Nobody ever said making movies was easy. There are many moving parts that are happening all the time at all times - both before, during, and after principal photography. Getting a movie green lit is hard enough as it is, and it can be difficult to keep a film afloat sometimes, especially if the cast or crew keep changing.
Actors dropping out of a film isn’t that unusual. It’s quite common to have a large set of actors in consideration, with some passing on a role or being unable to work on the film for one reason or another. In some cases, actors decide to not be a part of a movie, and later on feel they probably didn’t make the best decision at the time. This list covers a series of moments in Hollywood where actors had the chance and the desire to play a role that would eventually go to someone else.
Some of the reasons are creative differences (everyone’s favorite excuse), but other reasons are much more personal. In a few cases, rumors circulated as to why a certain actor left or decided not to go with a production, with the truth being lost along the way.
Without further delay, here are 15 Actors Who Regretted Quitting Hit Movies.
15 Winona Ryder (The Godfather Part III)
Winona Ryder was doing fairly well for herself in the very early 1990s, especially after the success of such films like Beetlejuice and Heathers. It’s almost unsurprising she’d be chosen to play the role of Mary, Michael Corleone’s daughter, in The Godfather Part III. But, as we all know, this didn’t come to pass.
While rumors swirled as to the reason Ryder had to quit working on the, the truth of the matter had to do with her health. Ryder was exhausted and had a high fever, which rendered her unavailable; this resulted in director Francis Ford Coppola choosing his own daughter, Sofia, for the role at the last minute.
Ryder has since said that dropping out was “disappointing” and “devastating,” which is even more understandable considering Sofia’s performance was panned.
14 Jon Finch (Alien)
Jon Finch’s most notable roles include the 1971 film version of Macbeth, as well as 2005 film Kingdom of Heaven. However, Finch was set to play the role of Kane in the classic horror film Alien, who gets attacked by a face hugger and gives birth to the titular villain.
According to different sources, including Finch himself, he got sick on the set immediately and didn’t really let anyone know he was diabetic - which was one of the possible reasons he was sick. After being hospitalized and unable to work for a couple weeks, it was decided to hire John Hurt to replace Finch.
As unfortunate as it is, and as bummed as Finch was about it, he was still able to participate in the Alien Quadrilogy box set, which includes info and footage of Finch.
13 Tobey Maguire (Spider-Man 2)
Tobey Maguire was very much on top of the world in the early 2000s. He was going to be working on Spider-Man 2, the sequel to the very successful and popular first film, Spider-Man. However, Maguire didn’t want to be pushed around; aside from likely wanting some more money for the role, he refused to spend a day getting his body scanned for visual effects reasons.
Going through his doctor, it was explained Maguire had suffered serious back pain; as a result, the release date was delayed and Maguire was being officially expelled from the picture.
Maguire immediately regretted playing hardball, and consulted with others for how to get himself back in the good graces of the producers and studio. He essentially had to say “yes” to any and all examinations and apologize. Lucky for him, his salary also got a hefty increase.
12 Anthony Michael Hall (Full Metal Jacket)
Anthony Michael Hall: you may know this name if you’re a fan of teen comedies and coming-of-age films from the 1980s, or if you’re a fan of the television adaption of Stephen King’s The Dead Zone. Other than that, he’s also been in some films that had him branch out from the “dorky teen” image he had in his own heyday.
Hall was set to work with Stanley Kubrick on Full Metal Jacket, but this never worked out. At the time, the reasons behind his exit weren’t concrete, but Hall would later say that it was mostly for financial reasons.
“We just couldn’t reach an agreement on a couple different levels” said Hall. “I wanted to be a part of that film, but it didn’t work out.”
11 Robert Kazinsky (The Hobbit)
Do you remember those Hobbit films by Peter Jackson? The ones being presented in 48 frames per second, starring Martin Freeman as Bilbo, that were split up into three movies? Whether you do or don’t, the films were kind of a big deal - before, during, and after production. They also made a lot of money, so there’s that.
