In real life, J.K. Simmons is probably a wonderful guy with friends and family who love him. On screen, the dude is totally terrifying. Sure, he was a great dad in Juno, and we all know he has our best interests at heart when he's selling us Farmers Insurance…but come on. When people picture J.K. Simmons, they imagine him as a psychopathic inmate in Oz or a maniacal music teacher in Whiplash.
Of course, despite his commanding voice and intimidating presence, Simmons isn't always interested in playing a heavy. On at least one occasion, he was so tired of being the bad guy that he passed on a chance to work with the Coen brothers. According to the actor, he auditioned for a part in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and while the directing duo never officially offered him a role, they were supposedly considering him for "a racist southern guy."
Unfortunately, Simmons hasn't elaborated on which part he might've played, but looking at all the bad guys in the film, it's possible he was in the running for the otherworldly Sheriff Cooley or possibly Homer Stokes, friend of the little man and Imperial Wizard of the KKK. Nevertheless, the size of the part didn't matter to Simmons. At the time, he was already playing a white supremacist (Vernon Schillinger) on TV, and as he explained, "I just thought, 'I have to get away from that character.'"
Unwilling to typecast himself as the guy who plays racists, Simmons walked away from the audition. Fortunately, the Coens seem like understanding guys, and they later cast the actor in both The Ladykillers and Burn After Reading. After all, if J.K. Simmons wanted to be in your movie, would you tell him no?