In the film industry, there has always been interesting stories about the choice of leading and supporting actors and actresses by film producers. Like any other story, there is always three sides to these stories: the producer’s, the actor’s/actress’s and the vigorously sought after truth. However, the articles that are the most controversial are those of actors declining roles in films that either turn out to be achievements or catastrophic flops in history. In some cases, this has resulted in bad blood between the actors and producers, due to revelations of hidden feelings between them. In most cases, however, this has resulted in many actors becoming household names, while previously infamous producers gained good publicity.
10. Matt Damon
When Daredevil, the theater version was released in 2003 with Ben Affleck being the lead actor, it showcased the Marvel comic characters. Therefore it gained commendations for its brilliant work in superhero graphics, but also criticism mainly because of it’s gratuitous bloodshed. The producer, Mark Steven Johnson had initially asked Matt Damon to come on board as the star.
Damon declined his offer saying he didn’t know the producer well enough and also that the script didn’t quite interest him. This lead to Johnson settling for Batman star Ben Affleck. This was not the first time that Matt Damon declined offers to star in bigshot movies. He had been approached by the producer of Avatar James Cameron to be the lead actor in Avatar. However, he declined this offer too, stating that his schedule at the time wouldn’t allow it. He had been starring in Bourne Ultimatum at the time, but commended the Avatar script as being well written. Avatar eventually went on air in 2009. The Star Trek producers had also invited Matt Damon to play the supporting role of James T. Kirk’s dad, but he declined the offer and it was taken up by Chris Hemsworth. The producers said it was good riddance, for it would’ve been distracting for the famous actor to take up a supporting role.
9. Matthew McConaughey
In Guardians of the Galaxy 2 produced in 2017, Kurt Russell stars perfectly well as Chris Pratt’s father in the movie, with its producer being James Gunn. This Marvel production gained massive attention and love from many, making it a successful film. However, before this role was assigned to him, James had asked Matthew McConaughey to star in the movie. He declined to say that he felt that joining Guardians of the Galaxy while it was already a success would make him feel like an amendment rather than being in a film from scratch. He opted for the movie version of Stephen King’s series of books The Dark Tower instead, where he managed to star as The Man in Black.
With its director being Nikolaj Arcel, The Dark Tower didn’t gain as much popularity as Guardians of the Galaxy did. Interestingly, when Magic Mike XXL was released in 2015, it was to everyone’s surprise that McConaughey did not proceed with his role as Dallas like in Magic Mike. It’s director, Greg Jacobs explained the reason why Matthew no longer starred was that he felt that he didn’t want to simply remake the previous film, but suspicions are that Matthew was simply too busy for it.
8. Denzel Washington
Denzel Washington is famously known for his anti-racist attitude, which puts him in a positive limelight, but has also made him decline a couple of films for that same reason. This was particularly evident in his defense of the Fences production. Denzel also declined acting as a detective in Se7en, but for other reasons. He claimed he wasn’t familiar with the producer but after the film gained popularity, he regretted his decision. The role was eventually filled by Morgan Freeman, co-starring Brad Pitt and the film was successfully released in 1995. At the time, he had opted for Devil in a Blue Dress instead in 1995, a screenplay written and the movie directed by Carl Franklin, produced by Mike Bean. In the neo-noir mystery movie, he plays a WWII veteran down on his luck who accepts an offer from a stranger to find a woman.
In 2007, when George Clooney played the lead in Michael Clayton, word went round that Denzel had been offered this role first but had declined. This was confirmed by the production company and said that Denzel declined this offer giving the same reason he had given upon declining Se7en. This too was a decision he later regretted.
7. Charlie Hunnam
Let’s admit it, we all loved the Fifty Shades of Grey novel. Better still was when its film release was announced in 2013. However, Sons of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnam did not take the lead as we all expected. The role was gunned by Jamie Dornan instead. Charlie explained that at the moment he was still hung up on Sons of Anarchy that saw him playing outlaw biker Jax Teller in the FX drama that ran from 2008 to 2014.
Hunnam had originally been signed to play Christian Grey in 2013, however, he also had made a previous commitment to be in another movie, Crimson Peak for Guillermo del Toro. Between preparing for Sons of Anarchy, Crimson Peak and Fifty Shades of Grey, he had something of a nervous breakdown and decided to withdraw from the movie. In Pacific Rim, Charlie did a remarkable job directed by Guillermo del Toro, but when time for Pacific Rim 2 came, he opted out and chose Papillion instead. Apparently, he loved the Papillion script, which was written by Aaron Guzikowski. He said it was a matter of temptations and following his heart since Papillion had originally been played by iconic actor Steve McQueen. Additionally, he declined to play a role in the famous Game of Thrones because his schedule was tight with shooting King Arthur: Legend of the Sword at that time. This was viewed as a bad decision by many, but both films turned out to be quite successful.
6. Leonardo DiCaprio
Once this name is mentioned, Titanic rings. Released in 1997, Titanic gave Leonardo massive popularity in Hollywood and beyond. At the time of shooting Titanic, he had been invited to star in Boogie Nights but recommended his friend Mark Wahlberg in his place. He saw it impossible to star in both films simultaneously and successfully.
