In Ye Olde Actor Land, there’s a saying that goes something like, “Your career isn’t measured by the roles you get, it’s the roles you turn down.” And, like that’s really true. Because, say, if you happen to dodge a flaming hot bullet and turn down a role in the forever-in-production movie Fifty Shades of Grey, then your career might live to see another day. But that works both ways, because if you happen to turn down a role that goes on to become iconic, you’ve got a future full of wiping egg off of your face. How did the egg get there? Is it still edible after you wipe it off? What do you do in the event of an allergic reaction? There are so many questions, which you’ll have a lot of time to think about while not starring in some of Hollywood’s biggest films.
So, to help them along in their self-discovery, here are 16 celebrities who showed off some impressively bad decision-making skills when they said no to these silver screen gems.
1. Gwyneth Paltrow
The Role: Rose Dawson in Titanic
Who Took It: Kate Winslet
Gwynnie went on to play one of Hollywood’s biggest villains, Gluten-Free Girl, but not before turning down one of cinema’s sweethearts. Actually, it depends on who you’re asking, because I’m personally in the “Rose Could’ve Scooted Over” club.
2. Molly Ringwald
The Role: Vivian Ward in Pretty Woman
Who Took It: Julia Roberts
I guess it was something to do with the whole prostitution-as-a-main-plot-point thing. Fun fact: Molly also turned down the lead role in Ghost, which ended up going to Demi Moore. Sucks for her, because she would’ve been playing opposite one of the hottest ghost dudes of our time.
3. John Travolta
The Role: Forrest Gump in Forrest Gump
Who Took It: Tom Hanks
I can’t even begin to picture what this movie would have been like if John had gotten cast instead of Tom “Greatest Guy Ever” Hanks. Life might have still been like a box o’ choco-late, but it would’ve been a different box entirely.
4. Will Smith
The Role: Django in Django Unchained
Who Took It: Jamie Foxx
Will turned down the title role in Django Unchained because everyone refused to call it Will Smith Is So Great, Don’t You Think? Another role Will let slip between his fingers? Neo in The Matrix. A collective “sucks for you” glance is in order, I think.
5. Sandra Bullock
(Photo: Kento Nara/Future Image/WENN)
The Role: Maggie Fitzgerald in Million Dollar Baby
Who Took It: Hilary Swank
Sandy actually initially accepted the role in MDB, only to drop out a few days after filming had begun. Sure, she missed out on the shot at Best Actress that Hilary Swank got, but we still love her anyway.
6. Emily Browning
The Role: Bella Swan in Twilight
Who Took It: Kristen Stewart
This sort of unknown actress could have been the exact opposite of that, had she only accepted the leading role in the movie that the whole world went on to hate. Yes, I said hate, but as Mother Kardashian says, there’s no such thing as bad press.
7. Mark Wahlberg
(Photo: Dan Jackman/WENN)
The Role: Jack Twist in Brokeback Mountain
Who Took It: Jake Gyllenhaal
Mark said no to this iconic role because he was “weirded out” by its homosexual tones. Ummm, Marky Mark (I’ll bet he hates it when people call him that), your closed-mindedness is showing.
8. Anne Hathaway
The Role: Tiffany Maxwell in Silver Linings Playbook
Who Took It: Jennifer Lawrence
This is the role that made me fall in love with J. Law as the versatile actress-potential-BFF that she is. And considering Anne’s track record for not being too well-liked, she maybe could’ve used a scene or two about whether or not ordering Raisin Bran still constitutes a date.