11 actors who lost out on famous movie roles

·7 min read

With any starring role in a blockbuster film comes a string of rejected actors.

It’s difficult to imagine the Titanic without Leonardo DiCaprio as Jack, opposite Kate Winslet’s Rose.

Yet before DiCaprio was cast, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Cruise and Johnny Depp were all considered for the part.

Sometimes actors make the decision to turn down a huge role, only to regret it later.

Other times, things simply don’t go their way. Even the very best around can still botch an audition.

Ben Stiller is the latest Hollywood star to open up about flunking a major audition, revealing that he “tanked” his chance at starring in a major film in the 1990s.

Here are 13 memorable times a now-famous actor got rejected from a major film...

Emma Stone

Emma Stone could have been Alice in Tim Burton’s ‘Alice and Wonderland’ (Getty Images)
Emma Stone could have been Alice in Tim Burton’s ‘Alice and Wonderland’ (Getty Images)

The La La Land  star said that she auditioned for the lead role in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.

She told Timotheé Chalamet in an actor-on-actor interview for Variety: “Oh, my God, when I auditioned for Alice in Wonderland... not getting a Tim Burton movie is really devastating.”

The part eventually went to Australian actor Mia Wasikowska.

Timothée Chalamet

Timothée Chalamet revealed that he tested for ‘Spider-Man’ (Getty Images)
Timothée Chalamet revealed that he tested for ‘Spider-Man’ (Getty Images)

In the same interview, Call Me By Your Name star Chalamet told Stone that he tested for a part in Spider-Man.

“I went up for all these things, and tested for Spider-Man, and I didn’t get it, and a Tim Burton movie, too, and these things weren’t happening," he said.

Chalamet has since landed a part in an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s story, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, as an early incarnation of inventor Willy Wonka. Burton previously directed Johnny Depp in the role for his 2005 film.

Ben Stiller

Ben Stiller attempted to get cast in ‘My Cousin Vinny’ (Getty Images)
Ben Stiller attempted to get cast in ‘My Cousin Vinny’ (Getty Images)

In August of 2022, Ben Stiller revealed that he had unsuccessfully tried to get cast in the hit 1990s comedy My Cousin Vinny.

“I tanked my audition for My Cousin Vinny. It still haunts me to this day,” said the actor during a Q&A.

While he didn’t reveal which part he was denied, fans have speculated that he was in line to play the role of Billy Gambini, which eventually went to Ralph Macchio.

Jake Gyllenhaal

Jake Gyllenhaal was in the running for a role in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ (Getty Images)
Jake Gyllenhaal was in the running for a role in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ (Getty Images)

The Brokeback Mountain actor recalled bombing an audition for The Lord Of The Rings.

“I remember going to this room. There was a lot of stage directions and no lines… It was just like finding the ring… and I remember I didn’t really do it because I didn’t really understand because there were no lines,” Gyllenhaal told Jimmy Fallon.

“So I sort of walked up, and opened [a box] up and I was like ‘Is that good?’ Literally Peter Jackson was like *face palm*.”

Taylor Launter

The ‘Twilight’ star could have been the face of Disney’s ‘Camp Rock’ (Getty Images)
The ‘Twilight’ star could have been the face of Disney’s ‘Camp Rock’ (Getty Images)

Before the Jonas Brothers got their parts starring in Disney’s Camp Rock, a different 2000s teen hearthrob was in the running for the role. "Taylor Lautner did audition, and we liked him a lot," director Matthew Diamond told Insider. "I think we kind of said he wasn’t exactly right for the part."

The director said that they could "tell how talented he was" but he wasn’t "quite Shane Gray enough".

"I remember thinking he’s really good-looking and quite charismatic," Diamond added.

Even though Lautner didn’t star in the Disney hit, he landed his iconic role playing Jacob Black in the Twilight franchise, which released in the same year. The part of Shane Gray went to Joe Jonas, who played alongside his brothers Nick and Kevin.

Russell Crowe

Russell Crowe was said to have auditioned for ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding’ (Getty Images)
Russell Crowe was said to have auditioned for ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding’ (Getty Images)

Russell Crowe once botched an audition for the 1997 romantic comedy My Best Friend’s Wedding – according to the film’s director at least.

Filmmaker PJ Hogan recalled in an interview with Vulture, that his first choice for the male lead had been Crowe, who he thought was “probably the most amazing actor I had ever encountered”.

