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Actors Who Refused Big DC Roles

We've seen a ton of superhero blockbusters over the last decade, and there are even more on the horizon. At this point, it's no longer about who has starred in an entry from the genre, but rather who hasn't—and often more interestingly, who's decided not to. We've already run through the various actors who refused big Marvel roles, so now it's time to take a look at which actors and actresses refused offers to star in the DC Extended Universe.

Matt Damon

Longtime friends Matt Damon and Ben Affleck got their start in Hollywood together by writing and starring in Good Will Hunting in 1997. Twenty years later, Affleck joined the DCEU as Batman, and although he's since left the role, he was initially scheduled to direct a solo adventure featuring the character. Considering their friendship, a lot of people think Damon should have had a role in Affleck's Batman movie, which is something Damon agreed with. "I'd consider anything with the right director, but I can't imagine there are any superheroes left, I think they're all taken at this moment," he said from the red carpet at his Jason Bourne premiere. "If [Ben] was directing me, I'd jump on it in a New York minute. I'd love to work with Ben." The thing is, Damon had his chance to star in a DC movie—and he turned it down.

It's hard to imagine anyone other than Aaron Eckhart playing Harvey Dent, a.k.a. Two-Face, in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight. However, Eckhart may not have always been the studio's first choice. In 2009, while doing press for Invictus, Damon admitted he was once up for the role. "I couldn't [do it] — there was a scheduling thing," Damon told MTV News. "I never spoke to Chris Nolan. I'm a big Chris Nolan fan, but I never spoke to him." But Damon believes the studio ultimately went with the right guy. "Look, Aaron is a great actor, so the movie didn't suffer for it. Every now and then you get one and you can't do it."

Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonardo DiCaprio has spent the vast majority of his life in Hollywood, but before he achieved global fame in James Cameron's Titanic in 1997, Warner Bros. approached DiCaprio to star in Joel Schumacher's Batman Forever. Seeing how things turned out, we'd be inclined to say he made the right call in turning down the studio.

The studio wanted DiCaprio for Dick Grayson, a.k.a. Robin, but DiCaprio wasn't feeling it. Contrary to rumors, DiCaprio said he never screen-tested for the role, though he did talk to Schumacher. "I had a meeting with Joel Schumacher," he told Shortlist. "It was just one meeting and, no, I didn't end up doing it." Despite meeting with the director, DiCaprio said he never wanted the role. "As I recall I took the meeting but didn't want to play the role. Joel Schumacher is a very talented director, but I don't think I was ready for anything like that."

The role ended up going to Chris O'Donnell, but, interestingly, Robin wasn't the only superhero role Hollywood offered DiCaprio—Sony Pictures approached him to play Spider-Man for director Sam Raimi, but as with Robin, he said he just wasn't ready "to put on that suit" yet. At this juncture in his Oscar-winning career, it seems unlikely he's in any rush to change his mind.

Tom Hardy

After starring in Christopher Nolan's Inception in 2010, Tom Hardy boarded Nolan's third Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises, as the villain Bane. And when the time came for Warner Bros. to launch the DCEU, Hardy wanted to be a part of it. The studio approached him for a role in David Ayer's Suicide Squad, but he turned down the project not long after receiving the final script for the film.

Considering the reaction critics had to Suicide Squad, it might seem safe to believe the rumors that circulated in early 2015, when Latino Review reported that Hardy ended up turning down the role of Col. Rick Flag because he didn't like Suicide Squad's script. That couldn't be further from the truth, however: Hardy had previous commitments to Alejandro G. Inarritu's The Revenant, which had tacked on an additional three months of filming in Calgary and later Argentina (due to the lack of snow in Canada; go figure).

In fact, Hardy really loved the script, telling Collider, "Warner Bros. is my home studio, and I love them, so I was really bummed out. I wanted to work on [Suicide Squad] and I know the script is really f—ing alley ... that's gonna, I think, be a very important film for fans."

