Every actor has faced rejection, and I’m sure it’s difficult for actors to know they missed out on some major, career-making role.
But sometimes, that movie they so badly wanted to be in completely bombs, and they’re left standing at a safe distance from the fallout. Here are 21 actors who lost out on a role and probably now look back and say, “Whew, I dodged a bullet.”
Green Lantern memorably starred Ryan Reynolds as the green-suited superhero. Unfortunately, the film was not exactly a hit — the film got only 26% on Rotten Tomatoes and barely made over its $200 million budget.
But it wasn’t always going to be Ryan Reynolds starring in the flop — Bradley Cooper also auditioned for the starring role, even getting as far as screen tests. He joked that his face was too asymmetrical for the mask, and also said he blew the audition by doing a bad Christian-Bale-as-Batman impression.
Justin Timberlake was also considered, and screen tested as well — though he would instead do In Time in 2011, which didn’t fare much better in reviews or the US box office — though the film cost much less to make and was able to do pretty well internationally.
We can’t talk about famous superhero flops without mentioning Batman & Robin. The film was universally abhorred, and the director, Joel Schumacher, even apologized for it. Its star, George Clooney, has called the film terrible and largely blamed himself for how bad it is.
But George Clooney wouldn’t be in this position at all if the role had gone to David Duchovny, who alluded to auditioning for the role and not being offered it.
…but originally, Kurt Russell had been in talks to star. Kilmer was the first choice, but as he exited the franchise after one film, he clearly wasn’t thrilled with his time in the franchise.
Cats was a colossal failure in almost every regard, even though it was stuffed with stars like Idris Elba, Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson, Ian McKellen, and Jason Derulo. But one singing celeb — known for loving his musicals — did not appear.
It turns out, Hugh Jackman was offered his pick of roles in the adaptation of the hit Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, and turned it down. “You know, Tom rang me early on because we did Les Mis together, and there were a couple of options there based on availability and time, and I really…yeah, I just wasn’t available at the time,” Jackman explained after the film aired. Jackman was then asked if he was glad he hadn’t been able to do the film, and replied, “I don’t want to be in the business of bashing people” and that he hadn’t seen it…but I think it’s safe to say he’s not unhappy he turned down a role.
In another cat-related example…making a live-action version of The Cat in the Hat seemed an odd choice, and it wasn’t much of a surprise when the film was badly reviewed. The film starred Mike Myers during the post-Shrek (and Austin Powers) height of his fame, but failed to measure up to his past projects.
But it needn’t have happened that way. Tim Allen could have played the role; he dropped out in 2001 so he could focus on The Santa Clause II. “I couldn’t do two icons,” Allen explained at the time, and I’m sure he’s happy with his decision now.
While financially successful, the newest Star Wars trilogy was…controversial, to say the least, with the last film being especially divisive. One of the most polarizing characters was Kylo Ren — the trilogy’s version of Darth Vader — who was played by Adam Driver.
But the films may have looked very different if Eddie Redmayne had starred instead. Redmayne auditioned for the project in its early stages, and was given a scene from another film to read (as the project was too top secret to show the dialogue to potential stars). “So, they give you a scene from Pride and Prejudice, but then, they tell you you’re auditioning for the baddie. If you’re me, you then put some ridiculous voice on. … [The casting director] was just sitting there, and I was trying again and again with different versions of my kind of ‘koohh paaaah’ [Darth Vader breathing sound] voice. And after, like, 10 shots, she’s like, ‘You got anything else?’ I was like, ‘No.’” While an embarrassing audition is never fun, Redmayne might be glad he didn’t have to take on this role.
Eragon has got to be one of the worst book-to-film adaptations of all time, and I’m shocked it even got to 16% on Rotten Tomatoes. Star Ed Speleers has done alright for himself since then, but it was not exactly a star-making film.
Alex Pettyfer, who was largely unknown (except for as a model) back then, was actually offered the role first. He decided to do Stormbreaker instead, because he was afraid of flying and would have to shoot Eragon abroad. Stormbreaker was not a hit either, but it did fare at least slightly better than Eragon with critics.
