Most of the time, when an actor declines or gets turned down from a role, it’s simply because they weren’t the right fit. Sometimes, however, the reasons for rejection can be a little more…complicated.
Here are 17 actors who turned down or lost out on roles for shady reasons:
Michelle Pfeiffer was in the running for the role of Vicki Vale in Batman (1989), but Michael Keaton, her ex-boyfriend and would-be onscreen love interest, prevented her from getting it because he was trying to get back together with his ex-wife at the time.
However, she ended up playing Selina Kyle/Catwoman in the sequel, Batman Returns.
The role of Vicki Vale went to Kim Basinger.
Robin Williams was reportedly used to bait Jack Nicholson into taking the Joker role in Batman. From his perspective, when he was offered the role, they had no real intentions of casting him.
According to Dave Itzkoff’s 2018 biography, Robin, the actor said, “I replied, but they said I was too late. They said they’d gone to Jack over the weekend because I didn’t reply soon enough. I said, ‘You gave me till Monday, I replied before the deadline.’ But it was just to get Jack off the pot.”
Similarly, John Leguizamo had finished negotiations with Marvel and was about to play the Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming when “they said that Michael Keaton wanted it back, and they asked [John] if [he] would give it up.”
He told Comicbook.com, “I said, ‘Well, okay I guess.’ They said, ‘No, we’ll work with you again, we’re gonna…’ That’s what happened there…[Later] they offered me something tiny. I went, ‘Nuh-uh.'”
According to former Disney casting director, Jen Rudin, Beyoncé lost out on the role of Princess Tiana in The Princess and the Frog because she refused to audition, expecting to receive an offer instead.
In her book Confessions of a Casting Director, Jen alleged that Tyra Banks, Alicia Keys, and Jennifer Hudson all auditioned for the role.
The part went to Anika Noni Rose.
According to director Bill Condon, Beyoncé turned down an offer to play Plumette (the feather duster) in Beauty and the Beast (2017) because “it wasn’t a big enough part.”
The role went to Gugu Mbatha-Raw.
Jenna Fischer filmed a pilot for the Matt LeBlanc-led sitcom Man With a Plan, but she was recast because test audiences didn’t “believe Pam [from The Office] would marry Joey [from Friends].”
The role went to Liza Snyder.
Richard Gere was initially cast as Chico Tyrell in The Lords of Flatbush, but he was fired after spilling mustard and chicken grease on costar Sylvester Stallone during a lunch break, which instigated a physical altercation.
In a fan Q & A, Sylvester said, “The director had to make a choice: one of us had to go, one of us had to stay. Richard was given his walking papers and to this day seriously dislikes me.”
Richard was replaced with Perry King.
When Meryl Streep auditioned to play Dwan in King Kong (1976), she overheard producer Dino De Laurentiis say to his son (who’d suggested her for the role) in Italian, “Why do you bring me this ugly thing?” He didn’t realize that she understood Italian.
On The Graham Norton Show, she said, “It was sobering as a young girl. So I said to him [in Italian], ‘I understand what you say. I’m sorry I’m not beautiful enough to be in King Kong.'”
The role went to Jessica Lange.
Paul Bettany was considered “too British” for the role of Emmett Richmond — whom the screenwriters called “the Luke Wilson character” while they were writing the script — in Legally Blonde.
They “felt like it needed to be a real American” and ultimately went with the actual Luke Wilson for the role.
Russell Crowe declined to play Wolverine in the X-Men franchise because he “didn’t want to be ‘wolfy,’ like ‘Mr. Wolf.'” He’d just finished filming Gladiator, in which he played a character who was originally strongly associated with wolves. (Though, for the record, wolverines are weasels, not wolves.)
However, most of his wolf-adjacent scenes in Gladiator didn’t make the finale cut.
He suggested Hugh Jackman play Wolverine.
Joan Crawford was initially slated to play Karen Holmes in From Here to Eternity, but she wanted to film with her own camera operator because she was concerned the age difference between her and costar Burt Lancaster (who was six years younger) would be “too obvious” to viewers. Director Fred Zinnemann refused to go along with her demand, so they parted ways.
The role went to Deborah Kerr.
When Olivia Wilde was rejected from the role of Naomi Lapaglia in The Wolf of Wall Street, she was initially told it was because she was “too sophisticated.” Later, however, she found out that “they actually said ‘old’.”
On The Howard Stern Show, she said, “I wanna make, like, a translation sheet for Hollywood that’s, like, all the feedback your agents give you and then what it really means.”
Will Smith rejected an offer to play Neo in The Matrix because he thought it would flop in comparison to Wild Wild West, the movie he opted to make instead. At the time, he was more focused on choosing roles that he thought would increase his star power than roles he felt inspired by.
He told The Breakfast Club, “It was more important to me to win than to be me.”
The role went to, of course, Keanu Reeves.
Debra Winger was supposed to play Dottie Hinson in A League of Their Own, but she dropped out after Madonna joined the cast because she felt that made it into “an Elvis film.”
She was replaced by Geena Davis.
Robert Redford screen-tested for the role of Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate, but he lost out on it because he’d never “struck out with a girl.” To director Mike Nichols, that was a sign he could “never play a loser.”
The role went to Dustin Hoffman.
Julianne Moore was fired from the abandoned first version of Can You Ever Forgive Me? because she “wanted to wear a fat suit and a false nose to play Lee Israel.”
In the version of the movie that made it to production, Melissa McCarthy played the role.
And finally, Michael Jackson lost out on the role of Jar Jar Binks in the Star Wars prequels because he “wanted to do it in prosthetics and makeup like ‘Thriller,'” but George Lucas wanted to use CGI.
Ahmed Best, who ended up playing the role, told Vice, “Me, Natalie Portman, and George’s kids — we were at Wembley arena at Michael Jackson’s concert. We were taken backstage, and we met Michael…George introduced me as ‘Jar Jar,’ and I was like, ‘That’s kind of weird.’ Michael was like, ‘Oh. OK.'”