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Roles No One In Hollywood Wanted

While there have been a million roles in Hollywood that everyone wants, it's rare to find a Tinseltown project that doesn't accrue a thousand-thespian-long conga line during casting. It's even rarer, then, for there to be movies where virtually no one wants to star. But these exceptions do exist, in isolated corners of the filmmaking industry where actors would much rather forget about having shortsightedly skipped out on a lucrative franchise or where directors lament about the one actor they got stuck with when all of their own picks rejected the role. 

This list serves to expose these special instances so that we may reminisce about casting mishaps that were narrowly avoided, actors that blew their chance at big money, and other pieces of amusing trivia.

Noah Calhoun in The Notebook

The true hallmark of an actor's actor is the kind who only does a movie because of an unshakable interest in his character's arc, otherwise known as the rise or fall of an individual who undergoes a dramatic transformation over the course of a narrative. Noah, from The Notebook, has none of that growth. He starts off in love with the pretty blonde girl and ends in love with the pretty blonde girl, making the role a pretty unattractive one for most "serious" actors. 

This prompted most thespians to pass on the part, according to Nicholas Sparks aka the author of the adaptation's novel, leaving the door wide open for Ryan Gosling to slide in and win over the world's heart in a single romantic chick-flick.

Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs

What do Michelle Pfeiffer, Meg Ryan, and Laura Dern all have in common? If you guessed ratty blonde hair, you're right! But also wrong. The key uniting factor behind these three actresses of yester-decade is that they were all once on the short list for the role of Clarice Starling, a role we now firmly associate with Jodie Foster thanks to her amazing portrayal of the aforementioned character in The Silence of the Lambs

But Foster only got the part because two of the three other actresses (Pfeiffer and Ryan) rejected the script with extreme prejudice due to a shared distaste for the film's violent and disturbed nature, according to an intriguing Austin Film Festival interview with the film's director Jonathan Demme. While Demme wanted Dern for the part, she was relatively unknown at the time and he ultimately went with Jodie Foster, at the gentle behest of the studio funding his art, Orion Pictures.

Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist in Brokeback Mountain

Being a gay cowboy ain't for everybody—or, at least, it ain't for actors like Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg, both of whom turned down Brokeback Mountain roles, albeit for fairly different reasons. 

Around the time Brokeback Mountain was starting to materialize itself within the Hollywood production pipeline, Damon was in talks about joining the project but declined on the note that he'd just come off a homosexual role and a cowboy role, and that following those up with a homosexual cowboy role just wouldn't do. Wahlberg's reason is a little more straightforward and telling about his personality. "I read 15 pages of the script and got a little creeped out," he said, citing the not-so-subtle homosexual affections present throughout the screenplay and insinuating that that wasn't something he wanted to see himself in.

On that note, just imagine the alternate reality where Mark Wahlberg and Matt Damon got to play a gay cowboy couple in Brokeback Mountain.

Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings

If you thought The Lord of the Rings had a substantial lack of Nicolas Cage in it, you're not the only one. Peter Jackson thought Aragorn, the one to rule them all, would be perfectly portrayed by none other than everyone's favorite National Treasure... er, star. But wait! Jackson also thought that Russell Crowe, a man who speaks almost exclusively in somber murmurs and grumbles, would fit Aragorn's lofty role equally well. And who better to be Aragorn than Daniel Day-Lewis, thought none other than Peter Jackson. Noticing a trend here? 

Jackson had a lengthy wishlist of actors for whom he wanted the massive role to go to, and yet none of them are Viggo Mortensen, the guy who ultimately landed the part. The reasons for the aforementioned actors not panning out are as follows: Cage didn't want career obligations to distract from time with his kids, Crowe vetoed the role due to prior commitments, and Day-Lewis simply refused multiple times without giving a public reason. Thankfully, Mortensen seems to have done the job just fine.

Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey

When all is said and done, the real heroes of this god-forsaken movie are the casting directors, also known as the brave souls who had to wade through the bowels of Hollywood in order to find a pair of actors willing to denigrate themselves on-screen for not one, not two, but three movies in an adaptation of one of the most shamefully embarrassing novel trilogies of all-time.

