Actors who refused big roles in Tarantino movies

Love him or hate him, there's no denying Quentin Tarantino is one of the most influential directors of all time. The auteur behind classics like Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and Kill Bill, Tarantino has changed modern cinema with his brilliant dialogue, over-the-top action, and complex understanding of the medium. As a result, most actors would gladly chop their arm off with a katana if it meant starring in one of his films. But believe it or not, there are a few who were given the chance and, for one reason or another, said, "No thanks."

Max Julien

Chances are good that average filmgoers aren't familiar with Max Julien's name—but then, Quentin Tarantino isn't average. The director knew of Julien thanks to his star performance in director Michael Campus' 1973 film The Mack, which follows an ambitious pimp named Goldie (played by Julien) who quickly ascends to the top of the criminal ladder.


While the film only played in about 20 theaters, it definitely found a devoted audience—lines from the dialogue have popped up in songs by Dr. Dre and Jay-Z. While Tarantino was writing True Romance, he made sure his movie directly referenced the cult classic by having The Mack play on a TV in the background of a scene. And according to Scott Saul of The Concourse, this is the movie that popularized the concept of the pimp.


So when it came time to cast the part of Marsellus Wallace, Pulp Fiction's intimidating mob boss, Tarantino wanted Julien for the job. But according to Samuel L. Jackson, Julien wasn't crazy about (spoilers) the scene in which Wallace is raped by two rednecks. "Max Julien wasn't going to do that," Jackson explained to Vanity Fair. As Jackson put it, Julien didn't think his fans would want to see him in such an, um, compromising position. Ving Rhames, on the other hand, was eager to take on the role. As it turns out, he was tired of playing one-dimensional tough guys, and he was ready to take on a more "vulnerable" character.


True, it was a great career decision for Rhames, but it's too bad Julien didn't take his chance to shine. Of course, he did appear in a movie that inspired Quentin Tarantino. If you can't actually star in a Tarantino film, that's probably the next best thing.


Michael Madsen

In hindsight, it's hard to imagine anyone other than John Travolta playing Vincent Vega, the smarmy hitman who gets nervous talking about foot massages. The part earned Travolta an Oscar nod and gave his career a much-needed shot of adrenaline. But while, in retrospect, he seems like a perfect fit, Travolta wasn't Tarantino's original pick. Instead, the director had a previous collaborator in mind…the man who ruined "Stuck in the Middle with You" for all of eternity.


Michael Madsen and Tarantino first met when the actor auditioned for the role of Mr. Pink in Reservoir Dogs. According to Madsen, after doing his best to land the gig, Tarantino responded, "You're not Mr. Pink. You're Mr. Blonde—and if you're not Mr. Blonde, then you're not in the movie." Madsen made the wise decision and forever scarred moviegoers with his straight razor and can of gasoline. And he evidently impressed Tarantino, since the auteur wanted Madsen to play Pulp Fiction's dancing hitman.


Unfortunately for Madsen, he'd already signed on to play Virgil Earp in Wyatt Earp, a western starring Kevin Costner as the titular lawman. According to The Daily Beast, it took a long time for Tarantino to forgive Madsen for turning down Vincent Vega. (Thankfully, they patched things up, and Madsen later appeared in both Kill Bill films and The Hateful Eight.) Madsen probably regretted his choice as well, since Pulp Fiction is widely hailed as one of the greatest movies all time. Of course, it was probably for the best. After all, if we'd seen Michael Madsen dancing again, we probably would've suffered from some pretty traumatizing flashbacks.


Warren Beatty

Warren Beatty is one of the most iconic members of the Tinseltown elite, and as one of the biggest actors of the '60s and '70s, he's appeared in some truly memorable films. For example, there's Bonnie and Clyde, Reds, and McCabe & Mrs. Miller. But for all the great movies he's worked on, Beatty has turned down a shocking number of classics. According to the actor, he passed on The Godfather and wasn't interested in playing 1978's Superman. When Paul Thomas Anderson asked him to star in Boogie Nights, Beatty said no. After all, he had kids and didn't want to play in a movie about porn.


And as you might've guessed, Beatty also said no to Quentin Tarantino.


So what role did Tarantino offer Beatty? Well, the director wanted him to play the titular antagonist in Kill Bill. In fact, he'd written the part with Beatty in mind. Only instead of creating the character as a kung fu killer, he'd written a villain who was a bit more suave and sophisticated. According to Tarantino, Bill was originally "much more of a James Bond type of character—Bond as Blofeld, basically."


Tragically for Tarantino, Beatty wasn't interested in shooting scenes in China, preferring to stay in the United States with his kids. However, Beatty does take credit for the casting of David Carradine, claiming he suggested Tarantino pick the martial arts actor. If so, it was a genius recommendation, and Tarantino rewrote the script so the character would be a better fit. True, it would've been cool to see Beatty's take on Bill, but really, it's difficult picturing anyone delivering that Superman monologue better than Carradine.


