Actors who suffered a setback in their careers

The world of acting and entertainment is one in which setbacks are all part and parcel of the role. Nobody in the industry has ever made it straight through to their dream role without falling down a few potholes first. Check it… 

Jennifer Lawrence was almost Bella Swan

Jennifer Lawrence main

Darling of the latest crop of young Hollywood stars, Jennifer Lawrence’s rise to the top could’ve been through an entirely different young-adult science-fiction novel adaptation.

J-Law auditioned for the role of Bella Swan in the Twilight films (which would go on to make millions), but obviously missed out to Kristen Stewart. Speaking on what might have been had things turned out differently, she said:

“I remember when the first movie came out, seeing Kristen Stewart on the red carpet and getting papped wherever she went. I’d had no idea Twilight would be such a big deal. For me, and assuming for her, it was just another audition. Then it turned into this whole other thing.”

Still, she didn’t do too badly for herself in the end, what with that little Hunger Games series and that.

Tom Selleck was almost Indiana Jones

The mustachioed Tom Selleck delivered such a convincing screen test in his audition for the whip-cracking role of Indiana Jones that he was actually offered the part by producers. However, the first episode of Magnum, P.I. (which would go on to make his name) was due to film in the same month, and would’ve clashed with the Indy shoot.

He duly turned down the part and the role was offered to Harrison Ford (who made it his own). But a strike by writers meant the production of Magnum, P.I. was ultimately delayed by several months, so Selleck would’ve been able to do both after all. He must have kicked himself.

Kurt Russell was almost Han Solo

It seems that pesky Harrison Ford is always swooping in and pinching iconic roles at the last minute.

Back in 1976, Kurt Russell was determined to shake the squeaky-clean reputation his long-standing work with Disney had created, and so auditioned for the then unknown space saga as everyone’s favourite rogue of a smuggler.

It’s interesting to think how different things could’ve been had Russell got the part, but Ford’s dab hand at carpentry infamously snagged him roles in American Graffiti and then Star Wars.

Will Smith was almost Neo

Will Smith focus

We’re sure Smith isn’t kicking himself too hard at the fact he turned down a chance to star in one of the greatest sci-fi movies ever made; he’s had plenty of success in other roles since.

But the actor couldn’t see himself in the role (and to be honest, neither can we), and so graciously declined the Wachowskis’ requests.

Besides, WILL Smith fighting AGENT Smith? It already took us enough watches to get our heads around the film as it is…

Brad Pitt was almost Brian McCaffrey

Before Backdraft came out, Robert De Niro was a cinematic great who could do no wrong.

Coming off the back of a string of amazing roles in crime thrillers like Goodfellas and The Untouchables, anyone who was anyone wanted to star next to 1991 De Niro – and Brad Pitt was one of the fine young actors hoping to appear next to the star in Backdraft.

The lead-role of Ron Howard’s firefighting romp (the most commercially successful film about firefighters ever) was fought over by both Pitt and Robert Downey Jr., who in the end lost out to the least famous of the Baldwin brothers, William. That’s got to sting.

Ralph Macchio was almost Marty McFly

The Karate Kid star flat out turned down a starring role in the Back to the Future franchise, back when it was just an idea about “a kid, a car and plutonium pills”.

More fool Macciho; last year the world went crazy for Back to the Future Day, and Michael J. Fox (awarded the role after another actor, Eric Stoltz, was booted for being “too dramatic”) hover-boarded his way into movie history.

David Bowie was almost Gandalf

Labyrinth (1986) Directed by Jim Henson Shown: David Bowie

Cue the topical piece of ‘what the hell’ trivia that inspired this blog.

According to Lord of the Rings star Dominic Monaghan (Merry), Peter Jackson turned down the late, great music star for a role in the fantasy saga.

Monaghan told the Huffington Post:

“I was at the Hubbard’s, which is a pretty notorious casting agency office in London, doing an audition for Lord of the Rings. As I was reading a magazine waiting, David Bowie came in and signed his little list and went in. And I’m assuming he read for Gandalf. I can’t think of anything else he would’ve read for.”

It’s been rumoured that Bowie was deemed ‘too famous’ to play the role of Gandalf by producers, and so lost out to Sir Ian McKellen.

Sean Connery was almost Gandalf and Morpheus

It seems Peter Jackson had a bit of trouble casting Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings, what with über famous popstars swanning in every five minutes and silver haired ex-Bonds turning down the role in fear of the 18-month shooting schedule.

Connery also rejected the offer of wise cyber prophet Morpheus in The Matrix trilogy, deeming the script too confusing (free your mind, Connery!).

We’re not sure how this would’ve turned out: the image of Connery imparting philosophical knowledge before effortlessly leaping between buildings is one we can’t take too seriously

Cary Grant was almost James Bond

The shoe was almost on the other foot here! Before the ball got rolling on the James Bond franchise some 54 years ago, producers behind the adaptations of Ian Fleming’s spy novels had transatlantic star Cary Grant fixed for a turn as the suave super-spy.

It would’ve been a perfect fit, with Grant checking all of the boxes (handsome, English, marketable star power) and no doubt delivering an iconic performance as 007.

But, he turned it down, not wanting to be tied to a series, and opened the door for Sean Connery in Dr. No.

Do you dream of a career on the silver screen? Maybe the stage is more appealing to you? Either way, at The Sheffield College we offer Performing Arts courses to you budding actors – the perfect platform for starting out!



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