Biggest career mistakes of movie stars – 15 actors who turned down huge roles


We all make poor decisions from time to time, but when that decision costs you millions of dollars and a shot at an Academy Award, it can result in a lifetime of regret. Actors need to be extremely cautious when choosing their roles as one wrong decision can torpedo several decades of hard work.

Similarly, the right part can transform an actor’s career and lead to some of the greatest characters ever seen in TV and film.

The following 15 actors all turned down these iconic roles and let an incredible opportunity slip right through their fingers.

1. Dana Delany: Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City


It almost feels like blasphemy, but Sarah Jessica Parker was not the first choice to play what ultimately became the role she was born to play in “Sex and the City.”

Dana Delany turned down the role because she believed she wasn’t stylish enough. It is hard to imagine a world where Sarah Jessica Parker is not connected with fashion icon Carrie Bradshaw.

Parker was initially hesitant to accept the role in a television series as she was more focused on film and theatre at the time.

The bubbly actress went on to win an Emmy award for her performance as Carrie, and the series spawned two hit movies. Delany also refused the role she was originally offered on “Desperate Housewives” three times.

In the end, that part went to Marcia Cross, but Delany did eventually join the hit soap opera to play the part of Katherine Mayfair. When questioned about her role in “Desperate Housewives”, Delany stated “The hardest thing for me was figuring out the tone of the piece because it’s such a specific tone, so it was more of an acting challenge than anything else.”

She has since starred in hit ABC series “Body of Proof” and won a role alongside Robert de Niro in the 2012 movie “Freelancers.”

  • Anne

    not get typecast in an action role … but he’s Wolverine …

  • HLain

    Like Kristen Stewart was outstanding in the role. Her participation in the Twilight series should have insured that she never works again. About as close to nothing as you can get.

    • Rumionemore

      What’s she doing now?

    • ashgreen2080

      She’s actually quite good in some of her other roles, like Joan Jet in The Runaways. There’s not much any actor can do with a shitty, shitty script and even worse source material.

  • pauletteb

    Molly Ringworm would have been an absolute disaster in “Pretty Woman.”

    • zombiekiller117

      That would have the 90′s equivalent of doing a Miley Cyrus, changing your image and then having a melt down…

    • Debbie Love

      No kidding!

  • Dart Vade

    Emily Browning yeah that was a big mistake, bc now no one even knows who you are and stewart is getting more mature roles bc of the spotlight Twilight gave her. The movies were shit of course but it made her popular and her name rings bells

    • Megan Payette

      Even if Emily Browning did get the role of Bella Swan in Twilight, the movie would still suck ass.

      • Tyler Thomas

        Damn, but you would be set for life with the money that they pay you. Each of the cast is worth +50 million. You wouldn’t need to worry about finding any other job in your life.

    • bobby bobby

      things could have been different though. If she was in twilight it may not have been so successful. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with her acting but successful films are like jigsaw puzzles, every piece has to fit. Sometimes even the best actor or actress just doesn’t fit.

  • Dart Vade

    Paul Giamatti would have been excellent in the Office

  • Mike

    I don’t know if those are huge career mistakes really, just because someone else gets a role does not mean the movie would be the same. John Travolta as Forrest Gump, eh not really. Chevy Chase? Yeah you wouldn’t see Bubba Gump themed restaurants if that was the case. Matthew Broderick as Walter White? 2 seasons max on that show. Pamela Anderson as Scully? Ok that show would not have had the appeal it did. Sandra Bernhard? Well ok that would have been the one thing that may have made Sarah Jessica Parker actually seem hot on the show, putting her next to that.

    • Doris C

      SJP is not elegant or sexy. Why they picked her is beyond me.

      • khepra Bey

        Shes very unattractive

  • CComry

    Career mistakes? I disagree. Most actors are smart enough to know if a part is not right for them. It’s part of the job.

    • Debbie Love

      Good point.

