It was another huge weekend and the box office (up 43% from this time last year which is HUGE). There has been a lot of talk about Superman of course and comparisons between Hot Henry, Romantic Reeves and…oh, that other dude that played Superman for a super-second. I was thinking of whether or not Christopher Reeve would have had a career had he not chosen the iconic role, which, besides “A Time to Remember” was the only film role with which he forever will be associated.
So, I wanted to find out what other iconic roles some of our faves passed up. You decide if they would have been more famous and/or if the person who would actually assumed the role turned out better than initially cast/worse/no contest, etc. You catch my drift, yes?
Ok, so let’s start with Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock…both America’s Sweetheart, natch.
“Pretty Woman” skyrocketed Ms. Roberts’ career and we have 80s icon Molly Ringwald to thank for it. Ringwald was originally offered the role but said no because she thought it glorified prostitution (I’m in PR…I know what glorified prostitution is…she’s probably relighting all 16 candles and wishing for the ability to go back in time, I’m sure. Loved “Pretty in Pink” not so keen on “Pretty in Egg all over”). Speaking of “OMG thank you for declining a role”…Al Pacino was the first choice to play opposite of Ringwald/Roberts. Hoowah!
Now, Ms. Roberts passed up some biggies herself. And Sandra Bullock, the Academy, and all of her fans thank you sincerely for declining. What roles were they? Only lead roles from what would become the two biggest movies in Bullock’s career – and one even got her an Oscar. Yep, Roberts was first offered both “The Proposal” and “The Blindside.” Sources say “The Proposal” pay wasn’t up to Julia Snuff and that she had no interest in the Blindside.
I have to tell you (bias alert as The Proposal and Blindside are two of my favorite movies of Bullocks and The Proposal is one of my fave comedies of all time), after Bullock blew both of those roles out of the water – playing very different characters, it would be hard to see Roberts’ one-note act (I know, sorry, but did you see Snow White or Eat, Pray, Love?) in either one.
Speaking of Bullock co-stars…Keanu Reeves, who co-starred in the movie that really launched Bullock’s career “Speed,” should be licking Will Smith from head to toe as he was originally offered the role of “Neo” in the Matrix Trilogy (or what I call “Matrix” and the two bad sequels). Nonetheless, for the worst actor in Hollywood, it made him really rich and kept him gamely employed for six or so years. (PS I think Smith did alright regardless, don’t you?).
Another terrible actor (sorry Sara Michelle Gellar) should have taken one out of the Keanu playbooks because perhaps he would have some sort of a career. I’m talking of course of Freddy Prinz Jr (of, yes, Scooby Doo fame – although I’m not knocking it too much because he and Gellar’s production company produced both films that made a Mystery Bus full of money for all!). What did he pass up? It’s a very tangled web but one that Tobey McGuire played in happily after Prinz turned down the role of “Spiderman” in the trilogy that would reboot the franchise…before it was then rebooted like 2 days after the third one ended, wasn’t it?
Speaking of heroes – who would have thunk that out of all the leads – C3PO, R2D2, Chewy, Jaba…that Han Solo himself would become one of the biggest, most bankable stars in movie history? Thank you, Tom Selleck, who passsed up that little role of a Dr. Jones who wasn’t a big fan of snakes. Why did he pass? He was just offered a starring role in Magnum PI …hey, why pass up shooting in Hawaii to risk working on a movie franchise that may or may not end up grossing almost 2 BILLION dollars! Oh, hindsight sucks!
Speaking of Chewy…in “Silence of the Lambs” the role of Clarice Starling was originally offered to the now very underutilized Michele Pfeiffer. She declined because she couldn’t stomach having to wash down Brett Favre beans with a nice chianti. (Sidebar-ish: did you know about 10 years ago Pfeiffer was the only movie actor around that would ensure increased ticket sales for any movie she was in? That didn’t mean the movies would be hits but that they always made more money than they were projected to make if they made them without her. That’s pretty frickin’ awesome – Grease 2 is especially thankful). Here’s another case in point of a Plan B actor taking the role and then turning it into not only an Oscar-winning performance but most say it is Foster’s finest performance in a very storied career.
Lastly, at least for now, we come to Tom Hanks in his Academy Award-winning role as “Forrest Gump” (sidebar: he was the first actor since Spencer Tracey to win back-to-back lead actor Oscars first for “Philadelphia” then for “Forrest Gump”). I digress. Apparently as part of the title role perks package, personal masseurs were not included which must be one of the reasons why after first being offered the role that John Travolta declined. (I don’t know about you but I’m picturing Danny Zucko with the voice of “Hairspray’s” Edna as Forrest Gump with Travolta…it’s disturbing regardless).
Just from this, there are four actors who would not have won Academy Awards had the actor who was first offered the part taken it: Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Jodi Foster and Keanu, oh, wait. Just three.
What do you think?