The Quick Report

10 Actresses Who Passed On Iconic Roles

All it takes is one role to make an actor’s career, but sometimes it’s the roles they don’t take that end up getting talked about more. 

In fact, casting decisions can make or break a film, define careers, and leave an indelible mark on cinematic history. From beloved characters to career-defining performances, here’s a glimpse into the alternate universe where these leading ladies made different choices.

Claire Danes, Titanic

Claire Danes in Romeo + Juliet and Kate Winslet in Titanic
20th Century Fox

Believe it or not, Kate Winslet was not the first choice to star as Rose in the mega blockbuster film, Titanic. In fact, Claire Danes revealed on a podcast episode of Armchair Expert that she actually turned down the role after just starring with Leonardo DiCaprio in Romeo + Juliet. 

“I remember after that movie came out and he [Leo]  just went into another stratosphere. I went to the premiere of The Man in the Iron Mask, and when he walked into the room the floor fell in his direction. Everybody in the room went toward him. It was a little scary. I think I may have sensed I was courting that. And I just couldn’t do it. I didn’t want it,” she shared.

Sandra Bullock, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality and Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider
Warner Bros. | Paramount Pictures

Before Angelina Jolie wielded Lara Croft’s iconic dual pistols in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, the role was initially offered to Sandra Bullock. 

However, Bullock passed on the opportunity, paving the way for Angelina to become a true action star. While Sandra would’ve done a fantastic job in the role, there’s no denying the part was made for Angelina!

Molly Ringwald, Pretty Woman

Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club and Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman
Universal Pictures | Buena Vista Pictures

In another twist of fate, before Julia Roberts captivated audiences as the vivacious Vivian Ward in Pretty Woman, the role was initially offered to Molly Ringwald! Known for her performances in coming-of-age classics like Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club, Molly decided to pass.

In fact, Molly shared, “I don’t specifically remember turning it down. The script was okay but I gotta say, Julia Roberts is what makes that movie. It was her part. Every actor hopes for a part that lets them shine like that.”


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Beyoncé, A Star Is Born

Beyonce and Lady Gaga in A Star is Born
Wiki Commons | Warner Bros.

OK, Beyoncé didn’t necessarily turn down the role of Aly in A Star Is Born, but the film did decide to go in a totally different direction. 

Before Bradley Cooper took over as director and cast Lady Gaga, the film was actually going to be directed by Clint Eastwood and he wanted Beyoncé to be the star. But, after years of being stuck in film limbo, it ended up in Bradley’s hands and different casting decisions were made!

Related: Watch ‘A Quick Look’s’ Review of Iconic Roles

Sarah Michelle Gellar, Clueless

Sarah Michelle Gellar in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Alicia Silverstone in Clueless
Mutant Enemy Productions | Paramount Pictures

As IF! Sarah Michelle Gellar was very close to starring as Cher Horowitz in Clueless, but she had to turn it down due to her All My Children schedule. It’s hard to imagine anyone else playing the role of Cher other than Alicia Silverstone, but there’s no doubt Sarah would’ve done a great job.

Though she probably regrets missing the opportunity to play Cher, the good news for Sarah is she landed the role of Buffy in Buffy the Vampire Slayer just a few months later. 

Anne Hathaway, Knocked Up

Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada and Katherine Heigl in Knocked Up
20th Century Fox | Universal Pictures

Anne Hathaway actually declined the opportunity to star in Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up. She was initially considered for the role of Alison Scott, but the role eventually went to Katherine Heigl. 

In fact, Anne’s decision to pass on the project was due to the explicit nature of the film’s content, as she reportedly felt uncomfortable with certain aspects of the script. Though the movie was a big success, Anne’s probably not too disappointed she missed out. She’s certainly been in her fair share of great movies!

Rachel McAdams, The Devil Wears Prada

Rachel McAdams in Mean Girls and Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada
Paramount Pictures | 20th Century Fox

Speaking of great movies Anne Hathaway was a part of, it turns out she was not the first choice to play Andy Sachs in The Devil Wears Prada. Though a lot of talented actresses were considered, word on the street is Rachel McAdams was the first choice. 

However, she turned it down because she was afraid of being typecast. She had also just finished working on Mean Girls and The Notebook and was looking for a different sort of project to work on next.

Kate Winslet, Shakespeare in Love

Kate Winslet in Titanic and Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love
20th Century Fox | Miramax Films

After skyrocketing to fame in Titanic, Kate Winslet decided to turn down the role of Viola in Shakespeare in Love, a role that went to Gwyneth Paltrow instead. 

In fact, Kate passed on the project because she wanted to work on independent films, but it all seemed to work out in the end because this was the role that won Gwyneth the Oscar for Best Actress!

Read More: These Little Known Facts About Iconic Movies Will Blow Your Mind

Christina Applegate, Legally Blonde

Christina Applegate in Anchorman and Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde
DreamWorks Pictures | MGM

Reese Witherspoon became a household name after starring as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, but the role was first offered to Christina Applegate.

Christina was shown the script, but she chose to turn it down because she was worried about playing another “dumb blonde” following her role on the TV series Married…With Children. 

“I got scared of kind of repeating myself. What a stupid move that was, right?” she told ET Online. “Reese deserved that. She did a much better job than I ever could, and so that’s her life. That’s her path.”

Read More: Top 10 Worst Best Actress Oscar Wins of All Time

Emma Watson, La La Land

Emma Watson in Beauty and the Beast and Emma Stone in La La Land
Disney | Lionsgate

One Emma for another! Emma Stone won an Oscar for her work in La La Land, but she wasn’t the first choice to play Mia Dolan. 

In fact, it was Emma Watson who was approached first for the part, but she had to turn it down due to scheduling conflicts with her work in Beauty and the Beast. While Beauty and the Beast went on to be a massive success, one has to wonder if Emma Watson regrets the decision!

Related: Watch ‘A Quick Look’s’ Review of Iconic Roles