The Roles That Got Away: 15 Actors Who Missed Out On Other Iconic Parts

It’s hard to imagine anyone but Jack Nicholson starring as the psychotic protagonist of  The Shining. And where would The Godfather trilogy be without the somber, low-key performance of Al Pacino as Michael Corleone? While we’re at it, can we even begin to conceive of Ghostbusters working as a coherent movie without Bill Murray’s hilarious performance holding it all together? Well, it turns out these roles were almost filled by some noteworthy actors. Here are 15 of your favorite stars and the iconic roles that got away.

Emily Browning

Emily Browning PF WENN


Newcomer Emily Browning is the youngest thespian on this list to have already turned down a hugely iconic role. The actress was Twilight author Stephanie Meyer’s preferred choice to play franchise protagonist Bella Swan, but turned down a sure-thing audition citing exhaustion. Browning later said that, given the high level of media scrutiny given to the cast of Twilight, she was glad to have passed on the project.


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  • ICFashionChic

    Cruise also famously turned down Edward Scissorhands! Thank goodness! YAY Johnny!

  • LPS

    How many times can the word “iconic” be used in one article? More to the point–is it at all possible to water down that word any further? An “icon” is a religious artifact, an object of worship. According to this article, anything popular, even momentarily so, is now considered “iconic.” The only thing that has probably never described as “iconic”? A thesaurus.

  • Major Victory

    Will Smith as Captain America? Yeah, right!

  • VB1970

    Tom Cruise as Ironman would have ruined that series.

    • John Siskwell

      Yeah, so instead Robert Downey Jr. ruined it. I can’t stand him, he’s just a horrible actor who just acts the same no matter what the role.

      • vbdolman

        Just like Jack Nicholson…

  • McKenna Mayfield

    Its Aragorn… not Aragon

  • Aprilcot26

    Marlon Wayans didn’t technically turn down the part of Robin. He was cast, the part was cut, and then in third film Robin was recast with Chris O’Donnell. The article even says this, so I’m not sure how this fits on the list…

  • Melissa Hamari

    Will Smith as Superman OR Captain America? Who was smoking what to come up with THOSE stupid ideas?!

  • dakmart

    It can be argued in almost all of these cases that the right actor ended up with the roles listed here — in fact, the actors who turned down these roles may have been savvy enough to know they weren’t right for them.

  • Bill Campbell

    ‘piqued’ her career? Don’t you mean ‘peaked’ her career? (Jodie Foster)

  • De-Rek

    You mean Kristin Stewert is Emily Brownings fault! I don’t know if we can forgive for this one Emily

  • Tiffany

    Emily Browning was smart to turn that down.

  • John Siskwell

    Superman and Captain America are white. They just ARE. How on earth could they have considered Will Smith for those roles?

    • Duni1

      Superman and Captain America are FICTIONAL characters. They can be green for all we care. So yea, he could have done the roles. Just because someone writes a fake character in a paticular skin color doesn’t mean they HAVE to stay in that color.

      • Chris M

        If they do a movie about the Black Panther, and they consider casting a white person, I’ll have the same reaction. Othello is a black man, if he was played by a white man (without pretending to be black like Olivier) it would be stupid. Should Iron Man be played by a woman? No.

        • Duni1

          The Black Panther is the name of the character. They can change the story and say that the kid was adopted by the Wakondan tribe and is now the adoptive prince and soon to be king… as long as the characters are fake they can change it.
          Nick Fury wasn’t always black and I’m fine with Sam jack playing him.
          If the actor can do it I see no harm. The green lantern just recently became black… mind you his character can change at anytime if the previous lantern dies.

  • John Siskwell

    Why was my comment removed? Jesus Christ, stupid internet censors and their complete lack of standards!

  • Troker

    As awesome a job as Laurence Fishborne did, I would have loved Loved LOVED to see Sean Connery in the Matrix. That would have been amazing.

  • Mardorang

    Jake Gyllenhaal as Batman hopefully would have blocked his sister from becoming Rachel Dawes.

  • Emerchex

    would’ve been sweet to have a Matrix with Will Smith and Sean Connery.

  • GeezThisGuy

    I think DiCaprio’s choice not to be part of the films listed where good choices. except for american psycho

  • vbdolman

    Jack Nicholson must have turned down those other big roles because he would have had to act like someone other than Jack Nicholson. If he actually had a range as opposed to a “personality” he might actually deserve his “legend” and “star” stauses.