Actors always claim they have no regrets but sometimes a huge role will pass them by and you imagine there’s a strong chance it’ll haunt them forever. These are the 10 actors who came within inches of mega-stardom and universal fame…
Was nearly in: ‘X-Men’
Rising Scottish actor Dougray was already considered a hot enough property to play the villain opposite Tom Cruise in ‘Mission: Impossible II’, but shooting ran long on John Woo’s action epic (probably due to all the slow-motion scenes), denying Scott the opportunity to play Wolverine in Bryan Singer’s 'X-Men’.
'A fella wi claws fir hands? Och, it’ll probably never amount to anything,' Scott probably reasoned, before watching mouth agape as 'X-Men’ kickstarted the superhero genre and Hugh Jackman reprised the role of Wolverine in nine movies across 17 years, becoming one of the world’s biggest stars as a result. He was also a front-runner to play Bond before Daniel Craig won the role. Scott last hit the headlines when his 2010 movie, 'Love’s Kitchen’, scraped an opening weekend of £121.
Was nearly in: ‘Back To The Future’
There are movie stars and there are character actors and there isn’t a whole lot of overlap – once you’re categorised as one, it’s hard to make it as the other. Eric Stoltz, very much a character actor, had a tantalising glimpse of being a bona fide movie star when he was cast as Marty McFly in Robert Zemeckis’s 'Back To The Future’.
Stoltz enjoyed five weeks of shooting before Bobby Z realised he was “too intense” for the role, prompting the moving of Heaven and Earth to hire original choice Michael J Fox on a schedule of night shooting. Stoltz would never bother a blockbuster for as long as he lived, although it’s strange to think there’s an alternate timeline somewhere where the ginger guy from 'Mask’ is one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.
Was nearly in: ‘Lord of the Rings’
Townsend has two unwanted accolades; not only was he the man that let one-time girlfriend Charlize Theron slip through his fingers after nine years, he was the man who was officially adjudged to not be manly enough to play the King of Men in 'The Lord Of The Rings’ trilogy.
Townsend was hired by Peter Jackson to play Aragorn, but the director soon realised 28-year-old Townsend didn’t have the required heft to play Strider, leading to an awkward conversation after four days of shooting. Although he played Lestat the vampire, formerly played by Tom Cruise, in 'Queen Of The Damned’, mega-flop 'The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen’ effectively put a bullet in Townsend’s Hollywood prospects.
Was nearly in: ‘Twilight’
She’s tasted stardom with the likes of 'Sucker Punch’ and 'Lemony Snicket’s A Series Of Unfortunate Events’, but Browning is far from a household name – and she’s certainly not subjected to the same level of tabloid intrusion and speculation as 'Twilight’ star Kristen Stewart. It was she who took the lead role of Bella that Browning passed on, even after author Stephanie Meyers personally lobbied for the Australian.
Browning now claims if history had played out a different way and she accepted the part, she would no longer be an actress: “I think I would have quit. I don’t think I would have been able to handle it,” she said. Browning now spends her time making movies with members of Belle & Sebastian.
Was nearly in: ‘Spider-Man’
Furlong made his mark as John Connor in 'Terminator 2: Judgment Day’, but his career lacked stamina; his last notable role, unless you count direct-to-video sequels to 'The Crow’ (we don’t), was 'American History X’ in 1998. It could have all been so different, if only James Cameron’s proposed 1993 'Spider-Man’ movie had got off the ground.
Furlong would have played the wallcrawler if only the director had been given the opportunity to make the movie his way (in a nutshell: laced with profanity, sex and violence), but alas, it wasn’t to be. Just think! Furlong could have still been a huge star today, just like er, Tobey Maguire, and, um, Andrew Garfield!
Was nearly in: ‘Batman’, ‘Superman’, ‘Spider-Man’
Sure, sure – we know you know who Josh Hartnett is. For a few years there back at the turn of the century, he was the squinty, awkward dreamboat of your little sister’s dreams. But as well-known as he is, did you know Hartnett has had multiple opportunities to amp his star wattage up to iconic levels? You’re looking at a man who has stared three multi-million, star-making superhero contracts in the face and said 'No’ each time.
Batman? Not on your life! Superman? Get out of here! Spider-Man? Pfft, no way! Josh Hartnett cares not for your lycra-clad heroes! “I somehow knew those roles had potential to define me,” said Hartnett, “and I didn’t want that.” Talk to him in three Spider-Men’s time and let’s see if he’s still willing to tear up the contract.
Was nearly in: ‘Sex and the City’
It must be galling when an actor turns down a role that goes on to define a gender for an entire generation, but Dana Delany did just that when she passed on playing Carrie Bradshaw, the sexually adventurous writer who giggled her way through six seasons of 'Sex And The City’ – and two atrocious movies.
“I didn’t want to be in a show about sex,” said Delany, humbly. “The part went to Sarah Jessica Parker and it made her into a worldwide star, but I’ve got no regrets.” Except maybe the part about not accepting the role of Carrie Bradshaw. Apart from that though, no regrets.
Was nearly in: ‘Almost Famous’
Though she’s dabbled with big-budget movies like 'Dawn Of The Dead’, Sarah Polley never felt like she was destined to be a big star. In fact, she actively fought against it, and decided to quit a certain star-making role that went on to make another girl a very big deal – she walked from the role of Penny Lane in 'Almost Famous’, only to see Kate Hudson rewarded with an Oscar nomination.
“I think those moments where you decide not to do something, in the face of nobody understanding that decision, are the moments that form you, that carve you out. It will always be a part of who I am, that I did that,” says Polley. She now directs and put her name to the brilliant 'Away From Her’ and 'Take This Waltz’.
Was nearly in: ‘Star Wars’
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there is a parallel universe in which Tattooine farm boy Luke Skywalker is not played by Mark Hamill, but by relative unknown William Katt. Would the Star Wars saga have played out any differently had it been Katt, tall with a mop of blonde hair, becoming the Jedi to unite the galaxy?
Katt recalls how Brian De Palma and George Lucas held dual auditions for 'Carrie’ and 'Star Wars’, where he read for Luke opposite Kurt Russell, reading for Han Solo. “I was lucky enough to get the Carrie role,” Katt said, graciously (and unconvincingly).
Was nearly in: Tank Girl
Daughter of Roger Lloyd Pack – yes, 'Only Fools and Horses’’ Trigger – Emily Lloyd has come close to two major roles in her lifetime, but never got the chance to fulfill either. The classically-trained actress won a part in Woody Allen’s 1992 Oscar-nominated drama 'Husbands And Wives’, but Woody himself pulled the plug after a few days of shooting.
Then over a decade later, Lloyd was offered the role of 'Tank Girl’ in the ill-fated live-action adaptation of the comic, but her refusal to shave her head saw the part taken from her and offered to Lori Petty. Consider that a bullet the size of a tank dodged.
Image credits: Rex Features