Some roles end up being big money makers that will forever tie an actor or actress to that specific role. You can hardly imagine anyone else playing that character and movie studios are generally pretty reluctant to recast those roles to avoid alienating a part of their audience. But despite all that, most movie studios initially had someone else planned for their iconic role but got shot down.
Let’s take a look at some actors that turned down roles that later ended up being hugely successful at the box office.
Josh Hartnett – Superman
Josh didn’t want to join the Superman Returns movie because he felt like it would tie him into the stereotypical action star roles. You could argue that he’s right, but I wonder if Josh still feels that way in hindsight. After 2006’s Lucky Number Slevin, he’s barely had any work as an actor anymore. Not saying Brandon Routh is doing much better though.
Nicolas Cage – Aragorn, Lord of the Rings
Holy crap, can you imagine? Thankfully Nicolas Cage didn’t want to leave his house for such a long period of time so he had to decline Peter Jackson’s offer to become the first live action Aragorn, and if there is a God, this was His doing. I just can’t imagine Nic Cage being a decent Aragorn by any stretch of the imagination.
Ja Rule – Tej Parker, The Fast and the Furious
Granted, it must not have sounded like it’d be a well-earning role in a decade-long movie franchise at the time, but Ja Rule was initially asked to play Tej in the Fast and the Furious movies. While Ja Rule wanted to do other acting roles, Ludacris has since probably never had to worry about employment or money since those movies just keep coming and they’re all financially profitable.
Laurence Fishburne – Jules, Pulp Fiction
Much like we couldn’t imagine Samuel L. Jackson playing Morpheus in the Matrix movies, it’s equally hard to imagine Laurence Fishburne as Jules Winnfield. Tarantino disagreed with that and initially asked Fishburne if he wanted to play the part, but the actor refused. I think we can all only be grateful for that.
Matthew Broderick – Walter White, Breaking Bad
Matthew Broderick must really regret not accepting the part of Walter White. Bryan Cranston turned it into one of the most iconic tv show characters of all time and meanwhile Matthew Broderick has shifted his focus to mostly doing voice-overs.
Michael Madsen – Vincent Vega, Pulp Fiction
Yes, the other half of this iconic Pulp Fiction duo wasn’t supposed to be the actor it ended up being either. Michael Madsen was initially asked to play the part but had to refuse due to scheduling conflicts. Another clear fact that this part was written for Michael is that two years prior, he played Mr. Blonde (known as Vic Vega) in Reservoir Dogs.
Claire Danes – Rose, Titanic
It’s a bit odd to imagine this not being Kate Winslet, but apparently the role was handed to Claire Danes first. She didn’t want to do it because she was a bit bored with her recent roles at the time and had just finished doing a movie with Leonardo DiCaprio. But would she have let him get on the door, though?