Great roles actors have turned down

It's not easy for actors to pick a classic movie role — you have to find the right script, cross your fingers that the director and co-stars are talented and, most of all, just have to rely on blind luck that the audience responds to both the film and the character.

Not an exact science then. Doesn't excuse some actors though. We take a look at some Hollywood stars who made the baffling decision to turn down soon-to-be iconic roles.

Julia Roberts

She may have had 'Pretty Woman', but Julia Roberts could have cornered the romantic comedy market all by herself if she hadn't turned down the chance to star in 'Sleepless in Seattle', 'Shakespeare in Love' and 'While You Were Sleeping'. While her loss would eventually be Meg Ryan, Gwyneth Paltrow and Sandra Bullock's gain, it wasn't just romance films she was turning down — she also decided to pass on erotic thriller 'Basic Instinct'. The 1992 move made Sharon Stone a household name.

Bruce Willis
Romantic weepie 'Ghost' could have been slightly different if Bruce Willis had played the lead character. However, he wasn't sure about playing a ghost — much to Patrick Swayze's delight.
Maybe realising his mistake, he would eventually play a member of the undead in the classic 'The Sixth Sense'.

David Schwimmer

'Friends' was still going strong at the tail end of the 90s, and those that weren't named Jennifer Aniston were still getting sent movie scripts. One called 'Men in Black' headed Schwimmer's way. The part was of J, the younger of the two lead agents. However, Schwimmer decided it wasn't for him, allowing Will Smith a chance to take not only the role but pretty much announce to the world that he was a genuine movie star.

Sir Sean Connery

The Scottish actor has made a few film choice errors — most notably passing on the chance to be in two of the biggest blockbuster series in recent history.

While you can't now imagine anyone else playing Gandalf other than Sir Ian McKellen, Connery was in fact the first actor to be offered the role. However, the thought of filming three films back-to-back didn't appeal to Connery, nor did the fact that he didn't understand the script.

He also turned down the chance to play Morpheus in 'The Matrix' because he, yet again, couldn't get his head around the story.

Fearing another blockbuster oversight he decided to make 'League of Extraordinary Gentlemen'. The result? A superhero film that was not only a huge flop, but promptly saw him retire from acting.

Will Smith

Sir Sean Connery wasn't the only one to have been confused by 'The Matrix's script. Will Smith passed on the chance to play Neo — a role that became an iconic one for Keanu Reeves.
Smith would later explain, "You know, 'The Matrix' is a difficult concept to pitch. In the pitch, I just didn't see it. I watched Keanu's performance — and very rarely do I say this — but I would have messed it up. I would have absolutely messed up 'The Matrix'. At that point I wasn't smart enough as an actor to let the movie be. Whereas Keanu was smart enough to just let it be. Let the movie and the director tell the story, and don't try and perform every moment."

Joaquin Phoenix

Before Joaquin Phoenix wowed critics in 'Gladiator', the actor was desperate to make his mark on the big screen following his accomplished performance in 'To Die For' years earlier.
While he rejected roles in teen horror films like 'Scream', he also passed on two iconic roles of the 90s.
He had a meeting with Paul Thomas Anderson to discuss playing the lead role in 'Boogie Nights'. While Anderson was impressed with Phoenix, the intense actor was unsure about playing a porn star and ended up passing on the project — much to Mark Wahlberg's eternal thanks.
There was also a chance for Phoenix to play Ed Norton's part in 'American History X'. But again, the subject matter proved too distasteful for him and he promptly rejected it.

Alec Baldwin

Alec Baldwin must curse under his breath at the mere mention of Harrison Ford. The '30 Rock' star was the first to play Tom Clancy's fictional CIA analyst Jack Ryan in the thriller 'The Hunt for Red October'. Reportedly fearing that Baldwin didn't have enough box office appeal to lead a potential James Bond-esque franchise the studio instead turned to Ford for the two Jack Ryan sequels.
And it was to get worse for Baldwin, who turned down the plum role of Dr Richard Kimble in the movie version of the hit 60s show 'The Fugitive' — a role that eventually went to Ford!

Tom Hanks

Hank was offered the lead roles in 'Field of Dreams' and 'Shawshank Redemption', but eventually passed on the projects. Both would have played up to Hank's everyman persona, but how different would 'Jerry Maguire' have been if Hanks had played the arrogant and unravelling sports agent?

We'll never know, as Cameron Crowe had to turn to his second choice instead after Hanks said no. It ended up being arguably Tom Cruise's greatest role.

Warren Beatty

Warren Beatty has made some great films, and some not so great ones ('Dick Tracy' anyone?). However, it's obvious he's not the greatest at picking scripts — rejecting the chance to play Burt Reynolds' character in 'Boogie Nights' and James Caan's career comeback role in 'Misery'. He also turned down Robert Redford's part in 'The Sting' and the role of Gordon Gekko in 'Wall Street'.
Wait, there's more. Beatty also felt that the role of Bill in Quentin Tarantino's 'Kill Bill' wasn't for him.

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