Show Mobile Navigation
Movies and TV |

10 Actors Who Turned Down Movie Roles and Regretted It

by Jeffrey Morris
fact checked by Darci Heikkinen

Hollywood often considers a plethora of actors for movie roles. When an actor is selected, they may turn down the movie role, making the producers and directors revisit their list of suitable actors to choose another artist. There are a variety of reasons why an actor may reject a movie role–from a busy schedule to a personal prejudice against the character that is to be played.

In the world of Hollywood, there have been several times an actor turned down a movie role only for the movie to become a box-office hit or cult classic. The actor then realizes that he has missed out on movie history. This is where regret sets in. These are ten actors who turned down movie roles and ultimately regretted it.

Related: Top 10 Serious Movies Starring Comedy Actors

10 Denzel Washington: Michael Clayton (2007)

Roles That Got Away: Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg Discuss The Roles They Passed On

Michael Clayton is a 2007 American legal thriller film starring George Clooney. The movie was a commercial success in that it grossed $93 million in box office sales on a budget of $21.5 million. Denzel Washington was supposed to act in the role of Michael Clayton, a “fixer” for a prestigious New York City law firm. He, however, turned down the role, and the part went to George Clooney.

In retrospect, Denzel Washington has regretted turning down the movie role. He admitted that the movie script was the best material he had read in a long-time, but he was nervous about shooting with a first-time director. The actor stated that if he could go back in time, he would accept to play the part of Michael Clayton in the movie.[1]

9 Madonna: The Matrix (1999)

Madonna’s Biggest Regret Was Turning Down a Role in The Matrix | Drew’s News

The Matrix is a 1999 science-fiction action film written and directed by the Wachowskis—a complete commercial success that grossed $467.2 million on a budget of $63 million. The movie has some successful sequels. The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, both released in the year 2003, were box-office hits.

The “Queen Of Pop,” Madonna, was offered the role of Trinity in The Matrix, but she turned it down. Initially, she thought it was the worst script. Despite having a music career that is incomparable to many, Madonna regrets passing up the acting role. Now, Madonna believes that The Matrix is one of the best movies ever made, and she has yet to forgive herself for passing up a role in the movie.[2]

8 Matt Damon: Avatar (2009)

Matt Damon Explains Why He Turned Down ‘Avatar’

Matt Damon is an American actor, film producer, and screenwriter. Although he is one of the most successful actors of this generation, he passed up the opportunity to play a role in the movie Avatar. This film is now widely regarded as one of the most successful movies in box office history, grossing $2.306 billion on a budget of $350-460 million.

Matt Damon was offered the lead role in the movie, but he declined, and Sam Worthington took his place. What made this worse for Matt Damon is that the offer came with a deal of ten percent of the movie’s profits—more than $200 million lost by the actor. Matt Damon has admitted that turning down the movie is his biggest career regret because he turned down the opportunity to work with celebrity director James Cameron and missed out on being in a movie that has now become a cult classic. Matt Damon disclosed the two reasons that made him to turn down the movie role—his commitment to the Bourne franchise and that Avatar would have sequels.[3]

7 Christina Applegate: Legally Blonde (2001)

Christina Applegate Regrets ‘Stupid Move’ to Turn Down ‘Legally Blonde’

Legally Blonde is a 2001 American romantic comedy film. The movie was a huge commercial success, grossing $141.8 million on a budget of $18 million. Christina Applegate rejected a role in the movie because she had been getting several offers to play the role of a dumb blonde woman. When the role in Legally Blonde came along, Christina believed that she had once again been offered another “dumb blonde” role, so she rejected it.

The role eventually went to Reese Witherspoon, which turned her into a household name. Expectedly, Applegate has since regretted the fact that she turned down the role since the movie has become much beloved in the romantic comedy genre.[4]

6 Josh Hartnett: Batman Begins (2005)

Josh Hartnett: Why I turned down ‘Batman Begins’

Batman Begins is a superhero film based on the DC Comics character. Josh Hartnett was offered the lead role in the movie, but he turned down Christopher Nolan’s offer only to regret it. In an interview, Josh Hartnett stated that the decision had a detrimental effect on his acting career.

