These 18 Actors Regret Turning Down Roles That Could’ve Changed The Course Of Their Careers

“I look back at the choices I’ve made and think, ‘Why the hell did I say yes to that? And no to that?’” —Gwyneth Paltrow

1. Will Smith said he would like to travel back in time and tell himself to take the role of Neo in The Matrix instead of doing Wild Wild West.

He told Fox Chicago, “I would say, ‘Asshole, why didn’t you do The Matrix?'”

2. Henry Winkler regretted turning down the role of Danny Zuko in Grease because “John Travolta went on to buy his own plane, and I just went home.”

He told Digital Spy,“….But I decided I didn’t want to be typecast [since he was already playing the Fonz]. But what I didn’t realize was that I already was.”

3. Christina Applegate said that turning down the role of Elle Woods in Legally Blonde was “a stupid move.”

She told ET Online that she “got scared” of being typecast as a “dumb blonde” after playing Kelly Bundy on Married…with Children.

4. Josh Hartnett wished he’d accepted the role of Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins because it would’ve enabled him to form a professional relationship with director Christopher Nolan.

He told the Guardian, “I decided it wasn’t for me. Then he didn’t want to put me in The Prestige. They not only hired their Batman [Christian Bale] for it, they also hired my girlfriend [Scarlett Johansson] at the time.”

5. Leonardo DiCaprio wished he’d accepted the role of Eddie Adams/Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights because of how much he loved the movie.

He accepted the part of Jack Dawson in Titanic instead. He told GQ, “I think they’re both great and wish I could have done them both.”

6. Halle Berry admitted she “stupidly said no” to the role of Annie Porter in Speed.

She told People, “But in my defense, when I read the script, the bus didn’t leave the parking lot. I was like no, no, no, no. Then I see the movie and I’m like, ‘Arrrrghh.’”

7. Bruce Willis called himself a “knucklehead” for turning down the role of Sam Wheat in Ghost.

He told the New York Times, “I just didn’t get it. I said, ‘Hey, the guy’s dead. How are you gonna have a romance?’ Famous last words.”

8. Marilyn Monroe turned down the role of Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s in favor of The Misfits, which was written by her husband Arthur Miller and allegedly led to the end of their marriage.

In the film, it is alluded to that the character is a “call girl,” and Marilyn was advised that playing Holly would tarnish her image.

9. Al Pacino jokingly referred to his decision to turn down the role of Han Solo in Star Wars as “another missed opportunity.”

He told MTV, “I remember not understanding it when I read it.”

10. Nicolas Cage said he “would have benefitted from” taking the role of Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

He told Newsweek, “There were different things going on in my life at the time that precluded me from being able to travel and be away from home for three years.”

11. Denzel Washington said he was wrong to be nervous about working with a first-time director when he turned down the role of the titular character in Michael Clayton.

He told GQ that the script was “the best material I had read in a long time.”

12. Kevin Costner said he regrets turning down the role of Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption.

He couldn’t accept the role because he was too busy filming Waterworld.

13. Gwyneth Paltrow, who was one of the final two choices for Rose DeWitt Bukater in Titanic, lamented that she “couldn’t change the past.”

She told Howard Stern, “I look back at the choices I’ve made and think, ‘Why the hell did I say yes to that? And no to that?’ And you know, you look at the big picture and think: There’s a universal lesson here. What good is it to hold onto roles?”

14. Michelle Pfeiffer turned down the role of Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs, but she regrets that she missed out on doing another movie with director Jonathan Demme.

She told the New Yorker that she turned down the role because “there was such evil in that film.”

15. Burt Reynolds turned down replacing Sean Connery as James Bond because he didn’t think people would accept an American in the role, but he later said that was a “stupid thing to say.”

He told USA Today, “I could’ve done it, and I could’ve done it well.”

16. John Lithgow successfully convinced Tim Burton he wasn’t right for the role of the Joker in Batman because he didn’t realize what a big deal the film would be.

He told Vulture, “I was doing M. Butterfly on Broadway, and it was an exhausting show. It would have meant leaving that show and going right into a movie, and I said, ‘I just don’t think I can.’ How about that for stupid? Actors are not necessarily smart people.”

17. Michael Keaton regretted passing up the role of Phil Connors in Groundhog Day.

At the time, he didn’t quite “get” the script. He told EW, “This guy sounds like the kind of wry, sardonic, glib young man I’ve played — and it ended up being so great.”

18. And lastly, Eddie Murphy said the only role he turned down that became a big hit was Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

He told Jimmy Fallon that he wasn’t interested in doing a movie that combined live action with animation, but he regrets the decision whenever he sees the movie playing.

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