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The Holiday: Jimmy Fallon Quit Acting After Auditioning Alongside Robert Downey Jr.

Nancy Meyer's "The Holiday" has changed the lives of many, including comedian Jimmy Fallon, who pivoted his career path because of it. 

Released in 2006, "The Holiday" is the perfect Christmas rom-com to lift up anyone's spirits. Directed and written by Meyers, the film focuses on the British Iris (Kate Winslet) and American Amanda (Cameron Diaz), two unlucky-in-love women who swap houses during the holidays. Alone in unknown countries and desperate to find themselves, the two end up having the best time during their respective vacations, falling in love along the way. It's a simple but hopeful premise — one that proves that nobody does rom-coms better than Meyers.

Winslet and Diaz are joined by Jack Black and Jude Law, who play their love interests, respectively. While it's hard to imagine anyone but Black and Law in those now iconic roles, there's a timeline out there where the characters are populated by Jimmy Fallon and Robert Downey Jr. While appearing on "The Howard Stern Show," both Fallon and Downey Jr. opened up about their botched auditions for "The Holiday." While Downey Jr.'s performance had its own fair share of issues, Fallon was completely taken aback by how the future "Iron Man" actor carried himself during the audition. "Without a doubt, this is the best actor I've ever sat across from and did a scene with in my entire life," Fallon told Stern. 

Fallon was so blown away by Downey Jr.'s audition for "The Holiday," that he decided it would be best to leave acting behind altogether. "This was mind-blowing to me," Fallon confessed. "I quit the business. I never went back. That was the last time I auditioned for a role." Things clearly worked out for Fallon, as the comedian currently hosts the ever-popular "Tonight Show" on NBC.

Robert Downey Jr. botched his The Holiday audition

Perspective is indeed a funny thing. While Jimmy Fallon was busy meditating on his viability as an actor after seeing Robert Downey Jr.'s audition for "The Holiday," Kate Winslet was ready to tear the "Tropic Thunder" actor apart. While chatting with Howard Stern, Downey Jr. set the stage, opening up about how he and Fallon were invited to audition alongside Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz. "We both got called in just as seat fillers," Downey Jr. explained, saying that they weren't exactly up for the roles.

"[Director Nancy Meyers] needed someone to read with the gals and we're sitting there going, 'It's about to happen for us,'" Downey Jr. said. But it didn't happen for them. Downey Jr. was so confident in his performance that he believed he was on track to replace Jude Law, who romances Diaz's character in "The Holiday." In the film, Law retains his charming British accent, something Downey Jr. tried to replicate in the audition. 

Unfortunately, the very American Downey Jr. botched his audition, receiving some lovely criticism from Winslet. "And I was like, 'I've got to have a better English accent than Jude Law at this point.' And Winslet said, 'That was the worst British accent I've ever heard,'" Downey Jr. remembered. The actor continued by saying that writer-director Nancy Meyers told the duo that their auditions were "great" but "not a perfect fit." While it would have been great to have Downey Jr. headline a Meyers rom-com, it's probably for the best, as the actor ended up as Iron Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe two years later. 

For Fallon, however, Downey Jr.'s "The Holiday" audition was a game changer, turning him into one of the world's most recognizable comedians. 

Robert Downey Jr.'s audition helped change Jimmy Fallon's life

Like many of his contemporaries, Jimmy Fallon got his start in showbusiness as a cast member on NBC's "Saturday Night Live." The comedian was an absolute standout on the series, appearing as a co-anchor on the "Weekend Update" segment. By the time 2004 came around, Fallon was ready to leave the series behind and move on to bigger things. "My goal was just to be in movies — be like a rom-com guy or something," Fallon told Entrepreneur in 2022. When asked why that was his goal, Fallon candidly explained that he felt it was the right move for him, saying, "Maybe, from all the books and articles that I'd read, the trajectory of someone famous from 'Saturday Night Live; is to do movies. It's just the path." 

Fallon left the comfort of "SNL" and tried his hand at acting, appearing in the action-comedy "Taxi" and the rom-com "Fever Pitch" following his departure. Unfortunately, both films were nothing special, failing to make substantial impressions at the box office. It was likely around this time that Fallon crossed paths with Robert Downey Jr. for "The Holiday" audition. 

While continuing his chat with Entrepreneur, Fallon opened up about how he was unsure which direction he should take his career after his failed stint at acting. "What can I do now? I have to do something. And I have talent. I mean, I could do stand-up. I could sing comedy songs," he said. Luckily, an existential crisis was stopped in the form of a late-night hosting gig. He headlined "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" for five years, before taking over "The Tonight Show." Things obviously worked out for Fallon after quitting acting, as he's one of the most well-known personalities in the world.