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Actors Who Said No To A Role Because Of A Grudge

On the topic of grudges, Britpop icons Oasis once sang, "Don't look back in anger." It's sound advice, considering how short and fragile life truly is. In Hollywood, though, people let the hate flow through them. Some have even built entire careers by holding onto some animosity or another — one could go so far as to say that grudges fuel the industry.

Unlike us regular folk who can't refuse to work with Frank from accounting because he insistently whistles "The Final Countdown," actors often find themselves with the luxury of choice. They can flat-out reject working with someone because they're irked by them. Sometimes, they'll patch up their differences and collaborate together down the line, but not always. In certain instances, the resentment is simply too much to overcome.

The most intense grudges can result in actors turning down roles entirely. Whether it's to stick it to the person who wronged them or purely because they can't stand being in the same room together, these decisions have changed the trajectories of some of our favorite TV shows and films. Let's take a look at the actors who said no to roles because of grudges.

Ian McKellen

From the "X-Men" to "The Lord of the Rings," Ian McKellen has done it all in show business. His versatile filmography and countless list of accolades offer a dizzying array of reasons why he's considered one of the greatest thespians of our time. McKellen doesn't ask for roles — the roles come to him.

Yet there is one iconic part he declined, based purely on a comment made by a fellow British actor. As McKellen recalled in a BBC HARDtalk interview, the late Richard Harris lumped McKellen in the same category as Kenneth Branagh and Derek Jacobi. What is that category, you ask? Not a very nice one, despite those actors' prominence: Harris referred to them as "technically brilliant, but passionless" actors. Ouch!

When Harris passed away, the "Harry Potter" producers reached out to McKellen to take over the role of Professor Dumbledore. However, McKellen couldn't quite forget Harris' opinion of him. "When they called me up and said, would I be interested in being in the 'Harry Potter' films, they didn't say what part," McKellen revealed. "I worked out what they were thinking ... and I couldn't. I couldn't take over the part from an actor who I'd known didn't approve of me." Cheekily, he added that he still played the "real wizard," referring to Gandalf of "The Lord of the Rings." Ultimately, Michael Gambon ended up replacing Harris as Dumbledore for the rest of the films.

Robin Williams

Sometimes, actors can be a difficult bunch. Many make producers' jobs difficult by playing hard to get. Not the late Robin Williams, though. When he found out that 1989's "Batman" was entering production and the role of the Joker was up for grabs, he campaigned heavily for the part. Unfortunately, Warner Bros. desperately wanted Jack Nicholson to play the Clown Prince of Crime. Perhaps looking to twist Nicholson's arm, the studio dangled the role in front of Williams, who promptly accepted. But then, things changed. Warner Bros. pulled the rug out from under Williams by giving the role to Nicholson instead.

Williams was not pleased, to say the least. It's not hard to understand why: The Joker is an unforgettable role that could have resulted in one of his greatest-ever performances. But Warner Bros. and Williams eventually appeared to bury the hatchet, as the legendary comedian was offered the part of the Riddler in "Batman Forever." Then, the studio pulled a fast one on him again. "The Batman films have screwed me twice before," Williams revealed to Empire Magazine. "Years ago they offered me the Joker and then gave it to Jack Nicholson, then they offered me the Riddler and gave it to Jim Carrey." Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice ... well, Williams was still pretty down to work on a "Batman" film at this point, actually. Who could blame him? Gotham City makes fools of us all.

Anne Hathaway

Have you ever heard a bad word about Anne Hathaway? We're betting you haven't. She's one of the most affable and beloved actresses in Hollywood, and it's easy to see why: She gets on swimmingly with her co-stars and directors. Well ... most of them.

As it turns out, Hathaway had a difference of opinion with David O. Russell in the lead-up to "Silver Linings Playbook." Hathaway was originally cast in the role of Tiffany Maxwell, but "creative differences" between her and Russell drove a wedge between her and the production (via The Independent). Ultimately, this resulted in Hathaway leaving the movie altogether. This allowed Jennifer Lawrence to take over the role of Tiffany, and eventually win an Oscar for her performance.

The precise nature of Hathaway and Russell's fallout remains unclear. What is certain, however, is the fact that they haven't worked together since. Is there still some underlying tension between them? Perhaps.

Bill Murray

Bill Murray is a true original. From the fact that he refuses to have a manager or agent field his scripts to his overall detachment from the movie biz, he dances to the beat of his own drum. However, Murray's laid-back demeanor hasn't stopped him from being labeled "The Murricane" by Dan Aykroyd, or feuding with other talents. That latter trait has even resulted in a rift between Murray and a collaborator he used to call a close friend.

