15 Celebrities Who Turned Down Career Changing Roles

Sleeping Beauty Premiere - 64th Annual Cannes Film Festival

An acting role can make or break a star. It can give them a haunting stigma that’ll ward off casting directors. Other times, it gives them a huge boost in their careers that’ll lead to more roles and even an Oscar nomination. It’s important to be critical of the roles being offered, but not too much or else stars risk missing out on great ones. Here are celebrities who have made career mistakes by turning down roles that could have helped their careers.

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The Weinstein Company's 2014 Golden Globe Awards After Party - Arrivals

Gillian Anderson

While Anderson is certainly busy with several projects, she could have been even more awesome if she starred in two iconic television shows. She was offered the role of Lady Cora in Downton Abbey and was even sought for a role in Game of Thrones. She said no and it takes guts to do that. It certainly would have increased her already swelling fandom tenfold, but something tells us she’ll be more than fine.

(Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images)

"Clouds Of Sils Maria" Premiere - The 67th Annual Cannes Film Festival

John Travolta

Travolta once joked that he helped Tom Hank’s career twice in his life. He turned down the title role in the 1994 film Forrest Gump and he could have won an Academy Award for Best Actor instead of Hanks. Additionally, he also rejected the lead role in The Green Mile, another film Hanks starred in. It seems that Travolta has no regrets though since he thinks of his career mistakes as a gift to others.

(Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)

"The Normal Heart" New York Screening

Julia Roberts

Sandra Bullock had the best year of her life when she starred in the film The Blind Side. She was able to win the ward for Best Actress at the SAG, Golden Globes, and the Oscars in the same year because of her role. What does Roberts have to do with this? Well, she was initially offered the role but turned it down. She could have gotten more awards under her belt if she took on this role.

(Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)

39th AFI Life Achievement Award Honoring Morgan Freeman - Show

Matthew Broderick

Who would have thought that Ferris Bueller was offered the role of Walter White in Breaking Bad? People were surprised about Bryan Cranston’s casting too though. This makes us even more intrigued what would have happened in Broderick accepted the role. It probably would have made him a legend and we would probably see more of him because of it. Hopefully, he gets offered another iconic role soon and accepts it.

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Michael Madsen & Virginia Madsen Host Aparecio Foundation's Event

Michael Madsen

Madsen would have in the film Pulp Fiction as Vincent Vega, the role played by John Travolta, if he hadn’t turned the offer down. He had to pass it up because it conflicted with his schedule rehearsing for Wyatt Earp, which he eventually called a big waste of time. Madsen had the potential to play Vega well, but we will never really know unless someone invented a time machine.

(Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images)

Sleeping Beauty Premiere - 64th Annual Cannes Film Festival

Emily Browning

Some may call this a blessing, but others would say that this was a mistake. Browning was offered the role of Bella Swan in the Twilight series before it was even offered to Kirsten Stewart. She turned it down not because she had anything bad to say about it. She simply wanted a break from acting that time. Too bad, she could have had the opportunity to gain Twihards for the rest of her life.

(Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

Premiere Of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment's "The Wizard Of Oz" 3D And The Grand Opening Of The New TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX

Molly Ringwald

Ringwald enjoyed a prosperous career in the 1980’s when she starred in John Hughes’ films like The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, and Sixteen Candles. However, her star seems to have lost its luster after she ended her partnership with Hughes. She reportedly turned down the leading role in successful films like Pretty Woman  and even Ghost. At least she had a good run in the 80’s during her prime.

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16th Annual Hollywood Film Awards Gala Presented By The Los Angeles Times - Arrivals

Ray Liotta

A lot of us know Liotta from the mafia themed film Goodfellas. This might have contributed to his decision to turn down the role of Tony Soprano in the iconic show The Sopranos. We could definitely see him rocking the part, but we’ll never see how he could have played Soprano since he turned it down. Here’s to hoping that he wouldn’t turn down another groundbreaking role if he ever gets offered another one.

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Entertainment Weekly's Annual Comic-Con Celebration - Arrivals

Thomas Jane

Did you know that Jane was the first choice to play Don Draper in the wildly popular and critically acclaimed television show Mad Men? However, the star turned it down allegedly because he “does not do television.” If he had not turned down the role, nobody would have known how talented Jon Hamm is. Jane could have seen his star power increase immensely if he decided to take this role.

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Screening Of Lionsgate's "Killers" - Arrivals

Tom Selleck

Selleck should have set aside time to consider other roles since he was initially pursed to play Indiana Jones in the 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark. He did screen-test for the part, but he sadly had to turn it down in favor of prioritizing his schedule shooting TC show Magnum P.I. While the show was a hit, he could have landed an iconic role as Indiana Jones but Harrison Ford got it instead.

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2013 Winter TCA Tour - Day 7

Dana Delaney

It’s hard to imagine anyone but Sarah Jessica Parker playing the iconic role of Carrie Bradshaw, but Delaney was actually creator Darren Star’s first choice. The actress claims to have had turned it down because she’d previously done other projects.  Sidenote: Delaney also passed on the role of Bree van de Kamp on “Desperate Housewives.” Considering her recent ABC show “Body of Proof” got the axe, we say both passes were big mistakes.

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"TrevorLIVE LA" Honoring Jane Lynch And Toyota For The Trevor Project - Red Carpet

Sarah Michelle Gellar

Gellar was originally offered the now-iconic role of shopaholic with a heart of gold Cher Horowitz in classic ’90s movie “Clueless,” but passed on it due to scheduling conflicts with “All My Children.” We all know how that turned out: Little-known actress Alicia Silverstone got the part, and cemented her place in the canon of Most Memorable Characters Ever.

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HBO's Post 2012 Golden Globe Awards Party - Arrivals

Thomas Jane

It’s pretty clear that Jon Hamm is “Mad Men” but it almost wasn’t that way. Actor Thomas Jane passed on the role for a number of reasons that—let’s face it—made sense at the time, such as the fact that AMC was a network known for reruns of old movies, not robust television series, and the fact that it was a cerebral show, which Jane didn’t think would attract viewers.  It’s not that Jane’s career turned out bad but we all know how successful Mad Men is.

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39th AFI Life Achievement Award Honoring Morgan Freeman - Show

Matthew Broderick

Is your mind totally blown? It’s pretty crazy to think that Broderick and John Cusack could have been on this show.  Broderick, along with actor John Cusack, are both rumored to have passed on the role of ailing chemistry teacher turned meth kingpin Walter White on AMC’s behemoth ‘Breaking Bad.” Lucky they did, because the part has undoubtedly cemented Bryan Cranston’s place in television history.   The show itself will also go down as one of the best in history.

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI

The Official Blues Brothers Revue

Paul Shaffer
David Letterman’s longtime bandleader and banter buddy Shaffer admits in his 2009 memoir We’ll Be Here the Rest of Our Lives that he was offered the role of George by Jerry Seinfeld himself, who didn’t even want him to audition. Paul Shaffer never called him back, because he was “busy” at the time. The role went to Jason Alexander, who played the character to neurotic perfection.

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