Fifty Shades of Grey was always destined to be a kinky test in pain tolerance, if that pain was derived from permanent career embarrassment. The male actors who couldn't reject the role of the titular Christian Grey fast enough (they all have various "professional reasons," but we know the truth) include Ryan Gosling, Charlie Hunnam, and Garrett Hedlund. As for the submissive end of the casting spectrum, plenty of female actresses weren't too keen on the role of Anastasia Steele. The ones who rejected the part include Lucy Hale, Chloe Bridges, and Emma Watson.

Patrick Bateman in American Psycho

When it comes to casting, American Psycho is a bona fide rumor mill with names being dropped left and right regarding who was originally meant to star in the movie. Among these speculated individuals are Elementary's very own Johnny Lee Miller and Fight Club's Edward Norton. 

But the list of definitive no-showers who rejected the role on-record is even more impressive than that produced by the rumor mill: Billy Crudup actually scored the part but then retroactively declined the role after reading the full script, and the situation repeated itself when Leonardo DiCaprio was set to star as Patrick Bateman but ultimately opted out in order to pursue a different project. This resulted in Christian Bale getting saddled with the not-so-coveted title of American Psycho.

Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings

One would think that older, scraggly-bearded actors entering the twilight of their careers would be pining for a shot at franchise-stardom, but it is not so. A perfect instance of this theory being disproven took place during the casting of The Lord of the Rings' Gandalf the Grey, a wizard with a big ol' goofy hat who goes around pointing his magic staff at things. 

It goes without saying, then, that Sean Connery didn't understand the part whatsoever and promptly rejected the role, even though Warner Bros. offered him an estimated six-million dollar paycheck per movie as well as a 15 percent stake in the trilogy's box office grosses. Needless to say, it was a missed opportunity of massive proportions. Similarly, the aging Christopher Plummer passed on the role because he wanted to prioritize real life over acting obligations.

Michael Corleone in The Godfather

As surprising as this one is, the reality is that the fight for who would get the role of Michael Corleone was a rather small scuffle, fought mainly between the director Francis Ford Coppola and his studio overheads. The studio petitioned hard for actors like Martin Sheen and Jack Nicholson, but after Nicholson turned down the part and Coppola stood his ground, the studio was forced to entertain his desire to cast Al Pacino. Nicholson had a particularly fitting sentiment with which to accompany his retroactive praise of Pacino's casting: "Back then I believed that Indians should play Indians and Italians should play Italians." 

Turns out he was right, but even Pacino didn't originally want the part. "I didn't want to do The Godfather. I didn't know what was going on," he said. "No one wanted me. Except for Coppola who was, I thought, a bit mad."

Luckily Pacino and the studio both came around.

John McClane in Die Hard

Not everyone believes it's a good day to die hard, as can be seen by the long list of actors who passed on the role of John McClane, the starring role of Die Hard and arguably the most iconic character in Bruce Willis' career. But Willis was evidently picking up scraps at the dinner table when John McClane was still considered a new role, as immeasurable talents such as Frank Sinatra, Sylvester Stallone, Richard Gere, and Arnold Schwarzenegger all turned down the part for one reason or another. This left the role wide open for Willis, who took it and never looked back.

Bella Swan in Twilight

Similar to Fifty Shades of Grey, this is another case of an embarrassing book turning into an embarrassing movie that no one wanted to embarrass themselves by starring in. As such, a list of females who rejected the role of Bella Swan, the emo girl with a soft-spot for sparkly vampires and furry wolf-boys, is to be expected: Frances Bean Cobain, Emily Browning, and Emmy Rossum all shut down the notion of starring in Twilight, with reasons ranging from general disinterest in the role to downright offense at how bad the script was. 

Seeing as their quality assurance issues with the movie's preliminary stage (i.e., the script and general concept), carried over into the poorly-received finished product, one can only imagine how grateful they must be for their past selves' well-warranted foresight.