    • woodt

      That was my thought also. As much as I like Travolta I just can’t imagine Forrest Gump being as good without Tom Hanks. With Pam Anderson no one would have taken the X-Files serious and it would have been canceled after a couple of episodes.

  • Shawn M. Knox

    FYI – Tom Selleck did not turn down the Indiana Jones role. He was under contract and therefore was not available to do the film.

    • rose1957

      He could have broken the contract (happens occasionally), but he did the honorable thing because that’s how his parents reared him.

      • Debbie Love

        He does seem like someone who loyalty is an important character trait.

    • Doris C

      Doesnt matter. I liked Ford in the role and Selleck has made enough great movies to suit me even as an older heavier model. He is aging like Sean Connery with grace and dignity.His Jesse Stone movies need to revise and make more.

    • Debbie Love

      You are correct on that point. I think Selleck did well with Magnum, PI, his Three Men and a Baby roles.

  • zombiekiller117

    I wouldn’t say turning down ‘Pretty woman’ was a mistake for Molly Ringwald but I will say ‘Some kind of wonderful’ would have been even better had she accepted the role that Lea Thompson ended up taking.

  • After Dinner

    From the days of yesteryear: Steve Reeves was reported to be chosen for the first James Bond film. Also the role that made Clint Eastwood a star: the Man with No Name (Reeves said he didn’t think the Italians knew how to make westerns). At the “Hercules” star was the biggest in European cinema.

  • Steven Paul

    Dana is so much better looking than Sarah Jessica Parker, she would have looked so much better playing that part!

  • Steven Paul

    With Molly Ringwald, Pretty Woman would NOT have been such a big hit!

    • Charlotte Eden Orth

      I love Molly and Julia but hate, hate , hate forever the movie Pretty Woman. A Cinderella hooker story, puuuulllleeeeze!

  • Steven Paul

    John Travolta as Forrest Gump= ridiculous!

  • Steven Paul

    Sandra Bernhard???? Just goes to show you how bad casting could have lead to a lot of bombs that were otherwise hits!

    • bobby bobby

      or maybe she was just right for the part, some people who may not necessarily be the best actors are just made for certain roles.

  • Steven Paul

    Pamela Anderson in the X-Files, season one cancellation!

    • EarlGrayHot

      Good God Almighty! That would have been horrible! I never understood why FOX execs were so against Gillian to begin with. She totally nailed the role and ANYONE could have seen Pamela Anderson didn’t have the talent to do it.

      • Doris C

        Pamela cannot act, just stand and look pretty.Gillian did a fine job in the series.

        • bobby bobby

          they weren’t hiring her for her acting ability. They wanted to attract the male audience. I happily don’t find her attractive myself but many guys do. I think it’s just guys suffering from barbie syndrome though but I may be wrong.

      • bobby bobby

        it’s not about talent it’s about attracting the male audience.

    • WordsOfWisdom82

      That was the one on the list that seems fake. X-Files required some serious acting. I highly doubt that she was offered the part. This one has to be a rumor.

    • jbelkin

      well, yea, clearly Gillian Anderson is a great actress but if you look back at the first few episodes, that haircut she had was holy unattractive … it was only after they fixed her hairdo and her performances proved she had talent, she started to look better and by season 2, she was damn attractive.

    • bobby bobby

      are you kidding the ratings would have been higher, guys seem to love that fake chick. Luckily I’m not one of them.

  • Steven Paul

    Darryl Hannah: Vivian in Pretty Woman, wow they couldn’t get anyone to say yes to this role could they? Better than Molly but still wrong. Would have at least scored some better office numbers though than Ringwold.

    • James

      Playing a Hooker or a Stripper usually doeen’t work out well. Ask Elizabeth Berkly or Demi Moore.

  • Steven Paul

    Hugh Jackman: James Bond in Casino Royale BAD BAD BAD choice, the one they had would have been much better than him! He’s the wrong actor for that part, but good in other roles!

