Things don’t always work out as they were intended, and sometimes, that’s a good thing. A lot of iconic movie roles were played by people who landed the parts after other actors turned them down.
For instance, imagine how Harry Potter would have turned out without Daniel Radcliffe in the lead role, or the way Forrest Gump would have looked without Tom Hanks taking on the role of a simple man with good intentions in a turbulent world.
Surprisingly, these actors were not necessarily the first choices for these roles, and yet they helped immortalize these fictional characters and convince everyone that they alone were created to play these roles.
It’s often impossible to separate a strong cinematic character from the actor who played it. Take Twilight, for instance: Robert Pattison, the pale and charming vampire with a deliberate voice, left an indelible mark in an otherwise not-so-good production.
As we are going to find out today, many famous film roles would have been played by completely different actors if things went as initially planned. You will be shocked to see who the original actors would have been if the invisible hand of fate had not turned things around, mostly for the better.
Just to get you going, imagine Matrix’s Neo being played by Will Smith. It would have changed everything, wouldn’t it?
1. Harry Potter’s Severus Snape: Tim Roth v. Alan Rickman
Believe it or not, Tim Roth was initially offered the chance to become the diabolical, powerful, and scheming antagonist Severus Snape in the unforgettable Harry Potter movies. However, he turned down the role, and it went to Alan Rickman, and now, nobody can imagine anyone else playing Snape.
2. The Matrix’s Neo: Keanu Reeves v. Will Smith
Again, Will Smith turned down a chance to become a movie icon by playing Neo in The Matrix. Keanu Reeves’s performance, however, makes it impossible to imagine anyone but him acting as Neo.
3. Harry Potter’s Ron Weasley: Thomas Brodie-Sangster v. Rupert Grint
Thomas Brodie-Sangster could have easily played a major supporting role in Harry Potter. He had already auditioned for the role that was eventually given to Rupert Grint. Many people are now convinced he was the perfect person for the job, and it’s hard to imagine anyone else coming even close.
4. Forrest Gump: John Travolta v. Tom Hanks
The landmark role of Forrest Gump was supposed to go to John Travolta, an iconic actor in his own right. However, the part went to Tom Hanks after the Pulp Fiction actor turned it down.
5. The Lord Of The Rings’ Gandalf: Sean Connery v. Ian McKellen
Sean Connery was such a gifted actor, and everything he touched practically turned into a fan favorite. Nevertheless, his decision to turn down the offer to play Gandalf in The Lord Of The Rings did not leave any doubts as to whether Ian McKellen was the right man for the job.
6. Harry Potter’s Albus Dumbledore: Ian McKellen v. Michael Gambon
Initially, the part of Albus Dumbledore was offered to Ian McKellen, but he turned it down and it went to Michael Gambon. Once again, this proved to be a brilliant decision for the film franchise.
7. Iron Man’s Iron Man: Tom Cruise v. Roberty Downey, Jr
Originally, the producers considered Tom Cruise for the role of Iron Man but eventually settled on Robert Downey, Jr. Can you imagine how that would have turned out?
8. Harry Potter’s Rubeus Hagrid: Robin Williams v. Robbie Coltrane
In this case, Robin Williams was eager to take on this role, but they rejected him. Instead, they gave it to Robbie Coltrane, and he didn’t disappoint.
9. Edward Scissorhands: Jim Carrey v. Johnny Depp
Jim Carrey could have been Edward Scissorhands, a role that was ultimately played by Johnny Depp. After Depp’s performance, it’s hard to imagine how the film would have turned out with the comical Jim Carrey in the lead role.
10. The Lord Of The Rings’ Aragorn: Russell Crowe v. Viggo Mortensen
It’s hard to imagine anyone turning down a role in The Lord Of The Rings, but Russell Crowe did. That part was given to Viggo Mortensen, who turned out to be a terrific fit for the role.
11. Sister Act’s Sister Mary Clarence: Bette Midler v. Whoopi Goldberg
When Bette Midler was offered the role of Sister Mary Clarence in Sister Act, she turned it down. The iconic role then went to Whoopi Goldberg, and she did an amazing job.
12. Guardians Of The Galaxy’s Star-Lord: Eddie Redmayne v. Chris Pratt
Eddie wanted to play Star-Lord and even auditioned for it. However, the part was given to Chris Pratt, and he truly made the character his own with his unique and often comedic performance.
13. Star Wars’ Han Solo: Al Pacino v. Harrison Ford
Al Pacino is a legendary actor, and fans expect him to shine in any role. That said, Harrison Ford’s role as Han Solo is practically flawless.
So, it’s probably a good thing that Al Pacino turned down this part.
