20 Famous Hollywood Roles That Almost Went to Other Actors

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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

john travolta forrest gump
Ron Galella, Ltd./Getty Images / Sunset Boulevard

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.

jack nicholson the godfather
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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.)

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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.

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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.

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Getty Images / Tracy Bennett/MGM Pictures

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.

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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…

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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.)

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Jim Smeal/Getty Images / Warner Home Video

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.

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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.

sandra bullock the matrix
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images / Warner Bros. Entertainment

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.

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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.

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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.”

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Taylor Hill / Getty Images / Summit Entertainment[

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.”

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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?”

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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.

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Associate Editor, News and Entertainment

Nakeisha has been interviewing celebrities and covering all things entertainment for over 8 years, but she has also written on a wide range of topics, like career...