The Biggest Movie Roles Sean Connery Turned Down

The news that Sir Sean Connery passed away on October 31, 2020 hit fans hard. Connery spent a whopping five decades acting, and has a string of hits a mile long behind him.

It's hard to imagine James Bond being the franchise it is without Connery stepping into the spy's shoes first. Would Tom Clancy's novels been as successfully adapted if it hadn't had been for Connery's legendary performance as Marko Ramius in The Hunt for Red October? And could there have ever possibly been a better man to play the father of Indiana Jones? A world without Connery in these roles is one most of us shudder to imagine.

However, just as interesting as the roles that Connery took are the ones he didn't. When Connery says no to a role, it can be as big a deal as if he'd said yes. Did you know that Star Trek producers originally wanted Connery to play Spock's half brother Sybok in the infamous Star Trek V: The Final Frontier? People involved with the project were so impacted by Connery's refusal that they still managed to sneak him into the picture in an amusing way. In The Final Frontier, Sybok steals the Enterprise in his efforts to seek out a mythical paradise in space. The location was named "Sha Ka Ree" by the writers in order to sound like "Sean Connery."

The Final Frontier was a bust, so it's a good thing Connery passed on playing Sybok — but there are other roles Connery turned down over the years that are quite the opposite.

Sean Connery was considered for Rick Deckard in Blade Runner

Do androids dream of electric sheep? Did Sean Connery ever dream of electric sheep? He very well might have, but it seems more likely that he would've seen it as a nightmare than a dream.

The Philip K. Dick story Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is better known to most by the name it was adapted under for the big screen: Blade Runner. Director Ridley Scott's cyberpunk magnum opus is legendary now, but it wasn't a success upon its original release in 1982. The film could've been extremely different: Martin Scorsese met with Dick back in 1969 to discuss directing the project (via Vanity Fair), and the role of replicant Pris (Darryl Hannah) was offered first to Blondie front-woman Debbie Harry, who turned down the gig.

And then there's Rick Deckard, who ultimately was played by Harrison Ford. It turns out that Ford wasn't Scott's first pick. In fact, the filmmaker was looking for someone very different — Dustin Hoffman. (Deckard likely would've been a much more neurotic figured with Hoffman in the role.) According to the mini documentary Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner, there were many more actors considered for Deckard: Paul Newman, Clint Eastwood, Jack Nicholson, and, as you might have guessed, Sean Connery. Presumably, they all turned down the gig before it was offered to Ford.

In many ways the very opposite of Dustin Hoffman, Connery would likely have brought a swagger and confidence to Deckard that neither Hoffman nor Ford at the time could muster. One almost wonders if Blade Runner might have been a hit upon release if Connery had taken the role of Deckard.

Sean Connery could've been Morpheus in The Matrix

If Blade Runner were to abdicate its cyberpunk throne, the film that would reign supreme in its place would almost certainly be the 1999 sci-fi classic The Matrix. It's hard to imagine a world without bullet-time action sequences or science-fiction action without a little bit of philosophy thrown in.

The Matrix basically reinvented an entire genre, but it also rejuvenated some careers, too. It's hard to imagine now, but Keanu Reeves had a string of relative duds after locking himself in as an action star with 1994's Speed. It's obvious that Reeves was in the market to become a sci-fi legend, but neither Johnny Mnemonic nor Chain Reaction were quite doing the job. Thankfully, The Matrix was such a massive hit that it more or less guaranteed Reeves could star in just about anything he wanted from then on.

An even bigger success than Reeves' might actually be Laurence Fishburne's for his turn as kung-fu guru Morpheus. Prior to The Matrix, Fishburne was "Larry" not "Lawrence," and a lot of people still thought of him as Cowboy Curtis from Pee Wee's Playhouse before thinking of his other work. In many ways, Morpheus made Fishburne's career.

Believe it or not, the role could've gone to Sean Connery. Heck, he could've played a different character in the Matrix sequel ... if only the former James Bond had understood the script. Entertainment Weekly cites The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen producer Don Murphy as sharing this quote from Connery: "I was offered 'The Matrix' — twice — and I turned it down because I didn't understand it."

Sadly, this problem plagued him again not long after The Matrix.

Imagine Sean Connery as Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings

There's a dividing line when it comes to fantasy movies, and that line is 2001's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. There were plenty of good fantasy movies before Peter Jackson adapted the J.R.R. Tolkien classic, but none of them were as gangbusters successful. The first film in the trilogy made $888 million all on its own, and the remaining films were only more profitable after that.

Without The Lord of the Rings, there would have never been any Hobbit live-action movies, and there likely wouldn't have been any Game of Thrones series on HBO. And between Lord of the Rings and X-Men, Sir Ian McKellen basically became a household name for all nerds everywhere once he played Gandalf and Magneto.

Originally, however, Jackson desperately wanted Sean Connery for the part of Gandalf. Jackson was so intent on having Connery in the role of the wizard that the reported offer on the table was $10 million per film, plus 15 percent of the box office take. Connery wound up retiring from acting in 2006, but he could've done so as one of the richest actors of all time had he taken that Gandalf part. Sadly, just like with The Matrix, Connery simply didn't understand the script, and thus turned the role down (via Entertainment Weekly).

What would these movies have been with Connery — would they have been duds, or even bigger hits than they already are? The world will never know.