Sylvester Stallone

People often forget that Sylvester Stallone is a great actor. While the Razzies are happy to hurl "awards" his way, Stallone has more than proved his acting chops in movies like Rocky, First Blood, Cop Land, and Creed. Has he made missteps along the way? More than a few. But he's also the guy who reminded Roger Ebert of a "young Marlon Brando." In other words, the man has genuine talent and a spotty track record…which is the perfect type of actor to star in a Tarantino movie.


But life is cruel, and we've never gotten the Stallone-Tarantino pairing we deserve. Of course, we shouldn't blame the director for this travesty. In an interview with the Canadian magazine MacLeans's, Stallone revealed he was offered not one but two roles in separate Tarantino films. According to Sly, the director first asked if he wanted to play the part of Louis Gara, the quiet-yet-psychopathic thug in Jackie Brown. Stallone turned him down for undisclosed reasons, and the part of Gara ended up in Robert De Niro's more-than-capable hands.


Undaunted, Tarantino later offered Stallone the Death Proof part of Stuntman Mike McKay, a serial killer who murders young women with specialized stunt car. When Stallone learned about those gory details, he told Tarantino he wasn't interested. "There's no way," he explained to MacLean's. "I have two daughters, and this fellow, his hobby is putting teenagers in his car and smashing them into a wall. That's not going to work."


Instead, the part went to Kurt Russell, who—after coming off movies like Miracle, Sky High, and Dreamer—was probably overjoyed to wreak a little mayhem.


Adam Sandler

Imagine, if you will, a world where Leonardo DiCaprio played Col. Hans Landa. You can't, can you? It's practically impossible to see anyone other than Christoph Waltz portraying the bingo-loving Jew Hunter. But according to MTV, Tarantino originally considered giving DiCaprio the part before choosing to go with someone who could speak German.


Tarantino also thought about giving the role of Bridget von Hammersmark to Nastassja Kinski, and he considered both Simon Pegg and Tim Roth as possibilities for the part of Lt. Archie Hicox. However, for one reason or another, those actors all fell by the wayside, and the roles went to Diane Kruger and Michael Fassbender, respectively.


But here's the weirdest casting tidbit of all. Once upon a time, Tarantino wanted Adam Sandler for the role of Sgt. Donny Donowitz. At first glance, the idea seems ridiculous, but despite movies like Jack and Jill, Sandler really is a skilled actor who can do good work if he puts his mind to it. And if you've seen Punch-Drunk Love, you know he can certainly smash a restroom.


Hoping Sandler would trade his tire iron for a baseball bat, Tarantino made the character a Bostonian because, as he explained to Howard Stern, Sandler does a great Boston accent. But alas, Sandler dashed Tarantino's dreams when he signed on to do Funny People. "But that's a terrific movie," Tarantino admitted, "so it actually all worked out." Instead, the part of the Bear Jew went to Eli Roth, which is just as well. If Adam Sandler can't beat up Bob Barker, then he probably isn't ready for the Third Reich just yet.


Will Smith

When you're a top-of-the-world superstar like Will Smith, you probably get multiple movie offers every day. Naturally, you can't accept every job that comes your way, but sometimes, even A-listers accidentally pass on the best parts. And much like Warren Beatty, Smith has said no to some really killer roles. For example, when the Wachowskis offered him Neo in The Matrix, Smith opted to stay on the sidelines. Similarly, when Tarantino came calling, he couldn't convince the actor to say yes, either.


Tarantino wanted Smith to play the part of Django in his spaghetti western Django Unchained. According to a 2015 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Smith "wanted to make that movie so badly," but he turned it down because "it had to be a love story, not a vengeance story." The actor then went on to say, "Violence begets violence. I just couldn't connect to violence being the answer. Love had to be the answer."


That certainly sounds nice, and perhaps Tarantino's penchant for bloodshed really did affect Smith's decision. But if you go back to 2013, you'll see Smith gave a very different excuse for why he passed on Django Unchained. According to an interview with Entertainment Weekly, he turned the role down because it wasn't big enough. He felt Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) was actually the main character, especially since Schultz (spoilers) shoots the film's big bad guy. This didn't sit well with Smith, who tried to convince Tarantino to change things up. As Smith put it, "I was like, 'No, Quentin, please, I need to kill the bad guy.'"


Sounds a little different than "Violence begets violence," eh?


Sacha Baron Cohen

Will Smith wasn't the only major star to turn down Django Unchained. It seems like every actor in Hollywood was offered a part, only to pass at the last second. For example, Joseph Gordon-Levitt was originally going to play "a small supporting role" but left to work on his directorial debut, Don Jon. Similarly, RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan was meant to play a small part but had to leave to edit his martial arts movie, The Man with the Iron Fists.


According to IndieWire, so many actors were forced to jump ship because filming on Django Unchained went massively over schedule. In fact, the movie took so long to make that Tarantino was forced to scrap an entire character. Originally, the film was supposed to feature a young man named Scotty Harmony, a gambler who takes possession of Broomhilda, Django's wife, only to lose her to the villainous Calvin Candie in a card game. The role was originally meant to be played by Jonah Hill, but just like RZA and Gordon-Levitt, he was forced to drop out due to scheduling conflicts. (Luckily for filmgoers, he returned for one of the funniest moments in Tarantino's filmography.)


