Actors who turned down major Disney roles

Disney's one of the biggest film studios on the planet, and a role in one of their family-friendly blockbusters can make an actor's career. Not everyone's eager to work with the Mouse House, however—a number of stars refused big roles in big Disney movies and shows.

Let's start with Anne Hathaway, who had the opportunity to take the lead in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. Explaining she'd already "done that sort of pretty-girl-in-a-fairy-dress role" in The Princess Diaries, Hathaway told the studio she'd be willing to play the White Queen instead.

Burton ended up casting unknown Mia Wasikowska in the lead role. The whole thing ended up working out well for Hathaway in the end, earning her a Teen Choice Award nomination and a Scream Awards win, and she reprised her role as the White Queen in Alice Through the Looking Glass. We've done some Photoshop work to show you what it might have looked like if things had turned out a little differently.

Warren Beatty

Gilbert Gottfried's Iago provided the comedic relief in Disney's Aladdin, always there with a squawk or a screech to lighten the mood during some of the more intense moments of Jafar's takeover in the film. However, according to the actor, he almost didn't get the chance to play the iconic role. In his memoir Rubber Balls and Liquor, Gottfried wrote, "I learned later that it came down to me, Joe Pesci and Danny DeVito."

But even later, Gottfried says he heard on "good authority" that regular Academy Award nominee Warren Beatty was offered the part and turned it down. According to Gottfried, the (unconfirmed) rumor was that the legendary actor rejected the role because "the thought of playing a parrot in the desert reminded him of his role in Ishtar." Just imagine how different the film would have been had Beatty been willing to go back to the desert.

JoJo

Hannah Montana helped launch a new generation of Disney celebs, sending Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, Cody Linley, and more into the realm of teen stardom. The show was an instant hit for the network and remained popular for the entirety of its four-season run. However, many fans might not know that the show almost featured a different crooner at its center. Joanna "JoJo" Levesque was just embarking on her music career when the show came around, but she turned down the part despite Disney executives pursuing her. The actress later told Extra that she had "no regrets at all" about not taking the part, saying it wasn't really what she saw for herself. According to Crushable, JoJo expanded on her decision in a post on her Myspace page, writing that she was "more concerned with being a legitimate artist. … I wanted to do it on my own; the old fashioned way; with talent, determination, and hard work."

After JoJo turned down the role, producers started looking for other actresses, considering future Gossip Girl star Taylor Momsen, Make It or Break It and Sharknado star Cassie Scerbo and Army Wives star Katelyn Pippy, according to the actresses. As for Cyrus, she didn't originally see herself in the role, sending in her first audition tape for the show's best friend character Lilly (eventually played by Emily Osment). However, producers ended up liking her spunk and strong vocals and cast her in the lead role.

Billy Crystal

Toy Story is one of the most iconic films of all time, with a 100 percent critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes, three Oscar nominations, and two equally-as-beloved sequels. While Tim Allen's voicing of the heroic Buzz Lightyear is classic, it turns out that the character was very nearly brought to life by a different actor. Billy Crystal, who would go on to become famous with Disney-Pixar fans for voicing Mike Wazowski in the Monsters, Inc. movies, was offered the part in the very early planning stages of the film (when "only Woody had a name"), but turned it down. He later remembered it as "the only regret I have in the business of something I passed on."

Leonardo DiCaprio

Hocus Pocus may not have been the biggest box office boon for Disney, but the film has a huge cult following and is still the subject of many a Halloween movie marathon years later. The film, which frequently reruns on cable, is (contrary to popular belief) not a Disney Channel original movie, premiering in theaters before hitting the small screen. Because of the larger budget, filmmakers were especially picky about searching for their star, and they eventually narrowed it down to up-and-comer Leonardo DiCaprio to play Max.

DiCaprio, who had guest starred on shows like Parenthood (1990) and Growing Pains, decided to turn down the part, despite being offered "more money than I ever dreamed of" because he wanted to wait to see if he had landed the lead role in What's Eating Gilbert Grape. "I don't know where the hell I got the nerve," he told Variety about the move, adding "if there's one thing I'm very proud of, it's being a young man who was sticking to my guns."

Rejecting the role ended up working out for DiCaprio, obviously. He earned his first Academy Award nomination for the part and would go on to earn a permanent spot on the A-list. Omri Katz, who eventually took the role, stopped acting in 2002.

