Actors Just Say ‘No’: A Story of What Could Have Been

Rob Lowe’s new book, Love Life, comes out this week and just like his first memoir, he reveals a lot about his personal life and career. One of the new revelations is about how he passed on the role of Derek Shepherd on Grey’s Anatomy. Not only did he turn the part down, he turned it down to star in Dr. Vegas. Yeah, exactly.

He writes: “I got an urgent call from the producers of a potential new show for ABC called Grey’s Anatomy. I agreed to meet with the people making Grey’s Anatomy. I had read it and loved it. The writing was crisp, real and very entertaining, and it’s always been a good idea to hear out talented people. ‘We would be thrilled if you would play Dr. Derek Shepherd,’ they said right off the bat. I was torn. Grey’s was a much better script; in fact, there was no comparison… (but) I chose Dr. Vegas. The odds were just too stacked.”

Patrick ‘McDreamy’ Dempsey was offered the part instead, who is obviously still roaming the halls of Seattle Grace Mercy West Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital, while Dr. Vegas was cancelled after five episodes.

So in the spirit of ‘what could have been’, here a look at some other celebs who either turned down or were considered for an iconic role, but never came to fruition. Also please note my *superior* photoshopping skills

Jennifer Love Hewitt as Robin Scherbatsky (How I Met Your Mother)

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Finale controversies aside, just think about Robin Scherbatsky played by anyone else but the talented Cobie Smulders. She’s gorgeous but still has that ‘hang with the guys’/tomboy attitude in her that was obviously instilled at a young age. Creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas did a Reddit AMA back in February and they revealed that Jennifer Love Fefferman Hewitt was originally offered the role (which would have also made the whole cast extremely 90s throwback TV), but she decided to do The Ghost Whisperer instead. Thank GOD she declined the offer, because can you imagine if Robin Scherbatsky wasn’t Canadian?!

Katie Holmes as Buffy Summer (Buffy The Vampire Slayer)

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To be honest, I’ve never watched a single episode of Buffy (I know, I know), but as avid readers of this blog, you might be familiar with my recent viewings of Dawson’s Creek, which is why it’s fascinating to me that Katie Holmes was almost chosen to be a kick-ass heroine. Katie turned the role down to go to high school, which was for the best. Besides getting a solid education, I bet it helped her to prepare to play a moody, annoying teen on TV.

Craig T. Nelson as Jay Pritchett (Modern Family)

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Do you watch Parenthood? If not, WHY and you should. Coach alum Craig T. Nelson plays the patriarch of the Braverman family, aka the family I would want to be in if ever given the option. That or the Taylors from another Katims show, Friday Night Lights. Anyways, before Parenthood, Craig was offered the role of Jay Pritchett, the patriarch on Modern Family. He apparently asked for too much money that ABC wasn’t willing to hand over, and ended up passing and taking Parenthood instead. While Craig is fantastic as Zeek Braverman, Ed O’Neill used his role as Jay to prove he’s not an idiot like on Married… With Children – and has three Emmy noms and three SAG Awards to prove it.

Gillian Anderson as Lady Cora (Downton Abbey)

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Listen, Lady Cora is probably my least favorite character on Downton (yes, that includes Edith and Thomas). But I feel like I would have maybe disliked her even more if Gillian Anderson hadn’t turned down the role (that eventually went to Mary McGovern). Both Mary and Gillian fall under the category of ‘American actresses or spend so much time in England they might as well be British’ (see: Madonna), but I don’t know, I just can’t see Gillian living in the world of Downton.

Pamela Anderson as Dana Scully (The X Files)

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Speaking of which, Chris Carter and the rest of The X Files team were originally looking for what  Gillian describes as “someone bustier, taller, leggier than me. They couldn’t fathom how David and me could equal success… At the beginning, nobody trusted that I could do anything”. Who knows whether Pamela Anderson went as far as auditioning but that show would’ve been completely different than what it turned out to be. And maybe even Californication: the Prequel.

