The Real Reason These Actors Refused Roles

Actors pass on movie roles all the time, but the reasons why don't often become public knowledge until years later. Scheduling conflicts and creative differences are part of the business but sometimes those justifications are just code words used to cover up feuds. Of course, there are also plenty of legitimate reasons why some of the most iconic movies in history could've starred some very different famous faces.

For example, did you know that Tom Selleck was originally cast as Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark until the studio behind Magnum, P.I. prevented him from taking the role? Or, how about the fact that Back to the Future actually started production with Eric Stolz in the lead, before producers ditched him for the star they'd wanted all along. Can you even imagine anyone other than Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly at this point?

But those jilted stars would never have left the projects on their own. We're discussing actors that did, who in some cases walked away from Academy Award-winning films, and even damaged some professional relationships beyond repair. Here are the real reason these actors refused roles. 

Bette Davis and Joan Crawford's famous feud may have been worse than everyone thought

While classic screen actors and notorious rivals Bette Davis and Joan Crawford made it through filming Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?, the same cannot be said for the lesser-known film Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte. Crawford was originally cast as Miriam, but her feuding with Davis, who played the titular character, became so intense that she landed in the hospital and director Bob Aldrich personally persuaded Olivia de Havilland to replace her.

According to Vanity Fair, Aldrich made Davis an associate producer of the film before the casting change, which was an effort to convince Davis to work with Crawford again. But Davis arrived to set before Crawford, befriended the crew, and supposedly turned them against her. "She would also stand next to director Aldrich while he was filming Joan's scenes and make loud, negative comments," wrote Lawrence J. Quirk and William Schoell in Joan Crawford: The Essential Biography.

Crawford allegedly had enough of Davis' antics and the fact that Aldrich wouldn't expand her part or listen to her creative input. She couldn't legally quit the film, however, so she checked herself into Cedar Sinai hospital.

"I heard the news of my replacement over the radio, lying in my hospital bed," Crawford announced to the press. Later she told a reporter from her bedside, "[Aldrich] let me hear it for the first time in a radio release — and, frankly, I think it stinks."

Gwyneth Paltrow's family kept her from pursuing a memorable role

A-list stars turn down movies all of the time, but they don't often admit to doing it because of pressure from their dad and fear that their grandpa would watch it. Yet, that's exactly why Gwyneth Paltrow turned down Heather Graham's part of Rollergirl in 1997's Boogie Nights.

"It was my dad," she admitted to radio personality Howard Stern in 2015. Director Bruce Paltrow didn't want his daughter playing a drug-addicted porn star, apparently. "I really wanted to do it," Paltrow admitted.

But thinking about her grandfather is how Paltrow made up her mind to pass on Rollergirl. "I was very, very close to him and he was pretty conservative," she said. "I just thought, 'I can't be totally naked and, like, giving a BJ on screen. I'll kill my grandfather!' So, I didn't do it. And by the way, Heather Graham was perfect, so it worked out perfectly." The shock jock also grilled Paltrow on rumors that she turned down Kate Winslet's role in Titanic and Cameron Diaz's role in Gangs of New York. Paltrow basically refused to confirm or deny either of those rumors, saying her mom would "kill her" for discussing the matter further, because "it's not ladylike." 

The good news? The Oscar-winner also admitted that she definitely doesn't spend sleepless nights wondering how her life would've turned out if she'd said yes to certain roles. 

Kim Cattrall made her feelings about Sarah Jessica Parker very public

There won't be a Sex & The City 3 — at least, not one with Kim Cattrall in it. Is it really because of the now-infamous feud between Kim Cattrall and Sarah Jessica Parker? Well, yes and no. The whole thing was actually built on unsubstantiated rumors until 2018, when Cattrall's brother died. She made this clear via Instagram with a blunt rebuke of Parker's condolences, writing, "I don't need your love and support at this tragic time."

One year prior, Cattrall told Piers Morgan that she resented rumors that SATC 3 production was shut down because of her alleged "diva" demands. "The answer was always 'no' and a respectful, firm, 'no,'" she said, before declaring that she was never friends with the rest of the cast, and felt that Parker "could have been nicer." Raising her hand in a mock oath and promising to never appear onscreen as Samantha Jones again, she added, "This is about a clear decision, an empowered decision in my life, to end one chapter and start another."

While Parker previously shared that she couldn't "imagine" returning to the world of SATC without Cattrall, when HBO Max announced the revival series, And Just Like That..., in January 2021, Cattrall was decidedly (and unsurprisingly) unattached. "I couldn't help but wonder... where are they now?" Parker mused on Instagram following the news, before responding to a fan in the comments section with (via Page Six), "We will [miss Kim/Samantha] too. We loved her so. X."

