Table of content    
  1. Rachel Zegler - The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes
  2. Jenna Ortega - Wednesday
  3. Chris Evans - Captain America: The First Avenger
  4. Chris Pratt - Guardians of the Galaxy
  5. Amanda Seyfried - The Dropout
  6. Emma Stone - La La Land
  7. Jet Li - Emperor of China in Mulan (2020)
  8. Ralph Fiennes - Harry Potter franchise
  9. Leonardo DiCaprio - Titanic
  10. Laurence Fishburne - What's Love Got To Do with It
  11. Arnold Schwarzenegger - The Terminator
  12. Alan Rickman - Die Hard
  13. Lee Jae-wook - Alchemy of Souls

10+ Actors Who Initially Said 'No' To Iconic Roles, But Thank Goodness They Reconsidered

Ever wondered what if your favorite movie or TV character was played by someone else? Brace yourself for the surprising tales of 10+ actors who, believe it or not, initially rejected roles that later became iconic. These stars had reservations, hesitations, and sometimes downright refusals, but destiny intervened, and we're eternally grateful they changed their minds.

Get ready to dive into the captivating stories behind the scenes as we unveil why these actors nearly passed up on the roles that defined their careers.


#1. Rachel Zegler - The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes

Actors Who Initially Said 'No' To Iconic Roles Source: Murray Close /© Lionsgate /Courtesy Everett Collection
When initially approached by director Francis Lawrence for the role of Lucy Gray Baird in "The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes," Rachel Zegler declined the offer. Her reason? The prospect of filming in Germany and Poland made her hesitant. Zegler, who had recently arrived in London, expressed a desire to retreat and "disappear" since she was navigating being away from home for the first time.
She said on the Happy Sad Confused podcast, "I was away from everyone I knew and loved, and I said 'no.'" And I immediately regretted saying it. I had another project lined up that fell through and was pushed into 2023, so I just threw my name back in the mix and got it, and I feel really bad for any of the girls...because I threw my name back in, and they were just like, 'yup, OK, cool, we'll do it.'"

#2. Jenna Ortega - Wednesday

Jenna Ortega - Wednesday Source: Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection
Jenna Ortega turned down the role of Wednesday's title character because she "was afraid that signing on to another television show would prevent [her] from doing other jobs [she] really wanted and cared about." She also believed the show "wasn't going to be watched."
She said to the Times, "[Tim Burton] ] is such a legend, and we just happened to get along very well. But even then, I said, 'Ah, no — I think I'm OK,' a couple [more] times."

#3. Chris Evans - Captain America: The First Avenger

Chris Evans -  Captain America: The First Avenger Source: Jay Maidment/©Paramount Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection

When Marvel asked Chris Evans to do a screen test for the titular role in Captain America: The First Avenger, he saw it as a "fork in the road" because of the anxiety he'd recently developed, which included "having mini panic attacks on set." So he declined, but the studio later approached him and directly offered him the role.

With the help of his family, therapists, and co-star Robert Downey Jr., he realized he'd been "making decisions based on fear."


#4. Chris Pratt - Guardians of the Galaxy

Chris Pratt - Guardians of the Galaxy Source: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

When Chris Pratt was first approached about playing Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy, he said, "I don't think so," because he "just didn't picture [him]self getting the role" based on previous audition experiences.

"I didn't want to go and embarrass myself like I did when I auditioned for G.I. Joe a couple of years ago," he told Esquire. I walked in and noticed the director's eyes glaze over halfway through. It made sense because I was overweight and out of shape. I wasn't going to play a G.I. Joe character. "I didn't look like a living G.I. Joe action figure."


#5. Amanda Seyfried - The Dropout

Amanda Seyfried - The Dropout Source: Beth Dubber / ©Hulu / Courtesy Everett Collection
Amanda Seyfried initially turned down the role of Elizabeth Holmes in The Dropout because she had COVID at the time and didn't want to leave her family to go to LA to shoot. However, after her fever subsided the next morning, she called her agents back and informed them that she had changed her mind.
She shared with the Hollywood Reporter, "Listen, I was having a fucking moment, OK? I had COVID. I was isolated in the basement of a gross townhouse in Savannah, Georgia because my husband was working on a movie there. And now an LA shoot? Pass!"

