Stupid. That’s how you’d feel if you were Sandra Bernhard and you’d turned down the part of the secretary in Ghostbusters (it became a memorable turn by Annie Potts) Fortunately, Bernhard is not alone. Hollywood has a long, rich history of actors who passed on roles that won accolades, fame, and even Oscars. A few such career blunders:
Mae West turned down the Norma Desmond role in 1950’s Sunset Boulevard — a character made immortal by Gloria Swanson — because she felt, at 56, she was too young for the part….
George Raft passed on High Sierra, The Maltese Falcon, and Casablanca, allowing Humphrey Bogart to become a towering icon of American culture….
Montgomery Clift coulda been a contenda in On the Waterfront. Instead, young Marlon Brando nabbed the role….
Doris Day passed on Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate — played by Anne Bancroft — because she did not like the frank subject matter…
Anthony Michael Hall turned down the lead in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket to join what was arguably the worst-ever cast of Saturday Night Live; Matthew Modine got the part instead….
Lori Petty passed on the role of Kit in the hit Pretty Woman (played by Laura San Giacomo) to appear in the bomb Cadillac Man.
Don Johnson, star of Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man, rebuffed director Brian DePalma’s request that he play Eliot Ness in The Untouchables….
Molly Ringwald turned down the Laura Dern role in Blue Velvet because her mother said it was about S&M and bugs…
James Caan turned down Kramer vs. Kramer because it was, in his words, ”Middle, middle-class bourgeois horses —t.” But he bounced back last year as romance writer Paul Sheldon in the critically acclaimed Misery — a role Warren Beatty turned down….
Burt Reynolds rejected the roles of Breedlove in Terms of Endearment and McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, both of which won Oscars for Jack Nicholson.