Harold Ramis and Murray were practically joined at the hip for most of the '70s and '80s: They teamed up on everything from "Caddyshack" to "Ghostbusters." But during the filming of "Groundhog Day," their relationship took a turn for the worse. The two men disagreed about the tone of the film: Murray wanted something more existential, while Ramis was looking for pure comedy. Their argument grew so heated, they refused to speak to each other and only communicated through assistants.

Unfortunately, this disagreement caused a rift that lasted for years (via The Wrap). Efforts were made to bridge the gap, with variable results: Ramis extended an olive branch by offering Murray a role in 2005's "The Ice Harvest," but he declined. Respect remained between the two talents, however — Ramis praised Murray's work in 2009, and expressed gratitude for the work they'd done together. Fortunately, the two old friends reconciled in 2014, shortly before Ramis passed away.

Val Kilmer

When one looks back at "Batman Forever," it's almost impossible to believe the production actually happened, considering all the beef on set. Tommy Lee Jones hated working with Jim Carrey, a fact that was no secret (via The Hollywood Reporter). Meanwhile, director Joel Schumacher and Val Kilmer weren't exactly sending each other bat-shaped fruit baskets either.

As Schumacher told Entertainment Weekly, he'd "heard horror stories about Val," but decided to hire him anyway. This sort of decision had worked out for him in the past, after all. But Kilmer was different: The two men "had a physical pushing match," Schumacher said. "He was being irrational and ballistic with the first AD, the cameraman, the costume people. He was badly behaved, he was rude and inappropriate. I was forced to tell him that this would not be tolerated for one more second. Then we had two weeks where he did not speak to me, but it was bliss."

In Kilmer's memoir, "Val Kilmer: I'm Your Huckleberry" (via Den of Geek), the actor reveals he struggled to act because of the confining and heavy Batsuit. This, he claims, led to the tension between him and Schumacher. As a result, he decided not to return for "Batman and Robin." Schumacher, though, sees things differently. As he told EW, "He sort of quit, we sort of fired him. It probably depends on who's telling the story." Regardless, one truth emerges: George Clooney became the one bearing the burden of the Batsuit.

Burt Reynolds

When a film pulls off a character named Dirk Diggler, it deserves all the accolades possible, and a heaping helping of "shut up and take my money" memes to boot. Fortunately, Paul Thomas Anderson's 1997 classic, "Boogie Nights," received all that and more, including a best supporting actor nomination for Burt Reynolds, who portrayed Jack Horner.

Despite positive reception from both critics and audiences, Reynolds wasn't a fan of the film or the director. He even admitted that he'd never watched the entire movie (via The Guardian). "Personality-wise, we didn't fit," he revealed to GQ, regarding why he didn't want to work with Anderson ever again. "I think mostly because he was young and full of himself. Every shot we did, it was like the first time [that shot had ever been done]. I remember the first shot we did in 'Boogie Nights,' where I drive the car to Grauman's Theater. After he said, 'Isn't that amazing?' And I named five pictures that had the same kind of shot. It wasn't original."

Anderson tried to mend fences by offering Reynolds a role in his next project, "Magnolia," but the storied actor turned it down. He told The Guardian that he "hated" Anderson, before adding, "I'd done my picture with Paul Thomas Anderson, that was enough for me."

Thandiwe Newton

Sometimes, an actor's refusal to work is an important act that sends a message of what will and won't be tolerated in the entertainment industry. This is very much the case when it comes to Thandiwe Newton's decision to turn down a major role in 2000's "Charlie's Angels," due to the character's sexual objectification and stereotypical traits.

"The director said to me, 'I can't wait for this. The first shot is going to be ... You're going to think it's like yellow lines down a road, and you pull back and you realize it's the stitching, because the denim is so tight on your a** it's going to look like tarmac,'" Newton revealed to Vulture. "I was like, 'Oh, I don't think we're going to go down this road together.'"

Newton revealed that she then had a meeting with Amy Pascal, the head of the studio at the time. This took things from bad to worse. Pascal made acting suggestions Newton described as "stereotypes of how to be more convincing as a Black character." Due to Pascal's comments and the character's sleazy treatment, Newton left "Charlie's Angels." This was a "big deal" for Newton, but she "just couldn't do it." Years later, her refusal stands out as a tremendously brave choice made by an actor with unshakable integrity.

