21 movie stars who turned down iconic roles.

Could you imagine anyone other than Sarah Jessica Parker playing the role of Carrie Bradshaw? We definitely can’t.

In our heads, SJP was always meant to be the lead in Sex and the City, writing about her sexcapades (or sometimes, lack thereof) and looking stunning no matter what she pulled out of that enormous damn wardrobe of hers.

Seriously, we challenge you to imagine another actress in that role. Can you picture Katie Holmes wearing that fabulous Vivienne Westwood with a bird on her head? How about Nicole Kidman in the arms of Mr. Big or Aiden? And Gwyneth Paltrow could never have pulled off the bag and shoe stealing scene with that same panache.

Watch the trailer for the Sex And The City reboot, And Just Like That. Post continues after video. 

Video via HBO.

And Matthew Broderick is not Matthew Broderick. He is Ferris Bueller. You know, the bad boy who skipped school, did the Twist and Shout on national live TV and ‘borrowed’ a Ferrari. And he stole our hearts by doing so.

But the actors in these cult classics weren’t necessarily destined to play those roles.


In fact, some of our best loved stars were only made famous by the film and TV roles that they were never supposed to have.

Here are 20 A-listers we know and love, who turned down golden movie and TV roles. 

Liam Neeson turned down the James Bond in the 1995 film GoldenEye.

The role went to Pierce Brosnan instead. 

Liam Neeson and Pierce Brosnan. Image: Getty.

Tom Cruise turned down the role of Edward Scissorhands in the 90s cult classic film Edward Scissorhands. 

The role went to Johnny Depp instead. 


Tom Cruise and Johnny Depp. Image: Getty.

Sir Sean Connery turned down the role of Gandalf in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy.

The role was played by Ian McKellen instead. 

Sir Sean Connery and Ian Mckellan. Image: Getty.


Pierce Brosnan turned down the role of Batman in Tim Burton's 1989 film Batman. 

Micheal Keaton took on the role instead.

Pierce Brosnan and Micheal Keaton. Image: Getty.


Laurence Fishburne turned down Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction.  

Samuel L. Jackson played the role instead. 

Laurence Fishburne and Samuel L. Jackson. Image: Getty.


Anne Hathaway turned down Alison Scott in Knocked Up. 

Katherine Heigl played the role instead. 

Anne Hathaway and Katherine Heigl. Image: Getty.

Jason Momoa turned down Drax the Destroyer in Guardians of the Galaxy.

The role was played by Dave Bautista instead. 


Jason Momoa and Dave Bautista. Image: Getty.

Charlize Theron turned down Hippolyta (Wonder Woman's mother) in Wonder Woman.

The role went to Connie Nielsen instead.

Charlize Theron and Connie Nielsen. Image: Getty.


Mark Wahlberg turned down a leading role in Brokeback Mountain.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger played the starring roles. 

Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Wahlberg and Heath Ledger. Image: Getty.


He also turned down the role of Donnie in Donnie Darko. 

Jake Gyllenhaal ended up taking the role. 

Mark Wahlberg and Jake Gyllenhaal. Image: Getty.


Desperate Housewives star Dana Delany turned down Carrie Bradshaw in Sex And The City.

None other than Sarah Jessica Parker took the role. 

Dana Delany and Sarah Jessica Parker. Image: Getty.


Paul Giamatti turned down Michael Scott in The Office.

The role went to Steve Carell instead.

Paul Giamatti and Steve Carell. Image: Getty.

Bridget Fonda turned down Ally McBeal in Ally McBeal.

The role went to Calista Flockhart instead.

Bridget Fonda and Calista Flockhart. Image: Getty.


Mel Gibson turned down Maximus in Gladiator.

The role went to Russell Crowe instead.

Russell Crowe and Mel Gibson. Image: Getty.


Mel Gibson and Russell Crowe. Image: Getty.


Emily Browning turned down Bella Swan in Twilight.

Kristen Stewart took on the role instead. 

Emily Browning and Kristen Stewart. Image: Getty.


Ryan Reynolds turned down Xander Harris in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The role went to Nicholas Brendon instead.

Ryan Reynolds and Nicholas Brendon. Image: Getty.

Emily Blunt turned down Black Widow in Iron Man 2 / The Avengers.

Scarlett Johansson took the role instead.

Emily Blunt and Scarlett Johansson. Image: Getty.


Michael Richards turned down Adrian Monk in Monk.

Tony Shalhoub took the role instead.

Michael Richards and Tony Shalhoub. Image: Getty.


Jack Nicholson turned down Michael Corleone in the Godfather.

The role went to Al Pacino instead.

Jack Nicholson and Al Pacino. Image: Getty.


John Travolta turned down Forrest Gump in Forrest Gump.

Tom Hanks got the role instead.

John Travolta and Tom Hanks. Image: Getty.


Julia Roberts turned down Leigh Ann Tuohy in the Blind Side. 

Sandra Bullock went on to take the role.

Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock. Image: Getty.

Which famous actors and actresses would you have preferred to see in iconic roles?

This article was originally published on July 28, 2012 and was updated on January 3, 2022.

Feature Image: Getty / HBO / Paramount. 

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