VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
WRITTEN BY: Michael Wynands
Imagine if these films starred the people who the writers actually envisioned? For this list, we'll be looking at specific roles in films which are confirmed, rumored, or suspected to have been written with a specific actor in mind, but were ultimately played by someone else. Our countdown includes actors such as Harrison Ford, Lindsay Lohan, Tom Hanks and more!
Script written by Michael Wynands
Top 10 Actors Who Missed Out on Roles Written for Them
Imagine if these films starred the people who the writers actually envisioned? Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Actors Who Missed Out on Roles Written for Them.
For this list, we’ll be looking at specific roles in films which are confirmed, rumored, or suspected to have been written with a specific actor in mind, but were ultimately played by someone else. Though most of these missed opportunities were the result of the actors in question passing on the role, we’ll also be including actors who couldn’t play roles due to an untimely death or some other impediment beyond their control.
#10: Harrison Ford as Dr. Alan Grant
“Jurassic Park” (1993)
In retrospect, it’s really hard to imagine anyone other than Sam Neill in the role of the slightly curmudgeonly, cynical Dr. Alan Grant. But dissect the character - really break him down to his elemental parts - and you begin to see a whole lot of Harrison Ford. The fashion sense, for starters, feels very Indiana Jones - as does the attitude. That balance of intelligence and resourcefulness - that’s what Ford does best. And sure enough, Spielberg (who also directed the Indiana Jones films) offered him the role first, but Ford passed on the opportunity. Weird choice… but we get wanting to avoid being typecast. And so Sam Neill got the part instead!
#9: George Clooney as Jack Frost
“Jack Frost” (1998)
The special effects used to bring the titular snowman to life in “Jack Frost” were impressive for the time, though not necessarily endearing; he is pure nightmare fuel. But look a little bit closer at Jack Frost’s face and you begin to see an uncanny resemblance to a certain handsome leading man - and it ain’t Michael Keaton. Turns out that Jim Henson’s Creature Shop had already designed the animatronic to resemble Clooney before the latter jumped ship to star in “Batman & Robin.” Clooney dodged a bullet with “Jack Frost”... only to be hit with a cannonball! Interestingly enough, the lead role in “Our Brand Is Crisis” was also penned with Clooney in mind, but he chose to simply produce with Sandra Bullock starring instead.
#8: Sylvester Stallone as Axel Foley
“Beverly Hills Cop” (1984)
Well… this certainly would have made for a very different sort of movie. Eddie Murphy might not be the most natural of action stars, but this movie succeeds first and foremost thanks to his incomparable comedic chops. Now, while we find Sly to be plenty charming and charismatic when the script calls for it… a funny guy he is not. Which is perhaps why he gave the script such a dramatic rewrite when it was presented to him - effectively leaving all the jokes on the cutting room floor. His vision was far more hard-hitting, but also called for a much bigger budget. And so Murphy was called in, it once again became an action-comedy, and the rest is cinematic history.
#7: Richard Pryor as Sheriff Bart
“Blazing Saddles” (1974)
Let’s start off by acknowledging that Cleavon Little is pitch-perfect as Sheriff Bart. He expertly plays off of Gene Wilder (which is no small feat) and is a crucial part of what makes “Blazing Saddles” the enduring classic that it is today. But considering comedy legend Richard Pryor was one of the writers who helped to concoct this unique and zany satirical black comedy-western, might not he have been the logical star? Is it so far-fetched to believe that Pryor might have been writing that role for himself? Nope! In fact, Mel Brooks had always imagined Pryor in the role, but unfortunately, drug-related charges made Pryor difficult to insure, and so his role was limited to that of a screenwriter.
#6: Lindsay Lohan as Jade
“The Hangover” (2009)
In this unexpected 2009 hit comedy by director Todd Phillips, a wild bachelor party results in a lot of bad decisions and a whole lot of missing memories. Among other shenanigans, mild-mannered dentist Stu Price gets married to a stripper and single-mother, Jade. Heather Graham plays the part and plays it perfectly. She is the very definition of the stripper with a heart of gold. Before she owned the role, however, the part was offered to Lindsay Lohan, who reportedly dismissed the opportunity, stating that the script "had no potential." Owch. Apparently she’s not the best judge of scripts; the film made a fortune at the box office and even performed well with critics.
