Top 10 Actors Who Almost Quit Iconic Roles

Top 10 Actors Who Almost Quit Iconic Roles
VOICE OVER: Matthew Wende
Written by Matt Wende

Actors and actresses who were so angry and frustrated on set while playing iconic roles that they almost quit the movie completely. WatchMojo presents the our list of Top 10 Actors who came within inches of walking away from their most famous roles forever! But who will take the spot? Tippi Hedren from the Birds, Shelley Duvall, from the Shining, or Jim Carrey from How the Grinch Stole Christmas? Watch to find out!

Watch on WatchMojo:

Big thanks to Shawn Mark, aldqbigsquare, and Andrew Warren for suggesting this idea, and to see how WatchMojo users voted, check out the suggest page here: http://WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top%2010%20%20Scenes%20That%20Almost%20Made%20Actors%20Quit

Does acting seem like a dream job to you? Well, it’s not all red carpets and film premieres; actors have a breaking point, and if pushed too far, they will quit…almost. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Actors Who Almost Quit Iconic Roles.

For this list, we’re looking at actors who appeared in famous roles, but as a result of struggles on-set came within inches of walking away. There may not always be a record of these actors trying to quit, but given these scenarios we certainly wouldn't have blamed them if they had. We’re limiting our picks to movies, so no television roles will appear on this list.

#10: Ian McKellen
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” (2012)

After appearing in the original “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, Sir Ian McKellen returned to portray Gandalf the Grey in the Hobbit prequel series. While clever forced perspective techniques were used in the original trilogy to show the wizard interacting with characters nearly half his size, when shooting in Bag-end for “The Hobbit,” McKellen was shot separately on a green screen. Using some quick CGI magic, the actor was made to appear much taller than his co-stars. For McKellen however, the experience of acting without his co-stars was immensely frustrating and isolating. As a result, he contemplated not just quitting the movie, but the entire acting profession. Thankfully, Peter Jackson noticed and successfully encouraged McKellen to push through.

#9: Al Pacino
“The Godfather” (1972)

You know that feeling when you’re just not wanted? Pacino does. Before he’d proven himself to be the star he is, Al Pacino was not the first pick of film producers for the role of Michael Corleone in “The Godfather.” Feeling the hostility on set and acutely aware of the fact that the studio heads wanted him gone, Pacino nearly walked away from what would become his breakthrough role. Thankfully, director Francis Ford Coppola was supportive and convinced young Al to tough it out. The film went on to win Oscars for Writing, Best Actor in a Lead Role and Best Picture. Among the other eight nominations... was one for Pacino as Best Supporting Actor.

#8: Gene Hackman
“The French Connection” (1971)

We’ve seen actors almost quit because of unreasonable demands and hostility in the workplace, but what about when you just hate your boss? Gene Hackman famously clashed with Director William Friedkin on set of “The French Connection.” It certainly didn’t help things when Hackman found out he wasn’t Friedkin’s first choice for the role. Tensions came to a boiling point when filming the scene in which Hackman tackles a suspect while wearing a Santa suit; the director called for 27 takes. Almost too much for the seasoned actor, Hackman was ready to quit. It’s a good thing he stuck around however; as he went on to take home an Oscar for the role.

#7: Carl Weathers
“Rocky IV” (1985)

In the fourth Rocky installment, Carl Weathers’ Apollo Creed goes toe to toe with Dolph Lundgren’s Ivan Drago, in what proves to be the fight of a lifetime. But during filming, the scene got a little too rough for Carl Weathers’ tastes. In one take, Lundgren, getting into the role, threw Weathers across the ring, which the Apollo Creed actor didn’t take well. Actually, he allegedly left the ring swearing. And in fact, he didn’t just threaten to quit… he did quit! Fortunately, after a few days, Sylvester Stallone managed to convince Weathers to return to the set, and production was able to finish.

