Matt Damon – Matt Murdock/Daredevil (Ben Affleck) in 'Daredevil'
More than 10 years after the Ben Affleck-starring action film Daredevil hit theaters, Matt Damon revealed in an interview that he could’ve had the lead role. Speaking in promotion of his October 2015 movie The Martian, Damon let slip that he turned down the part that eventually went to his close personal friend. “I hadn’t seen the director’s [Mark Steven Johnson] work and I didn’t know,” he told the New York Daily News of the project. “So I just said, ‘No.’ Ben was like, ‘I gotta do it.'”
Hugh Jackman – James Bond (Daniel Craig) in 'Casino Royale'
Hugh Jackman turned down the role of the British spy in the mid-2000s as he was already playing a popular part that carried its own weight. “I got a call from my agent saying, ‘There is some possible interest in you for Bond, are you interested?’ At the time I wasn’t. I was about to shoot X-Men 2 and Wolverine had become this thing in my life and I didn’t want to be doing two such iconic characters at once,” Jackman told the Associated Press. He hasn’t ruled out playing Bond if it comes back to him, however. Jackman may still get the chance to become 007, as he said in September 2015 that he’d “seriously consider” the role in the future.
Sarah Michelle Gellar – Cher (Alicia Silverstone) in Clueless
Before she became Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the star was almost the face of another iconic female character. Scheduling conflicts with the soap opera All My Children forced Gellar to turn down the role of valley girl Cher in the 1995 classic Clueless. As such, Alicia Silverstone, who only had a few credits to her name at the time, got the chance to introduce the line “As if!” and teach the world about Baldwins and Monets.
Johnny Depp – Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
If Ferris Bueller seems like a role that would be right up Johnny Depp’s alley, it’s because at one time, it was. The actor was initially offered the part of the famed high school slacker but, as he explained on an episode of Inside the Actors Studio, he turned it down because of his schedule. It all turned out okay for Depp, however, because he soon became Tim Burton’s muse, inspired by Edward Scissorhands a few years later.
Robert Downey Jr. – Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) in Gravity
The Avengers actor was not only originally slated to play astronaut Matt Kowalski, he was pretty much Alfonso Cuaron’s first choice for the role. It eventually went to George Clooney after Downey Jr. realized what actually went into making the astonishing film. “It became very clear that, as we started to nail the technology, or narrow the technology, that was going to be a big obstacle for his performance,” Cuaron told The Hollywood Reporter of Downey Jr. in an interview last year.
Molly Ringwald – Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) in Pretty Woman
Ringwald’s gig as one of the most popular ’80s stars had its drawbacks, including getting overworked. That was one of the prime reasons the John Hughes darling turned down the chance to play prostitute Vivian in Pretty Woman, a role that eventually went to — and jumpstarted the career of — everyone’s favorite girl-next-door, Julia Roberts.
John Travolta – Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) in Forrest Gump
It’s hard to imagine someone who isn’t Tom Hanks asserting that “life is like a box of chocolates,” but the Philadelphia actor was not the first star to run in Forrest’s shoes. John Travolta turned down the role of Forrest Gump, and has since admitted in various interviews through the years that passing was one of the biggest mistakes of his career — a statement to which Forrest might respond, “stupid is as stupid does.”
Sean Connery – Gandalf (Ian McKellen) in The Lord of the Rings
Let’s be real — who wouldn’t want the suave Sean Connery as one of the biggest science fiction characters in history? The powers that be were set on Connery taking on the role of wise wizard Gandalf, but he wasn’t quite as convinced. Why? As Connery told producer Don Murphy after joining the cast of League of Extraordinary Gentleman, “I got offered The Lord of the Rings, and I turned it down because I didn’t understand it.” Ian McKellen ended up with the coveted role, which led him to spend more than 10 years in Middle Earth.
Annette Bening – Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) in Batman Returns
Casting a film is never an easy process, but finding the right actress for Catwoman in Batman Returns proved to be even tougher than expected. Annette Bening originally scored the gig but dropped out when she became pregnant, only to be replaced by Michelle Pfeiffer. The Scarface actress beat out hundreds of other aspiring superhero stars (including Madonna and Jennifer Jason Leigh) for the part.
Emily Blunt – Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Iron Man 2
Today, it would be hard to imagine anyone but Johansson as the former rogue assassin, but what if scheduling conflicts hadn’t forced Emily Blunt to leave the project after being offered the role? “It was one of things that was conflicting,” the actress, who was filming 2010’s Gulliver’s Travels at the time, told MTV News. “So it’s a shame the two of them couldn’t work together. It just got complicated, so I think I had to pull out for my own sanity more than anything.”
Will Smith – Neo (Keanu Reeves) in The Matrix
Smith chose not to play Neo in a film that would go on to become part of a major movie franchise, but stood by his decision even after its huge success. “In the pitch, I just didn’t see it,” Smith told Wired. “I watched Keanu’s performance—and very rarely do I say this—but I would have messed it up. I would have absolutely messed up The Matrix. At that point I wasn’t smart enough as an actor to let the movie be. Whereas Keanu was smart enough to just let it be.”
Kevin Costner – Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) in Shawshank Redemption
Costner was offered the part of imprisoned banker Andy Dufrense and though the actor loved the script, he turned it down. He instead filmed Waterworld — a flick he was so personally invested in that he gave $22 million of his own money to make it happen. Despite the interest of stars like Tom Cruise and Tom Hanks, the role eventually went to Tim Robbins.
Charlie Hunnam – Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) in Fifty Shades of Grey
Hunnam reportedly signed on to Fifty Shades because he was a fan of the project, but pulled out due to scheduling conflicts that left him worried about his ability to find time for the intense material of E.L. James’ book. While some questioned what really went into Hunnam’s decision, he insisted it was purely an overload of responsibilities. “It was very, very painful for me, that whole process, just very unpleasant,” he told EW. “I felt like I let myself down. I let those people down on Fifty Shades that I’d grown to really love and respect. It’s just a really unpleasant period of time for me.”