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When you think back on some of your favorite classic Hollywood films, do you ever imagine them being played by someone else? For example, take a look at a movie like Coming To America with Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall; could anyone conceive how vastly different it would be if any one of those characters declined their roles? Well, if you find that difficult to do, you’d be shocked at some of the actors who weren’t the first pick of movie producers. As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Let’s check out ten iconic movie stars who turned down million-dollar roles in hit movies.
11 Russell Crowe: Lord of The Rings
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Recognized as one of the most versatile, action-packed actors in the movie industry, Russel Crowe has an impressive resume of memorable films under his belt. It’s as though everything he touches turns to gold. And if by gold you mean money, the same still applies. His debut film Gladiator put Crowe on the wanted list of many producers and directors seeking to ride the wave of his success and cash in big. One such person was Peter Jackson, who directed The Lord of The Rings Trilogy. According to sources, Russell was offered to play the role of Aragorn (later given to Viggo Mortensen) but declined because he thought the offer wasn’t genuine. That decline included 10% of the project’s earnings, making it a $100 million paycheck decision.
10 Angelina Jolie: Gravity
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Despite her tumultuous marriage and eventual divorce to actor Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie still managed to have a thriving acting career. Albeit, Gravity was released in 2013, which was years before their official split. Although Sandra Bullock did a terrific job as the starring actress alongside George Clooney in the sci-fi/thriller, she wasn’t the initial actress for the job. In reality, Angelina Jolie was offered the gripping role of space shuttle medical engineer. Still, she passed up the opportunity due to another project (Disney’s Maleficient) that she was working on simultaneously. Gravity was a massive success, raking in $723 million at the worldwide box office. Her pass-up included a $70 million payday, which instead went to Bullock. But rest assured, Jolie took home a decent salary for Maleficent, which grossed $758.5 million in worldwide sales.
9 Leonardo DiCaprio
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When considering a movie like American Psycho, it’s hard to picture anyone replacing the acting genius of Christian Bale. But that role almost didn’t materialize for the future Batman trilogy actor. The truth behind the making of this comedy slasher film is that both, director Mary Harron and Christian Bale, were set to be replaced by the Lions Gate Entertainment Corporation with Leonardo DiCaprio and director Oliver Stone. However, DiCaprio was still a teenager who had just finished the iconic Titanic film and was dissuaded from taking the role due to its extreme violence against women. Once DiCaprio agreed the role of a psychopathic prostitute-slayer wasn’t a good look, he turned down the role, along with $21 million. The offers were then returned to their original cast, and so American Psycho was born!
8 Will Smith: The Matrix
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Will Smith has had his fair share of fantasy, action, and sci-fi movies, such as Hancock, I-Robot, Independence Day, and I Am Legend. With a resume this prolific, it would make perfect sense that The Matrix producers offered him the lead role of Neo first. But what would cause him to turn down such a revolutionary movie, let alone the $10 million upfront salary plus the $35 million in box office earnings? According to Will, the film directors (the Wachowski’s) didn’t pitch the idea to him in a way that sounded appealing, and so he couldn’t catch the concept. But we can all agree, after all, is said and done, that there wouldn’t have been a better person for the part than Keanu Reeves.
7 Keanu Reeves
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At this point, it’s safe to say that whatever movie Keanu Reeves is a part of is worth watching. So when Speed came out in 1994 starring Reeves and Sandra Bullock, it made bank and is still considered a classic action film to date. But Speed was nothing compared to The Matrix, despite its successful return for the first installment. But for Reeves, the script wasn’t enticing enough to stick around. So when he was offered $12 million for a part in the sequel, Speed 2:Cruise Control (1997), Reeves declined. Reeves has explained that part of the reason for his decision was a clash with other projects he was working on, like The Devil’s Advocate with Al Pacino.
6 Christian Bale: Justice League
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No doubt, there is more than one actor that denied an offer for the Batman role. This may be news to the ears of some, but before Christian Bale was offered the role for the Batman trilogy in Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), and The Dark Knight Rises (2012), the role was first pitched to Josh Hartnett. Josh actually passed up the roles for both Superman and Batman, but that’s for another segment. Josh’s decline led to the offer falling into Bale’s lap, who made a $45 million paycheck for his efforts. However, he would do the same when asked to repeat his DC superhero role in Justice League. Bale rejected the offer, as well as a chance to make $50 million on that movie alone.
5 Laurence Fishburne: Pulp Fiction
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Quinten Tarantino has a knack for creating high-action riveting movies, played by actors and actresses with strong personalities. So when Pulp Fiction was under construction, he sought out some of the most buzzing potentials in the industry. While a young John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson were the perfect fit on the screen, Jackson wasn’t the first option. It is said that the role of Jules Winfield first went to Laurence Fishburne, who denied the offer. Sources say that Fishburne thought the film was glorifying the use of dangerous narcotics and didn’t want to support that message. While the exact figure isn’t known, it’s believed that Fishburne walked away from $10 to $15 million for that role. But that doesn’t bother Fishburne, who’s priced at $30 million today.
4 Matt Damon: Avatar
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When you hear of movies like The Bourne Identity, Jason Bourne, and Ocean’s Eleven, the only actor’s name that may register is Matt Damon. He has been a highly functional and prolific actor throughout his career, with numerous awards to show for it. But when you’re as busy as Matt Damon is in the industry, there are times when your schedule just doesn’t allow it. This was precisely the case when he was offered the role of Jake Sully in the sci-fi action movie, Avatar. Damon was working on another war movie at the time called Green Zone, which caused him to pass up the offer. The movie ended up grossing $2.847 billion at the global box office, and Damon would have pocketed over $250 million! Instead, director James Cameron gave the role to Sam Worthington, which effectively made his career.
3 Hugh Jackman: James Bond (Casino Royale)
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Daniel Craig represented the new face of James Bond: a more refined, sleek, and lethal version of the British M16 secret agent. Also known as 007, Craig’s quiet yet deadly style adds an air of suspense to his character. But what if he wasn’t the first pick? He wasn’t. Try to envision Wolverine as the enigmatic secret agent. That’s right! Hugh Jackman was first offered the role of James Bond in replacement of Pierce Brosnan, which undoubtedly, he would’ve done an incredible job with. Ultimately, Jackman denied the offer, stating that between Marvel’s X-Men and the Wolverine movie, he wouldn’t have time for any other role. Plus, he felt like the scripts were outrageous and “needed to be grittier and real.” If Jackman had accepted the role, he would’ve made $82.4 million throughout five movies. With that kind of money, who wouldn’t want a license to kill?
2 Ice Cube: Oh Hell No
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The reasons for previous pass-ups were all easily validated – for some, a case of mistaken identity, for others, a packed schedule. But in the case of NWA rapper and actor Ice Cube walking out on a $9 million paycheck because of his refusal to receive the Covid-19 vaccine is on another level. As we’re all aware, there have been mixed reactions to the Covid vaccine. Obviously, Ice Cube’s feelings are a straight-up “NO!” The film, named Oh Hell No, produced by Matt Tolmach and Jack Black, was scheduled to be shot in Hawaii this winter and is set to be released in June 2022. But as you guessed, there will be no “Aloha, Hawaii” for the Boyz In The Hood actor.
NEXT: 15 Actors Who Turned Down Iconic Movie Roles (And Still Regret It)
Sources: Hollywood Reporter, TheThings, BuzzFeedNews, Cheatsheet, Esquire
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