#6. Emma Stone - La La Land

Emma Stone - La La Land Source: Summit Entertainment / courtesy Everett Collection

When writer/director Damien Chazelle first met with Emma Stone to discuss the possibility of her playing Mia Dolan in La La Land, she was "very sick" from doing Cabaret on Broadway, and "the idea of doing another musical was like, 'You've got to be out of your mind.'"

She said to the Hollywood Reporter, "My voice was gone, and I was struggling to get through the shows... After Cabaret, I wasn’t sure I would ever sing or dance again."


#7. Jet Li - Emperor of China in Mulan (2020)

Jet Li - Emperor of China in Mulan (2020) Source: Disney+ / Courtesy Everett Collection

Jet Li initially turned down the role of the Emperor of China in Mulan (2020) due to both the pay and the script. His then-17-year-old daughter, Jada, however, asked him if he was concerned about not being paid enough. "When a company like Disney wants to make a movie about Chinese culture, why don't you take part in it?" she asked when he said no.

His older daughter, Jane, agreed with Jada, so he agreed to take on the role for them.


#8. Ralph Fiennes - Harry Potter franchise

Ralph Fiennes - Harry Potter franchise Source: Warner Bros / Courtesy Everett Collection

Ralph Fiennes was supposed to decline the role of Voldemort in the Harry Potter series. "In my stupid ignorance," he said on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen, "I hadn't read the books, I hadn't seen the first movies, and I was, I have to say, a little snobby about it."

"Until the casting director, great lady, English Lady, Mary Selway sat me down — I mean, I've known Mary for many years," he continued. She could be tough and insistent, and all she said was, "You have to do this movie." Simply do it, Ralph.' And she said it with such force. 'You're not going to do Voldemort?' said my sister, Martha, who has children. 'Are you considering saying no?'"


#9. Leonardo DiCaprio - Titanic

Leonardo DiCaprio - Titanic Source: 20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett Collection
According to reports, Leonardo DiCaprio "didn't want to" play Jack Dawson in Titanic because he "thought it was boring."
"He didn't want to do a leading man," director James Cameron told People. I had to really twist his arm to get him to appear in the film."
He also stated that Leo agreed to take on the role "only after [James] persuaded him that it was actually a difficult challenge."

#10. Laurence Fishburne - What's Love Got To Do with It

Laurence Fishburne - What's Love Got To Do with It Source: Buena Vista Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection
Laurence Fishburne rejected the role of Ike Turner in What's Love Got to Do With It five times because "the writing was really strong concerning Tina's character, and it wasn't strong enough with respect to Ike's character.

#11. Arnold Schwarzenegger - The Terminator

Arnold Schwarzenegger - The Terminator Source: Orion Pictures Corp / Courtesy Everett Collection

"There's no one who will understand The Terminator better than you," director James Cameron told Arnold Schwarzenegger when they first met to discuss The Terminator. Arnold responded by saying, "Excuse me, but I don't want to regress in my career, because this guy only says, like, 27 lines." Instead, he wanted to play Kyle Reese.

"[James] says, 'Trust me,'" he told journalist Graham Bensinger. I'll shoot the character so that you're not only the best villain they've ever seen, but also the best hero."


#12. Alan Rickman - Die Hard

Alan Rickman - Die Hard Source: 20th Century Fox / Everett Collection

When Alan Rickman was first approached about playing Hans Gruber in Die Hard, he read the script and exclaimed, "What the hell is this? "I'm not making an action film."

He stated, "Agents and people said: 'Alan, you don't understand, this doesn't happen,'" at a 2015 BAFTA Life in Pictures event. It's only your second day in Los Angeles, and already you've been asked to do this movie."

His character notes were given to producer Joel Silver, and they were included in the revised script.


#13. Lee Jae-wook - Alchemy of Souls

Last but not least, Lee Jae-wook initially declined to play Jang Uk in the fantasy television series Alchemy of Souls in South Korea, stating that "it was too difficult and [he] wondered whether [he]d be able to pull this project off well."

"But I think I came to do it solely out of my desire to take on a new challenge," he said to Xportnews. As an actor, I'm really happy with how everything turned out. Furthermore, isn't this a drama that you never know when to expect again? I'm hoping that my conclusion turned out well."

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