#5: Marilyn Monroe as Holly Golightly
“Breakfast at Tiffany's” (1961)
Directed by Blake Edwards and adapted from the 1958 Truman Capote novella by the same name, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” is a classic. And while Audrey Hepburn starred in more than her fair share of famous roles, there is perhaps none more iconic than that of Holly Golightly. Hard though it might be to imagine, the role very nearly went to another silver screen legend of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Marilyn Monroe. Capote himself had always wanted Monroe to play the part - so much so that Holly’s description resembles that of the blonde sex symbol. The screenplay was even tailored around her. But Monroe ultimately turned down the role on the advice of acting legend and mentor Lee Strasberg.
#4: Tom Hanks as Jerry Maguire
“Jerry Maguire” (1996)
This one is really tough to imagine. As Jerry Maguire, Tom Cruise strikes a careful balance of fast-talking narcissism with just enough heartfelt earnestness to win you back when his ego drives you away. But it turns out that when filmmaker Cameron Crowe began penning the script, he did it with Tom Hanks in mind. The problem? He spent so long working on the script that by the time it was ready, he felt that Hanks had aged out of the role. It was offered to Hanks nonetheless, but he ultimately passed. They say that “all’s well that ends well” and in the case of casting Jerry Maguire, that’s true. Tom Hanks is a living legend, but a hotshot sports agent, not so much.
#3: Matt Damon as Jake Sully
Boy oh boy does Matt Damon ever know how to pick the wrong movie. He gave up the lead role in “Manchester by the Sea,” which came out the same year he starred in “The Great Wall.” Yikes. But that wasn’t his first misstep. He passed on the starring role in what would go on to become the highest-grossing film of its time. When penning “Avatar,” James Cameron is said to have envisioned Matt Damon as Jake Sully - a role that ultimately went to Sam Worthington. So what was Matt’s excuse this time? He didn’t want to cause problems on “The Bourne Ultimatum.” Fair enough, you’ve gotta respect his commitment. The real kicker though? Cameron allegedly offered him 10% of the box office profits.
#2: Prince as Ruby Rhod
“The Fifth Element” (1997)
Chris Tucker has played a wide assortment of roles over the years, but none have come anywhere close to being quite as strange or unique as Ruby Rhod. This brightly-colored, effeminate, and flamboyant talk show host felt like a strange fit for the typically smart-mouthed but traditionally masculine actor, but he managed to pull off the transformation. And as most cinemagoers would agree, he does it by channeling his inner Prince. Well, as it turns out, Prince is specifically who writer/director Luc Besson had in mind when creating the character - which certainly explains Ruby’s distinct aesthetic. Unfortunately, while Prince was reportedly on board, his tour dates made scheduling impossible.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few dishonorable mentions
Jennifer Connelly as Veronica Sawyer
James Woods - Unconfirmed Role
“Reservoir Dogs” (1992)
Warren Beatty as Bill
“Kill Bill: Volume 2” (2004)
John Travolta as Forrest Gump
“Forrest Gump” (1994)
Bette Midler as Deloris Van Cartier
“Sister Act” (1992)
#1: John Belushi as Peter Venkman (PLUS John Candy & Eddie Murphy)
This 1984 supernatural comedy is an absolute classic. It’s now all but impossible to imagine any other faces rocking those proton packs. But we very nearly got a totally different crew of Ghostbusters. According to Dan Aykroyd, when he was penning the script it was intended as another collaboration with his friend and “SNL” co-star John Belushi. Not only that, but Eddie Murphy also reportedly had a key role, which many assume evolved into Ernie Hudson’s Winston. John Candy was also offered the role of Louis Tully, but passed. Sadly, Belushi died of an overdose before the film went into production. In fact, Aykroyd was writing a line of dialogue for Belushi’s character when he received the call to tell him about his friend’s passing.