  • Steven Paul

    Michelle Pfeiffer: Clarice Sterling in Silence of the Lambs=questionable. But she probably would have stuck around to fo the sequels. Foster was a one trick pony!

    • carbono

      They should have never made the sequel, it sucked! She didn’t like the script & she was right.

      • Tyler Thomas

        Hannibal was bad. I actually liked Red Dragon though i thought it was great!

      • bobby bobby

        but it was a cash grabber, they don’t just make movies because they are “good” they make them to make money.

    • ratsass

      Actually, one trick pony refers to someone who has only one trick – like someone who gets typecasted or plays the same role over and over. Jodi is not a one trick pony – she is the opposite – multi-talented.

  • Steven Paul

    Will Smith: Neo The Matrix no, just no!

  • Steven Paul

    Tom Selleck: Indiana Jones= possible but Selleck is better on TV than as a movie star. he doesn’t quite have the charisma to pull of Indiana Jones in my opinion. He had the looks for it though!

    • bobby bobby

      I don’t know, I just don’t see Indiana Jones as being quite that harry.

  • charles pitts

    forest gump with a dance seen

    • Deapea

      Forest Gump has a couple dance scenes. In the beginning with Elvis, and towards the end with Jenny. Nothing like what would have been with Travolta….but there were “dance scenes.”

  • Jeronimo Dan

    John was just thinking, this movie is going to cut into my Spa Time! Can’t have that?

  • Jeronimo Dan

    Tom Selleck, all can be said is…what a shame.

  • wargamer1969

    Pamela Anderson’s head has turned alien, just missing the huge oval black eyes.

  • Marcus Aurelius

    these actors that turned down these may not have been right for the part anyways, the actor makes the character they play famous if they are good at playing that character, it would be interesting to see characters in roles that have been killed by bad acting.

  • sma

    i saw pamala from about 4 feet away a few yrs ago…she is not a good looking lady.

    • bobby bobby

      I never thought she was all that attractive but 10 years ago almost no one would have agreed with me or you for that matter.

  • Rumionemore

    Most of these are big stars without the roles they turned down. Who can imagine Pamela Anderson playing an intellectual role? And maybe Gillian Anderson had no interest in Dowton Abby. I don’t even like to watch it. Some of these stars are private people, and that could be how they like it. Not everyone is motivated just by money.

    • bobby bobby

      the role she played probably would have been different then the one it ended up being with a different actress.

  • Paul B.

    Where is one of the biggest ones…George Peppard turning down the role of Blake Carrington in Dynasty…though I guess that A-Team thing did kinda work out for him….

  • Jack Madison

    I could never see Paul Schaffer as George Costanza. Jason Alexander hit it perfectly on every level. Besides, everyone would be watching Paul thinking “he’s a band leader for David Letterman.” Just wouldn’t have worked.
    I’m surprised Seinfeld and David even thought that way back then. But, the more I watch Jerry nowadays the more I dislike him. And I can quote anything from any Seinfeld at any given moment any time during the day…that’s how much I liked and watched the show.
    Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

    • bobby bobby

      maybe but you never know for sure unless we could go back in time.

  • Jack Madison

    It’s so weird to see Michelle Pfeiffer get older. She looks great but it’s always disheartening when you have to add “for her (his) age” at the end of that sentence.

  • Jack Madison

    Tom Selleck as Indiana Jones I can see. He has the looks, wit and charm to pull it all off and he would have been great. It’s one of the few people that turned down a role that I could see still playing in that role and would pull it off well.

  • Lisa

    Kate Jackson was under contract with Charlie’s Angels. It hindered her ability to take on the Meryl Streep role in Kramer vs. Kramer.

  • lucascott

    The catch to this is had they not turned down these roles there is no guarantee they would have been as huge. Dana Delany could have sucked as Carrie Bradshaw and Sex and the City would have been cancelled after one season. Same with Desperate Housewives.

