The biggest movie star missteps
Our series of infographics reveal the costliest decisions ever made by some of Hollywood's most famous film stars when it came to turning down iconic roles.
Sometimes, the choices made by actors when deciding which roles to take up and which to turn down are based on no more than when picking red or black on one of our online blackjack tables.
They can't predict the future, after all.
But, while all the people on the list below have continue to enjoy successful careers on the silver screen, they must surely still kick themselves at these costly calls.
Here are the biggest financial missteps made by some of Hollywood's biggest stars...
1. SEAN CONNERY DIDN’T GET LORD OF THE RINGS
Looking back on the Lord of the Rings trilogy, it’s hard to imagine anyone but Ian McKellen donning the hat and robes of Gandalf.
However, early in production, the role was offered to the original James Bond, Sean Connery. Unfortunately for him, he couldn’t get his head around the script and passed on one of the most successful franchises in film history.
This led to him taking a role in The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which, while it made a decent amount of money worldwide, was critically panned and is widely credited as the reason that Connery decided to quit acting altogether.
2. JIM CARREY PASSED ON PIRATES
When you think of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean series, the first thing that comes to mind is Johnny Depp’s rum-swilling, Keith Richards-impersonating Captain Jack Sparrow.
However, we might have seen an even more outrageous portrayal had the first choice said “Alrighty-then” to the role.
Carrey turned down the opportunity to step aboard the sea-faring franchise to focus on his upcoming project, Bruce Almighty.
But, while it is considered one of his better mid-career comedies, his time playing at being God cost him the opportunity to rake in hundreds of millions from the House of Mouse.
3. WILL SMITH TOOK THE BLUE PILL
Most people would jump at the chance to appear in a ground-breaking trilogy of movies that pushed the boundaries of storytelling, special effects and action sequences.
Particularly if the other option was a light-hearted steampunk western. But not Smith.
Despite being the favourite to lead the cast of The Matrix, he took a gamble and said no, riding into a sunset of shame with Wild Wild West.
He has since claimed that Keanu Reeves did a better job in the role of Neo than he could have at the time, but it’s still hard to imagine he doesn’t regret turning down the opportunity to kick ass and take names in a leather trench coat.
Especially when he made less than a quarter of the money for his choice to portray a cringeworthy cowboy.
4. BRAD PITT BACKED THE WRONG SPY
In a classic case of backing the wrong horse, Pitt turned down the opportunity to become Jason Bourne for the chance to star opposite Robert Redford in 2001’s Spy Game.
The latter was well-received, but barely even registers on the radar when compared to the value of the Bourne franchise.
The physicality and intensity that Pitt brings to roles made him a no-brainer to play the ex-CIA assassin.
However, despite early misgivings from action fans, Matt Damon stepped up to deliver the visceral action that the series is now famous for.
Pitt isn’t exactly struggling for work, but the payout from the Bourne series would certainly have made him considerably more comfortable.
5. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER MISSED OUT ON McCLANE
Schwarzenegger was the favourite to be cast in the role of John McClane when Die Hard was originally being offered around. However, with the script still not completed when he was approached, Arnie wasn’t willing to take a risk.
By the time everything was ironed out, Bruce Willis had stepped up to fill the iconic white vest.
One thing’s for sure, it would have been a different movie entirely with the Austrian Oak taking on the role. Nakatomi Plaza would need much bigger air vents, for a start.
Schwarzenegger starred in Red Heat, an altogether different brand of action film, alongside James Belushi in the same year.
Despite being relatively well-received, it never made as lasting an impact as the McClane character would achieve, and also made Arnie around 10 times less money than if he’d agreed to trust in the potential of what is now considered the greatest action movie of all time.
6. EMILY BLUNT WAS UNMOVED BY MARVEL
Blunt’s decision not to appear as one of the central characters in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe must still keep her up at night.
Certainly, the role of Natasha ‘Black Widow’ Romanoff has led to Scarlett Johansson often appearing at on lists of top-paid actors instead.
The fact that Blunt’s decision was due to scheduling conflicts with Jack Black’s updated version of Gulliver’s Travels makes the whole thing even more galling.
While her voyage to Lilliput performed reasonably well at the box office, it was critically savaged and isn’t a drop in the ocean compared to the payday Johansson continues to enjoy to this day.
7. EMILY BROWNING PRIORITISES HER STUDIES OVER TWILIGHT
Twilight author Stephanie Meyer had Browning in mind when casting for the movie trilogy began.
However, the young Australian actor had just finished a project and wasn’t ready to jump into a franchise that she thought would jeopardise her studies, leaving the door open for Kristen Stewart to swoop in and land her big break alongside a sparkly Robert Pattinson.
The next role Browning took on was in the 2009 movie The Uninvited, a remake of a Korean horror movie that didn’t receive the best reception, and also didn’t bring in a fraction of the amount as the Twilight saga.
While she has been working regularly ever since, she must still be wondering, 'What if...?'
8. BILL MURRAY DIDN’T SEE HIMSELF AS SANTA
Tim Allen is now synonymous with the role of cynical dad-turned-Santa, Scott Calvin, but it was originally written for Murray, everyone’s favourite curmudgeon.
After clashing with the filmmakers when shooting another Christmas classic, Scrooged, Murray was in no rush to take on another holiday-themed project, plus he didn’t rate the humour.
After a brief appearance in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood the same year as The Santa Clause was released, Murray’s next large role was in Wes Anderson’s critically-acclaimed sophomore movie, Rushmore.
Anderson has gone on record to say Murray’s salary for the movie was ‘around $9,000’ showing that, while the beloved actor has a knack for choosing quirky movies that interest him, he’s not as financially savvy as he is picky.
9. CHRISTINA APPLEGATE LOSES HER LEGALLY BLONDE MOMENT
Legally Blonde was a career-maker for Reese Witherspoon, but it also represents a terrible misstep for Applegate, who was the original casting choice.
Afraid of being typecast as a ditsy blonde stereotype, she turned the movie down in favour of time-travelling comedy Just Visiting.
The fact that you’re unlikely to have heard of the latter, which ended up being a financial disaster to the tune of $19m in losses, should give you an idea of the magnitude of the error.
Applegate herself has admitted that it was a “stupid decision” and, looking at the amount of money she passed by, we'd be inclined to agree.
10. JAVIER BARDEM OPTS FOR ARTHOUSE
Not many people would say no to Steven Spielberg, but Bardem did just that when he was offered a large role in the 2002 sci-fi epic, Minority Report.
He claims this was due to him being uncomfortable with an English-speaking role, which would have been a linguistic challenge for him at the time.
But that would make more sense if the film he chose instead, John Malkovich's The Dancer Upstairs, was in his native Spanish, but it wasn’t. Maybe it’s more a case of him being picky with parts than wary with words.
This led to Colin Farrell being fast-tracked to Hollywood stardom while Bardem, who had already been nominated for a Best Actor Oscarat the time, spent the next few years in smaller features before his stunning performance in No Country For Old Men made him a household name.
While it could be argued that Bardem took the more principled route, the truth is that the movie he went for instead didn’t make much more at the worldwide box office than Farrell was paid to chase Tom Cruise around for a couple of hours.