The Real Reason These Actors Turned Down Major Movie Roles

Some characters are forever defined by the actors who brought them to life. However, casting a major role doesn't tend to be a one-and-done process. Whether you're trying to find the right actor to portray a medieval wizard or a teenage science geek, it means looking over your options, doing some auditions, and finding the best match ... and even then, the actor you choose might turn it down, putting you back at square one.

Some of the best casting in cinematic history has come from these "second" choices. Back in 2000, Hugh Jackman was a last-minute replacement for the "first" Wolverine actor, Dougray Scott, and now it's hard to imagine the X-Men movies without Jackman front and center. For better or worse, it's fun to peer into the many alternate realities that could've been, if these "first choice" actors hadn't refused the roles that went on to win critical acclaim for their replacements. 

The Superman costume was too much for Jude Law

Superman is a tough nut to crack. He's basically the emperor of superheroes, but he doesn't have the eccentric quirks of his superhero brethren: He's just a good guy, trying to do the right thing. Then, as if playing Superman wasn't hard enough, any actor who takes the role will earn eternal comparisons to Christopher Reeve. When Bryan Singer revived the franchise in 2006's Superman Returns, nobody was surprised that new-Superman Brandon Routh both looked and sounded just like Reeve. 

However, back when Singer's project was first getting warmed up, the director wanted to cast Jude Law as the Man of Steel. Years later, Law was chatting this up with Stephen Colbert. The actor explained that the studio made a big push for him to be Kal-El, but he was considerably less enthusiastic about it. Law felt like his English background made him wrong for the part — which is ironic, since current Superman Henry Cavill is also British — but after being pressured, Law agreed to a costume fitting in his hotel room. In amusing detail, Law describes going to the bathroom, climbing into the Superman costume, and looking in the mirror. He had a moment of enchantment — John Williams' familiar Superman music played in his head — but then, the idea of seeing himself in costume on posters across the world ... apparently, it was just too much. He turned it down.  

Though Law wasn't meant to be Superman, the superhero genre wasn't done with him. He'll play Mar-Vell in the upcoming Captain Marvel.

Emma Watson was too busy with Beauty and the Beast to travel to La La Land

Sometimes, stars turn down roles because of behind-the-scenes drama. Sometimes, they just don't like the character, or can't understand the script. But there are other times where they might be interested under normal circumstance, but scheduling conflicts just make it impossible. Such was the case with the musical La La Land, according to NME, as producers were originally set on casting star Emma Watson as protagonist Mia.

Watson was interested as well, but the scheduling didn't work out, since she'd already been cast as Belle in Disney's live action Beauty and the Beast. The actress explained that "With a movie like Beauty and the Beast it's like three months prep, it's like three or four months shooting, it's in the U.K." Not surprisingly, all that working time didn't leave any room for La La Land in her calendar. The role instead went to Emma Stone, who won an Academy Award for her performance.

Al Pacino passed on being a scruffy nerf herder

In the prequel-sequel-extended universe add-on Solo: A Star Wars Story, one of the biggest debates in fandom today is whether young Alden Ehrenreich lives up to the legendary performance of Harrison Ford, who made that intergalactic bad boy into everyone's favorite character. Today, it's so impossible to imagine a version of Han Solo existing outside of Ford that the thought of anyone else playing the character back in the original Star Wars ... well, that sounds as weird as a Death Star that doesn't get blown up by rebels. However, Han Solo went through a lot of rewrites before Ford clinched the part. As points out, George Lucas' early Star Wars scripts portrayed Han Solo as a green-skinned reptilian creature before a couple reworkings turned him into the cranky human pilot we know today. Even then, Ford wasn't the first pick for the role. According to Vanity Fair, Al Pacino says he was basically offered the role on a silver platter due to his Godfather fame.

Michael Corleone piloting the Millennium Falcon? Almost happened, but Pacino turned it down, saying he didn't understand the weird sci-fi script. These days, he's a lot more open to the genre, and has expressed an adoration for Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy.

Beverly Hills Cop was too funny for Sly Stallone

Okay, let's start by handling the initial shock: Yes, weird as it sounds today, 1984's Beverly Hills Cop was not only supposed to star Sylvester Stallone, it was developed as a vehicle to spoof the Rambo star's action hero image. As described by The Hollywood Reporter, Stallone wasn't thrilled with the comedic tone of the script, so he rewrote it to be edgier, tougher, "as a kind of compromise, where the guy was action-oriented but he also had a wry sense of humor." Though Stallone's darker script was described as having "heart, passion and pathos," according to a 1984 New York Times piece, it didn't line up with what the producers wanted. Unwilling to find common ground, Stallone dropped out of the film just a few weeks before shooting was supposed to commence.

So what did the producers do? Why, they called Eddie Murphy, of course. Murphy then delivered the humorous, largely improvisational performance that made him a star.

Amandla Stenberg thought someone else deserved her role in Black Panther

Considering that Marvel's Black Panther has now sailed past Titanic in the record books, according to Box Office Mojo, it's no exaggeration to say this film has become one of the events of the decade, which any actor should feel proud to have been part of. Surprisingly, though, at least one performer turned down the movie—though for different reasons than you may think. Amandla Stenberg (Rue in The Hunger Games) fought hard for an unspecified role in Black Panther, but after getting close, she decided the part should go to someone else. As someone with a biracial identity (an African-American mother and a Danish father), Stenberg believed the part should go to a darker-skinned actress, stating, "These are all dark-skin[ned] actors playing Africans, and I feel like it would have just been off to see me, as a biracial American, with a Nigerian accent just pretending that I'm the same color as everyone else in the movie. That was really challenging to make that decision, but I have no regrets."

