They don't call it a 'big break' for nothing - one role can change everything for an actor.
When Quentin Tarantino hired John Travolta in Pulp Fiction (1994) it reignited his career; When Julia Roberts did Pretty Women (1990) she became one of the most sought after leading ladies in Hollywood; and with the wild success of The Sopranos (1999 - 2007) James Gandolfini secured his legacy as one of the all time greats.
In an age where the TV series format has become equally as respected as film, actors have never had more opportunities to land that life-changing role. When the industry comes a-knockin' you just better be ready.
But the history of Film and TV is littered with actors who seemingly landed the dream gig, only to let it slip through their fingers. Whether it was 'creative difference', overblown egos, or public scandals, these actors somehow messed up the job of a lifetime, and no doubt lived to regret it.
They say it's the chances you don't take that you regret, but in the case of these poor suckers, it's the chances you get fired from.
10. Harvey Keitel - Captain Benjamin Willard (Apocalypse Now)
After watching Martin Sheen's performance in Apocalypse Now (1979) it's hard to imagine anyone else in the role of Captain Willard. Sheen conveyed the contemplative nature of Willard effortlessly, while at the same time showing the character's abilities as a determined and professional killer. At times he seemed utterly in control, while at others, he seemed near to insanity.
Imagine then, someone like Hollywood-cool-guy Steve McQueen in the role. McQueen could play the quiet, brooding guy, smoking a cigarette, like no-one else, but could you imagine him rolling around in the nude, in a state of intoxicated despair? It just wouldn't fly. Well McQueen was actually Coppola's first choice, but he ultimately turned it down. Several other big name actors were in talks for the part, but eventually Harvey Keitel landed the gig.
As a relatively new kid on the block, his salary was a mere $80,000 compared to the $3 Million Steve McQueen reportedly asked for. Keitel also had the benefit of actually being in the US Marines in his youth. He was a good option on all fronts.
Shortly into shooting, however, Coppola realised Keitel was unsuited for the role, mainly because the character of Willard was intended to be a "passive onlooker", whereas Keitel had a domineering presence. Keitel got the axe, and Coppola turned to Martin Sheen.