Charlie Hunnam passed on Fifty Shades Of Grey for his well-being

Many daydreams could've looked slightly different in 2015 because Jamie Dornan wasn't always meant to be sexy CEO Christian Grey. Charlie Hunnam dropped out of the 50 Shades Of Grey franchise first, and apparently it was a very traumatic experience for him.

Hunnam's initial reason for passing was standard. His schedule was too packed, as he had promised director Guillermo del Toro he would star in the movie Crimson Peak, and along with shooting Season 7 of Sons of Anarchy, trying to fit in 50 Shades became too much for him, though he had developed a friendship with director Sam Taylor-Johnson, too. Ultimately, Hunnam couldn't break his promise to del Toro, but the decision weighed on him to say the least. "It was the worst professional experience of my life. It was the most emotionally destructive and difficult thing that I've ever had to deal with professionally. It was heartbreaking," he told VMan in 2015. He hated having to drop out of Taylor-Johnson's film and said they both cried.

Hunnam also admitted he had troubles in his personal life at the time. "There was a lot of personal stuff going on in my life that left me on real emotional shaky ground and mentally weak. [I was] having panic attacks about the whole thing. I just didn't know what to do." Despite rumors, Hunnam said his decision had nothing to do with the explicit nature of the material.

Anne Hathaway didn't want to get Knocked Up

Anne Hathaway Allure in 2012 that she passed on the role of Alison Scott in Judd Apatow's 2007 hit comedy Knocked Up because she didn't feel comfortable doing a graphic birth scene. "My issue with it was that having not experienced motherhood myself, I didn't know how I was gonna feel on the other side about giving birth," she said, adding, "I could pop a kid out and think, 'Oh, well, I really should have done that movie.'"

A few years earlier, in 2008, she explained her refusal slightly differently to Marie Claire UK. "I turned down another movie [Knocked Up] because it was going to show a vagina — not mine, but somebody else's — and I didn't believe that it was necessary to the story," she said. Hathaway didn't have her sons with husband Adam Shulman, Jonathan and Jack, until 2016 and 2019, respectively.  

The star-making role, of course, went to then-up-and-comer Katherine Heigl, who very memorably had her own issues with the role. As for Hathaway's career? Her 2013 Academy Award win for her supporting role in Les Misérables might have something to say about it. 

Willow Smith refused Annie and taught her dad a lesson

Will Smith was a producer on the 2014 remake of Annie, with his daughter, Willow Smith, slated to play the title role. He explained for the audience of the live event "Real Talk with Sister Souljah and Will Smith" (via Entertainment Tonight) a year before the movie's release that she refused, even after he explained the role came with perks like hanging out with Beyoncé for the summer.

"She looked at me and said, 'Daddy, I have a better idea, how about I just be 12," Will said, also revealing that Willow had a hard time during her music tour the previous summer. 

Will went on to explain that he is sometimes guilty of working too much and forgetting to focus on the reason he does it in the first place — love. Willow has helped him set his priorities straight. "I'm really learning through Willow the necessity that we have to snap ourselves back and refocus on the emotional needs of the people that we love," he said, adding, "Someone's emotional needs can be very, very different from your dreams and what you think they should be doing and where they are supposed to be."

Ja Rule was too good for 2 Fast 2 Furious

2001's The Fast And The Furious was an unexpected hit thriller about an undercover cop who becomes a part of the underground world of drag racing he's supposed to bust. It's spawned multiple sequels and spinoffs, but if negotiations for the sequel 2 Fast 2 Furious are any indication, it's a wonder that even one follow-up movie made it to theaters.

At the height of his popularity, rapper Ja Rule turned down an expanded role for his character Edwin in the sequel. He told MTV in 2002 that his refusal of the role was, in large part, because his friend and franchise star Vin Diesel also rejected an offer. "We talked about it. I just felt it wasn't the best move for me as far as what I want to do in Hollywood right now," he said.

The film's director John Singleton had a different take on the situation, recalling to Grantland in 2015 that he sought the rapper out himself to close the deal. "Ja got too big for himself. ... He turned down a half a million dollars. ... He wouldn't return calls," Singleton said. Ja Rule was replaced with Ludacris, who starred in multiple franchise sequels, or as Singleton put it: "Ja Rule not doing '2 Fast 2 Furious' changed Ludacris's life." Singleton and Ja Rule reconciled, and we're guessing the rapper took every single call from the legendary filmmaker thereafter until Singleton's sudden and tragic death in 2019

Will Smith wanted love, not vengeance for Django Unchained

Will Smith was in talks to play the title character in the Oscar-winning Django Unchained, but creative differences with writer/director Quentin Tarantino prevented him from moving forward with the project. Smith told The Hollywood Reporter in 2015 that the core of the story just wasn't what the "creative direction" he envisioned.

