Can you imagine Friends without Jennifer Aniston? Or Sex and the City without Sarah Jessica Parker? While it’s nearly impossible to imagine other stars playing these iconic characters, it almost happened. And if you think that that’s wild, those are just two examples of many. From Walter White in Breaking Bad to Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, here are 20 famous Hollywood roles that almost went to totally different actors.
20 Famous Hollywood Roles That Almost Went to Other Actors
1. Gwyneth Paltrow: Rose Dewitt Bukater in Titanic
Played by: Kate Winslet
According to ScreenRant, Paltrow was one of the first actresses to be offered the leading role, alongside Winona Ryder and Claire Danes, but they all turned it down. Fortunately, Winslet’s talent and persistence eventually landed her the part. (And ready to really have your mind blown? There’s a screen test with Winslet, where Jack is played by Jeremy Sisto instead of Leonardo DiCaprio.)
2. Johnny Depp: Ferris Bueller in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Played by: Matthew Broderick
Matthew Broderick must have really wowed the casting crowd. He not only beat out front-runner Johnny Depp, but also John Cusack, Tom Cruise and Michael J. Fox. The decision came down to screenwriter John Hughes, who admitted that he had Broderick in mind when he wrote the script.
3. Matthew Broderick: Walter White in Breaking Bad
Played by: Bryan Cranston
What Broderick didn’t win, though, was the role of a crystal-meth kingpin. According to E! News, the actor was on the initial casting list, meaning he was given the script for consideration.
Of course, everything changed when the casting team met Cranston, who was practically made for the role.
4. Molly Ringwald: Vivian Ward in Pretty Woman
Played by: Julia Roberts
Ringwald almost went from Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink to Pretty Woman. The actress was considered for the lead role in the classic movie, which was titled $3,000 at the time. That is, until Roberts landed the part.
5. Jane Krakowski: Rachel Green in Friends
Played by: Jennifer Aniston
That’s right. Back in 2015, Krakowski told E! News that she auditioned for the role of Rachel Green.
“Well, I, like almost every actor, auditioned for Friends,” she said. “I wish I had gotten that one…I didn’t go very far.” Thankfully, it freed the actress up for her breakout role in Ally McBeal.
6. John Travolta: Forrest Gump in Forrest Gump
Played by: Tom Hanks
Long before Hanks landed the iconic role, Travolta turned it down. Guess we’re all better off remembering the Grease star for his dance moves and slicked-back hair.
7. Jack Nicholson: Michael Corleone in The Godfather
Played by: Al Pacino
While The Godfather seems like it was written for Pacino, Nicholson actually almost snagged his leading role. In fact, the filmmakers originally offered him the part, but he turned it down because he thought he was too old to play the character. (He’d go on to fulfill his bucket-list mafia role in The Departed.)
8. Dana Delany: Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City
Played by: Sarah Jessica Parker
Imagine a world in which Parker is not the face (and tutu) of Sex and the City. You can’t. That’s all thanks to Delany, who refused an offer to play Carrie out of fear of being typecast.
9. Anne Hathaway: Tiffany Maxwell in Silver Linings Playbook
Played by: Jennifer Lawrence
Hathaway was originally cast in the leading role, but she backed out when she realized that she and director David O. Russell didn’t see eye to eye.
Nevertheless, the Academy confirmed that J-Law was ideal here. And Hathaway took home her own Oscar that same night for her performance as Fantine in Les Misérables.
10. Christina Applegate: Elle Woods in Legally Blonde
Played by: Reese Witherspoon
In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Applegate revealed why she passed on the opportunity, saying, “The script came along my way and it was right after I had just finished Married […with Children]… I got scared of kind of repeating myself.” In all fairness, she’d probably do a pretty killer bend and snap.
11. Rumer Willis: Serena Van Der Woodsen in Gossip Girl
Played by: Blake Lively
Although Willis auditioned for the life-changing role, the actress admitted that she wasn’t up for the task.
“I felt like I did an awful audition back then,” she told People. “I was so young and it was, like, one of the first things I’d ever auditioned for.” How different Lively’s life might have been…
12. Sarah Michelle Gellar: Cher Horowitz in Clueless
Played by: Alicia Silverstone
Due to scheduling conflicts, the actress was unable to participate in the Amy Heckerling flick. As if! (Ehh, she’s more of a Buffy anyway.)
13. Jim Carrey: Buddy the Elf in Elf
Played by: Will Ferrell
Prior to casting Ferrell, the filmmakers actually eyed the legendary Jim Carrey for this comedy. While Ferrell did a stellar job playing Buddy in this film, we can totally see Carrey pulling it off just as flawlessly.
14. Benedict Cumberbatch: Bill in True Blood
Played by: Stephen Moyer
Series creator Alan Ball previously told The Hollywood Reporter that a number of familiar faces came close to appearing on the series, including Cumberbatch, Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence.
15. Sandra Bullock: Neo in The Matrix
Played by: Keanu Reeves
As it turns out, Warner Bros. struggled to find an actor to play the leading role. When the studio got desperate, they considered changing the character to a woman.
“We went to [Sandra] Bullock and said, ‘We’ll change Neo to a girl,’” producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura said. Unfortunately, the actress was already occupied with other projects—but they certainly landed a top-notch actor in the end.
16. Al Pacino: Han Solo in Star Wars
Played by: Harrison Ford
It feels odd to even associate Tony Montana—excuse us, Al Pacino—with Star Wars, but during an event in 2013, the actor revealed that he was offered the famous role of Han Solo in the Star Wars franchise. It wasn’t his cup of tea. He said, "It was mine for the taking, but I didn't understand the script." Fair enough.
17. Angela Bassett: Leticia in Monster's Ball
Played by: Halle Berry
It could’ve been Angela Bassett who starred as Leticia in the Oscar-winning film, but while speaking with Newsweek in 2002, Bassett explained that she didn’t want to perpetuate harmful stereotypes about Black women. She said, ”I couldn’t do that because it’s such a stereotype about black women and sexuality. Film is forever. It’s about putting something out there you can be proud of 10 years later. I mean, Meryl Streep won Oscars without all that.”
18. Emma Watson: Mia Dolan in La La Land
Played by: Emma Stone
Watson came pretty close to twirling and singing alongside Ryan Gosling, but due to her prior commitment to Beauty & the Beast, she had to turn it down. She told SiriusXM, “This wasn’t a movie I could just kind of parachute into. I knew I had to do the work, and I had to be where I had to be. So, you know, scheduling conflict-wise, it just didn’t work out.”
19. Bette Midler: Sister Mary in Sister Act
Played by: Whoopi Goldberg.
Considering the massive success of Sister Act, Midler revealed that turning down this role was actually one of her big regrets. When asked to talk about her “career mistakes,” she told Metro, “There was Sister Act, which was written for me, but I said: ‘My fans don’t want to see me in a wimple.’ I don’t know where I got that from. Why would I say such a thing?”
20. Denzel Washington: David Mills in Seven
Played by: Brad Pitt
While chatting with Yahoo, Washington revealed that he was offered Pitt’s role, but he turned it down. Then, after actually seeing the movie, he completely regretted the decision. He said, “I thought the script was too demonic! Then I saw the movie, and I was like, ‘Ah, I blew it.’” it’s a good thing he still has so many great titles under his belt.