Regrets? I’ve had a few …admitted Sinatra and so do plenty of many movie stars, if they’re being honest.
They turned down parts in films that went on to become huge hits. Much to the appreciation of the second and sometimes third or fourth choice actors whose careers skyrocketed as a result.
There are a whole variety of reasons for actors snubbing their noses at certain roles.
Too much nudity or not enough nudity. Complicated plots or unappealing characters. Sometimes it was simply a case of looking down their noses at the parts. “How dare you waste my time with this offal – can’t you see I’m preparing for an Italian period drama where I play a colorblind cobbler?”
On the whole, things worked out well. The movies obviously wouldn’t have been the same with the original actors and we can’t help but feel it was a blessing.
Try to picture them and decide for yourself:
Glad They Declined or Wish They’d Signed?
Michael Keaton as Phil Connors in Groundhog Day (starred Bill Murray)
This is more of a Thank God They Declined situation.
Groundhog Day is generally regarded to be in the top echelon of comedies due to Bill Murray blowing the laughter door off its hinges.
The role was for a cynical, wise-cracking, self-loathing TV weather reporter. A perfect vehicle for Murray and an awkward slog for Michael Keaton.
Don’t get us wrong, Keaton can act but his strengths tend to lie as either an over the top maniac or a brooding, introspective everyman.
Probably not as a man reliving the same day over and over with dashes of slapstick, black humor, spot on observations and tomfoolery.
Hard to see Keaton delivering withering lines such as, “This is one time where television really fails to capture the true excitement of a large squirrel predicting the weather” as Bill did.
A decent Batman though, certainly compared to some other efforts.
FUN FACT: During the filming Bill Murray and director Harold Ramis feuded non-stop to the point where they couldn’t be in the same room as each other. Ramis demanded Murray find a go-between to maintain communication. Murray agreed, went out and hired a deaf mute who could only communicate in native American sign language.
Michelle Pfeiffer as Clarice Starling in Silence of the Lambs (starred Jodie Foster)
Pfeiffer was a huge name in the late 80s after starring in hits such as Scarface, The Witches of Eastwick and The Russia House.
She was no stranger to the darker side, having played the cocaine-hoovering lover of a psychopathic gangster in Scarface. F bombs, chainsaw slayings and good old fashioned incest – Scarface had it all.
However Pfeiffer interestingly drew the line at playing Clarice in Lambs due to the “evil” throughout the movie. She particularly had a problem with one character’s evilness going seemingly unpunished at the end of the film.
Jodie Foster had no problems whatsoever and said “Where do I sign?”.
Foster had already shown a penchant for sinister roles. She was a teenage prostitute in Mean Streets and an enraged rape victim in The Accused so the Silence of the Lambs part probably looked like a Disney film.
FUN FACT: For the part of serial killer Hannibal Lechter, Anthony Hopkins was originally assigned yellow prison garb. However Hopkins requested a white suit – proposing that it looked more clinical and unsettling. It did.
John Travolta as Forrest in Forrest Gump (starred Tom Hanks)
JT has said he regrets turning down the role but we say he dodged a bullet. Forrest Gump cleaned up at the box office and made Tom Hanks a mega star.
Which is fine if you like cheesy, sentimental, overrated dross.
The film actually won Best Picture Oscar in 1995 which was especially hard to fathom as it was up against the likes of The Shawshank Redemption and Pulp Fiction which ironically starred Travolta.
Rating well-meaning yet tiresome Forrest above Pulp Fiction removes any credibility the academy claimed to have had in our honest and correct opinion.
Hanks has gone on to make a career of playing likeable guys who talk to volleyballs and live in airports. Audiences can trust him and that’s just swell.
Meanwhile, Travolta opted for his career-reviving turn as a junkie, boogieing hitman in Pulp Fiction. People with at least half a brain loved the performance and Mr Saturday Night Fever was cool again.
FUN FACT: Travolta had been in the wilderness until Tarantino cast him in Pulp Fiction and firmly back into the limelight. He was paid a paltry $100,000 which was probably less than the caterer. In his next movie Get Shorty JT pocketed a tidy $6 million. Thanks Quentin!
Darryl Hannah as Vivian Ward in Pretty Woman (starred Julia Roberts)
Several actors read the Pretty Woman script before turning it down. Among them was Darryl Hannah, who’d charmed audiences in comedies such as Splash and Roxanne and had just co-starred in Wall Street.
Hannah saw the Vivian role as demeaning to women and wasn’t buying the “love can happen to anyone” angle.
