Have you ever wondered how different some of your favorite movies could have been if a different actor had played the lead role? It’s amazing to think that Brad Pitt, Josh Hartnett, and Halle Berry all turned down iconic roles that could have changed the course of their careers.
Many other famous characters were almost played by someone else, but we rarely hear about the early casting decisions that were ultimately aborted. Even more fascinating is when actors are candid about the blockbuster roles they turned down, only to regret it later.
Imagine Leonardo DiCaprio as the star of a p*rn industry drama instead of Titanic(1997), or Reese Witherspoon not playing Elle Woods in Legally Blonde(2001). Here are 3 actors who passed on iconic movie roles and ended up regretting it.
Denzel Washington in Se7en
Denzel Washington answered quickly when asked in 2012 if there were any roles he regretted turning down. “Se7en and Michael Clayton.” The Oscar winner said that Tony Gilroy’s corporate thriller Michael Clayton “was the best material I had read in a long time … I was nervous about a first-time director, and I was wrong”. The role was eventually played by George Clooney.
It’s interesting to note that Washington didn’t provide any explanation as to why he passed on Se7en (1995). It’s unclear whether he was being considered for the veteran detective role played by Morgan Freeman or the cocky rookie role played by Brad Pitt.
However, it’s possible that he was hesitant to work with director David Fincher, who had only directed one film before Se7en – the infamous Alien 3 (1992).
Ironically, Washington went on to star in several serial killer thrillers reminiscent of Se7en, such as The Bone Collector in 1999 and The Little Things in 2021.
Also Read: 10 David Fincher Movies – Ranked
Leonardo DiCaprio in Boogie Nights
It’s fascinating to think that Leonardo DiCaprio could have been the legendary p*rn star Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights (1997)!
In 2008, DiCaprio confirmed that he turned down the starring role in the critically acclaimed film, which went on to launch Mark Wahlberg’s career.
DiCaprio had even met with director Paul Thomas Anderson to discuss the role, but ultimately chose to star in Titanic (1997) instead. “Boogie Nights is a movie I loved and I wish I would’ve done,” DiCaprio told GQ. When asked whether he’d reject Titanic instead if he could go back in time, DiCaprio was stumped.
“I’m not saying I would have. But it would have been a different direction, career wise. I think they’re both great and wish I could have done them both … The truth is, if I’d not done Titanic, I wouldn’t be able to do the types of movies or have the career I have now, for sure. But it would have been interesting to see if I had gone the other way.”
What’s even more intriguing is that DiCaprio was reportedly hesitant about working with Anderson, who at the time had directed only one other film – the little-seen Hard Eight (1996).
It’s a captivating “what-if” scenario to consider, and one can only wonder how DiCaprio’s take on the iconic role would have turned out.
Related: “One minute I felt fine, the next I felt so anxious”: Bizarre Accident in Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio’s Titanic Seriously Affected James Cameron
Brad Pitt in The Matrix
It’s a well-known fact that Brad Pitt was offered the iconic role of Neo in The Matrix (1999), but he turned it down.
In 2020, Pitt humorously expressed his regret about the decision, quipping that he had “taken the red pill,” referencing the pivotal choice in the film between seeking truth or remaining in ignorance.
It’s clear that Pitt recognizes the missed opportunity and the cultural impact of the film, and his self-deprecating humor only adds to his regret.
One can only wonder what the movie would have been like with Pitt as the chosen one. He once said,
“I come from a place, maybe it’s my upbringing, [where] if I didn’t get it, then it wasn’t mine. I really believe [the role] was never mine. It was someone else’s.”
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It’s no secret that Keanu Reeves ended up landing the role of Neo in The Matrix, a decision that Brad Pitt now humorously regrets.
In the same interview where he expressed his regret about turning down the part, Pitt joked that The Matrix is just one of many blockbuster movies he’s said “no” to throughout his career.
He quipped that if there was a show dedicated to all the great movies he’s passed on, it would take two nights to cover them all.