To cast Crowe in the film, he needed Julia Roberts’s approval, so he invited the Gladiator star to a table read.

“I don’t know what went wrong,” Hogan said. “It was one of the worst table reads I’ve ever experienced. Russell was seated opposite Julia. He gripped that script, and he stared at that script, and he didn’t look at her once.

“He read every line in a monotone. At one point, Julia was literally leaning over the table, staring, like, inches from Russell’s face, trying to make eye contact. And he wouldn’t look at her.”

Hogan added: “At the end of the reading, Russell came up to me and said, ‘I thought that went pretty well.’ And then I knew: Russell was not going to be in My Best Friend’s Wedding.”

The role eventually went to Dermot Mulroney.

Matthew McConaughey 

McConaughey could have starred alongside Kate Winslet in the ‘Titanic’ (Getty Images)
McConaughey could have starred alongside Kate Winslet in the ‘Titanic’ (Getty Images)

The Interstellar actor auditioned for Titanic and was ecstatic with how it went.

“The audition went really well. Well enough where, when I was left, I was being slapped on the back ... well enough where you go outside and call your agent and say ‘Oh, I nailed it,’" McConaughey said on a 2019 episode of Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen.

“And there was a rumour that I got the role and didn’t do it.. This is false,” he added. Despite McConaughey’s feelings about the audition, Leonardo DiCaprio landed the iconic role, and both actors will likely agree their respective careers turned out just fine.

Chris Klein

An audition tape surfaced revealing Klein’s audition tape for ‘Mamma Mia!' (Getty Images)
An audition tape surfaced revealing Klein’s audition tape for ‘Mamma Mia!' (Getty Images)

In an audition tape video that resurfaced years later, American Pie star Chris Klein went for one of the main in roles in the hit Abba musical, Mamma Mia!.

In the tape, Klein can be heard singing “Lay All Your Love On Me” while auditioning to play Sky, Sophie’s lover. The role eventually went to Dominic Cooper.

John Krasinski

Chris Evans was chosen to play Captain America over John Krasinski (Getty Images for Paramount Pictu)
Chris Evans was chosen to play Captain America over John Krasinski (Getty Images for Paramount Pictu)

“My agent called and said, ‘They’re going to go with Chris Evans,’” Krasinski told Variety about losing the role of Captain America in 2011.

“And I remember I said, ‘Yeah, look at him. He’s Captain America.’”

In an interview on The Ellen Show, Krasinski elaborated: "This is a true story. I was putting the suit on, and the [costume] guy was like, ‘This is really momentous.’ And I said, ‘Yes.’"

Reece Witherspoon

Reece Witherspoon could have played main character Cher in ‘Clueless’ (Getty)
Reece Witherspoon could have played main character Cher in ‘Clueless’ (Getty)

There were many contenders for Clueless’s Cher Horowitz, including Angelina Jolie who sent in an audition tape.

“I met with Reese [Witherspoon] because everyone said, ‘This girl’s amazing. She’s going to be huge,’" said Clueless director and writer Amy Heckerling.

“I saw some movie where she [Witherspoon] had a southern accent. Maybe it was on TV, a movie of the week. But I did see some scenes of hers and went: Wow. She’s amazing. But Alicia [Silverstone] is Cher,” she told Vanity Fair.

Alicia Silverstone went on to won Funniest Actress in a Motion Picture for her role in Clueless at the 1996 Academy Awards.

Tom Holland

Holland went on to be cast in ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ (Getty Images)
Holland went on to be cast in ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ (Getty Images)

He may have beaten Chalamet to the Spider-Man punch, but Tom Holland has his own tale of casting woe to speak of.

The actor audtioned unsuccessfully to star in 2015’s record-breaking sequel Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

“I was like four or five auditions in, and I think I was auditioning for John Boyega’s role,” he said.

“I remember doing this scene with this lady, bless her, and she was just a drone. So I was doing all of this like, ‘We gotta get back to the ship!’ and she was just going, ‘Bleep, bloop, bloop, bleep bloop.’

“I just couldn’t stop laughing. I found it so funny. And I felt really bad, because she was trying really hard to be a convincing android or drone or whatever they’re called.”

The Avengers star added: “Yeah, I obviously didn’t get the part. That wasn’t my best moment.”