Spider Man Role
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Actors Who Had a Chance To Play a Legendary Role but Missed It

Entertainment

| LAST UPDATE 05/22/2023

By Sandeep Khurana

Iconic roles have boosted several actors into the spotlight. But many of those noteworthy moments almost didn't happen. Here are all the famous characters almost taken on by a different star... 

John Travolta - Forrest in Forrest Gump

(Played by Tom Hanks)

Tom Hanks and John Travolta have both played some of the most beloved characters in Hollywood history. So much so it's almost crazy to think that one of them almost took on the other's role.

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The 1994 film Forrest Gump earned its lead actor Tom Hanks an Academy Award - but it was almost meant to be John Travolta up on that Oscars stage. Fresh off the success of Look Who's Talking, Travolta was offered the part of Gump. Luckily for Hanks, John was committed to playing Vincent in Pulp Fiction and declined.

George Clooney - Noah Calhoun in The Notebook

(Played by Ryan Gosling)

Noah Calhoun essentially showed every woman how they deserved to be treated. From buying a home in his wife's honor to reminding her their love story until she remembered it, he was the ultimate romantic. Ryan Gosling was the man responsible for bringing the younger Noah to life, earning him a permanent heartthrob status.

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But before Gosling, the role was given to George Clooney. Set to play alongside Paul Newman as the younger-older duo, the pair dropped out when Clooney quit. "He's one of the handsomest guys you've ever seen," he told Deadline of the decision. "I said, 'I can't play you. I don't look anything like you." Has he looked in a mirror?

Nicole Kidman - Anna Scott in Notting Hill

(Played by Julia Roberts)

Julia Roberts perfectly portrayed Anna Scott in Notting Hill. The famous yet down-to-earth movie star was aspirational yet relatable, making her one of the most lovable characters and earning Julia much praise. Off camera, however, there was an actress who wasn't so happy about Roberts landing the role.

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Kidman told Marie Claire she "really wanted the role that Julia Roberts played in Notting Hill." Looking back, she believes it was down to her limited fame and acting skills. "I wasn't well known enough, and I wasn't talented enough," she reflected. We love to see a humble celebrity, totally unaware of her star power.

Russell Crowe - Aragorn in Lord Of The Rings

(Played by Viggo Mortensen)

Does an actor regret missing out on a part when they see the level of success it reaches without them? In a 2019 interview, Howard Stern asked Russell Crowe exactly that, referring to the alleged $100 million he would have received if he had accepted the offer to play Aragorn in Lord Of The Rings. Ouch.

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"Never thought about it," Russell laughed. "I didn't think [director] Peter Jackson actually wanted me on the film. I think he was forced into talking to me because there was a moment in time when everybody wanted me in everything... he had somebody else in mind... and he should be able to hire the actor that he wants."

Claire Danes - Rose Dawson in Titanic

(Played by Kate Winslet)

When Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes played star-cross lovers in the 1996 movie Romeo and Juliet, their on-screen chemistry was off the charts. So much so that when it came to casting the romantic leads of Titanic, the pair seemed like the obvious choice. However, while Leo jumped at the opportunity, Danes felt otherwise.

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"I'd just made this romantic epic with Leo in Mexico City, which is where they were going to shoot Titanic, and I just didn't have it in me," Danes explained on Armchair Expert. After seeing the overwhelming attention Leo had received, she feared this part would escalate her level of fame. "I just couldn't do it. I didn't want it."

Emilia Clarke - Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades Of Grey

(Played by Dakota Johnson)

When news broke that the incredibly popular Fifty Shades erotic book series would be turned into a movie, every actress in Hollywood was vying for the role. Ultimately, it was announced that Dakota Johnson, daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson, would play Anastasia Steele. But who were the runners-up?

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One viable contender was Emilia Clarke. The Game of Thrones alum had partaken in many nude scenes early on in the series and was "sick and tired" of being asked about it. For this reason, she was hesitant to take on yet another heavily sexual character and consequently turned down the lead role.

Joe Alwyn - Sam in Love Actually

(Played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster)

He may have become a star in our eyes when he became the loving boyfriend of Taylor Swift, but it turns out Joe Alwyn almost entered our lives many years earlier in the iconic movie Love Actually. At age 12, he auditioned to play the adorable lovesick son of Liam Neeson's character.

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Talking on Live with Kelly and Ryan, Alwyn looked back on the audition experience, which involved him getting "time off school" and going through "a series of workshops." "I didn't get it in the end," he recalled. "But I do remember meeting Hugh Grant and [screenwriter] Richard Curtis and sitting around reading some stuff." 

