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Actors Who Refused To Voice Characters On The Simpsons

Over the course of its record-breaking 30-plus years on television, The Simpsons has been a pioneer in countless ways. It demonstrated that animation could work in prime time, and that there was an audience for sitcoms that weren't laugh track laden affairs about perfect families. It's also one of the first TV shows with massive scope. The town of Springfield is an intricate world full of well-developed characters. Hundreds if not thousands of people exist in The Simpsons universe, and the show has been so perennially popular that producers have always had an easy time attracting big-name guest stars from the worlds of movies, music, politics, sports, and science. The Simpsons is easily the only show that could book people as varied as Elizabeth Taylor, Stephen Hawking, the cast of Glee, Albert Brooks, Tony Bennett, Michael Jackson, and Joe Namath. 

But for whatever reason, a handful of famous people declined the opportunity to be forever rendered as yellow-skinned, four-fingered Springfieldians. Here are the stars who said "d'oh," or rather "no," to voicing characters on The Simpsons.

The Star Trek actor who refused to board the Springfield Monorail

The classic 1993 Simpsons episode "Marge vs. the Monorail," written by Conan O'Brien, finds Springfield under the spell of traveling charlatan Lyle Lanley (Phil Hartman), who convinces the town to use its extra money to build a crummy monorail. But at the very least, they had Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy, as the grand marshal for the monorail's opening. The Star Trek legend did a great job, voicing himself as a smug, quasi-mystical figure. But oddly enough, he wasn't the first choice for the episode's celebrity guest star. In 2015, O'Brien said on The Howard Stern Show (via Uproxx) that he wrote the part specifically for George Takei. However, Takei turned down the opportunity, which devastated O'Brien, until later on, when he found out why Takei said no. Apparently, he was on San Francisco's transportation board, and he thought the episode, in O'Brien's words, "mocked the monorail, which is a valid form of transportation." In the end, at least they got somebody from Star Trek.

The real-life Simpson who wouldn't appear with Homer

Up until his trial (and acquittal) for the 1994 murders of his ex-wife and her friend, O.J. Simpson was among Hollywood's most liked actors. A remarkable running back in college and the NFL, Simpson retired from playing in 1979 and went on to become both a sportscaster and one of the better athletes-turned-actors, co-starring in the classic disaster movie The Towering Inferno and holding his own with Leslie Nielsen in The Naked Gun and its two sequels. Its likely that Simpson's comic chops earned him an invite from the makers of The Simpsons.

While casting the 1993 episode "Last Exit to Springfield," which centered on Homer becoming the union leader for the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant during an employee strike, producers extended an offer to Simpson. Fast forward a few years, and in March 2018, when Fox aired the special O.J. Simpson: The Last Confession, longtime Simpsons writer Al Jean tweeted that the true crime show would air "25 years to the day after the episode we asked him to be in (pre-murders) and he turned down." Jean added that Simpson "passed and we got Dr. Joyce." The scene in question involves an underprepared Homer going on Smartline to talk about the strike, alongside talk show mainstay Dr. Joyce Brothers. Of course, if O.J. Simpson had accepted the role instead, we're pretty sure he would've killed it.

The 'tooth' about Clint Eastwood's non-appearance

In the episode "Last Exit to Springfield," Homer becomes a union boss so as not to lose his dental insurance and thus be forced to pay fully out-of-pocket for Lisa's costly braces. When it looks like that coverage will go away, Lisa's best option at Painless Dentistry (formerly Painful Dentistry) is the cheapest option, which is more or less a medieval torture device that dentist Dr. Wolfe says "pre-date stainless steel" and can't get wet. Simpsons cast member Hank Azaria voices Dr. Wolfe with a barely reserved fury and a slight Irish lilt, but the original actors that producers asked to voice the character may have taken different approaches. According to a DVD commentary of the episode, a fresh-from-The Silence of the Lambs Anthony Hopkins was the first choice for the part. He said no, as did legendary movie tough guy Clint Eastwood. Ultimately, Anthony Perkins of Psycho fame expressed interest, but he died before he could record his lines.

Bruce Springsteen turned down multiple Simpsons characters

Nearly every major rock star has appeared on The Simpsons, including three Beatles, Tom Petty, Mick Jagger, and the Ramones. Bruce Springsteen is probably the most famous rocker to not make a tour stop in Springfield. It's not for a lack of trying on the part of The Simpsons' staff, however. The Boss was asked to appear several times, and he always said no. 

For example, the 1991 episode "One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish" finds Homer convinced he's about to die after eating poisonous fugu at a sushi place, and he takes solace in a book-on-tape version of the Bible narrated by Larry King. The show's staff had wanted Springsteen to be Homer's pre-recorded voice of comfort. And in the 1992 episode "Radio Bart," Sting (playing himself) heroically digs Bart out of the abandoned well into which he's fallen, but that role was also made for Springsteen. And in the 1998 episode "When You Dish Upon a Star," Homer drives Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger to near madness, but the Boss was an early possibility to be the central celebrity ... except that he said no.