Henry Winkler as Danny Zuko (Grease)

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Because, obviously.

John Travolta as Forrest Gump (Forrest Gump)

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Luckily Henry Winkler’s pass was a win for John Travolta, but later in life, he would be the passee (?) when he turned down the iconic movie role of Forrest Gump. John later admitted it was a mistake. Ya think? Apparently Bill Murray and Chevy Chase also turned down the role, which is just boggling to me, because like Pam Anderson as a possible Dana Scully, it would have completely changed the tone of the film. Not to mention, I don’t think the film winning so many Oscars – including Best Picture – would’ve been possible.

Sarah Michelle Gellar as Cher Horowitz (Clueless)

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SMG had her chance to be the fashionable, lovable ditz of the 90210 zip code but had to turn it down because of scheduling conflicts with her stint on All My Children. Let’s be real, she would have been great in this role.

Bette Midler as Sister Mary Clarence (Sister Act)

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People make mistakes, as seen from pretty much everyone above. But I imagine it would be that much harder if you turn down a role that was not only written for you in mind, but went on to spawn a sequel and a classic for 90s kids everywhere.

I’ve made so many (mistakes). Oh my God, it’s all so tragic. But it’s best to forget those and put them behind me. Unfortunately, my husband never lets me forget them. There was Sister Act, which was written for me, but I said: ‘My fans don’t want to see me in a wimple.’ I don’t know where I got that from. Why would I say such a thing? So Whoopi [Goldberg] did it instead and, of course, she made a fortune. Then she went on and did Sister Act 2. I also didn’t do Misery and Kathy Bates won an Oscar for it. That’s not to say I would have. It was so violent and I had no relation to it. I was afraid. – Bette Midler {x}

Hey, like Tim Riggins says, No Regrets, y’all.

Tom Hanks as Jerry Maguire (Jerry Maguire)

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You know you’ve hit at least a moderate level of success when screenwriters write an entire movie with you in mind as the lead role. By the time Jerry Maguire came out in 1996, Tom Hanks had long-been an A-lister with two (consecutive) Oscars for Best Actor. So when you’re Tom Hanks, you have the luxury of turning down roles that are exceptional. Unfortunately (or fortunately for Tom Cruise) the timing wasn’t right for Hanks, as he was busy directing That Thing You Do (GREAT MOVIE) at the time. But everyone’s fave celeb admitted that the role was perfect for Tom Cruise, telling Access Hollywood, “I think you look at it now and it couldn’t have been anybody other than Tom Cruise. It’s the way the movie’s operated. I don’t think anybody would look at that now and say, ‘That movie was not perfect.'”

Tom Cruise as Ren McCormack (Footloose)

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Scheduling conflicts tend to be the big problem for high-demand actors, as Tom Cruise could’ve been Ren in dance musical Footloose, if it were not for his movie All the Right Moves. You know who had all the right moves? Kevin Bacon. God Bless America.

Leonardo DiCaprio as Dirk Diggler (Boogie Nights)

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Oh man this is probably the most disappointing of all, in terms of what um… is revealed in Boogie Nights. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE me some Mahky Mahk, but it could’ve been Leo. In 1997. That’s Titanic era, you guys. But Leo recognizes his mistake, admitting it’s the worst decision he made in his career to turn that role down. He told GQ, “I’m a huge fan of (director) Paul Thomas Anderson but the first time I met him for that role I hadn’t really seen much of his previous work. Now I love that movie.” At least these two were able to bring the hotness later in life to The Departed.

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17 thoughts on “Actors Just Say ‘No’: A Story of What Could Have Been

  1. Well done on the Photoshop! And let’s be real…The Departed is the ONLY modern movie chicks are willing to watch over and over again with dudes under the guise of ‘great film’ but really ‘Damon-Leo-Mahky Mahk’ trifecta. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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