5 Surprising Reasons Actors Turned Down Major Movie Roles
The life of a movie star isn't as sweet as you might imagine. Occasionally someone will offer you a role you don't want, and it'll be, like, super awkward. You have to figure out how to let them down in such a way that they'll still be willing to pay you millions of dollars in the future. It's a tough gig, really. But every once in a while, instead of sending back the Hollywood equivalent of "I'm washing my hair that night," an actor will abandon diplomacy and reveal the true, totally insane reasons they don't want a part. Look at how ...
Russell Crowe Turned Down Wolverine Because He Didn't Want To Be "Mr. Wolf"
It's easy to forget these days, but for a brief spell during the early '00s, Russell Crowe was the world's biggest movie star -- so much so that noted cinephile Osama bin Laden plotted to kidnap him in order to, no shit, destabilize America. (He eventually backed down, figuring Crowe was doing a good enough job on his own.)
The thing is, Crowe could have ended up being an even bigger deal for nerds everywhere ... if it wasn't for some weird hang-up about wolves. In an interview, Crowe revealed that he was offered first dibs on a role for a movie his pal Bryan Singer was putting together: some guy called "Wolverine," who had forks for hands or something. So why did Crowe decline? Because, as he explained, he'd recently finished filming Gladiator, in which he played a character who had a pet wolf and wolf-themed armor, and he didn't want to be typecast as "Mr. Wolf."
To be fair, that's a really good poin- oh, the pet wolf stuff wasn't in the final cut of Gladiator? Oops.
According to Singer, Crowe was willing to play Wolverine, but only if the character was bald (presumably they would have given Professor X mutton chops to balance it out). The silver lining here is that in his rejection, Crowe recommended Hugh Jackman, which means he deserves a little credit for the success of X-Men and thus the superhero film genre in general. All of which probably means a lot less to him than the knowledge that no one, anywhere, has ever called him "Mr. [Any Animal]."
John Krasinski Knew He Wasn't Captain America Material After Seeing Chris Hemsworth's Bod
In becoming iconic action hero Jack Ryan and slightly-less-iconic action hero Guy Who Knows American Sign Language, John Krasinski seems to have shaken off spending the rest of his life being best-known as noted psychopath Jim Halpert from The Office.
But the thing is, he could've done this waaay sooner if not for two huge reasons: Chris Hemsworth's pecs.
Before the Marvel Cinematic Universe had established itself as the biggest cultural force since the Bible, Krasinski was one of the first actors to test for the role of Captain America. According to Krasinski, they put him on a set and gave him a costume, and he was feeling "pretty good" about himself ... until out of nowhere Hemsworth walked by topless (which is presumably his default state). The future thunder god proved to be such a radiant sight that Krasinski went, "I'm good, this is stupid ... I'm not Captain America."
Later, Krasinski got a call from his agent telling him that Chris Evans was Captain America, and his reaction was, "Yeah, look at him." If Hemsworth's pecs hadn't ruined his self-confidence, Krasinski might have done better at the audition, and Infinity War would have ended with Cap looking at the camera and smirking.
Ian McKellen Wouldn't Take Over As Dumbledore Because The Original Actor Dissed Him
You've probably noticed that Dumbledore looks somewhat different after the second Harry Potter movie. That's not because he was secretly a Doctor Who, but because the original actor, Richard Harris, was unable to continue playing the role, on account of being dead. After that, J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. left no stone unturned in their hunt for a replacement, so much so that casting couches across the UK briefly resembled Santa conventions.
They eventually landed on Michael Gambon as Dumbledore 2. But who were the other auditionees, you might ask? Well, one trier-outer was none other than Ian McKellen, Gandalf himself. And frankly, we're appalled at this missed opportunity. Why did this not happen, J.K.? Were you worried that he would've made the whole "gay" thing less implicit-after-the-fact-progressive-box-checking subtext and more like, you know, actual text?