“They sold it as a romantic fairytale when in fact it’s a story about a prostitute who becomes a lady by being kept by a rich and powerful man. It’s degrading for the whole of womankind” she said.
An undignified and unrealistic portrayal of a woman – unlike say, her role in Splash as a sexy naked mermaid who falls in love with Tom Hanks and learns English from TV shows.
Pretty Woman launched Julia Roberts’ career as she went on to become one of Hollywood’s most sought after female leads.
FUN FACT: Gere’s sports car was intended to be a Porsche or Ferrari but both makers refused to have their cars being used to pick up hookers. How precious. Lotus put their hand up and said “Pick me!” then watched sales triple the following year, the majority of buyers showing no interest in soliciting prostitution.
Burt Reyonlds as Han Solo in Star Wars AND 007 (starred Harrison Ford & Sean Connery)
In the 1970s Burt Reynolds was the leading man that directors had to have. He was box office gold.
Deliverance, The Longest Yard and Smokey and the Bandit were all massive hits. Not all of them were works of cinematic genius, but movie goers loved him. He even posed nude for Cosmopolitan magazine, with his legs modestly closed to hide little Burt.
However he wasn’t without lapses in judgement when choosing and knocking back parts.
Reynolds turned down roles in two of the biggest franchises in movie history.
He was offered the part of Han Solo in the original Star Wars and the chance to replace Sean Connery as 007.
“I just wasn’t interested in that kind of role” he said matter-of-factly about Han Solo. Presumably he didn’t see a future in sci-fi capers – oops.
As for James Bond, Reynolds simply didn’t think audiences were ready for a non-Brit 007. He cheerfully admits regretting the decision saying, “I think I would have liked it. I like that kind of tongue-in-cheek humor.”
Harrison Ford and Roger Moore gratefully snapped up the Han Solo and Bond parts, very much making them their own.
FUN FACT: Australian George Lazenby actually replaced Connery as Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service then promptly quit. When asked why he replied that the Bond franchise was on the way out and he could earn better money in Europe. It wasn’t and he didn’t.
Lazenby was a pompous pain in the neck on set and most were happy to see him go. When a stunt advisor told the director that Lazenby could be hurt in an upcoming scene, the director reportedly said: “Nobody’s seen him yet – if we kill him, we could do it all over again.”
Meg Ryan as Catherine Tramell in Basic Instinct (starred Sharon Stone)
If you think of a bisexual sex addict / serial killer then surely you don’t think of Meg Ryan. Cher – yes, Meryl Streep – possibly, Judy Dench – shame on you. But pure as the driven snow Meg? Never.
Someone at TriStar pictures did though and Ryan was offered the part which was eventually snapped up by Stone.
In the VHS era a certain scene in Basic Instinct saw remote controls across the world collapse from exhaustion after mass pause – rewind – slow motion overuse.
Sharon Stone’s character Catherine Tramell crosses and uncrosses her legs whilst being interrogated by police. It becomes apparent that she has carelessly forgotten to put on underwear that morning.
It seems perfectly acceptable that Sharon Stone might do the same thing.
But Meg Ryan? Disgusting. Surely Meg wears two pairs of underpants, just to be safe.
Whether intentionally or not, Ryan’s onscreen image has generally been the girl next door with a heart of gold. Pure, earthy characters in When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail.
Cute and friendly but hardly provocative.
It’s true that in a diner she did show Billy Crystal what an orgasm sounds like which was pretty racy if you’re a Jehovah Witness or Queen Victoria.
Her characters love nothing more than flying kites on the beach with their dogs and children. Maybe putting a blob of ice cream in their boyfriend’s hair sometimes or suddenly dancing on a table. Wild.
She obviously felt playing Catherine Tramell in Basic Instinct would’ve been too much of a stretch, although it’s interesting to speculate on how her career might’ve panned out had she accepted the part.
Catherine Tramell loved nothing more than a cheeky drug binge followed by dazed sex marathons with multiple partners.
Hello, Sharon Stone!
Stone had previously made her mark in Total Recall as Arnie’s sultry yet highly volatile wife, losing his trust when she tried to stab him.
The Basic Instinct role shot her into the stratosphere while Meg continued on her bankable if slightly yawn-inducing career path.
FUN FACT: Douglas and Stone refused to use body doubles, a rarity in Hollywood. Many wished they had upon seeing the saggy, sorry arse of Douglas that almost came down behind his knees.