Comic book movies are all the rage these days; everyone wants in on the seemingly never-ending trend that has overtaken Hollywood. Nowadays, blockbuster movies consist primarily of superhero movies from Disney-owned Marvel Studios and Warner Bros. – which owns and operates the newly-formed DC Films division – along with 20th Century Fox’s X-Men franchise and Sony Pictures’ upcoming Spider-Man spinoffs. Those four studios and their superhero movies tend to make up the bulk of the blockbuster films that release in any given year – which means a lot of actors and actresses are jumping onboard the comic book movie train for new gigs.
Eight superhero movies are being released in 2018 alone, with potentially even more coming in 2019 and beyond. While many actors, especially newcomers, would jump at the opportunity to appear in a superhero or supervillain movie these days, that wasn’t always the case. Superhero movies used to be mediocre at best, particularly during the 1990s. Appearing in any one of those films could either make or break someone’s career – and that played a part in more than a dozen actors’ decisions to turn down potentially life-changing superhero roles.
Here are 15 Actors You Didn’t Know Turned Down DC Movie Roles.
15. Robin Williams – The Riddler (Batman Forever)
Legendary actor Robin Williams was once offered the part of The Riddler in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns follow-up movie, but when Joel Schumacher replaced Burton and turned his film into Batman Forever, Williams reportedly left the project due to creative differences with the character’s depiction.
Williams’ involvement in Batman Forever, though, remains a point of contention, with some reports stating that Warner Bros. decided to go with Jim Carrey due to his popularity. The general consensus, however, suggests that Williams simply passed on the role.
As it turns out, that was only one of three different times Williams was up for playing a Batman villain. Although the late actor never had his chance to appear in a live-action Batman movie, considering how Schumacher’s films turned out, perhaps it’s a blessing in disguise.
14. Kristen Stewart – Lois Lane (Man of Steel)
Kristen Stewart made her name by playing Bella Swan in Summit Entertainment’s Twilight films, based on the novel series of the same name by Stephanie Meyer. The movies were enormously successful, grossing over $3.346 billion against a combined production budget of $385 million across all five installments. Although the movies launched Stewart’s career, the fame may have been too much, for she didn’t want to jump into another blockbuster series when Twilight concluded – and that’s why she turned down the role of Lois Lane in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel.
It was reported reported in 2012 that Stewart had met with Snyder about the role but ultimately passed because she wanted to take time away from blockbuster movies. So, instead, she starred in Rupert Sanders’ Snow White and the Huntsman later that year – a big movie, but not as big as Superman.
13. Leonardo DiCaprio – Robin (Batman Forever)
Leonardo DiCaprio has chosen his roles very carefully ever since he started appearing in major Hollywood productions. In the 1990s and early 2000s, he was approached for multiple superhero roles, one of which was Dick Grayson, aka Robin, in Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever, with him presumably appearing in Batman & Robin as well.
Contrary to popular belief, DiCaprio stated in 2015 that he never screen-tested for the role, though he did take a meeting with Schumacher about joining the film. DiCaprio ultimately turned down the role and moved on with his career. While he’s never given a specific reason for turning down the role, it seems superhero roles are simply not in his interest, considering that he also turned down playing Spider-Man.
12. Jake Gyllenhaal – Rick Flag (Suicide Squad)
Jake Gyllenhaal was among the top choices to play Batman in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy, but the acclaimed filmmaker ultimately went with Christian Bale for the part. Still, that wasn’t the end of Gyllenhaal’s brush with the DC universe. Upon Tom Hardy’s departure from David Ayer’s Suicide Squad due to previous commitments to Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant, Warner Bros. approached Gyllenhaal to replace Hardy as Col. Rick Flag.
It was reported in 2015 that Gyllenhaal passed on the role, though a reason wasn’t given. Joel Kinnaman eventually boarded the project as Flag. Although Gyllenhaal decided to pass on Suicide Squad, the decision may ultimately be him delaying his entrance into the DCEU, should the reports regarding his future involvement as Batman (replacing Ben Affleck) come to fruition.