Gwyneth Paltrow - Rose Dawson in Titanic

(Played by Kate Winslet)

It seems competition was tight for the role of Rose in Titanic. Gwyneth Paltrow is the second actress on this list to have auditioned for the role! While she seemingly had the acting chops to do the role justice, it was ultimately decided that Winslet would be the better choice. Well, that and the fact that Paltrow turned it down.

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"I think I was really in contention for it - I was one of the last two," Paltrow told Howard Stern. "I look back at the choices I've made and think, 'Why the h*ll did I say yes to that? And no to that?' And you know, you look at the big picture and think: There's a universal lesson here. What good is it to hold onto roles?"

Kate Winslet - Viola De Lesseps in Shakespeare in Love

(Played by Gywneth Paltrow)

After rejecting and handing the Titanic role to Winslet a few years earlier, Paltrow's life came full circle when she signed on to play Viola in Shakespeare in Love instead of Kate. This time around, it was Winslet who had been offered the part first and turned it down.

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According to Complex, she refused the project in favor of working on independent movies. Gwyneth's performance in the film earned her a Best Performing Actress Academy Award in 1999. That must have stung badly for Kate, who waited ten more years to win her first Oscar.

Alden Ehrenreich - Dan Humphrey in Gossip Girl

(Played by Penn Badgley)

Penn Badgley famously played Dan Humphrey, AKA Lonely Boy, in the CW teen series Gossip Girl. But while the most passionate fans can't imagine the character being played by anyone else, the show's casting director David Rapaport told Entertainment Weekly that he had originally envisioned someone else for the role.

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"Before Penn was involved, I desperately wanted Alden Ehrenreich to play Dan." Ultimately, it was genetics that landed Penn the role, as he was chosen over Alden for his height. With Blake Lively signed on to play Humphrey's love interest, Serena van der Woodsen, it was important that their height difference not be too great.

Christina Applegate - Elle Woods in Legally Blonde

(Played by Reese Witherspoon)

What? Like it's hard to get the role of Elle Woods? When Reese Witherspoon bounced into our lives as the lovable Elle Woods, it was immediately clear she was born for the role. The ever-optimistic, ever-so-fashionable law student was a rom-com icon. But despite it being the perfect fit, it was offered to someone else first.

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According to ET, the script was given to Christina Applegate to consider, but she turned it down out of fear of taking on another "dumb blonde" character. "What a stupid move that was, right?" she joked. "Reese deserved that. She did a much better job than I ever could, and so that's her life. That's her path."

Jack Nicholson - Michael Corleone in The Godfather

(Played by Al Pacino)

The ultimate mob boss brought to life by Al Pacino in The Godfather became a staple feature of cinematic history, setting a high bar for future characters like it. In fact, the role was set to be so iconic that even Jack Nicholson, who was first offered the part, knew he wouldn't be able to do it justice.

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Talking to MovieLine, he explained his decision to turn down the part. "Back then, I believed that Indians should play Indians and Italians should play Italians," he said. "There were a lot of actors who could have played Michael, myself included, but Al Pacino was Michael Corleone."

Anne Hathaway - Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook

(Played by Jennifer Lawrence)

Although Katniss Everdeen was Jennifer Lawrence's breakout role, it was her part as Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook that boosted her into the big leagues - earning her an Academy Award for best actress. Despite her performance receiving much praise, it was recently revealed that she was not, in fact, the first choice for the part.

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According to HuffPost, it was actually Anne Hathaway who was meant to receive all that attention, but Anne and director David O. Russell had some "creative differences" and decided to part ways. Ultimately, it was a win-win for all, as Hathaway also received an Oscar that year for her part in Les Miserables.

Miles Teller - Sebastian in La La Land

(Played by Ryan Gosling)

In 2015 things were looking good for Miles Teller. Set to appear in War Dogs and La La Land, he had two big blockbusters in the works. But when the two films coincided in a scheduling conflict, Miles was forced to choose between the two. But just when he was about to select La La Land, he was told it was moving on without him.

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"I got a call from my agent, saying, 'Hey, I just got a call from Lionsgate. Damien told them that he no longer thinks you're creatively right for the project. He's moving on without you." With the decision made on his behalf, Teller believes firmly that "everything happens for a reason."

Emma Watson - Mia in La La Land

(Played by Emma Stone)

It turns out the other half of the La La Land cast was almost looking very different as well. "The casting of this movie during the six years it took to get made went through lots of permutations, and it's true there was a moment where Emma Watson and Miles Teller were doing it," La La Land director Damien Chazelle told Uproxx

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In the end, they opted for another Emma - Emma Stone. Although the Harry Potter star missed out on her chance at an Academy Award for the role, she wasn't crying herself to sleep over the loss. Instead, she was busy prepping to star alongside Dan Stevens in the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast. Not too shabby.