As such, any casting changes during filming would be sad and problematic. This was the case with actor Robert Kazinsky, originally cast as dwarf Fili, who had to bow out due to personal reasons. Jackson himself announced the news, explaining how great Kazinsky had been on set and how much they’d miss him.
Kazinsky went to Twitter to mention how sad he was to leave, but how thankful he was for the support.
10 Charlie Hunnam (Fifty Shades of Grey)
Known for his role as Jax on Sons of Anarchy, Charlie Hunnam was set to play the one and only Christian Grey for the film adaption of Fifty Shades of Grey. Things seemed set in stone, but there was a severe behind-the-scenes issue: Hunnam was, in his words, having “something of a nervous breakdown.”
Hunnam was still filming season six of Sons of Anarchy at the same time he had signed up for Fifty Shades, but he was also going to be shooting the new Guillermo Del Toro film, Crimson Peak. Hunnam would be too strung out for Fifty Shades, resulting in him deciding to leave the project. This was especially hard for Hunnam, who, other than not wanting to break a contract, had really gotten into the character of Grey. “It was one of those damned if you do, damned if you don’t situations.”
9 Kim Basinger (Boxing Helena)
Quitting a movie seemed to be more common once upon a time, but as the lawsuit involving Kim Basinger quitting the production of Boxing Helena proves, it has its consequences.
Directed by Jennifer Lynch (daughter of David Lynch), the film had a delayed production, which included Madonna and Ed Harris dropping out of the film during its production. Reportedly, Basinger agreed to be in the movie, but then quit over creative differences.
It seems understandable, except that an adverse jury decision resulted in the actress being sued for millions of dollars-- $8.1 million, to be exact. Basinger had to file for bankruptcy, with her later settling for $3.8 million.
Meanwhile, Boxing Helena got Sherilyn Fenn for the lead role (she had previously worked on David Lynch’s own Twin Peaks). The film was a Sundance hit, but a critical and commercial failure.
8 Dougray Scott (X-Men)
You may know Dougray Scott from such films as Mission: Impossible 2 and Taken 3, and such television programs as Fear the Walking Dead. You may also know him from several British shows, including a guest role in the ever famous and popular series Doctor Who.
What you may not know is that he had the chance to be the X-Men’s own Wolverine. What happened was he was still working on M:I-2 while the first X-Men film was entering production. Due to this, Scott had to drop out of the project altogether.
Jackman would later run into Scott and “apologize” for replacing him in the role, to which Scott said, "It's just business, but you have just gotten one of the greatest roles out there, so go crush it."
7 Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Django Unchained)
Django Unchained, while a big hit for director Quentin Tarantino, was a film that various actors dropped out of. Sacha Baron Cohen was among those who left, as was Kurt Russell, and even Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
The case of Gordon-Levitt is a bit interesting, because he chose to not be part of the film as it would have interfered with his directorial debut. Gordon-Levitt was working on a film that, at the time, was known as Don Jon’s Addiction (released later as just Don Jon). On top of appearing in several other major 2012 films, Gordon-Levitt simply wasn’t able to do the role, as minor as it reportedly was.
Thankfully, Gordon-Levitt says Tarantino was supportive of his choice to direct his movie, though he also mentions he “would have loved, loved to have done it.”
6 Sylvester Stallone (Beverly Hills Cop)
Can you imagine Sylvester Stallone in the role of a wisecracking detective from Detroit solving a crime in posh Beverly Hills?
In any case, Beverly Hills Cop is a film series starring Eddie Murphy, and the first film is one of the most successful ones of the 1980s. Before all that, a script came Stallone’s way, courtesy of his agent, Ron Meyer. Stallone was on board, but wanted to change the script; he wanted his character to be “action oriented” but with “a wry sense of humor.” No one wanted that version of the movie made, and Stallone, no matter how much his agent begged, wouldn’t go for it any other way.
