprised to see in this list! And while you’re here, don’t forget to click the like button and subscribe to Facts Verse for more videos just like this one.