In his book Springfield Confidential, Simpsons writer and producer Mike Reiss said the show resorted to nontraditional methods to book Springsteen. As Reiss put it, "We sent him a Simpsons jacket as a bribe, which didn't work. We even had his sax player, Clarence Clemons, on the show, hoping he'd tell Bruce how much fun it was. That didn't work, either."

The Simpsons was too risky of a business for this top gun

While the real Tom Cruise has never appeared as himself or as a character on The Simpsons, his image did make a cameo. When Apu, fearing deportation back to India after his visa expires, tries to pass himself off as a flag-waving, native-born American with a Southern drawl, he melts down, screaming that he doesn't need his Indian culture or Hindu religion because he has "Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman staring at me from Entertainment Weekly with their dead eyes!" 

Despite teasing him, The Simpsons has tried to get the actual Tom Cruise on the show twice. In the 1993 episode "Brother from the Same Planet," Bart tires of Homer's poor parenting and lands a substitute father figure from a Big Brothers and Sister-type organization. His new role model is a jet pilot (a "top gun" in other words) named Tom. According to Simpsons producer and writer Al Jean, the staff "wrote this episode specifically for Tom Cruise," because they'd received word from executive producer (and big-time Hollywood director) James L. Brooks "that Tom Cruise wanted to do the show." Apparently he didn't, because he passed, and frequent Simpsons performer Phil Hartman wound up playing Tom. 

Cruise and then-wife Nicole Kidman were also approached to portray the celebrity couple that Homer aggravates in the 1998 installment "When You Dish Upon a Star." Again, Cruise said no, and the parts went to Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger.

Jim Carrey couldn't voice a singing hobo

In its latter seasons, The Simpsons took the three-stories-in-one-episode anthology format that worked so well in its "Treehouse of Horror" Halloween specials and used it to tell love stories, Bible stories, and in the 2001 episode "Simpsons Tall Tales," stories about American folklore. The story starts when Homer won't pay the taxes on free tickets to Delaware, so his family hops a ride in a train boxcar, where they encounter a hobo who passes the time by telling them the stories of Paul Bunyan, "Connie Appleseed," and Huckleberry Finn (which isn't a folk tale, but okay). The hobo is friendly — "I'm not a stabbing hobo, I'm a singing hobo!" — but also demands sponge baths in exchange for his storytelling. It's a silly, over-the-top role, and it was offered to one of the world's silliest, most over-the-top actors: Jim Carrey. According to a DVD commentary, Carrey readily signed on to voice the rail-ridin', tall-tale-teller, but he ultimately couldn't work a recording session into his busy schedule. Regular Simpsons voice actor Hank Azaria performed the role instead.

Prince refused to lend his vocal talents to The Simpsons

Early Simpsons episode "Stark Raving Dad" shows off the series' unique comic sensibility, as well as its ability to pull in extremely famous guest stars. After he wears a pink shirt to work, Homer is committed to a mental asylum, where he meets a large white man who firmly believes himself to be Michael Jackson. He does sound a lot like the King of Pop — probably because the real Jacko voiced the character — although he eventually admits his real name is Leon Kompowsky and that he talks like Jackson because it makes him a happier person.

Leon nearly made another appearance on The Simpsons in what would ultimately become a "lost episode." The plot sees the former mental patient reunite with the Simpson family, only now he believes himself to be Prince. Show writers Ian Deitchman and Kristin Rusk completed a script, and the show reached out to the late legend to voice "himself." (Other possibilities writers entertained for Leon's new identity: Roberta Flack and Leo Sayer.) Shortly after Prince died in 2016, Simpsons writer and producer Al Jean tweeted out pages from the script which went un-produced because Prince backed out. Simpsons producers never got a solid reason why, but Jean thinks that Prince turned the part down because he "didn't want to play second fiddle" to Jackson, a rival, or because the script made fun of the pint-size funk machine's terrible movies, Under the Cherry Moon and Graffiti Bridge.

Courtney Love missed out on meeting Homer Simpson

In the 1996 episode "Hullabalooza," Homer Simpson scores tickets to a Lollapalooza-esque traveling concert, and he becomes a sideshow attraction as a guy who takes cannonball shots to the belly. He meets all the tour's big acts, which, like the real Lollapalooza did in the '90s, represent different realms of popular music. There's Cypress Hill (rap), Smashing Pumpkins and Sonic Youth (alternative rock), and Peter Frampton (classic rock). 

Needless to say, there were a lot of complications in getting those acts to appear on The Simpsons. According to a DVD commentary for the episode, the first pick for the elder statesman of music role was Bob Dylan, who passed, so Frampton filled in. Mid-'90s grunge sensation Hole, fronted by Courtney Love, almost appeared, although according to Simpsons creator Matt Groening, one band threatened, "If Courtney Love's in, we're out." Groening wouldn't say who was going to back out, but the clear answer is Sonic Youth (as confirmed by Entertainment Weekly). 

