10 Actors Who Passed On Iconic Movie Roles

Nicolas Cage as Aragorn? Gene Hackman as Hannibal Lecter? They came closer than you think!

John Travolta Forrest Gump

What are the four saddest words in the English language? Well, according to American poet John Greenleaf Whittier, that honour goes to the phrase "It might have been". And there are fewer mediums where these words ring truer than when it comes to casting movies.

Choosing who will be the star in your cinema masterpiece can be a long and arduous process. Maybe you want the hottest actor of the day but they want far too much money in return. Maybe you want to elevate an unknown to star status by putting them front and centre but your producers veto them for being too small a name to put on the poster. They want to sell tickets after all.

For some reason or another, many directors have had to wave goodbye to their first choices and offer pivotal roles to someone else. But where Whittier got it wrong is that this is not always a sad event. Sometimes it can actually be for the best.

10. Julia Roberts – Viola De Lesseps In Shakespeare In Love

John Travolta Forrest Gump
Universal Pictures

Fans of film back in the 90's might be forgiven for thinking that Gwyneth Paltrow was English instead of American. Her impeccable accent in both the 1996 adaption of Emma and the timeless romantic comedy Sliding Doors fooled virtually everyone on their releases.

The 1999 Best Picture winner Shakespeare in Love proved to be an English accent hat trick for Gwyneth and netted her the Academy Award for Best Actress. But another 90's superstar was also in the running for the role.

According to Simon Callow, who played Sir Edmund Tilney in the film, Julia Roberts first signed onto the film because she believed that Daniel Day-Lewis was going to be playing William Shakespeare alongside her. Day-Lewis, as it turns out, was not interested, and dropped out of the running for the role. Julia went soon after and the part was offered to Paltrow.

And just for a bit of added gossip, Callow alleged that the only reason Roberts was interested in the role was because of a crush on Day-Lewis. “Roberts in Love” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, though.


Owen Davies hasn't written a bio just yet, but if they had... it would appear here.