Without Vin Diesel, The Fast and the Furious wouldn’t be the same!
Sometimes, when you don’t get what you want, the thing you actually get instead actually ends up being so much better. This certainly rings true in casting.
Often, directors or studio execs go into a project knowing exactly which actor they want for a role. However, if that actor decides to turn their offer down, then they’re forced to move onto the next candidate — who might actually be a better fit for the role.
Here are 23 actors who weren’t the first choice for a role but absolutely nailed it anyway:
Rachel McAdams was the studio’s first choice to play Andy Sachs in The Devil Wears Prada, but she turned them down three times.
Universal Pictures only agreed to greenlight The Fast and the Furious if Timothy Olyphant was cast as Dom Toretto.
However, after Olyphant passed, producer Neil H. Moritz suggested Vin Diesel.
Sister Act was created with Bette Midler in mind to play Terri Van Cartier, but she backed out because she thought, “My fans don’t want to see me in a wimple.”
However, after screenwriter Paul Rudnick’s initial contract with Disney expired, Whoopi Goldberg expressed her interest in the role and suggested changing the character’s name from Terri to Deloris.
Reba McEntire took on the role of “Unsinkable” Molly Brown in Titanic, but she had to back out due to her touring schedule.
So, the role went to Kathy Bates, and the movie went on to become way more successful than anyone involved in it expected it to.
HBO first offered Dana Delany the role of Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City, but she turned it down for fear of being pigeonholed because she “had done a movie called Live Nude Girls with Kim Cattrall that was somewhat similar.”
However, they dropped her when Sarah Jessica Parker signed on.
However, realizing she wasn’t right for the role, she convinced NBC to let her play Monica Gellar instead, and Jennifer Aniston took over as Rachel.
Russell Crowe was offered the role of Wolverine in X-Men, but he turned it down and suggested Hugh Jackman for the role instead.
However, Dougray Scott was cast, but he had to back out due to scheduling conflicts with Mission: Impossible II.
About a week into filming, they still didn’t have their Logan. However, Jackman was in Los Angeles to do his son’s adoption paperwork, so his agent arranged the screen test that landed him the role.
Right before Jackman was set to film X-Men 2, he was offered the role of James Bond in Casino Royale, but he declined because he was told he wouldn’t have any say in the script.
However, when Daniel Craig accepted the role afterward, the producers agreed to let him “try and reinvent” Bond.
Craig was also offered the lead role in Thor, but he turned it down in order to devote himself to the Bond franchise.
Chris Hemsworth read for the part, but he was removed from the running without a screen test. His younger brother, Liam, actually got a screen test.
After Marvel decided not to cast Liam, Chris’s agent convinced Kevin Feige to let his client audition one more time. He booked the role, and he’s been playing Thor for more than 10 years.
When ABC picked up Scandal, creator Shonda Rhimes got a call that “it would be the perfect show for Connie Britton.”
All of the network’s top choices were white, but Rhimes wanted to cast a Black lead to honor crisis manager Judy Smith, who inspired her to create the show.
So, finally, the role went to Kerry Washington — making her the first Black woman to lead a drama series in 37 years.
Initially, George Clooney was supposed to play Noah Calhoun in The Notebook.
The studio struggled to find other actors who were interested in the role because Noah didn’t have much of a character arc. However, director Nick Cassavetes offered Ryan Gosling the role because he thought he was “not like the other young actors out there in Hollywood” and not “handsome” or “cool.”
Emily Blunt was offered the role of Black Widow in Iron Man 2, but she was forced to decline in order to fulfill her contractual obligations for a different movie she “didn’t want to do.“
When Scarlett Johansson — who was “pretty bummed” she didn’t get the part — got that fateful call from Jon Favreau, she agreed to meet up, then told him she was “extremely available still.”
Jack Nicholson was interested in The Godfather because he dreamed of working with Marlon Brando, but he decided to turn down the role of Michael Corleone for two reasons: He thought the part should be played by an Italian actor, and the script revealed that he wouldn’t have any scenes with Brando.
Paramount wanted to cast Ryan O’Neal or Robert Redford, but director Francis Ford Coppola championed Al Pacino.
George Lucas offered Pacino the role of Han Solo in Star Wars: A New Hope, but he declined because he “didn’t understand the script.”
However, casting director Fred Roos convinced Lucas to cast his friend, Harrison Ford.
Six big names in Hollywood turned down the role of Neo in The Matrix. First, Will Smith decided to do Wild, Wild West instead.
Then, Brad Pitt accepted the role, but he withdrew due to the exhaustion he experienced after making Seven Years in Tibet.
Next, Leonardo DiCaprio — who was fresh from Titanic —considered taking it, but he decided he didn’t want to star in another effects-heavy film so soon.
Val Kilmer declined to play both Neo and Morpheus, accepting a role in At First Sight instead.
Then, the Wachowskis and Warner Bros. sent Sandra Bullock the script, but she didn’t think she suited the role.
Nicolas Cage also threw his hat in the ring, but he ended up declining because he “didn’t want to go to New Zealand for three years or Australia for three years” and “needed to be home with [his] son, Weston.”
Finally, the Wachowskis requested a meeting with Keanu Reeves. After the meeting, the trio hung out in the parking lot — and the directors offered him the role on the spot.
After a successful screen test, Tom Selleck “earned” the part of Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark, but because he’d already done the Magnum, P.I. pilot, CBS told him he couldn’t do both.
So, Ford was cast instead, and he’s set to reprise the role in an upcoming untitled fifth Indiana Jones movie.
Emma Watson was reportedly cast as Mia in La La Land, but she hadn’t actually committed at the time of the announcement. She ended up choosing Beauty and the Beast instead.
Then director Damien Chazelle saw Emma Stone in Cabaret — her “unofficial audition for La La Land, without knowing it.”
However, the role went to Leighton Meester after she dyed her naturally blonde hair.
Initially, Helen McCrory was cast as Bellatrix Lestrange in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, but she withdrew from the movie because of her pregnancy.
So, Warner Bros. approached Helena Bonham Carter, who “was all too happy to play a witch.”
Rob Lowe was offered the role of Derek Shepherd on Grey’s Anatomy, but he decided to pass.
During his audition, Patrick Dempsey was “convinced” Shonda Rhimes didn’t like him, but she “was figuring out how to put [him] in the show.”
However, HBO wasn’t pleased with the pilot and had creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss completely reshoot it and recast certain roles, which is how Emilia Clarke booked the part.
The part went to Tom Hanks, who then beat Travolta for Best Actor at both the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes in 1995.
And finally, the Coen brothers were very interested in casting Holly Hunter as Abby in Blood Simple, but she had scheduling conflicts with a play she was already committed to.
So, Hunter advised her roommate, Frances McDormand, to audition. However, McDormand pushed back her audition so she could watch her then-boyfriend in a soap opera. The fact that “she didn’t seem like she needed it” led the Coens to offer her the role.
This led to a long-term working partnership between McDormand and the Coens. She also married Joel Coen the same year Blood Simple came out, and they’ve been together ever since.