In Stallone’s own words: “I didn’t think I could pull it off. Then that ship sailed.”
5 Reese Witherspoon (Brave)
Arguably one of the Pixar’s lesser films (in terms of popularity, at least), Brave tells the story of Scottish princess Merida, who wants to seriously break from tradition and, essentially, be an independent woman who doesn’t need to be betrothed. It’s also about the bond between mother and daughter, though that storyline goes places most weren’t expecting.
But we’re not here to talk about that. No, we’re here to mention that Reese Witherspoon almost got the part of Merida, but had to quit because her Scottish accent was, in her own words, “bad” and “not my finest moment.” In retrospect, one might wonder why Pixar didn’t immediately cast a Scott in the role, like they eventually did with Kelly Macdonald. Since the end result was well received, maybe we’ll let this one stay a mystery.
4 Christina Applegate (Legally Blonde)
It’s very likely Christina Applegate’s name rings a bell due to her appearances in one of two pieces of media: Married… with Children and/or Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (along with its sequel). Had she done things differently in her career, she would have also been known for playing a blonde who goes to Harvard Law school.
Having been on Married…, Christina Applegate was originally apprehensive to playing the role of ditzy blonde, since she’d essentially played one on a sitcom for the longest time. She passed on the role that eventually went to Reese Witherspoon, and that movie spawned sequels and a musical.
Applegate feels it was a “stupid move,” but she was happy for Witherspoon all the same, saying she “did a much better job than I ever could.”
3 Leonardo DiCaprio (Boogie Nights)
It may be hard to remember, but quite some time ago, Leonardo DiCaprio was a teen heartthrob, starring in movies where he’d be all moody and shirtless,. This included James Cameron’s Titanic, which went on to be the biggest movie in the world (and history) until it was beaten by Cameron’s own Avatar.
DiCaprio does wish he’d been in another movie being made around the same time: Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights.
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Boogie Nights deals with the adult film industry in the 1970s and ‘80s. It also made Wahlberg a bigger star than he already was, since the film was critically acclaimed - especially his performance. At the time, the role seemed to be between DiCaprio or Wahlberg, but years later, Anderson stated that there was no real competition. Leo simply couldn’t do the role due to working on Titanic.
2 James Remar (Aliens)
Coming out several years after Alien, the James Cameron directed sequel, Aliens, ended up being a massive success for just about everyone involved.
The film dealt with Ellen Ripley helping out a team of marines take out a hive of extra-terrestrial enemies, and the cast included Bill Paxton, Paul Reiser, Lance Henriksen, and Michael Biehn.
Biehn, in particular, is interesting because, while it's one of his most famous roles, he wasn’t originally cast to play Corporal Hicks. It originally went to James Remar, who would have likely kept the role if he hadn’t been caught with illegal substances.
While his replacement wasn’t discussed at the time, Remar has later said that he “had a terrible [substance] problem,” and that his canning resulted in producer Walter Hill not hiring him for anything for twelve years.
1 Tom Selleck (Indiana Jones)
When it comes to mustaches, so few can rock one the way Tom Selleck does. For eight seasons, Selleck hung out in Hawaii playing the role of Thomas Magnum, wearing Aloha shirts and driving around in a Ferrari while staying in a famous author’s guest house. The show was a massive success, and obviously made a star of Selleck.
Still, he had the opportunity to take his stardom higher: playing Indiana Jones. However, according to him, the network that aired Magnum, P.I. (CBS) wouldn’t let him, due to his commitment to the show. Ironically, when Selleck went to Hawaii to start the show, the actors were on strike, and he wasn’t able to work, along with unable to take back deposit to his landlady. He became a handyman during this time, including right when production of Raiders of the Lost Ark came to Hawaii. “So I could’ve done them both.”
Do you think these actors would've been better in the roles they left? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.