    Molly would have been hideous as Vivian and Pretty Woman would be one of those movies you only watch when it turns up on TBS late night

    • Jimmy Tavez

      You mean people watch it otherwise?

  • Debbie Love

    Also, the role of Sheriff Gillespie in the movie “In the Heat of the Night” went to Rod Steiger instead of George C. Scott. I think in all of these cases the actors/actresses who ended up in the films turned out to be the better choice.

  • Marci

    I’m so glad Gillian turned down Game and Downton – she is EXCELLENT in The Fall.

  • Dody Adkins

    Matthew Broderick as Walter White? No way, no how! Soooooo glad that one didn’t come to fruition!!!!!!!

  • Chief

    The title suggests she’d need to be “pretty” so it would be a miss…

  • Chief

    No way Travolta could be Forest Gump…He doesn’t fit that role at all

    • DoctorFeelgoodMD

      A good actor can fit any role.

      • bobby bobby

        not true at all. It’s not just about the acting it’s about having the right look for the part to. Although also it comes down to acting style as well. Some styles just don’t fit certain roles regardless of talent.

  • Terry Powell

    Travolta also supposedly turned down American Gigolo(if I remember right he was his mother died and he dropped out) and An Officer And A Gentleman.

  • loyd melton

    All choices and actions has consequences some good and some bad but when they are done you have to live with them and move on

  • g_jefferson

    I think they would also agree that whatever gig it was wouldn’t have turned out as well as it did if they had played the part. Who knows how many movies could have been classics if not for bad casting. It just goes to show you how many parts have to fit perfectly from casting to editing and all parts in between, to create a classic.

  • Charlotte Eden Orth

    Matthew Broderick could have rocked Walter White!!!

  • Lost Croat Outburst

    Tried to get into the teen angst thing with Kristen Stewart, but I’m too old. She seems bored, sullen, and disinterested in the MOVIES, so I can imagine what a drag the promotional events are. Imagine the stress of being young, thin, attractive, famous AND rich. Oh, what to do next?

  • Tyler Thomas

    Bryan Cranston was great as Walter White, but i don’t think Matthew would’ve been bad. I haven’t seen him in anything serious, but never was Bryan Cranston in anything serious before Breaking Bad and looked on how that turned out.

  • Tyler Thomas

    What role was Gillian offered in Game Of Thrones? Game Of Thrones is spectacular and i just wondered how different it would be?

  • avlisk

    All Tom ever needed was Quigley. That’s better than any of those Star Trek movies he turned down. Pretty funny comment, eh?

  • wartybliggens

    This slideshow assumes the roles that were passed on would’ve been just as huge if these actors had opted them—but who’s to say whether a Walter White or a Forrest Gump would have been just as successful if played by a different actor?

  • Jenny choi

    How about Shu Qi, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

  • BARFLY101

    despite many opposite views……i think travolta would have been great in gump…….sellect would be great as jones………and pamela anderson looks fine….she isnt 20 anymore…..i love her short hair…….

  • KL InIdaho

    The article does not give reasons why roles were turned down; it’s not always the script. Sometimes it’s the director, the studio, the location, timing, family concerns, health issues. Actors can say they are not interested for many reasons — not necessarily mistakes or stupidity.

  • bjeanfreau7

    The whole basis of this article is a false assumption. The actors that turned down the roles would not necessarily have had the same success as the actors that did perform. Who knows, maybe some of the films could have been complete flops and vice versa. Come on people! There are obviously different actors who will bring different aspects to any production. That is the beauty of the whole process!

  • bobby bobby

    hugh jackman when he’s skinnier would have made a good james bond

  • thecryptowizard

    Hugh Jackman (Bond) and Will Smith (Neo) are the only two of the entire lot that I actually feel would have made better fits. The rest more than likely would have been wildly unsuccessful in those roles.

  • WIzeCrax

    Breaking Bad is a good show. It is NOT the best show of all time. Period. There are differing opinions, and I understand that… but there is also right and wrong… and you are just… wrong.