Almost every actor, if they get good and famous enough, will miss out on one significant role or more. Since they can’t appear in every movie or accept every part, missing out becomes inevitable. But there remain some huge roles actors missed that nearly affected their career trajectory. They don’t torture themselves over these misses, but they talk about it from time to time. They also wonder how different their lives had they played these roles. But the truth remains that their fans can never know.
Meet fifteen of these actors who missed major movie roles below.
The 27-year-old American-French actor might have bagged a Golden Globe Award and Academy nominations, but he also got many rejections. The actor admitted he auditioned for the lead role in a Tim Burton movie but didn’t get it, and also tried for the lead role as Spider-Man in the MCU. His career might have looked different had he ended up as the masked superhero. More recently, director Greta Gerwig revealed that Timothee came on the Barbie set in London. But unfortunately, scheduling conflicts prevented him from getting the role in the film.
While Timothee missed out, another actor didn’t pass up on an opportunity to play the biggest role in Barbie. Margot Robbie grabbed the chance with both hands and dazzled the world with her brilliance. However, she too had her low moments before she burst onto the scene with her role in The Wolf of Wall Street. Robbie once auditioned for a role in season two of American Horror Story: Asylum back in 2011. Despite impressing the casting director, she ultimately lost out on the role. But Robbie’s acting prowess had become evident, so it didn’t take her long to get her big break in the industry.
As movie castings go, actors can’t always win. They gain some here and lose some there. Tom Holland beat Timothee Chalamet to the role of Spider-Man, but he too got snubbed when he auditioned for a role in the 2015 hit, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. John Boyega got the nod ahead of him, and now fans can only wonder how the movie would have looked had Tom played the role.
Before Reece Witherspoon became a household name with movies like Legally Blonde and Vanity Fair, she’d missed major roles. A role like Cher Horowitz in Clueless would have put her in the limelight much earlier had she gotten it. Though she lost out to Alicia Silverstone, she didn’t relent and went on to do great things.
Marvel may look very different without Scarlett in it. She found a way to mold herself into the character of Natasha Romanoff. But she nearly didn’t get cast. Emily Blunt got the role of Romanoff, but due to some scheduling conflict with another film, Gulliver’s Travels, she pulled out. So Marvel recalled Johannson after an earlier rejection.
Johansson also lost another major role to Sandra Bullock for the character Ryan Stone in the 2013 hit, Gravity. She confessed that she really wanted that one.
If Hemsworth had gotten the role he auditioned for, he wouldn’t have played Thor, the biggest role of his career yet. Sometimes, a blessing can disguise itself as a missed opportunity. A failure can become a springboard to further success. But these actors hardly ever know, and just take the roles as they come. Hemsworth had auditioned for the role of Conrad S. Hauser in the action film G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra, a huge movie in its own right. He hoped the role would come. But ultimately, it went to Channing Tatum. So he went ahead to audition for Thor, which ushered him into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Imagining another actor playing Jack in Titanic might prove difficult. But another brilliant actor, Matthew McConaughey, might have gotten the role and done a great job, too. He almost did. He had auditioned and performed well enough that he became confident they’d call him. But they didn’t, and the role went to Leonardo DiCaprio instead, and he delivered an unforgettable performance.
Russell Crowe almost took the lead role in the 1997 romantic comedy My Best Friend’s Wedding. But, even though Crowe’s reputation as a great actor preceded him at the time, he gave a dispirited performance at the audition. The movie director wanted to cast him, but couldn’t change anyone else’s mind after Crowe put up a poor show. The role eventually went to Dermot Mulroney.
Jake Gyllenhaal began acting as a child, making his debut in the 1991 movie City Slickers. The 2001 mind-bending sci-fi movie, Donnie Darko, stands out as one of his breakthrough films. Still, with all that talent, he missed major movie roles in the blockbuster series, Lord of the Rings. By his admission in an interview with Jimmy Fallon, he didn’t do very well at the auditions for the screen adaptation of the Tolkien book.
Will Smith remains one of the biggest actors in Hollywood, but the world can only imagine what the movie The Matrix would look like had he played Neo. It remains undoubted that Smith would have done an admirable job, too had he not passed up on the script.
He might not regret his decision for not taking the role, having said it didn’t feel right for him. But his choice of going for Wild Wild West, a cowboy film not nearly as successful as Matrix, might not represent some of his best moments.
Though Jennifer Lawrence went on to land a career-changing role as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, she had her low moments. Some of these included losing a role in the movie Alice in Wonderland, which hurt her. But also, landing the role of Bella Swan in Twilight would have given her career a major boost. She confessed, though, that when she auditioned for the role, she didn’t know much about the books. She also didn’t feel jealous of Kristen Stewart, who eventually beat her to the part.
Still, on the subject of Twilight, Taylor Lautner, who played Jacob Black, also missed out on another major role. Already considered a teen star at the time, Lautner auditioned for the role of Shane Gray in Disney’s Camp Rock. He did very well in the auditions and put his best foot forward. But he eventually didn’t get the role. He probably wouldn’t have starred in the globally popular Twilight later had he gotten the Camp Rock role.
Mindy auditioned to play the role of Lilian in the 2011 movie Bridesmaids. She felt heartbroken when it didn’t come because she had practiced so much for it and put in the work. The American actor and comedian who went on to create her own hit shows like Never Have I Ever felt pretty down for now getting the role. Sometimes actors put all their energy into something and expect it to pay off. Her career might have looked different had she gotten the role, but it didn’t, and Mindy has done incredibly well for herself since.
It sounds silly, but the Maleficent actor admitted she once missed major movie roles in a franchise because she didn’t have enough Instagram followers. An actor’s value should lie in their ability to interpret a role to the standards of the casting directors, not how popular they’ve become in the outside world. If not, superb actors who don’t have a following would never break out. But Hollywood seems to work differently and the star power of an actor determines their role. Elle has grown wildly popular now, gaining millions of followers on Instagram, but there remain many more still unknown and struggling.
While the former James Bond actor has had a legendary career, playing a role in the revolutionary film The Matrix would have added a feather to his cap. Connery passed on the role of Morpheus, the sage who recruited and trained Neo, because he didn’t understand the script. Admittedly, The Matrix has a rather complicated plot. The Wachowskis had to do substantial rewrites just to attract a big name since almost none of them wanted a role in the film. Still, viewers would have loved to see Connery don a leather suit and dodge bullets. Nevertheless, Laurence Fishburne, who eventually took the role, did so well as Morpheus that Imagining someone else embodying the character will pose a challenging task to lovers of the franchise.
Chisom is a Lagos-based fiction writer and poet. He holds a degree in English literature. When he’s not watching movies or writing about fantastical things, he’s tweeting about movies and fantastical things at izom_chisom. His short stories have appeared on Second Skin Mag, Omenana, Apex, Isele, Sci-fi Shorts, All Worlds Wayfarers, and Mythaxis. His geeky interests are mind-bending scifi films, high fantasy TV, horror, and comic book characters.