With Hill out of the picture, Tarantino decided to go with Sacha Baron Cohen as Harmony, which obviously meant the character needed a bit of a rewrite. Originally, Harmony was supposed to be "sexually inexperienced" and naive, and Baron Cohen doesn't exactly fit that bill. But scheduling conflicts struck yet again when the actor had to leave to promote his upcoming film, The Dictator. Forced with setback after setback, Tarantino cut Harmony out of the film completely…but unfortunately, that wasn't the only character who didn't make the final draft.


Kevin Costner and Kurt Russell

Everyone knows Quentin Tarantino is a master of creating amazing villains. Who can forget Mr. Blonde, Elle Driver, or Ordell Robbie? The man has a gift for dreaming up diabolical devils. And that's what makes the story of Ace Woody so sad. He's the Tarantino bad guy we never got to see.


In the original screenplay for Django Unchained, Ace Woody worked directly under Calvin Candie as the Mandingo trainer, the guy who taught slaves how to fight to the death. If Woody had made it to the silver screen, there's no doubt we would've witnessed some brutal acts of violence, as the screenplay has him torture Django. But just like Scotty Harmony, the part of Ace Woody wasn't meant to be—all because Tarantino couldn't keep an actor around long enough to play the part.


At first, Woody was supposed to be played by Kevin Costner. While he's been in a handful of westerns—Dances with Wolves, Silverado, Open Range—it's not all that often Costner plays a villain. Too bad he never got a chance to go toe-to-toe with Jamie Foxx because scheduling got in the way again, possibly due to projects like Hatfields & McCoys. As a result, the part of Woody was given to Kurt Russell, but the star evidently got sick of how long it was taking for Tarantino to get anything done. Allegedly, Russell left the project in frustration.


Once again, Tarantino was forced to erase one of his characters, but since he had a lot of good dialogue lying around, he decided to give those extra lines to Billy Crash, the villain played by Walton Goggins. And while Costner and Russell would've been great as Ace Woody, we really can't complain. The more Goggins, the better.


Viggo Mortensen

A day may come when Viggo Mortensen appears in a Quentin Tarantino movie, but it hasn't happened yet. While Mortensen has committed his fair share of onscreen bloodshed, be it against orcs in Lord of the Rings or mobsters in Eastern Promises, somehow the actor and Tarantino have never gotten together, though it's not for lack of trying. In an interview with Grantland, Mortensen revealed he actually auditioned for two parts in Reservoir Dogs, and while he doesn't remember which roles he tried out for, he did try to play one as Hispanic.


Tarantino decided to pass on the actor, but a few years later, the situation was reversed. This time, the director was interested in having Mortensen play "a ruthless gang leader" in The Hateful Eight. As there's only one gang leader in the film, it's safe to assume Tarantino wanted Mortensen to play the charming yet ruthless Jody Domergue. Unfortunately, Mortensen had to skip on the French lessons as he was busy promoting two smaller films he'd recently made: Jauja and Far from Men.


In the Grantland interview, Mortensen explained, "I knew as a producer and an actor that I needed to do that for those movies to have a chance to be seen. [Tarantino] wanted to start shooting at the end of the year and do rehearsal before that, and I just couldn't do that schedule-wise." Still, Mortensen admitted it would've been fun to star in a Tarantino flick. Of course, things worked out well for Channing Tatum. On The Tonight Show, he told Jimmy Fallon that he got the part of Jody Domergue by emailing Tarantino every day for about a month. However, if Mortensen had known that, he probably would've told Tatum to stop groveling, as movie stars bow to no one.


Jennifer Lawrence

Tarantino told Entertainment Weekly, "I'm a huge Jennifer Lawrence fan." And who can blame him? From Winter's Bone to Silver Linings Playbook to The Hunger Games, this Oscar-winning actress is gold in pretty much every movie she's ever been in. But recently, Lawrence was given the chance to step way outside her comfort zone—and into the frozen wilderness, chained to Kurt Russell, while covered in buckets of blood.


When writing the screenplay for The Hateful Eight, Tarantino had an actor in mind for every single character except two. He wasn't sure who would play Bob (the role went to Demian Bichir), and he didn't know who was going to play the female lead, Daisy Domergue. While pondering his predicament, Tarantino considered Lawrence for the part, and he even met with the actress to discuss the possibility of her squaring off against Samuel L. Jackson. However, as Tarantino explained, Lawrence was working on Joy and promoting The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 2. In other words, she was swamped and couldn't spare any time, even if it meant skipping a chance to work with a legend like Bruce Dern.


While he was probably disappointed at first, Tarantino eventually decided Lawrence probably wasn't right for the part. "I'm glad I didn't cast somebody that young," he explained to Entertainment Weekly. "I think I absolutely positively made the right choice, as far as the ages of the characters." Instead, the director went with an older actress, 53-year-old Jennifer Jason Leigh, who earned an Oscar nod for her sinister performance as the calculating outlaw. As for Lawrence, she's only 26 and has plenty of time left to work with Tarantino, assuming he doesn't actually follow through on his threat of retirement. Here's hoping one day he writes a part for Lawrence that really capitalizes on her mystique.