11. Jude Law – Superman (Superman Returns)
Henry Cavill is the first Brit to play the iconic American superhero Superman, but there was a time when Bryan Singer and Warner Bros. were looking at Jude Law for the coveted gig. The actor was approached for the role in 2006’s Superman Returns, but he said on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, “[the role] didn’t float my boat. I just really didn’t want to go there.” Singer apparently tried to push the role on Law, so the studio sent the actor the Superman suit to try on (under guard, of course).
Law said he tried on the suit and that truly felt like Superman (with the music playing in his head and everything), but he ultimately decided not to move forward with the role because then he imagined himself in the suit, on posters around the world, and he didn’t like what he saw.
10. Pierce Brosnan – Batman (Batman)
Pierce Brosnan is primarily known for playing James Bond in the 1990s and early 2000s, before the Daniel Craig era, but there was a time he could’ve been Gotham City’s protector instead of an MI6 agent. Tim Burton approached Brosnan for the role and the two discussed the part in detail, but Brosnan ultimately passed on the role because he just couldn’t take the character seriously in live-action.
Brosnan discussed turning down the role in a 2013 Reddit AMA: “…I just couldn’t really take it seriously, any man who wears his underpants outside his pants just cannot be taken seriously … It was a joke, I thought. But how wrong was I?” The role eventually went to Michael Keaton, who has now been immortalized as the Caped Crusader.
9. Charlize Theron – Unknown role (Wonder Woman)
Charlize Theron previously worked with Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins on the 2003 film, Monster, and the acclaimed filmmaker approached the actress for a role in her DC superhero movie. Since Gal Gadot was already cast as Wonder Woman long before the movie got underway, Theron was most likely approached to play either an Amazon (perhaps Antiope?) or the villainous Doctor Poison.
Unfortunately, a scheduling conflict prevented her from appearing in the movie, so she turned down the role. Theron said on The Howard Stern Show: “She did come to me, and at the time I was either working on something or I don’t know. There was a reason I couldn’t do it.” While she didn’t get to appear in the first film, Theron is interested in appearing in Wonder Woman 2 – perhaps as Cheetah?
8. Matt Damon – Harvey Dent (The Dark Knight)
Prior to Aaron Eckhart landing the role of Harvey Dent, aka Two-Face, in Christopher Nolan’s critically-acclaimed Batman Begins follow-up, The Dark Knight, Matt Damon was approached for the villainous role, something he only confirmed a year after the film released. Unfortunately, as with many almost-happened castings, Damon turned down the role due to a scheduling conflict. Considering that he was appearing in multiple major movies per year during the mid-2000s, a scheduling issue makes sense.
Damon told MTV News in 2009: “I couldn’t — there was a scheduling thing. I never spoke to Chris Nolan. I’m a big Chris Nolan fan, but I never spoke to him.” After having his name thrown around for comic book movie castings for years, Damon finally gave in and had a cameo in Taika Waititi’s 2017 film, Thor: Ragnarok.
7. Josh Hartnett – Batman (Batman Begins)
Josh Hartnett was approached for virtually every major role in the early 2000s, but he turned almost all of them, including roles for Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man. Not many people are offered superhero roles in the first place, especially not for three of the most iconic superheroes in comic book history. To turn down not one but all three roles is baffling, to say the least. But that’s what Hartnett did, and he doesn’t regret it, for the most part.
Hartnett told Playboy in 2015 that the only role he regrets turning down is Batman for Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins. “I said no because I was tired and wanted to spend more time with my friends and family … I learned my lesson when Christopher Nolan and I talked about Batman. I decided it wasn’t for me. Then he didn’t want to put me in The Prestige.”
6. Jon Hamm – Green Lantern (Green Lantern)
Warner Bros. finally brought the Green Lantern to life on the big screen in 2011, starring Ryan Reynolds as the eponymous character, but before they landed the once and future Deadpool actor, the studio approached Mad Men star Jon Hamm for the role – but he wasn’t interested. The actor turned down the role multiple times before Warner Bros. got the message.
Hamm told GQ UK that he turned down the role because he wasn’t interested in comic book movies, but that doesn’t mean he’ll never appear in a superhero film: “I mean, they came after me pretty hard for Green Lantern. But I was like, meh, that’s not what I want to do. Never say never, but those aren’t the kind of movies I like to go see.” Perhaps he’ll take up a role in the DCEU’s Green Lantern Corps.