Kim Cattrall

While "Sex and the City" is all about the unbreakable bond between four New York women, making it wasn't quite a stroll through Central Park. In particular, stars Kim Cattrall, who played bold Samantha Jones, and Sarah Jessica Parker, who played open-hearted Carrie Bradshaw, had some major differences.

For years, there were rumblings that the two actors didn't get along (via The Hollywood Reporter). But for just as long, they seemed to be able to put their personal feelings aside for the sake of the show and two subsequent movies. In 2017, however, tensions escalated to new heights after Cattrall failed to sign on for the proposed "Sex and the City 3." Not long after this, Cattrall's brother passed away, and Parker reached out to offer her condolences.

Cattrall didn't appreciate this gesture. She took to her Instagram account, where she addressed Parker directly: "Your continuous reaching out is a painful reminder of how cruel you really were then and now. Let me make this VERY clear. (If I haven't already) You are not my family. You are not my friend. So I'm writing to tell you one last time to stop exploiting our tragedy in order to restore your 'nice girl' persona." Unsurprisingly, Cattrall decided not to join the 2021 HBO Max "Sex and the City" revival series, "And Just Like That."

Dwayne Johnson

Imagine this for a second: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Vin Diesel having a heated disagreement on set. Can't you practically smell all the testosterone in the air? Perhaps this didn't help matters, as Johnson possibly blasted his co-star in a now-deleted 2016 post to his Instagram account (via People). He didn't name names, but his feelings were clear: Of his male "Fast and Furious" co-stars, he said, "Some conduct themselves as stand up men and true professionals, while others don't ... Candy a**es."

While the actors were quick to downplay the feud, a 2021 Vanity Fair interview with Johnson revealed the full extent of it. Turns out, Johnson only returned for "The Fate of the Furious" under the strict rule that he and Diesel not share any scenes together. "I wanted to forgo drama," Johnson said. "I thought that that was the best thing to do. For everybody."

Since then, the two have taken subtle digs at one another in a variety of ways, leading many to speculate that Johnson's absence from "F9" was due to the continued hostility between him and Diesel. There's no irrefutable confirmation that this was the case, however, and the stars have gone out of their way to show each other respect. Does that mean the feud is over? No one knows. The future could hold anything for these two and the franchise they share — especially if The Rock decides it's octane that he wants to be cookin'.

Shannen Doherty

The show might've been called "Charmed," but it probably should've been named "Cursed," judging by all the drama that happened on set. For Shannen Doherty and Alyssa Milano, their beef got so bad, the former decided she'd had enough and left the show altogether after Season 3.

Chatting about her decision to Entertainment Tonight, Doherty said, "There was too much drama on the set and not enough passion for the work. You know, I'm 30 years old and I don't have time for drama in my life anymore." She added that she wanted "to work with actors who really, really care and that want to be there every single day." Yikes!

While Doherty might've said abracadabra and disappeared from "Charmed," there is still a good outcome here. Years later, Milano and Doherty reconnected and repaired their relationship. Speaking on E!'s Daily Pop in 2017, Milano said, "Shannen and I talk a lot on Twitter via [direct message]." See? Not all feuds need to be never-ending stories.

Charlie Sheen

The real reason behind Charlie Sheen's exit from "Two and a Half Men" is one of the most complicated entertainment stories of the 2010s. In 2011, the show went on a hiatus in an effort to help the actor deal with his personal problems. However, Sheen refused to enter a rehab facility and proceeded to start a bizarre public fight with showrunner Chuck Lorre.

Eventually, Sheen was fired from the sitcom. He responded peculiarly, by penning a letter that was published on TMZ. "I wish [Lorre] nothing but pain in his silly travels especially if they wind up in my octagon," Sheen wrote. "Clearly I have defeated this earthworm with my words — imagine what I would have done with my fire breathing fists."

"Two and a Half Men" continued without Sheen. However, the producers offered him an opportunity to return for the series finale. According to Lorre, Sheen declined because he wanted the ending to spin off into another sitcom called "The Harpers." Sheen also wasn't impressed by his character's fate in the finale (a piano is dropped on Charlie Harper's head). He attacked Lorre via TMZ once more: "To be that stupid ... in my face, really? You must feel safe, motherf***er!" In the years since the incident, however, Sheen has admitted that he could've handled the whole situation better (via Yahoo). Maybe the grudge between him and Lorre is well and truly over now.