#6: Mike Myers
“Wayne’s World” (1992)

When Mike Myers and Dana Carvey took this popular SNL sketch to the big screen, the end result was an absolute classic. But a disagreement while shooting one of the film’s most memorable scenes almost ended production. The “Wayne’s World” crew famously headbangs to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” while driving around, but the producers were not keen on licensing the iconic song. They wanted to go with something more recent and cheaper, like… Guns N’ Roses. Myers’ put his foot down though, threatening to walk unless the timeless Queen song was used. He got his way, but just imagine for a second… [Headbanging with “Welcome to the Jungle” over top] No, we didn’t think so.

#5: Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio
“The Abyss” (1989)

The set of “The Abyss” was a nightmarish experience for most people involved. With the crew and actors diving into a giant water tank, the days were long, exhausting, and wet. The straw that nearly broke the camel’s back fell while filming the scene in which Mastrantonio’s character drowns and needs to be resuscitated. As she lay soaking wet on a metal floor, being slapped and screamed at by Ed Harris, the camera ran out of film, forcing shooting to stop. An understandably frustrated Mastrantonio ran off the set screaming, and nearly quit altogether. She eventually returned however, ultimately giving Cameron enough footage to work with.

#4: Daisy Ridley
“Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens” (2015)

Most actors would kill for a role in “Star Wars,” but when you actually land one, as Daisy Ridley discovered when she got the part of Rey, you suddenly find yourself with a lot of weight on your shoulders. It is, after all, the lead role in one of the biggest movie franchises of all time. On her first day on set, director J.J. Abrams gave her the feedback that her performance was “wooden.” Upon hearing this, Ridley had a slight panic attack, and reportedly considered walking away from the project due to the pressure. Luckily she didn’t, and both Abrams and fans alike were delighted with her performance as the saga’s newest heroine.

#3: Jim Carrey
“Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (2000)

There’s no denying that Jim Carrey was the perfect actor to bring Dr. Seuss’s Christmas-hating Grinch to life. But production hit an early snag that almost ended his involvement. The first time Carrey had the makeup applied, it took 8 and a half hours! He stormed back to his trailer in a rage, telling director Ron Howard that he would be quitting the production. Although they would eventually get the process down to four hours, in the interim an expert from the CIA was brought in to teach Carrey to withstand torture. In the end, as Carrey stated on “The Graham Norton Show,” what got him through the process was a combination of smoking and the Bee Gees.

#2: Shelley Duvall
“The Shining” (1980)

So, you think your boss is a control freak? Try working with Stanley Kubrick. The legendary director was notorious for pushing his actors to their limits, and in keeping with that reputation, he drove Shelley Duvall so hard on the set of this 1980 horror film that her hair began to fall out. As her character spends pretty much the whole second half of the film under the threat of death, Duvall was constantly dehydrated and exhausted from all the petrified running, screaming and crying. On top of that, in the horrifying scene in which she uses a bat to defend herself against a crazed Jack, Kubrick demanded 127 takes. Duvall has called the experience “almost unbearable.”

Before we reveal our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Emma Watson
“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” (2007)

- Russell Crowe
“Robin Hood” (2010)

- Brad Pitt
“Interview with the Vampire” (1994)

#1: Tippi Hedren
“The Birds” (1963)

Another demanding director on set, Alfred Hitchcock insisted that Hedren’s fear of the birds seem genuine in the film. To achieve his desired result, without Hedren’s knowledge, Hitchcock went back on his promise to the actress that the birds would be mechanical and instead used real ones. So, during takes, members of the crew actually threw live birds at the terrified actress. After 5 days of this treatment, she experienced a breakdown and only returned to set after a doctor-mandated week off to recuperate and rest. A word of advice to any directors, CEOs, managers or bosses watching: if you want your employees to stick around... probably a good idea to not throw live animals at them without their consent.

Do you agree with our list? Would you put up with this sort of nonsense at work if it came with a Hollywood-sized paycheck? For more iconic Top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to