10 Actors Who Turned Down Famous Roles

10 Actors Who Turned Down Famous Roles

Roles make the rounds in Hollywood several times before it lands its actor. 

Published December 12, 2010

Roles make the rounds in Hollywood several times before it lands its actor.  Check out some of the huge films that big stars passed by; some for the good and some for the bad.








10. Denzel Washington as Curtis in Dreamgirls (2006)?




I could not see Denzel Washington playing Curtis in Dreamgirls, but it would've made the cast even more A-list.  Dreamgirls was "The Jennifer Hudson Movie," saving the entire story. Nonetheless, Washington gave the right answer on this one and Jamie Foxx took the role.


9. Halle Berry in Gigli (2003)?




The movie that nearly ruined Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck's careers is a role that Berry thankfully passed on. She was offered to play Lopez's character. While she passed on Gigli, Catwoman was released in 2004... no comment.


8. Samuel L. Jackson as Morpheus in The Matrix (1999)?




We always think Sam Jackson never turns down a role, but he actually rejected Morpheus from The Matrix. The film went on to become one of the most successful films of all time.


7. Dave Chappelle as Bubba in Forrest Gump (1994)?




David Chappelle turned down the role as the shrimp-obsessed Bubba in Forrest Gump. He supposedly said no because he thought the film would "bomb." Bad call!


6. Tina Turner as Shug Avery in The Color Purple (1985)?




Steven Spielberg campaigned to get Tina Turner to play Shug Avery in The Color Purple. Anna Mae declined saying she lived that life with Ike Turner. Spielberg had the right vision; Turner would've channeled her country roots and sang "Sister" from her Nutbush, Tennessee soul. Nonetheless, Margaret Avery was spectacular and nominated for an Oscar.


5. Jada Pinkett Smith in Charlie's Angels (2000)?




Jada Pinkett Smith was the original angel, in the movie that starred Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore. Jada declined and starred in Spike Lee's Bamboozled (2000). Bamboozled was a critical and box office disaster; however, it is one of my favorite Spike Lee films and I adored Jada in the role. Plus, Jada is Mrs. Smith... ain't like she is struggling. Lucy Liu took Jada’s role in Charlie's Angels.


4. Queen Latifah in Monster's Ball (2001)?




Rumors have buzzed for years that Angela Bassett was truly offered the lead (the creators claimed Bassett was never approached for the role) in Monster's Ball and turned it down because she felt it portrayed Black women in a negative light. Queen Latifah is the only actress who clearly said she had the role and wanted it, "I actually had that role before Halle. But they couldn't set it up. It would have been me, Sean Penn and Robert De Niro."


3. Cuba Gooding, Jr. in Amistad (1997)?




Spielberg wanted Cuba Gooding, Jr. to play Djimon Hounsou's role in Amistad. A regretful Gooding once said, "Steven Spielberg came to me and said, 'I want you to be in Amistad,’ and I said, 'It's a slave role; show me the money. I'm so a big thing,' and he goes, 'I can direct you,' and I said, 'No, I have to pass.'" Cuba admits he was too big-headed after winning the Oscar for Jerry Maguire.


2. Lauryn Hill as Deena Jones in Dreamgirls (2006)?




Over ten years ago, word on the street was that Lauryn Hill was picked to play Deena Jones (played by Beyonce) in the film version of Dreamgirls.  However, it fell through. I think Hill would've been a stellar pick for Deena Jones. She is immensely talented and more focused on the art than awards.

1. Dorothy Dandridge as Tuptim in The King and I (1956)?





This probably isn’t a movie you’ve seen, but the legendary Dorothy Dandridge pursued the role. When she discovered the role was not the lead and a slave role, she turned it down with her management's advice. Dandridge, like many Black actresses of her time, was torn with playing a slave or maid. As Hattie McDaniel once said, “I'd rather play a maid then be one!” The iconic Rita Moreno took the role Tuptim and it was an international success. Dandridge once said she believed her turning down that character was the beginning of her downfall in Hollywood.


Still, Dandridge was one of the Black actors who set a standard and was selective of their movies. We don’t have to take what we don’t want. From Cuba to Tina, this is our decision… even if they made some regrets along the way.








Written by Clay Cane

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