Oh wait, McKellen dropped out because Richard Harris was a dick to him one time.
Harris once used an interview to drop verbal napalm on McKellen, as well as Derek Jacobi and Kenneth Branagh, describing them as "bank managers" who were "technically brilliant, but passionless ... underneath they are hollow because their lives are hollow." This wasn't motivated by some longstanding feud, or even an unpleasant run-in at the supermarket. Harris was just being shitty.
So when the call came to step into Harris' shoes, McKellen refused, figuring, "Seeing as one of the last things [Harris] did publicly was say what a dreadful actor he thought I was, it would not have been appropriate for me to take over his part." Take over his role? No. Usurp him by playing a better, more famous wizard? Oh absolutely -- a fact that McKellen took the time to brag about in interviews with the maybe-joking hope that it would make Harris upset.
Jet Li Passed On The Matrix Because The Studio Wanted To Steal His Martial Arts Moves
For a franchise that was packed to the brim with kicking, punching, and zero nut grabs, The Matrix was curiously absent of any significant number of martial artists. Sure, Keanu Reeves pulled some mean faces in Bill And Ted, but where was Jet Li? Where was Jackie Chan? Where was Bruce L- uhh, Steven Seagal?
As it turns out, Jet Li was in fact offered the role of Seraph, whom you might remember -- OK, you definitely won't remember -- as the authentication-method-made-person who nearly wipes the floor with Neo and definitely wipes the floor with some unlucky nightclub guards in The Matrix: Reloaded, before getting his ass kicked by Hugo Weaving in Revelations.
Seraph was originally written for Michelle Yeoh, who turned it down, after which it went to Li (or as he's known in the industry, "the male Michelle Yeoh"). Although excited about the role, Li eventually backed out after realizing that the process of being motion-captured for CGI would've meant that, much like the fictional Matrix, taking the job (or "plugging in" as they probably called it) would have required surrendering his digital personhood. As Li tells it, Warner Bros. wanted to keep him doing martial arts in front of a green screen for six months in order to "record and copy all [his] moves to a digital library," after which they would own them forever. Fearing that his style would end up being used by Daffy Duck or something, Li said no.
This probably sounded like a bizarre reason to walk away from a generous payday, but it's not exactly outside the realm of possibility. After all, we're looking at a future entirely populated by dead-eyed gray goo replicas of our favorite movie stars. Who knows, maybe there's a universe in which Li took this deal, and found years later to his utter horror that the Wachowskis were having his digital puppet earn a living kicking the shit out of K-pop musicians. It should be him doing that, dammit.
Nic Cage Turned Down Shrek Because He Didn't Want To Play An Ugly Character (Kinda)
It's fair to say that when it comes to choosing his roles, Nicolas Cage is a lot more ... open-minded than his contemporaries. Or at least, that's what we're taking from the fact that he didn't merely sign up for a long-in-development-hell movie about a phantom bicyclist (there's got to be a simpler way of saying that, right?), but threw himself into the performance with so much gusto that, against every artistic instinct we have, he fucking killed it.
You know what role he didn't want, though? Shrek.
In an interview, Cage underlined his reasoning by saying that he "just didn't want to look like an ogre." After being asked to elaborate on his comments in a later interview, he clarified with "I'm not afraid to be ugly in a movie ... I want kids to look at [characters I play] and think 'well, he's a little scary, but he's a big teddy bear.' And I wasn't sure I could do that with Shrek."
It's all a little confusing, but in effect, the guy who has played a face-stealing psychopath, a dude who trains his daughter to be a killer, and Fu Manchu is saying that he turned down the role of a green ogre who exists alongside a nonstop soundtrack of classic pop songs and Smash Mouth tracks because he was too irredeemable a character. Of course, this happened before the IRS inspired Cage to move into the "say yes to everything" phase of his career, so ... guess who's definitely available for the inevitable live-action remake, DreamWorks?
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