Some film and TV roles are so iconic that it is hard to see another actor portraying or being considered for that role. Casting decisions play a key role in any movie’s and/or show’s success. There are many ‘what-ifs’ when envisioning different actors playing classic Hollywood characters, from whether it was a case of a scheduling conflict because the actor was involved with another project to the possibility that an actor was being considered for the role but, ultimately, got turned down. Here are 10 Iconic Movie and TV Roles that almost went to another actor!
1. John Travolta as Forrest Gump in Forrest Gump:
By the time Forrest Gump hit the big screens in 1994, John Travolta was an already established actor with his screen credits including Saturday Night Fever (which earned him an Oscar nomination) and Grease. It is hard to imagine anyone else but Tom Hanks as the titular character in Forrest Gump, but it is said that Travolta was offered the iconic role first, but turned it down in order to star in Pulp Fiction, which happened to also be released in 1994. Although he got rave reviews for his performance in Pulp Fiction, Travolta has said that passing on the Forrest Gump role was one of the biggest regrets of his career.
2. Katie Holmes as Piper Chapman in Orange Is The New Black:
While Taylor Schilling’s portrayal of Piper Chapman on Netflix’s hit original series Orange Is The New Black (OITNB) has earned her two Golden Globe nominations and an Emmy nomination, it is quite surprising to hear that Schilling wasn’t the first choice for the show’s lead character. Series Creator Jenji Kohan stated in a 2014 interview that during the early development stages of the show, Dawson’s Creek star Katie Holmes was in serious consideration for the lead role of Piper. Despite Kohan’s involvement in the negotiations, Holmes turned the role down apparently due to being committed to other projects at the time.
3. Emma Watson as Mia in La La Land:
Although Emma Stone would go on to win the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role as Mia in La La Land, it is surprising to hear that she wasn’t the first pick. In fact, Mia was almost portrayed by another Emma: Harry Potter star Emma Watson. While Watson was the early frontrunner for the part during the casting process, scheduling conflicts between filming for La La Land and Beauty and The Beast (as Belle) forced her to choose between the two projects. She ultimately decided she wanted to take part in the latter film. Choosing between whether to star in a film that could lead to winning an Oscar or becoming a Disney Princess, one must wonder how difficult of a decision that must have been for Watson to make.
4. Paul Giamatti as Michael Scott in The Office:
The Office will forever go down as one of the most popular TV shows of all time and it is often hard to imagine anyone else playing any of the show’s (and probably some of the most iconic TV Roles of all time) characters such as Pam, Jim, Dwight, and Michael, to name a few. Steve Carrell was perfect as Michael Scott and it comes as a shock for any Office fan to hear this: Carrell only got the job because Paul Giamatti turned down the role! Despite being the NBC executives’ first pick, Giamatti rejected the part because he wasn’t interested. Can you imagine one of the most iconic TV Roles of all time having a different outcome?
5. Matthew McConaughey as Jack in Titanic:
Although fans will forever ship Leo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet after their performances as Jack and Rose in Titanic, DiCaprio had to beat some serious competition for the role of Jack. One person he beat was future Oscar-winner Matthew McConaughey, who made it far during the auditions and was seriously considered for Jack also. McConaughey recounted in a 2018 interview that he had an audition with Winslet and walked out of it thinking he got the part. Unfortunately, he lost the part to DiCaprio.
6. Miley Cyrus as Lily Truscott in Hannah Montana:
The TV role of Miley Stewart/Hannah Montana on Hannah Montana will always be known as the opportunity that gave Miley Cyrus her big Hollywood break. However, what a lot of fans don’t know is that Cyrus didn’t initially audition for the show’s leading role! During Hannah Montana‘s early production stages, Cyrus originally submitted an audition tape for the role of Lilly Truscott, the best friend of Miley Stewart, but the producers thought she would be a better fit as the lead character. While Emily Osment did an excellent job of playing Lilly, could you imagine Cyrus playing the skateboard loving and tomboy best friend of the secret popstar?
7. Tim Roth as Professor Snape in the Harry Potter Series:
The late Alan Rickman earned universal praise for his portrayal of the complex character of Professor Severus Snape in The Harry Potter films (Daniel Radcliffe, who plays the titular character, even stated that Rickman deserved to get a Best Supporting Actor Oscar Nomination for his portrayal of the character in the franchise’s final film Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2). Although there a lot of surprises for who could have been/ were almost cast for various parts in the series, one of the most surprising ones is that Rickman only got the part of Snape because Tim Roth, the original pick, turned it down. Roth, who rejected the part due to filming Planet of The Apes, stated years later that he believes that the right person (Rickman) did the job right and that if he himself played Snape, it could have changed the way in which Harry Potter fans view the character of Snape.
8. Matt LeBlanc as Phil Dunphy in Modern Family:
After the unsuccessful Friends spinoff, Joey was canceled after 2 seasons, Matt LeBlanc was offered to play the role of Phil Dunphy in Modern Family. While he thought it was a great script, LeBlanc turned the TV role down because he thought he was not the right guy for the part and didn’t want “To do injustice to the project”. No disrespect to LeBlanc but he had the right hunch, as Ty Burrell plays Phil perfectly, earning two Emmy awards for the TV role.
9. Mindy Kaling as Lillian in Bridesmaids:
Maya Rudolph made us laugh with her portrayal as Lillian, the bride-to-be and the best friend of the lead character Annie. One actress who was up for the role in the hit comedy was The Office star, Mindy Kaling, who said losing out on the part was a “heartbreaker”.
10. Courtney Cox as Rachel in Friends:
Fans will forever love Jennifer Aniston and Courtney Cox for their portrayals as Rachel and Monica on the hit show Friends respectively and find it hard to envision anyone else playing either role. Rachel and Monica will forever be two of the most iconic TV Roles of all time. While hardcore fans know that Cox was heavily considered for Rachel initially, she had to fight hard to get the part of Monica. Producers initially invited Cox to audition for Rachel, but after reading through the script, Cox wanted to try out for Monica as she felt she could relate to the character more than she could with Rachel.