5. Warren Beatty – Superman (Superman: The Movie)
Warren Beatty’s prolific career in Hollywood has earned him 14 Academy Award nominations for both acting and directing, and he continues to put out new movies to this day. But being in the filmmaking industry for so many years means he’s passed on plenty would-be famous gigs, such as the title role in Richard Donner’s iconic 1978 film, Superman: The Movie.
As with Jude Law, Beatty didn’t like the way he looked in the Superman suit, and so he turned down the role. He told MTV’s Happy Sad Confused podcast that he asked his assistant to purchase long underwear for him to try on, and it just didn’t work for him. “…[I] put on the long underwear, and open the full-length mirror, and I went to the telephone and I said, ‘Look, just forget about Superman, it ain’t going to happen.’ And then the movie was terrific.”
4. Katie Holmes – Rachel Dawes (The Dark Knight)
Katie Holmes appeared in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins as Bruce Wayne’s childhood friend and later love interest, Rachel Dawes. She played a vital role throughout the film and the movie went on to become quite successful – both critically and commercially. But w hen time came to prep for the sequel, The Dark Knight, Holmes opted not to return for the role. Instead she starred in Callie Khouri’s Mad Money.
Considering that Mad Money was a critical and commercial failure, and The Dark Knight is regarded as one of the greatest comic book films ever made, Holmes seems to have made the wrong choice. But, at the time, she felt confident in her decision, telling VH1: “Not at all. I had a great experience working with Chris Nolan [and] I’m sure it’s going to be a great movie. [But] I chose to do this movie [‘Mad Money’], and I’m really proud of it.”
3. Anthony Hopkins – Alfred Pennyworth (Batman Begins)
Looking back, it’s difficult to imagine anyone passing up an opportunity to appear in Nolan’s Batman trilogy, but Josh Hartnett wasn’t the only one who made that call. Legendary actor Anthony Hopkins was offered the role of Bruce Wayne’s trusted butler, Alfred Pennyworth, but he reportedly turned it down. Hopkins never gave a reason for refusing the role, but it might have had something to do with the fact that he was passed over for Mr. Freeze in Batman & Robin.
Michael Caine joined Batman Begins instead, and he’s appeared in every one of his Nolan’s ever since (including a voice cameo in Dunkirk). What’s more, Hopkins later joined Brett Ratner’s Superman movie, but that project ended up falling by the wayside and retooled in Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns. Maybe fourth time’s the charm for Hopkins?
2. Jaimie Alexander – Wonder Woman (Wonder Woman)
Jaimie Alexander was approached more than once to play Wonder Woman prior to the DCEU forming, but she wanted to make sure Warner Bros. did the character justice, and the script she read didn’t do that. She told MTV News: “I actually read Wonder Woman… You don’t get to really know her on the inside. It’s all about her boobs. And I can say that; I actually read the comics. Even though she had one of the coolest storylines, they still made her the all-American beauty queen.”
Alexander was considered the fan-favorite and frontrunner for the role for a long time, but when she turned down the role, Snyder and co. went with Gal Gadot for their DCEU version in 2014. Although people were up in arms over her casting, Gadot’s appearances in Batman v Superman, Wonder Woman, and Justice League seem to have silenced the naysayers.
1. Will Smith – Superman (Superman Returns)
Before Brandon Routh joined Singer’s Superman Returns, the highly-coveted role was apparently offered to none other than Will Smith. Yes, that Will Smith. But Smith turned down the role because he didn’t feel right playing the iconic DC superhero. He told MTV News: “The last Superman I got offered, the script came, and I was like, ‘There is no way I’m playing Superman!’ Because I had already done Jim West [of Wild Wild West], and you can’t be messing up white people’s heroes in Hollywood! You mess up white people’s heroes in Hollywood, you’ll never work in this town again!”
Although he passed on Superman, Smith did eventually appear in a DC movie by taking up the role of Floyd Lawton, aka Deadshot, in David Ayer’s 2016 film, Suicide Squad. There have even been reporting of Warner Bros. developing a solo Deadshot movie with Smith returning in the title role.
Do you think these actors made mistakes turning down their roles? Let us know in the comments!
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