While Showgirls enjoys a better reputation today than it once did, it was a huge bomb upon its release, and definitely didn’t help Elizabeth Berkley’s career.
However, Berkley wasn’t always in the role — it could’ve been played by Charlize Theron. The film’s director even admitted Theron dodged a bullet: “She was very lucky that she did not get the part. … If she had been offered the part then, she would probably have been chewed up in the same way they treated Elizabeth.”
The 2005 Fantastic Four film was a critical failure, scoring only 28% on Rotten Tomatoes, though it did well at the box office. Jessica Alba played the only woman on the team, Sue Storm, and memorably almost quit acting after having such a horrible experience on the film’s sequel.
Instead of Alba, the role could’ve gone to another actor — Ali Larter. Larter called going with Alba “a totally different thing” — she continued, “If you’re going to go with Jessica Alba for a part, you’re not going to go with someone like me. They’re two totally different things.” Well, it’s a good thing they were looking for a different type, because maybe the experience would’ve been just as negative for Larter.
Fox tried to reboot the series in 2015, but this one didn’t fare much better, earning only 9% on Rotten Tomatoes. This time, Sue Storm was played by Kate Mara.
Emmy Rossum had also auditioned for the role, and was “devastated” not to get it. “I just didn’t hook into that character at all. I didn’t understand the dialogue, I couldn’t sell it, I was just like, ‘I don’t know what to do with my lines.'”
Margot Robbie had also been in talks to play the role, but she “didn’t really resonate with the script.”
Wild Wild West was a major misstep for Will Smith and everyone involved, including Kevin Kline — but Kline’s role almost went to George Clooney, who left the film before filming began.
“We knew going into this that to make it work would be a stretch, but the opportunity to work with Will (Smith) and Barry (Sonnenfeld) was too exciting to pass up,” Clooney said. “Ultimately, we all decided that rather than damage this project trying to retrofit the role for me, it was better to step aside and let them get someone else.” Again…this was for the best, at least for Clooney.
While G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra didn’t fail at the box office, it was not a very celebrated film, garnering only a 33% on Rotten Tomatoes. It starred Channing Tatum, but almost starred a pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth instead.
This worked out pretty fabulously for Hemsworth, who was disappointed at getting to “seven or eight callbacks” (for G.I. Joe and X-Men) and not getting the job. “But then, Thor came along,” Hemsworth said. “If I had got one of those previous roles, I wouldn’t have got Thor.”
Jim Carrey was apparently the “first choice” to play Pistachio Disguisey in The Master of Disguise before he turned it down.
This ended up being a wise decision — the film bombed, and it’s known as one of Dana Carvey’s worst roles.
Carrey was also originally meant to star as Shaggy in the Scooby-Doo live-action film, which got a 32% on Rotten Tomatoes. I’d call this another sound decision, not just because the film was panned (though it did fine in the box office and even got a sequel), but because Matthew Lillard was the bright spot in the film and received critical acclaim for the role. I really couldn’t picture someone doing better than Lillard, or coming out more unscathed.
One of Disney’s biggest recent bombs is John Carter, which starred Taylor Kitsch as the novel hero. The film failed to recoup its massive $306.6 million budget, and it’s been argued that the flop fundamentally changed the way Disney does business.
As it turns out, Tom Cruise reportedly realllyyyyy wanted the role — despite, ya know, being almost 50 when the film was casting. He’d initially been in talks to star back in the early ’90s. Probably for the best that they were so set on Taylor Kitsch.
And finally, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen may have been a box office hit, but it was trashed by critics and got a 20% on Rotten Tomatoes. The sequel starred Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox, like the first film.
According to Robert Pattinson, he also auditioned for a role. This was soon after the first Twilight film had been released, and he embarrassed himself by pretending to be American, like he used to do in auditions…when everyone knew the budding superstar was British. This misstep worked out in his favor, clearly — Pattinson’s still a major star with critical acclaim.
How would you feel about not getting these roles? Let us know in the comments below!