10 Iconic Movie Roles That Were Originally Played By Other Actors

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Tom Cruise, Iron Man
When an actor has a career as long lasting and prolific as Tom Cruise, it’s only natural that there would be a few roles that came his way first. Along with Footloose, Speed and A Beautiful Mind, Cruise has tossed his hat in many iconic roles from the last three decades. One of these near misses was Tony Stark in 2008’s Iron Man. Cruise was attached to star as the cocky millionaire genius for years starting in the late 90s. As Marvel was beginning to make serious moves in releasing their Superhero films in 2004, Cruise was still in talks with playing the role. Even after years of interest, Cruise just couldn’t wrap his head around Iron Man working as a film and decided to give up on it completely.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Dirk Diggler from Boogie Nights
Dirk Diggler is the young aspiring porn star at the center of Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1997 film Boogie Nights. He goes from being a high school dropout with a rare appendage to the biggest name in the industry, then to a has-been and finally a comeback kid, all within the span of a two and a half hour feature. The person who was originally cast to play the complicated mess was Leonardo DiCaprio. It was 1996 and the actor had just finished Baz Luhrmann’s dreamy and romantic, Romeo and Juliet. His excitement for playing such a gritty and adult character overtook his interest in playing in another film that was looking for its lead, Titanic. According to DiCaprio, it was the casting of Kate Winslet that swayed him toward the James Cameron’s big budget flick as he initially had no interest in starring in another romantic drama at the time.

John Travolta Forrest Gump
Forrest Gump, the slow-witted man who just happens to always be in the right place at the right time in history, is one of Tom Hank’s most beloved roles but it almost wasn’t his. Director Robert Zemeckis initially wanted John Travolta to play the lead in the film adaptation of Winston Groom’s 1986 novel. It was Travolta who would step into those worn running shoes and share his philosophical thoughts on boxed chocolate. However, Travolta decided he wasn’t interested after all, and the role went to Hanks which gave him his second Academy Award in a row. Travolta admits that passing on the part was one of his biggest mistakes but at least he had an iconic role in Pulp Fiction which was released only a few months after Forrest Gump.

Will Smith as Neo from The Matrix
It was the Fresh Prince of Bel Air who was going to have to choose between the red pill and the blue pill, or at least that was original plan when Will Smith was set to star in the 1999 Wachowski brothers science fiction action film, The Matrix. Apparently, Smith was not completely sure how to play Neo nor was he sure what the film was going to be which caused him to worry about taking it on. After having few meetings with the directors to understand their vision, he was still unsure about the whole endeavor leading him to back out of the film. Smith does not regret walking away from Neo, as he believed no one could play the role like Keanu Reeves.

Chris Farley, Shrek
Shrek is the lovable Ogre who just wants to be left alone in his swamp-front home and frighten townspeople for his own entertainment, in the 2001 DreamWorks hit. Audiences are familiar with the Scottish-accented Mike Myers as the title character but it was actually the late Chris Farley who originated the role. In 1997, the comedian was on a roll with multiple films after departing from Saturday Night Live. He had recorded 90 percent of the film before dying from a drug overdose. Farley’s version of Shrek was much different as it was a story of a teenage Ogre who dreamed of becoming a knight rather than taking over the family business. Due to his death, the filmmakers scrambled to finish it until fellow SNL actor Mike Myers took over and made it his own.