Leo DiCaprio & Brad Pitt - Jack Twist & Ennis Del in Brokeback Mountain

(Played by Heath Ledger & Jake Gyllenhaal)

Ledger and Gyllenhaal, under director Ang Lee, are famously responsible for turning Brokeback Mountain into the phenomenon it was. This dream team, however, was not always meant to be. According to Indiewire, Gus Van Sant was first offered the director job but quit when he could not score any big Hollywood names.

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"I was working on it, and I felt like we needed a really strong cast, like a famous cast," Van Sant told Indiewire. "That wasn't working out. I asked the usual suspects: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Ryan Phillippe. They all said no. Nobody wanted to do it."

Molly Ringwald - Vivian in Pretty Woman

(Played by Julia Roberts)

Unsurprisingly, Nicole Kidman is not the only actress to have lost out on a role to Julia Roberts. Molly Ringwald was allegedly the first actress handed the script for Pretty Woman (then called $3,000). Famous in the '80s for her various high school characters, the film had the potential to show Ringwald in a whole new light.

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"I don't specifically remember turning it down," she explained on Reddit. That said, she believes it was Roberts, rather than the script, that made the role what it was. "The script was okay, but I gotta say, Julia Roberts is what makes that movie. It was her part. Every actor hopes for a part that lets them shine like that."

Matthew McConaughey - Jack Dawson Titanic

(Played by Leonardo DiCaprio)

It's sometimes hard for an actor to know how well an audition went, but when Matthew McConaughey auditioned for the role of Jack in Titanic, he was confident he had "nailed it." "I wanted that. I auditioned with Kate Winslet," he told The Hollywood Reporter.

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Sadly, McConaughey was never offered the part, and to this day, he believes there's a chance it was all down to an agency mishandling. "If that was an offer and it didn't come to me, I've got to go back and meet in an alley with that agent," he joked. With all his following successes, it might be time for him to let it all go...

Tiffani Thiessen - Rachel Green in Friends

(Played by Jennifer Aniston)

Jennifer Aniston had us all running to the hairdressers with a picture of Rachel Green's latest haircut - but if things had worked out differently in the casting room, would we have been running with a picture of Tiffani Thiessen instead? The Saved by the Bell actress revealed she was seriously considered for the comedic role.

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Unfortunately for the then 20-year-old Thiessen, it was the right project at the wrong time. "I was a little too young to the pairing of the rest of them," she explained on Nikki Glaser's SiriusXM Show. Five years older than her competitor, Aniston won the part, and the rest is history.

Matt LeBlanc - Phil Dunphy in Modern Family

(Played by Ty Burrell)

After taking his last bow as Joey Tribbiani, Matt LeBlanc was inundated with job offers, one of which was the hilarious Phil Dunphy in Modern Family. But with the success of Friends behind him, he had the luxury of being selective, and after much consideration, he decided he was just not the man for the job.

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"I remember reading it thinking, this is a really good script, [but] I'm not the guy for this," he explained to USA Today. "I'd be doing the project an injustice to take this. I know what I can do, I know what I can't do. Plus, I'm having too much fun laying on the couch."

Brie Larson - Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games

(Played by Jennifer Lawrence)

Brie Larson has been a part of some of Hollywood's biggest movies, but that doesn't mean there weren't a few setbacks along the way. In a video posted to her YouTube channel, the actress detailed the numerous films she failed to be a part of. "I'm talking about my failures!" she exclaimed.

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Listing off the parts she failed to get, she revealed she auditioned for The Hunger Games. Although she didn't go into the details of the role she tried out for, we can reasonably assume it was the part of Katniss Everdeen which went to Jennifer Lawrence. Little did Brie know, her own Oscar was just around the corner...

Hugh Jackman - James Bond in Casino Royale

(Played by Daniel Craig)

One look at Daniel Craig in a suit, and it's immediately clear why he was chosen to play James Bond. With that dirty blonde head of hair, piercing blue eyes, and impeccable physique, he oozes 007 in every way possible. With this, it's hard to imagine how anyone else was ever considered for the role.

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Hugh Jackman, however, was in the running, telling Variety he turned down the part due to a lack of creative control. "I just felt at the time that the scripts had become so unbelievable and crazy," he explained. "I felt like they needed to become grittier and real."

Jennifer Lawrence - Bella Swan in Twilight

(Played by Kristin Stewart)

While multiple actresses have lost out on major roles to Jennifer Lawrence, she is no stranger to rejection herself. On numerous occasions, she lost out on major roles, especially in the earlier years of her career. One such part was Bella Swan in Twilight, which was ultimately given to Kristin Stewart.