Jake Gyllenhaal

After Tom Hardy turned down the role of Rick Flag in Suicide Squad, David Ayer and the studio started searching for his replacement, and their quest led them to Jake Gyllenhaal. As an established actor with a healthy background in blockbusters, Gyllenhaal seemed like the perfect candidate for the role. Unfortunately, he also passed on the opportunity to appear in the DCEU. Gyllenhaal never gave a reason for turning down the offer, but at the time, all signs pointed toward the script being the issue.

But as long as Gyllenhaal doesn't have any opposition to starring in a superhero movie, then perhaps there's still a chance to see him in the DCEU. After all, Gyllenhaal is no stranger to superhero movies; Sam Raimi almost cast him in Spider-Man 2 after Tobey Maguire sustained a back injury. Of course, as fans are aware, they ended up keeping Maguire, and the results are widely considered one of the greatest superhero movies ever made. As for Gyllenhaal? Superpowers eluded him the first time around, but he finally joined the MCU to play the classic villain Mysterio in 2019's Spider-Man: Far from Home.

Jon Hamm

Warner Bros. had been trying to get a Green Lantern film off the ground for well over a decade before Martin Campbell directed the character's first live-action outing in 2011, starring Ryan Reynolds. The studio approached Kevin Smith in 1997 to write a script for the film, but he turned down the offer, feeling he wasn't the right fit for the job. Then renowned director Quentin Tarantino received an offer to helm the project, but he also turned it down, feeling he'd outgrown his adoration for comic books. When the studio finally settled on a director and screenwriter, they started searching for their Hal Jordan.

While Reynolds ultimately got the part, he wasn't always the top contender. Warner Bros. approached Bradley Cooper, Chris Pine, Justin Timberlake, and Sam Worthington, who either all rejected the project or weren't ultimately offered the part. Another one-time contender was Mad Men star Jon Hamm. "They came after me pretty hard for Green Lantern. But I was like, 'Meh, that's not what I want to do,'" he recalled. "Never say never, but these aren't the kind of movies I like to go and see. They don't make the kind of movies I like to see anymore."

Josh Hartnett

Josh Hartnett was a rising star in his early 20s, thanks to films such as Black Hawk Down, Pearl Harbor, and 40 Days and 40 Nights. His status as a heartthrob in Hollywood at the time made him a prime candidate for Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man. Yes, Hartnett, at one point or another, was offered all three roles. Why did he turn them down?

"Spider-Man was something we talked about," Hartnett recalled in 2014. "Batman was another one. But I somehow knew those roles had [the] potential to define me, and I didn't want that. I didn't want to be labeled as Superman for the rest of my career. I was maybe 22, but I saw the danger." He reiterated the same notion a year later, telling Playboy, "I've definitely said no to some of the wrong people. I said no because I was tired and wanted to spend more time with my friends and family. That's frowned upon in this industry."

Being offered one of those roles is a miracle in and of itself—but all three? And to turn them all down? It certainly caused friction between his manager and agents. "I didn't have those agents for much longer after that. There was a lot of infighting between my manager and agents, trying to figure out who to put the blame on. It got to the point where none of us were able to work together." Who knows? Maybe he'll accept the next super-offer—if one ever comes along.

Caroline Munro

English actress and model Caroline Munro is known for her horror movies with Hammer Films, where she got her big break starring in Alan Gibson's Dracula AD 1972 and then later Brian Clemens' Captain Kronos—Vampire Hunter. In addition to starring in numerous action movies, Munro is also known for being a Bond Girl. She played Naomi in Lewis Gilbert's The Spy Who Loved Me, with Roger Moore as James Bond. However, in order to join the cast, Munro had to forego the opportunity to star in Richard Donner's Superman.