Love ultimately failed to either confirm or deny her involvement, so Hole didn't appear, and the writing staff had to rework a line intended for its frontwoman. Upon meeting Homer, the Hole singer was supposed to say, "I'm a big fan, Homer. Courtney Love." Homer's reply was supposed to be, "Homer grateful." It got adapted into an exchange between Homer and Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins that went, "Billy Corgan, Smashing Pumpkins," followed by, "Homer Simpson, smiling politely."

Every president has refused to visit Springfield

Who's bigger than rock stars and movie stars? Presidents. For years, Simpsons producers have failed to achieve their lofty goal of getting a commander-in-chief onto the show. "Every president from Ford to Obama rejected us," said Simpsons writer and producer Mike Reiss in Springfield Confidential. For example, the writers had big plans for Gerald Ford. As Reiss explained, "We were going to show him working in the Gerald Ford Presidential Library, stamping books and shaking down patrons for 15-cent late fees, but he turned us down." The show almost secured an appearance by Bill Clinton, with Reiss saying, "After we wrote him a part and sent him a script, he notified us, 'While I'd love to do The Simpsons, I'd never do anything to disgrace the office of the president.'" 

Reiss also revealed that the writer learned secondhand why Jimmy Carter will probably never appear on The Simpsons. According to the 39th president's grandson, Carter finally watched an episode of the show after years of prodding. The one he happened to catch was "Marge in Chains." In this episode, budget cuts lead Springfield to install an affordable statue of Jimmy Carter in a park, rather than the more expensive Abraham Lincoln model. The citizens riot, and somebody labels Carter as "history's greatest monster." So yeah, we totally get where Carter is coming from.

Itchy and Scratchy vs. Quentin Tarantino

Late in the 1997 Mary Poppins-skewering episode "Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious," a familiar pop culture icon gets a Simpsons send-up. Bart and Lisa watch an Itchy & Scratchy episode called "Reservoir Cats," helmed by "special guest director" Quentin Tarantino. In this direct parody of Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs, Itchy (the mouse) douses Scratchy (the cat) in gasoline and chops off his ear to the strains of Stealer's Wheel's "Stuck in the Middle With You." Then a pompous Tarantino steps into the frame to explain the meaning behind the not-very-deep cartoon, only for Itchy to use his razor to chop off the director's head. So not only did The Simpsons make the director look like a jerk, they murdered him, too. 

The show approached Tarantino about playing himself, but according to producer Al Jean in a DVD commentary, the filmmaker "didn't want to say what we have him saying," so he didn't voice the character. There were apparently no hard feelings, however, because Tarantino has been spotted wearing a T-shirt bearing the image of his cartoon equivalent.

These big-leaguers wouldn't play ball with The Simpsons

The sheer volume of guest stars on the Simpsons episode "Homer at the Bat" is almost as impressive as the guests themselves. When Mr. Burns stacks the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant softball team with ringers culled from Major League Baseball, he lands the finest ballplayers 1992 has to offer. Those players, all of them multiple-time all-stars and some of them Hall of Famers, include names like Don Mattingly, Wade Boggs, Ozzie Smith, Jose Canseco, Ken Griffey Jr., Ozzie Smith, Darryl Strawberry, Steve Sax, Mike Scioscia, and Roger Clemens.

The Simpsons squad didn't get all of their first picks for the animated team, however. The first choice for second baseman, over Sax, was future Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg. And before Clemens got the call for pitcher, the writers wanted all-time strikeout king, Nolan Ryan. Sandberg and Ryan subsequently missed out on animated versions of themselves getting arrested for murders he didn't commit and clucking like a chicken after a hypnotism goes awry, respectively.

Shirley Temple turned down a very familiar character

The 2000 episode "Last Tap Dance in Springfield" finds Lisa enamored with the art of dance after watching a cheesy movie called Tango de La Muerte. She wants to take tango lessons, but gets talked out of it by Vicki Valentine, proprietor and instructor of Lil' Vicki Valentine's School of Dance. The elderly Vicki is a former child star, the toast of Hollywood in the '30s and '40s for singing and dancing her way through adorable and wholesome movies like Little Vicki for President and Hell Hath No Little Vicki. This curly-haired superstar-kid-turned-grownup-out-of-showbiz was clearly inspired by Shirley Temple, and Simpsons higher-ups thought it would be fun to get the real Shirley Temple to play the fake one. According to writer Mike Scully on a DVD commentary, the Simpsons people and Temple's people talked about it, but ultimately they "just couldn't put it together," and Temple had to pass on voicing the character. Regular utility voice actress Tress MacNeille played Vicki Valentine in Temple's place.