Stenberg didn't reveal which role it was, but most have assumed it was Shuri, the Black Panther's genius teen sister, played by Letitia Wright.

Henry 'Fonzie' Winkler could've nabbed John Travolta's role in Grease

In the early to mid-1970s, TV's "King of Cool" was Henry Winkler, who played the greasy-haired, leather jacket-wearing, heartfelt tough guy known as The Fonz in the sitcom Happy Days. By the end of the decade, the new King of Cool was Grease's Danny Zuko, played by John Travolta: another greasy-haired, leather jacket-wearing tough guy. It's no big revelation to call Fonzie and Danny Zuko extremely similar characters, but here's the crazy thing: Henry Winkler came within inches of playing both roles.

According to Digital Spy, Winkler was offered the role of Danny Zuko early on, but he turned it down for fear of being typecast. This was understandable given how much the characters mirror each other. However, Winkler has since said he regrets not starring in Grease after seeing what a smashing success the film became. Maybe one day they'll do a crossover film, where a middle-aged Fonzie and Zuko joke about old times.

Sean Connery could've been Gandalf

It takes a special kind of acting legend to be known for two iconic roles, instead of just one, and that's the honor now bestowed upon Sir Ian McKellen, AKA both Gandalf and Magneto. However, if fate had played out a little bit differently, the most beloved Wizard in Middle-earth might've had a familiar Scottish accent.   

Yes, it's true. As reported by Celebrity Net Worth, when production for Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy finally started ramping up, the studio was pleading for the one true James Bond to sign up as Gandalf. Keep in mind, back then, Lord of the Rings was a huge risk. It was three fantasy movies being filmed together for a massive budget and with no huge stars. The studio saw Connery as its golden ticket and basically threw money at him: not only a salary of $10 million per film, but 15 percent of the total box office for all three movies. Who could pass that up?

Well, it seems Lord of the Rings was a little too weird for Connery's taste, at least at the time. Reportedly, Connery "did not understand the script," and passed. While Connery probably would've made a really cool Gandalf, we're glad we got to experience McKellen's version.

Dewanda Wise's schedule pushed her out of Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel might be one of Marvel's newest big screen franchises, but the female-led superhero film has already had a few minor casting hiccups. No big deal, it happens on all big-budget films, but it'll be interesting to look back on this someday, and see if it ends up being another "Pacino as Han Solo?!" situation. 

Marvel Studios originally cast Dewanda Wise (from Netflix's She's Gotta Have It) in an unspecified role in Captain Marvel back in January 2018. However, the renewal of She's Gotta Have It for a second season suddenly tied up Wise's schedule, forcing her to drop out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe ... for now, at least, since it seems like Marvel gets every actor eventually. It was never reported which comic book hero Wise had signed on to play, but all eyes are on the character of Monica Rambeau. In the comics, Rambeau at one point also went by the moniker Captain Marvel but has more recently used the code name Spectrum.

Nicolas Cage dropped The Wrestler because he didn't want to take steroids

Love him or hate him, there's no arguing that Nicolas Cage is an actor who enjoys taking on a truly diverse array of roles, in projects ranging from B-grade horror flicks to surrealistic Charlie Kaufman films. The roles Cage didn't play are almost as fascinating as the ones he did. A book could be written about the array of major characters he came within striking distance of, including Superman, Willy Wonka, and Aragorn. One film Cage was attached to for some time was Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler, where he was going to play the same role that went on to win an Oscar for Mickey Rourke.

Though rumors swirled that Cage had been dropped from the part, Today explains he voluntarily walked away. Cage told interviewers his reasons for leaving were primarily because the film's protagonist, a wrestler taking steroid injections, required such a bulked-up appearance that the lanky Cage worried he'd have to take steroids in real life to get there. Saying that taking steroids was something he "would never do," Cage signed off and gave Mickey Rourke his blessing.

Adam West was too American for James Bond

The 1960s Batman series is a camp classic. But honestly, just imagine if the show had dug deeper into Batman's dark roots: West would have been a great choice for a more serious Bruce Wayne, as well. Either way, while playing Batman made West a big name, MeTV points out that West also starred in a silly Quik chocolate milk commercial as "Captain Q," a naval officer who was a clear spoof of Sean Connery's James Bond.

Well, as we all know, Connery abandoned the 007 role, and his replacement George Lazenby only lasted one movie. As production on Diamonds Are Forever was getting underway, producers were inspired by the film's Las Vegas setting to consider casting an American actor in the iconic role. According to Adam West's memoir, the producers approached him with the idea of swapping out his Batmobile with the Aston Martin. Surprisingly enough, West kindly refused their offer: He thought James Bond just shouldn't be played by an American. In the end, Connery took the role back, and we never got to see the man behind the Batusi dance sip one of those trademark martinis. Who knows, maybe in an alternate reality, Bond fans are still caught up in an eternal "Connery vs. West" debate.