Donner and Warner Bros. offered Munro the part of Ursa, a villain and collaborator of the iconic Superman villain General Zod. "Yes, it's true, I was offered Ursa," Munro told House of Horrors. "My agent at the time, Dennis Salinger, said that I should go with the Bond film because it seemed the best bet. Superman at that time was untried, whereas there had been Bond films before and he felt that it was the best role to take." Honestly, Salinger has a point, from a managerial standpoint. Though in hindsight, going for Donner's Superman movie might have elevated her status in geekdom.

Pierce Brosnan

Pierce Brosnan has had a prolific career, though his tenure as the slick MI6 spy James Bond will undoubtedly remain a highlight. At one point, though, Brosnan had the opportunity to star in a comic book movie that would have, in all likelihood, not only altered his chances for Bond but also changed the landscape of the genre as we know it. Imagine, for a second, that Michael Keaton didn't play Batman in Tim Burton's 1989 film—and instead, the part went to Brosnan.

Sounds crazy, but there was a chance of it happening. In a Reddit AMA, Brosnan admitted to meeting Burton for the role. "Yes, I did. I went and met with Tim Burton for the role of Batman," he wrote. "But I just couldn't really take it seriously, any man who wears his underpants outside his pants just cannot be taken seriously. That was my foolish take on it. It was a joke, I thought. But how wrong was I?" Brosnan stressed the fact that he doesn't hate Batman, he just couldn't see himself playing the character in a movie. "Don't get me wrong, because I love Batman, and I grew up on Batman. As a kid in Ireland, we used to get our raincoats and tie them round our neck and swing through the bicycle shed."

It appears that, just like Caroline Munro with Superman, Brosnan passing on Batman led him to James Bond, and thus the defining role of his career. How many people can say they've been James Bond? Well, then again, how many people can say they've been Batman?

Anthony Hopkins

There aren't many actors more highly regarded than Anthony Hopkins, who still manages to impress us at this late stage in his career. Known to many as Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, and Red Dragon, Hopkins had the opportunity to perform in a comics adaptation—but he declined. Before Michael Caine boarded Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins as Bruce Wayne's butler, Alfred Pennyworth, Nolan reportedly offered Hopkins the role. He turned it down, for reasons unknown. Thankfully he did, because without Caine as Alfred, Nolan likely never would have developed the close relationship with Caine that's led to the duo working together repeatedly throughout Nolan's films.

Interestingly, despite reportedly being turned down for the role of Mr. Freeze in Joel Schumacher's Batman & Robin (a role he lost to Arnold Schwarzenegger), Hopkins maintained his interest in DC movies. Not long after turning down the role of Alfred Pennyworth in Batman Begins, he finally joined the DC universe as Jor-El in J.J. Abrams and Brett Ratner's Superman: Flyby. Things didn't work out, though, and the project mutated into Bryan Singer's Superman Returns. "I was going to do the movie with Brett, and I don't know what happened," Hopkins told MTV News. "[There was] some political movement. I think Brett was out of line with something and they said thank you very much. I never heard from Brett since then, but I was all set to do it." Is Hopkins secretly a huge comic book fan, and we just didn't know about it? At least he got his chance to play Odin in Marvel's Thor movies.

Katie Holmes

Katie Holmes played the original Christopher Nolan creation Rachel Dawes in Nolan's Batman Begins but opted not to return for the film's sequel, The Dark Knight, despite reportedly being offered a hefty sum for the role. Nolan said he was sad to see Holmes go, but felt lucky that they managed to nab Maggie Gyllenhaal as her replacement. "Katie wasn't available for the role, which I wasn't very happy about, but these things happen," he admitted. "And I was very, very fortunate that Maggie was able to take it over." But before accepting the role, Gyllenhaal made sure to get Holmes' approval first. "I wanted to be sure, first of all, that I had her blessing. And I was assured that I did. I'm a big fan of hers; I think she was really great in the first movie."

In hindsight, looking back at the box office grosses and critical acclaim for The Dark Knight, one might imagine that Holmes would wish she hadn't passed on the film. But when asked if she had regrets, she told MTV News, "Not at all. I had a great experience working with Chris Nolan [and] I'm sure it's going to be a great movie. [But] I chose to do this movie [Mad Money], and I'm really proud of it."