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She talked to The Guardian in 2012 and recalled having "no idea Twilight would be such a big deal." "For me, and assuming for her, it was just another audition," she said. "Then it turned into this whole other thing." It all worked out for the best, as Lawrence soon landed the lead part in another huge franchise - The Hunger Games.

Justin Timberlake - Elton John in Rocketman

(Played by Taron Egerton)

There's no denying that Taron Egerton brought everything and more to the role of Elton John in Rocketman. Still, we can't help but wonder if anyone else almost portrayed the musical legend. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Justin Timberlake's name was thrown into the mix for consideration. Icon meets icon.

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The producer of the movie, David Furnish (also Elton's husband), told The Hollywood Reporter he first noticed Timberlake when he portrayed John in his This Train Don't Stop There Anymore music video. "He did an amazing job in the video," he said. "[But] we weren't ever at a stage where it was the right time to approach him."

Meryl Streep - Dawn in King Kong

(Played by Jessica Lange)

She may have received over 21 Academy Award nominations, but even the legendary Meryl Streep has lost out on a role or two throughout her time. In 1976, after being approached by the film producer's son, she auditioned for the role of Dawn in King Kong and left the room heartbroken.

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"I walked in, and his son was sitting there, very excited that he'd brought in this new actress," she said. "And the father said to his son - in Italian, cause I understand Italian, 'why do you bring me this ugly thing?'" Notifying them that she had understood the insult, she left the room, and the part was given to Jessica Lange.

Freddie Prinze Jr. - Peter Parker in Spider-Man

(Played by Tobey Maguire)

In the early 2000s, there was perhaps no greater heartthrob than Freddie Prinze Jr. However, while he may have been able to win over every woman's heart, there was one person he, unfortunately, could not work his charm on. This individual was Sam Raimi, the director of Spider-Man.

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Talking on the Josh Wolf podcast, Prince Jr. explained his disastrous audition, which is likely the reason he lost out on the role. "I sat down, and he goes, 'So, tell me, tell me why you love Spider-Man?'{...} When I left, I literally was like, 'You just talked about Venom instead of Spider-Man for 25 minutes, you stupid a--hole.'"

Angelina Jolie - Cher in Clueless

(Played by Alicia Silverstone)

Ugh, as if anyone else could have played Cher better than Alicia Silverstone did! Playing the popular girl with a big heart turned Alicia into a household name overnight, with people recreating her character's iconic outfits and lines to this day. "Oh my god, I am totally buggin.'"

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To mark the 20th anniversary of the film's release, a 2015 exposé in Vanity Fair revealed some behind-the-scenes secrets. One which could have changed what the movie came to be was the almost-casting of Angelina Jolie. Alongside Gwyneth Paltrow and Reese Witherspoon, she sent in an audition tape for Cher.

Kurt Russell - Han Solo in Star Wars

(Played by Harrison Ford)

In honor of Star Wars' 40th anniversary, actors Kurt Russell and Chris Pratt sat down with USA Today to reminisce on the movie's major hype. Although many fans had seen Russell's Han Solo audition tape online, it was not until this interview that we gained an understanding of just how close he was to snapping up the part.

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"I was actually in the final running," he told USA Today. "But I needed to give an answer to ABC to do a Western show. I asked George [Lucas], 'Do you think you're going to use me?' He said, 'I don't know if I'm going to put you with him, or him, or those two guys... I gotta go to work, so I did the Western."

Gwen Stefani - Jane Smith in Mr. & Mrs. Smith

(Played by Angelina Jolie)

Unknown to some is that Gwen Stefani is a true triple threat. Yes, we've seen her sing and dance on stage, but she can act too! Back in 2004, Stefani's acting chops had her in the running to play opposite Pitt in Mr. & Mrs. Smith. "It was between me and Angelina Jolie, and I'm like, 'Oh, great. I got a shot here,'" she told Vogue.

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Ultimately, Stefani realized her true passion was singing, and while she was intrigued by the role, she wanted to focus her attention on her music. "I wanted to do it, but I wanted to do music more." We don't dare to imagine what could have been (or not been) had this casting come about - a world that never knew #Brangelina!?

Bradley Cooper - Hal Jordan in Green Lantern

(Played by Ryan Reynolds)

Playing a superhero is considered a dream job for an actor. For this reason, when the role of Hal Jordan, AKA Green Lantern, became available, Bradley Cooper did what he could to get it. "I tried to get it," he told Howard Stern. "I auditioned for it and screen-tested and everything. They said no."

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But perhaps Cooper had the last laugh after the film flopped at the box office and received negative reviews. In a surprising twist, Reynolds was grateful for Cooper's failures as he met his wife, Blake Lively, on the film's set. Currently expecting baby number four, it seems it all works out for the best in Hollywood...