Hollyfame has a list of 15 actors who turned down roles that turned out to be pretty big.

Though not on the list, Sandra Bullock only got her career-launching role in Speed because Halle Berry turned it down. Barry apparently made a point of mentioning this, and it came across to some as sour grapes. I remember hearing about it on the radio, with the morning talk person making the point that Sandra Bullock playing Annie Porter was what launched the role and that it wouldn’t have been nearly as big a part for Barry as it turned out to be Bullock because she wouldn’t have played the role in the same way.

I’m not sure how true that is or isn’t, but I think there’s something to it. Speed was a fun movie, but it wasn’t exactly an Oscar thing. Barry would go on to play a very similar role in Executive Decision, which in my mind was a superior movie. The movie garnered less attention than Speed, and Barry garnered next to no attention for the role.

I thought about Halle Barry while reading through this list. There are some cases where I think the actors really missed opportunities. For example, I think that John Travolta would have made a fantastic Forrest Gump and it would have been tremendous for his career. In other cases, though, the part wouldn’t have been the part with someone else playing it. Pretty Woman was made by Julia Roberts and Jennifer Garner, talented and beautiful though she is, would probably not have had the same effect.

The biggest example of the latter, in my opinion, was Paul Giamatti as Michael Scott. It would have been a different role with Giamatti and one not nearly as successful. In a later episode, Bob Odenkirk demonstrated that Carrell was not irreplaceable. But Odenkirk mixing up Michael Scott and Saul Goodman might not have had the same chemistry and things might have unfolded quite differently. It took The Office a bit of time to find its footing. With Giamatti, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have happened.

Matthew Broderick as Walter White in Breaking Bad is intriguing to think about. It’s cable, so there’s less expectation, but I think the Ferris Bueller association would have been too much to overcome.

So it’s hard to look at this through the lens of plugging another actor in there (even a talented actor) and assuming that everything would have worked out the same. In some cases, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have.


Category: Theater

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2 Responses to Actors Who Turned Down Roles

  1. Kirk says:

    I read an article once that mentioned that while neither Keanu Reeves nor Sandra Bullock are great actors, they’re more willing than many to take roles turned down by others. (Julia Roberts is supposedly on the other end of the scale, cautious to a fault about her roles.)

    I keep thinking about that article, whenever “Penny” from “TBBT” talks about her role in “Serial Apeist”.

    • trumwill says:

      Folks like Bill Pullman and (of course) Kevin Bacon seem to have made names for themselves by taking virtually anything offered to them. It seems to have served them well.

      I’m enjoying that plotline of TBBT. When she initially declined the role, I was wondering if it might make a star out of whomever actually took the role. I thought she was right to take it, if only because she was already in a previous one and in for a penny, in for a pound.

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