Jude Law

Jude Law's an excellent actor, but he's not a huge movie star. After the disastrous performance of Sky Captain & The World of Tomorrow, Law was probably nervous about headlining another action franchise — especially when the character is the greatest superhero of them all. On the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Law revealed that director Bryan Singer offered him the role of the Man of Steel for 2006's Superman Returns. Singer even sent Law the suit to try on: "I take the suit into the bathroom and I'm putting it on and I look around and I look in the mirror and suddenly I'm Superman. And the music kind of comes in. Then I have this picture of me in that costume in posters all over the world and I was like, 'No way!' And I unzipped it. But I was Superman for two minutes, that was enough."

Law turned down the role, which went to the unknown Brandon Routh. After Superman Returns' lukewarm reception, the series was rebooted with Law's fellow Brit, Henry Cavill. "I'm an Englishman and, I don't know, it just didn't seem to fit," said Law. "I was always worried about the outfit. I just didn't fancy it." Law presumably had no such qualms about the wardrobe attached to the character of Yon-Rogg, the Kree warrior he played in 2019's MCU blockbuster Captain Marvel.

Will Smith

Movie stars don't come much bigger than Will Smith. This was especially true in the mid-2000s, when he turned just about every genre into a goldmine. One major genre he hadn't touched yet? Superhero films. It seemed like the perfect fit. Will Smith in a big-budget, CGI-heavy action flicks was about as close to a sure thing as you were going to get. Add an iconic character and any studio would kill for the chance to produce that. Well, according to Smith in an interview with MTV, he wasn't just offered any superhero, but the mightiest of them all: Superman.

Apparently Bryan Singer also asked Smith to play the big blue boy scout in Superman Returns. Smith didn't even need to see the suit. Smith rejected the part because he didn't want to repeat what was then his biggest career mistake: "There is no way I'm playing Superman!' Because I had already done Jim West [in Wild Wild West], and you can't be messing up white people's heroes in Hollywood. You mess up white people's heroes in Hollywood, you'll never work in this town again!" Smith would go on to play his own superhero in Hancock and would later join the DC franchise as Deadshot, but he has since departed that role.

Heath Ledger

Imagine living in an alternate universe where Heath Ledger played Bruce Wayne/Batman and Christian Bale played the Joker. It's not that far-fetched. In 2005, Ledger was the gravelly voiced king of cool, while Bale was most known for playing the maniacal murdering psychopath Patrick Bateman (watch the chainsaw scene ... it's so Joker). We're  happy with the way things turned out, but according to The Dark Knight Trilogy's director Christopher Nolan, it was almost Ledger, not Bale, who donned the cape and cowl.

In an interview with the Daily Star, Nolan revealed that he offered the part of Batman to Ledger but was turned down: "He was quite gracious about it, but he said, 'I would never take a part in a superhero film.'" Thankfully, Ledger changed his mind, presumably after he saw Batman Begins and realized Nolan was going for a grittier, more realistic take. Fortunately, there were no hard feelings on Nolan's end, as he clearly was a great admirer of Ledger's work. The Dark Knight would go on to be one of the highest-grossing movies of the decade, being the first film to earn $500+ million domestically since Titanic, largely due to Ledger's performance as the Clown Prince of Crime. Ledger tragically died before the film's release, but his work won him his first and only Oscar. Still, how cool would it have been to see Ledger growl, "Swear to me!"? The answer: really cool.

Ethan Hawke

Ethan Hawke also turned down the opportunity to don Batman's cape and cowl. However, it was not in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Trilogy, but in the Burton-Schumacher Batman series. When Michael Keaton declined to return following Tim Burton's departure from the director's chair, Hawke said that he was approached to take on the role.

