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Actors On The Major Movies They Turned Down

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At the height of their powers, actors can get sent a dizzying amount of scripts to sift through and without the trusty guidance of a confirmed psychic, it's often rather difficult to know which one is worth picking.

So when you find out that the one you threw in the bin ends up winning all of the Oscars, you might feel a bit peeved. Here are some actors talking about huge roles they turned down, for better or for worse.

Groundhog

Michael Keaton - Groundhog Day

"I didn't get it. I thought this guy sounds like the kind of wry, sardonic, glib young man I've played—and it ended up being so great. But you can't do it better than Bill Murray did it."


 

Green Lantern

Jon Hamm - Green Lantern

"They came after me pretty hard for Green Lantern. But I was like, 'Meh, that's not what I want to do.' Never say never, but these aren't the kind of movies I like to go and see. They don't make the kind of movies I like to see anymore."
 


 

Gandalf

Sean Connery - The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

“I didn’t understand it. I had never read Tolkien and I did not understand the script when they sent it to me. Bobbits? Hobbits?”


 

Seven

Denzel Washington - Se7en

“I turned down the movie Se7en. That was a mistake. I just didn’t think anybody was going to see it. I don’t know what I made instead, I can’t remember, but I turned [Se7en] down. I guess Brad Pitt is happy about that.”


 

Hannibal

Jodie Foster - Hannibal

"It's hard to come up with a character that would be Clarice 10 years later... The book was clear about who she had become, but I'm not sure I agreed with it. It's certainly Thomas Harris' invention, but oh, I shouldn't go into this."


 

Django

Will Smith - Django Unchained

“Django wasn’t the lead so it was like, I need to be the lead. The other character was the lead!” 


 

Superman

Josh Hartnett - Superman Returns

"I didn't want to be labeled as Superman for the rest of my career. I was maybe 22, but I saw the danger,” 


 

Wahlberg

Mark Wahlberg - Star Trek

"I tried to read the script and I didn't understand the words, the dialogue or anything. I said, 'I couldn't do this'"



 

Taxi Driver

Dustin Hoffman - Taxi Driver

"I remember meeting Martin Scorsese. He had no script and I didn't even know who he was. I hadn't seen any of his films and he talked a mile a minute telling me what the movie would be about. I was thinking, 'What is he talking about?' I thought the guy was crazy! The film was Taxi Driver. I made so many dumb mistakes (turning down hit movies). The list is endless."


 

Star Wars

Al Pacino - Star Wars

"It was mine for the taking but I didn’t understand the script."


 

Witness

Sylvester Stallone - Witness

"I turned Witness down, with Harrison Ford, which is great. I’d never had a love affair with an Amish chick."


 

Grease

Henry Winkler - Grease

“I was asked to be in Grease. But I decided I didn't want to be typecast. But what I didn't realise was that I already was…that's why John Travolta went on to buy his own plane and I just went home.” 


 

Twilight

Emily Browning - Twilight

“The author at one point stated that I would be her ideal Bella, but I chose not to audition because I was at a point in my career where I wasn’t sure I wanted to work.”


 

Godfather

Jack Nicholson - The Godfather

“I knew The Godfather was going to be a great film, but at that time I believed Indians should play roles written for Indians and Italians should do the same.”


 

Silence

Jeremy Irons - The Silence of the Lambs

"I thought I just can't do it; I'm already too far down this road. And when I saw what Tony Hopkins had done, I thought, thank Christ I didn't do it."


 
Sharknado

Steve Guttenberg - Sharknado

"I got to tell you, I made a mistake. I turned down Sharknado, They came to me, and I should've done it because it was a huge hit. It was a crazy movie."


 

Shrek

Nicolas Cage - Shrek

"We were talking about Shrek and I just didn't want to look like an ogre. Maybe I should have done it looking back"


 

King's Speech

Paul Bettany - The King's Speech

"Number one, of course, it is a regret not to be working with such great... people, Geoffrey Rush and (director) Tom Hooper. I think it is a little inelegant for me to discuss it. I had been working for five months steadily and my son missed me and I missed my son. Both of my sons and my wife. Do I regret it? I regret not working with such amazing, amazing actors and directors and writers. But no, I have to do the right thing by my family every time." 



 

Avatar

Matt Damon - Avatar

"I particularly wanted to work with James Cameron, and still do... When he said, 'Look, I'm offering it to you, but if you say no, the movie doesn't need you,' I remember thinking, 'Oh God, not only do I have to say no because of scheduling, but he's going to make a star out of some guy who's going to start taking jobs from me later'."



 

The Reader

Nicole Kidman - The Reader

"I got pregnant and I was meant to do The Reader. And they said, "Oh can you still do it?" But I cannot work pregnant. I know now what I probably didn't know in my 20s. I would absolutely know now that I would always choose the sanctity and sacredness of my family, and if that was ever in jeopardy, no question. The way I work, it would penetrate my baby"
 

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