Bill Murray

Monsters, Inc. became an instant classic for Disney-Pixar following its 2001 release. The film won one of its three Oscar nominations and earned further accolades for each of its two main leads, Billy Crystal and John Goodman. But Goodman, who voiced the gruff scarer Sulley, almost didn't get the part. That's because director Pete Docter's top choice for the part was famous comedian Bill Murray. While the actor screen-tested for the part and impressed Docter, when the director called to offer him the part, he couldn't get Murray to pick up the phone. "We took that to mean no," added Docter. Murray also turned down the role of Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story, although it's unclear why.

Lily Tomlin

While it's hard to imagine anything changing in the classic film that is The Incredibles, one of the film's signature characters was almost voiced by someone else. Edna Mode, the superhero stylist who really, really hates capes, was voiced by director Brad Bird in the final product. However, that's never what he intended. According to Disney Voice Actors: A Biographical Dictionary, when Bird recorded the voice for Edna, he was just filling in for actress and comedian Lily Tomlin, who was set to play the part. However, when she heard Bird's take on the part, she decided that it wasn't something she could improve on. Bird isn't the only voice actor in his family who appeared in the film. His sons, Nicholas and Michael, both had small roles, with Nicholas voicing a boy on a tricycle and Michael voicing Tony Rydinger, the cute boy in Violet's class.

Michael Douglas

Frozen shattered box office records when it hit theaters in 2013, ranking as the highest-grossing animated film of all time, pulling in nearly $1.3 billion worldwide. It was also critically acclaimed, with two Academy Award wins and dozens of nominations for other awards. But the casting might have turned out differently.

Michael Douglas said on The Late Late Show with James Corden that he turned down a part in the film, although he said he couldn't remember which role he had been offered. "I have nothing I turned down except there was one animation picture, just a voiceover, that would have been more profitable for me than any picture I've ever done," he said, then whispered "Frozen." Douglas may have been set to voice Alan Tudyk's Duke of Weselton, although it's possible that filmmakers could have decided to use an older voice for Santino Fontana's Hans or Jonathan Groff's Kristoff. Somehow, we really doubt that Douglas was ever in line to voice Olaf.

Selena Gomez

The Selena Gomez-Demi Lovato rift ripped apart the hearts of Disney Channel fans everywhere, as teens struggled to watch their two BFF idols separate. While the reasons for the ending of their friendship are still murky, the two were the queens of the network back in their heyday. Because of their solid status with Disney Channel, it makes sense that both of them were pursued for a number of the network's projects. What's surprising, though, is that Gomez actually ended up turning down the one role that would launch Lovato's career. In an E! Entertainment special, Disney Channel president of entertainment Gary Marsh said Gomez turned down the lead role of Mitchie in Camp Rock because Gomez "wanted to build her acting base first." President of Hollywood Records Abbey Konowitch said that Gomez, who has gone on to have a successful music career, knew that music was an eventual goal of hers, but she wasn't ready to do it just yet.

Gomez also turned down a part (it's unclear which one) in High School Musical 3: Senior Year, the only film in the High School Musical franchise (so far) to have a theatrical release, because she wanted to focus on more serious roles. She told the New York Daily News, "I plan to take other roles in acting that are challenging for me. After Disney, I want to be taken seriously as an actress for many years."

Jack Nicholson

Hercules is one of Disney's many classic films, largely due to James Woods' smooth-talking Hades. According to writer and director John Musker, the studio actually pursued The Shining actor Jack Nicholson for the part. "We wrote the villain Hades as Jack Nicholson," he wrote in a blog post. Musker said that the studio had a good meeting with Nicholson and his two children, and that he enjoyed some of the elements of the story, like Philoctetes being described as a "washed up satyr." However, while the actor liked the film creatively, he wasn't able to come to a business agreement with the studio. The star had just gotten a "lucrative deal" from Warner Bros. which included bonuses for merchandise sales and was looking for something similar from Disney, but the studio wouldn't budge.

This left Musker searching for a new star, which ultimately led him to actors like Robert Evans, who didn't make it past the auditions, and John Lithgow, who was cast and recorded some lines but ended up not being right for the part. The studio finally landed on Woods, with Musker calling him "a delight to work and invent with."