Was Hawke, like Ledger, just not interested in being in a superhero movie? Well, you could put it that way. But Hawke was worried he wouldn't get to enjoy the things he loved: "I just didn't want to go to the Knicks game and have everybody go, 'Wow, you were a great Batman!' That wasn't my f**king goal in life." Fair enough. The part went to Val Kilmer, and then George Clooney, who co-starred with Hawke's future wife Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy in Batman & Robin. Did Uma's experience make the actor glad he dodged a bullet (and Bat-nipples)? Surprisingly, no. "Now I wish I'd done it, because I could have used it to do other things." Hey, not everybody is born with Bruce Wayne's billions, right?

Kate Beckinsale

If you Google "actors who almost played Wonder Woman," you may break the search engine. It seems like everybody was considered for the part, from Sandra Bullock to Megan Fox, though honestly, it's doubtful many of these actresses were ever formally approached for what most would consider a dream role. One actress who was approached for the role — and turned it down — was Kate Beckinsale. With her lead role as vampire death dealer Selene in the successful Underworld franchise, Beckinsale would have been a perfect fit for the Amazonian warrior in the mid-2000s. Alas, the most recent female superheroes on film during that time were Halle Berry in Catwoman, Jennifer Garner in Elektra, and Charlize Theron in Aeon Flux. Not the best track record, and it sounds like this proposed Wonder Woman vehicle wasn't going to be much better: "The incarnations that I was seeing were ... They weren't this one [the 2017 film]," said Beckinsale.

But even if the script was better, it sounds like Beckinsale would have been hung up by the same thing which has worried actors playing superheroes forever: the suit. "I don't know if I was desperate to be in a leotard," said Beckinsale. "I'd already done the rubber trousers. You have to take in that you have a child at some point and how much could you possibly embarrass them?"

Charlize Theron

Charlize Theron was not up for the part of Wonder Woman in her 2017 film incarnation. However, she did turn down a major role as Wonder Woman's mom, the Queen of Themyscira, Hippolyta. "This is a great example of how Hollywood slaps you in the face when you start aging," Theron said in an interview with Andy Cohen on Watch What Happens Live! According to Theron, she was talking to someone when the 2017 film was still in development. While Theron thought the part was for the red, gold, and blue Amazonian warrior, she quickly found out otherwise. "This person said, 'No, it's for Wonder Woman's mom," said Theron. "It was the defining moment where I crossed over, and I wasn't fully aware of it."

Theron is only ten years older than Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot, continuing Hollywood's long history of ridiculous parent-child age gaps. Other famous examples include Sean Connery and Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (12 years), Sally Field and Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump (nine years), and Guy Pearce and Charlize Theron herself in Prometheus (nine years). Despite Wonder Woman being directed by Patty Jenkins, who directed Monster, which won Charlize Theron her Oscar in 2003, Theron declined the part, which went to Connie Nielsen, who is about 19 years older than Gadot.

Kristen Stewart

Director Zack Snyder apparently felt "slighted" when Kristen Stewart rejected the role of Lois Lane in 2013's Man of Steel. According to sources close to the director, he and his wife/producing partner Deborah met with Stewart about playing the iconic reporter. While Snyder was interested in Stewart, he apparently never formally offered her the part. Stewart made clear that she was not interested, evidently surprising Snyder. Stewart herself had been caught "off-guard" by the blockbuster success of the Twilight films and the spotlight it put on her personal life, especially her relationship with co-star Robert Pattinson. Why she didn't realize a wildly successful young adult fantasy book series would become a monster box office hit is uncertain, but the sudden onset of fame is a funny thing.

Stewart was still working on the Twilight series and wanted to focus on smaller, more independent films, which Man of Steel most definitely was not. Snyder wasn't upset for long, as he hired A-lister Amy Adams for the role. However, Adams may have wished she'd turned down the part too. Stewart's focus on smaller films gave her career a renewed vigor, while Snyder's DC films started with poor feedback and continued on a downward slide. Perhaps Stewart should warn her ex, Pattinson, who has taken on the role of Batman.