14. Titanic’s Jack Dawson: Matthew McConaughey v. Leonardo Dicaprio
Nobody would have been a better Jack Dawson than Leonardo Dicaprio, that much we can agree. Matthew McConaughey wanted the role, but eventually, Dicaprio got it.
15. Legally Blonde’s Elle Woods: Christina Applegate v. Reese Witherspoon
Legally Blonde is a cult classic, thanks to Reese Witherspoon’s stunning performance. Believe it or not, Christina Applegate was considered for the role before it was given to Witherspoon.
16. Doctor Strange: Ryan Gosling v. Benedict Cumberbatch
They considered giving Gosling the role of Doctor Strange, but they eventually settled for Benedict Cumberbatch, which turned out to be a great decision.
17. The Office’s Michael Scott: Paul Giamatt v. Steve Carell
The Office turned out to be a favorite for many, and Steve Carell’s performance has a lot to do with it. However, he was not the show’s first choice for the famous role.
After Paul Giamatt refused to play the part, Steve Carell got it and he did an amazing job.
18. Black Widow: Emily Blunt v. Scarlett Johansson
Most people associate Scarlett Johansson with Black Widow, mainly because she was so good at bringing this role into life. However, she was not the first choice for the part.
Emily Blunt was given the role but she turned it down and Johansson took over.
19. Harry Potter’s Gilderoy Lockhart: Hugh Grant v. Kenneth Branagh
Kenneth was an amazing Lockhart in Harry Potter, but the role was initially meant for Hugh Grant.
20. Titanic’s Rose Dewitt: Gwyneth Paltrow v. Kate Winslet
After her performance in the Titanic, Kate Winslet was considered irreplaceable for the role she played as Dicaprio’s lover. Surprisingly, she would not have gotten it if Gwyneth Paltrow had not turned it down.
21. Fifty Shades Of Grey’s Anastacia Steele: Emilia Clarke v. Dakota Johnson
Fifty Shades Of Grey was a raging success, mainly due to the performance of key actors like Dakota Johnson. However, were it not for Emilia Clarke refusing to take the role, Dakota would never have played the part.
22. Harry Potter’s Harry Potter: Liam Aiken v. Daniel Radcliffe
Can you imagine anyone else other than Daniel Radcliffe playing the role of Harry Potter? Most people can’t either.
However, the role was initially intended for Liam Aiken.
23. Harry Potter’s Lily Potter: Joanne Rowling v. Geraldine Somerville
Although Joanne was offered the part of Lily Potter, she passed up on the offer and it went to Geraldine Somerville. The actress couldn’t have done a better job of bringing this character to life.
24. James Bond’ James Bond: Hugh Jackman v. Daniel Craig
Hugh Jackman, the Wolverine star, could have easily played the iconic James Bond role, had he not rejected the offer.
The role ultimately went to Daniel Craig, and there is no doubt he was the perfect choice for the part.
25. Harry Potter’s Quirinus Quirrell: David Thewlis v. Ian Hart
The impeccable performance of Ian Hart as Quirinus Quirrell in the Harry Potter might not have happened as it did. The role was initially offered to David Thewlis.
26. Twilight’s Edward Cullen: Henry Cavill v. Robert Pattison
Can you imagine anyone other than Robert Pattison playing the role of Edward Cullen in Twilight? As it turns out, Henry Cavill was the first person considered for the role.
27. The Notebook’s Allie: Britney Spears v. Rachel McAdams
Most people would probably agree that it was for the best that the role of Allie in The Notebook went to Rachel McAdams. However, Britney Spears came close to getting the role as she had also auditioned for the part.
28. Twilight’s Bella Swan: Jennifer Lawrence v. Kristen Stewart
Although Jennifer Lawrence auditioned for the role of Bella Swan in Twilight, Kristen Stewart got it instead.
29. La La Land’s Mia: Emma Watson v. Emma Stone
The two Emmas are great actors, and when Watson turned down the offer to play the role of Mia, Stone was offered the role and she did an amazing job.
30. The Godfather’s Michael Corleone: Jack Nicholson v. Al Pacino
Al Pacino was perfect as Michael Corleone in The Godfather. However, he only landed the role because Jack Nicholson turned it down.
Strong characters have a way of making us feel so drawn to them. They are strangely relatable, and we find ourselves caring for their triumphs or losses just like real people.
Apparently, according to Howard Sklar, a researcher at the University of Helsinki, our bonds with fictional characters usually reflects the bonds we share with people in real life.
Ultimately, we start responding to these characters as if they were real people, even if we can’t relate to the circumstances they face. On an emotional level, we feel everything the character is going through.
At least that helps explain why it’s so hard to imagine these unforgettable film roles being played by other actors.