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Iconic movie roles that were turned down by huge stars

iconic movie roles

We can’t picture anyone else playing Forrest Gump other than Tom Hanks or Reese Witherspoon as Elle Brooks in Legally Blonde. However, these are just two iconic roles that were first given to other well-known actors, who declined. So, here is a list of actors who turned down some iconic movie roles.

A list of actors who turned down some iconic movie roles

Forrest Gump

Starred: Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump

Turned down by: John Travolta

Instead of playing the title role in Robert Zemeckis’ masterpiece, John Travolta chose to appear in Pulp Fiction. The two films were pitted against each other at the 1995 Oscar Awards, with Forrest Gump winning six awards (including a Best Actor award for Tom) and Pulp Fiction winning one.

Legally Blonde

iconic movie roles

Starred: Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods

Turned down by: Christina Applegate

Christina has later stated that declining the main role in the successful 2001 comedy was a “stupid move.”

“I got scared of kind of repeating myself,” Christina revealed in 2015. Reese Witherspoon finally landed the famous role, which is still perhaps her most well-known.

The Matrix

Starred: Keanu Reeves as Neo

Turned down by: Will Smith

In the second and third Matrix films, Keanu collaborated with Will Smith’s wife Jada, although the Fresh Prince actor was originally considered for the starring part.

He subsequently said that he believes he would have “messed it up” the part if he had taken it on. “The Matrix is a difficult concept to pitch,” he told Wired in 2004. “In the pitch, I just didn’t see it. I watched Keanu’s performance – and very rarely do I say this – but I would have messed it up. At that point, I wasn’t smart enough as an actor to let the movie be.”


iconic movie roles

Starred: Kate Winslet as Rose DeWitt Bukater

Turned down by: Gwyneth Paltrow

Gwynnie said that her mother thought it was “not ladylike” to openly discuss parts she had turned down, including the lead in Titanic. She also went on to say that she “couldn’t change the past.”

Star Wars 

Starred: Harrison Ford as Han Solo

Turned down by: Burt Reynolds

According to Business Insider, the late Hollywood legend stated that he “just didn’t want to play that kind of role at the time”. Before Harrison Ford was on the project, screen icon Al Pacino also said no.

Brokeback Mountain 

iconic movie roles

Starred: Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist

Turned down by: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon

The makers of the Oscar-winning picture struggled to cast the two major parts, with some of Hollywood’s greatest names declining the project. “Nobody wanted to do it. They all said no” – director Gus Van Sant, who was eventually replaced by Ang Lee, told IndieWire. Heath Ledger, who played farmer Ennis, got a Best Actor nomination while Ang Lee won the Best Director Oscar.