The movie Batman Begins became a commercial hit. On the other hand, the movies that Josh Hartnett decided to commit himself to in place of “Batman Begins—Lucky Number Slevin (2006) and The Black Dahlia (2006)—failed to become commercial hits. What worsened Hartnett’s regret is that rejecting a role in Batman Begins hampered his ability to develop a great relationship with Christopher Nolan.[5]

5 Bruce Willis: Ghost (1990)

Molly Finally Believes – Ghost (9/10) Movie CLIP (1990) HD

Bruce Willis has had a great acting career, and you might be surprised that he could have any regrets about his acting career. We are, however, aware that he regrets turning down the lead role in Ghost (1990). The role was played by Patrick Swayze.

During the planning phase of the movie, Willis was approached to play the lead role, but he didn’t believe that the concept of a romantic relationship between a ghost and a living person could work on the screen, so he decided to pass on it. He regretted the decision when the movie was released.

The movie was an instant hit, grossing $505.7 million on a budget of $22-23 million. Bruce Willis also regrets not seizing the opportunity to work alongside his then-wife, Demi Moore, who was cast as the female lead.[6]

4 Kevin Costner: The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Tim Robbins Quizzes Stephen About “The Shawshank Redemption,” A Movie Stephen Has Never Seen

The Shawshank Redemption is a 1994 American drama film. When Castle Rock Entertainment moved to turn Frank Darabont’s screenplay adaptation of Stephen King’s novella “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” into a movie, several A-listers were approached for the part of the protagonist, Andy Dufresne. The producers of the movie had to settle for Tim Robbins.

Kevin Costner was one of the stars approached, but he turned down the role because he was busy shooting the movie Waterworld (1995). Shawshank Redemption ended up receiving positive reviews and was nominated for seven Oscars. And it has also grown over the years to become a cult classic. On the other hand, Waterworld only grossed $264 million, despite having a budget of $235 million. Kevin Costner has since expressed his regrets on record.[7]

3 Eddie Murphy: Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

The Iconic Disney Role Eddie Murphy Regrets Turning Down

Eddie Murphy is a recognizable name in Hollywood. He has led some huge franchises, such as Beverly Hills Cop and Shrek. And he is known all over the world for the movie Coming to America (1988).

Eddie Murphy, however, has a career regret that he has admitted—turning down the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988). The movie was acclaimed for its storyline and its perfect blend of live-action and animation. It became a box-office hit, grossing $351,500,000 on a budget of $70,000,000. The producers originally wanted Eddie Murphy to play the lead role but had to settle for Bob Hoskins. The movie ended up bagging three Academy Awards in recognition of its unique visual and sound effects.[8]

2 Sean Connery: Lord of the Rings (2001–2003)

Actors Who Refused Roles In Lord Of The Rings

Sean Connery is a successful Hollywood actor and the first to portray fictional British secret agent James Bond on film. He went ahead to act in seven James Bond movies between 1962 and 1983. While it is arguable that Sean Connery would have only a few career regrets, there is one that we are all aware of—Sean Connery turned down the role of Gandalf, the Wizard sent to Middle Earth to fight Sauron in the movie The Lord of the Rings.

The movie is a series of three epic fantasy adventure films based on the novel The Lord of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Not only did Sean Connery lose out on this epic classic, but he also lost over $400 million in the process. He was offered $30 million per film and also fifteen percent of the box-office profits—all these he turned down. So much was Sean Connery’s regret that he apologized for turning down the movie.[9]

1 Lindsay Lohan: The Hangover (2009)

The Hangover (2009) Official Trailer #1 – Comedy Movie

The movie The Hangover is an American comedy movie directed by Todd Philips and the first installment in The Hangover trilogy. The film was a box-office success, grossing $469.3 million on a budget of $35 million. During the making of the movie, it didn’t hold much promise because of the budget, but the innovative thinking of the director made the movie a remarkable success.

Sadly, Lindsay Lohan chose not to be part of the remarkable story. Even though she was struggling career-wise when the movie was being made, she, unfortunately, turned down the role she was offered because she couldn’t see the big picture. The Hangover would go ahead and become a cult classic, spawning two sequels.

The two sequels were also commercially successful. The Hangover II had a budget of $80 million and grossed $586.8 million in box-office sales, while The Hangover III has grossed $362,000,072 on a budget of $103,000,000.[10]

fact checked by Darci Heikkinen