"I wanted to make the greatest love story that African-Americans had ever seen," he said, adding, "but I felt the only way was, it had to be a love story, not a vengeance story." At the end of the film, Django and his wife Broomhilda watch the mansion where she was enslaved explode behind them and walk away to live happily ever after. But Django is motivated more by the desire to avenge his wife than the love in his heart for her, and Smith took issue with that.

"Violence begets violence. So I just couldn't connect to violence being the answer. Love had to be the answer," he continued. Unfortunately, Smith's refusal of the part seems to have caused a rift between the men. Smith said he hasn't talked to Tarantino since.

Michael Caine wasn't feeling Alfred Hitchcock's vibe

Alfred Hitchcock is one of the most famous film directors in history, known for thrillers like 1950's Psycho and 1958's Vertigo. But even years after some of his most famous movies were released, the content of some of his films was too sensitive for actors like Michael Caine.

Shortly after the famed British actor' arrival in America, he was bungalow neighbors with Hitchcock at Universal Studios. The director offered Caine the part of Bob Rusk in the 1972 film Frenzy — a rapist and serial killer in London who would kill his female victims by strangling them with ties. "[That] was a real story in England — this man slaughtered 13 women and cut them up," Caine told The Hollywood Reporter during a roundtable with fellow actors in 2015. "I refused."

The part, which was actually based on the book Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square by Arthur La Bern (and later re-titled after the movie) went to fellow English actor Barry Foster, but all was not well that ended well. "He never spoke to me again," Caine said of Hitchcock.

Hugh Jackman had bigger ideas for Bond

Not many actors would refuse the chance to play the most iconic man in a bowtie, but Hugh Jackman is one of them. In fact, he didn't even take a meeting about taking over the role of James Bond from Pierce Brosnan. At the time, Jackman was already committed to the X-Men franchise, and if he were offered the role of Bond his schedule would be jam-packed. But there were also undeniable creative differences with the production team.

"I just felt at the time that the scripts had become so unbelievable and crazy, and I felt like they needed to become grittier and real. And the response was: 'Oh, you don't get a say. You just have to sign on,'" Jackman told Variety in 2017. Between the scheduling issues and disliking the script so much he wanted the option to make changes, it's probably best that Jackman passed on — let's be real here — what was actually just the chance to be considered for the role of 007. Maybe he likes his martini stirred, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Was Mel Gibson too problematic for Leonardo Di Caprio?

In 2010, Leonardo DiCaprio was on board to star in an untitled film about vikings directed by Mel Gibson. It was going to be a passion project for the star, who told MTV News about why he signed on, "I always wanted to do a Viking movie...I'm a big history buff, and I don't think there's been a really fantastic Viking movie ever made. Those were some of the most barbaric people ever in history."

DiCaprio, however, reserves his aggression for the fictional characters he plays in movies. So, when Gibson's former partner Oksana Grigorieva made allegations that he punched her in the face with their daughter in her arms and then tried to choke her, DiCaprio pulled out of the project immediately — at least, those are the dots that Radar Online claimed to connect.

A source close to the actor told Radar, "Leo has earned the right to pick and choose who he works with and Mel Gibson is not one of [those people]." DiCaprio has yet to star in another project about vikings and has never commented on his decision to cut ties with Gibson. As for Gibson, Deadline referenced the project, titled Berserker, as being still "atop [the] list" of his is projects in development as part of a new deal with Hollywood talent agency CAA in 2017. 

Spring Breakers wasn't Emma Roberts' kind of vacation

Emma Roberts may have started her career with family-friendly fare, such as Nickelodeon's Unfabulous and the film adaptation of the classic children's book series, Nancy Drew. But she's no stranger to more eclectic productions with an edge. Roberts is one of showrunner Ryan Murphy's darlings, after all. She had prominent roles on his shows American Horror Story and Scream Queens, and, let's be real, neither of those titles are particularly wholesome.

However, there's definitely a line that Julia Roberts' famous niece won't cross. Emma originally signed on to Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers, which also starred James Franco, Selena Gomez, and Vanessa Hudgens. The gritty indie flick is about a group of friends who commit robbery in order to pay for their spring break vacation. They're bailed out by a drug dealer named Alien, and that's where the real trouble begins.

Roberts backed out of the role of Brit (filled by Ashley Benson) due to "creative differences," according to writer/director Korine (above right). The specific differences are not public knowledge, but along with committing robbery, Brit has a threesome in the script. The creative differences don't seem to be personal, though, as Korine told The New York Post, "I make a specific type of film, and it goes hard. It's not always for everyone."