However, upon watching the film later, he expressed that had he accepted this role, it would’ve been a plus in his career path. Once Titanic was out and a big success, Leonardo earned numerous invitations to other films but declined what turned out to be an iconic role in The Matrix in 1999. The production company confirmed it when Keanu Reeves was cast as the lead, which eventually panned out pretty well for Reeves, acting as Neo. Leonardo said he couldn’t do The Matrix as he felt the graphical effects would be too many and unnecessary. Leo also turned down a role in Inglourious Bastards, that was offered to him by Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino wanted him to play the Nazi Colonel Landa. He also turned down a role offered by Tom Hanks, with whom he had starred in Catch Me if You Can. Hanks offered him the role of the Camerlengo Patrick McKenna in Angels and Demons that eventually went to Ewan McGregor.
5. Tom Selleck
One of Lawrence Kasdan’s best scripts was Raiders of the Lost Ark, directed by Steven Spielberg and produced in 1981. It cast Harrison Ford as the lead after he had become wildly popular as Han Solo in Star Wars in 1977. However, Tom Selleck of Magnum P.I., Three Men and a Baby, Jesse Stone and Blue Bloods had been sought after initially to play the part of Indiana Jones. It was a tussle and argument between the producer and production company at the time as to whether Selleck should be cast or Ford should. Selleck made their decision easier when he was caught up in contractual obligations for the TV program Magnum P.I. that he had just filmed the pilot for and signed a contract to appear in the show. The production company wouldn’t let him out of the contract, so the role went to Ford. The director at the time was Ray Austin and confirmed this contractual obligation Tom had consented to.
Selleck is also rumored to have turned down the role of The Terminator, but again, contractual obligations to Magnum, P.I. kept him from the taking the role that eventually went to Arnold Schwarzenegger.
4. Harrison Ford
After the tussle between whether Harrison Ford or Tom Selleck would play the lead in Raiders of the Lost Ark among the producers, Harrison Ford gained fame and popularity since he won the role. He was thereafter pursued to star in Jurassic Park by Steven Spielberg, but he declined this role and it was taken up by Sam Neil instead acting as Allan Grant. Jurassic Park was released in 1993. Harrison Ford did not explain why he made this decision and avoided any press questions about it. However many speculate that he did not like the director’s style in movie production. Also, Ford had been pursued about taking up a role in Alien as Captain Dallas, which was eventually played by Tom Skerritt. The famous song Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, meaning ‘a little serenade,’ was the featured song in this film.
Later on, he refused the offer to take the starring role in Die Hard, which was directed by John McTiernan and written by Steven E. de Souza and Jeb Stuart. The role of John McClane was taken up by Bruce Willis eventually, a decision Bruce has never lost sleep over as it led to several other follow up Die Hard movies.
3. Michael Douglas
Michael Douglas quickly rose to fame after being cast in Wall Street as Gordon Gekko, The Game as Nicholas Von Orton and Disclosure as Tom Sanders. He has won numerous accolades including MTV movie awards and People’s Choice awards. Long before him being diagnosed with throat cancer in 2010, he had been requested to play the role of Homer “Ike” Eisenhower Graham in Runaway Bride but declined it, just like Ben Affleck. The film lasted ten years on air under the directorship of Garry Marshall. The role of Ike was given to Richard Gere who was nominated Best Actor in the comedy/romance category of the Blockbuster Entertainment awards. Michael most probably regretted this decision privately, more so because the Blockbuster Entertainment award was the in-thing back then. However, when Michael declined to play the role of Zach in Making Love in 1982, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise because the film wasn’t warmly embraced due to its gay content. Michael Ontkean was then cast as the lead actor and the film was nominated for a Golden Globe award.
2. Burt Reynolds
In the film Terms of Endearment, James Brook wrote the supporting role of Garrett Breedlove with Burt Reynolds in mind, but he declined the offer and it was taken by Jack Nicholson and the film produced in 1983. He later regretted this decision explicitly after Jack won an Oscar Award for it, yet Burt had never garnered an Oscar award at the time. Later on, Burt was invited to succeed John Lazenby as the first American James Bond after Lazenby got a more lucrative job elsewhere and the producers weren’t that impressed with Lazenby’s performance. Burt declined it, believing that an American couldn’t convincingly play the British spy, but regretted this decision later as well. He later said that he was being down on himself in that he didn’t think he could pull off the role. The Bond role eventually was taken up again by Sean Connery.
Reynolds was riding high on his Academy Award nomination for his role in Boogie Nights, Deliverance and popularity from The Longest Yard. This led him to be called upon to play Han Solo in Star Wars, created by George Lucas but declined this as well. When asked about this, he said this was a bad decisions period in his life, but at the time he simply didn’t want to make that type of movie.
1. Jim Carrey
This guy has had equal tones of good and bad publicity over the years. He was slated to appear in Elf as the star from the beginning, but dropped out when production of the movie stalled and didn’t get off the ground for close to another 10 years and Will Ferrell was eventually cast. Eventually, Elf did well at the box office but Jim did not regret his decision to quit as lead. The same thing happened in the Get Smart film when Jim left his role as Maxwell Smart after production of the film halted. In the meantime, Carrey was offered the role of the Grinch in the movie based on the popular Dr. Seuss book, How the Grinch stole Christmas in 2000. He took it up but nearly quit a month shy from shooting the film for he didn’t like all the makeup he had to put on. The producer eventually convinced him into staying. Later on, Jim had signed on for the lead actor in The Beaver after Steve Carell and his director Jay Roach both opted out. After some shooting took place, Jim opted out as well and Mel Gibson took up this role to completion and won for Best Actor in Movies for Grownups awards presented by the AARP.