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.

Life Lessons I’ve Learned From How I Met Your Mother

Kids, after nine seasons, 208 episodes, eight slaps, three Canadian pop star music videos, countless girlfriends and one person revealed to be the perfect mother, How I Met Your Mother is coming to an end.

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I’ve been a HIMYM fan since season one, which I suppose is rare in this day and age, especially since the show has lasted this long. And while my level of obsession never quite hit an embarrassing peak like I did with The Office, I can’t help but compare  the two. Both are sitcoms that will forever have a mark on television, both have loyal fan followings, both ended (are ending) with nine seasons to their resume. Like The Office, fans were given a year’s worth warning that it would be the final season, but that doesn’t mean the end comes any easier. It’s been a year since I’ve watched a full episode of The Office, because it hurts my heart too much to know there will most likely never be another new episode again.

And with every episode of HIMYM that passes by, with every last slap, every last high five, every last ‘legendary’ uttered, the reality of the show ending is hitting me like a brick wall, and I’m unable to keep my emotions in tact. I’m like pregnant Lily with the non-stop crying. But let’s not focus on the show ending, but rather what we’ve been able to learn over the past nine years.

We all know that the point of us hearing Ted tell all these stories is to explain to his kids how he met and fell in love with their mother. But in that nine year span of storytelling, we watched him and the gang experience love, heartbreak, births, deaths, and overall, grow up. I mean think about yourself nine years ago compared to who you are now. You’ve gone through shit and it’s changed you for the better or worse, but either way it has changed you. Everything Ted recalled to his kids over nine seasons helped explain how and why it’s led to meeting the love of his life. Like Ted, I’m a very big ‘everything happens for a reason’ person, and this entire series is the epitome of that. So in the spirit of that mantra, here are the best life lessons we’ve gleaned from HIMYM, the ones that help shape who we are, and the ones we will remember for the rest of our lives.

Because sometimes, even if you know how something’s gonna end, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the ride. – Ted Mosby

Get out of the house, Go for a walk, Get a bagel

Season 4, Episode 22: Right Place, Right Time

Architect Ted is down in the dumps because he was commissioned to design a chain restaurant called Rib Town in the shape of a giant cowboy hat. Not exactly what he imagined he would be doing with his life. Clearly frustrated, Robin suggests he get out of the house, go for a walk and get a bagel. A series of circumstances lead him to crosswalk where his ex-fiancee, Stella runs into him. That meeting led to his eventual hiring at Columbia University where he taught an architecture class – which is where The Mother, a student, sees Ted for the first time.

In times of frustration or when we feel like we’re at a dead end, it’s hard to figure out what our next move will be. But maybe the best move you can make is one that is out of your comfort zone. Maybe the best move you can make is just go out and do something. Period. We don’t know what we’ll find when we go off the beaten path, but it might turn out to change your life forever.

Nothing Good Happens After 2AM

Season 1, Episode 18: Nothing Good Happens After 2AM

Ted relays to his kids that his mom used to say, ‘Nothing good happens after 2am.’ Proving this theory right, he recalls the time he was waiting up for a phone call from his girlfriend Victoria, who lived in Germany. However, Robin (Ted’s ex and forever one of the great loves of his life) was feeling depressed and alone, and called Ted asking him to come over. It was past 2am, and he should have gone to bed, but he went to Robin’s instead. One thing leads to another, Ted tells Robin that he & Victoria broke up (they hadn’t), Ted starts making out with Robin, Ted goes to the bathroom to call Victoria to break-up with her, only to go back out to the living room to see he had Robin’s phone, and Robin is on the phone talking to Victoria and everything in Ted’s life crumbles down like the Arcadian.

Just quit while you’re ahead. Or behind. Better yet, just go to sleep. Stay in. Whatever you do, don’t go out after 2am. It’s too late for anything good to happen.

The Front Porch Test

Season 4, Episode 17: The Front Porch

Lily admits she has been conducting a secret test with all of Ted’s paramours, and if they don’t pass it, she attempts to break them up. Called The Front Porch Test, Lily would picture said significant other of Ted when they’re old and playing bridge on their front porch, and if she can’t imagine them being a part of their tight-knit group years from now, she’d smoke ’em out.

I’m not suggesting you purposely break your friends up with their boyfriends/girlfriends here. The point is that Lily knew that they would be best friends for the rest of their lives. She didn’t just imagine growing old with Marshall and their kid(s), but with Ted, Barney, Robin and The Mother too. While this show is largely about finding out who the love of Ted’s life is, it’s really about these friends who become each other’s family. They’ve already been through so much together in nine seasons, and it’s crazy to think that it’s just a little slice of their entire lives. And if we’re lucky enough, we have these friends that easily pass the Front Porch Test too.

Admit You Actually ARE Too Old For This Shit

Season 4, Episode 19: Murtaugh

Any fan of HIMYM can tell you that one of Barney Stinson’s favorite pasttimes is laser tag. In this episode, he tries to get Ted to go play laser tag with him, but Ted refuses, citing his Murtaugh List. Named after Danny Glover’s character in the Lethal Weapon series, whose signature phrase is ‘I’m too old for this shit!’, the Murtaugh List is a record of things he believes he has become too old to do anymore. Among the activities are pulling an all nighter, put off going to the doctor, going to a rave and using a beer bong.

Somewhere around the age of 27 it kind of hits you like a ton of bricks that you’re not getting any younger. Well, it was for me, at least. You’re checking off the next level of age range boxes on forms and looking around you only to see that it’s like everyone you know is getting married or having a baby – because we’re old enough that it’s normal to do so. For example, some of the things on my Murtaugh List include but are not limited to: going to midnight premieres of movies, drinking to vomit-inducing levels, sleeping past noon, using my undated college ID for discounts, shopping at Forever 21 (which is probably the hardest thing on this list for me to stop doing), and wasting my time.

There’s No Escaping Your Embarrassing Past

Season 2, Episode 9: Slap Bet

For the record, this episode was a complete gamechanger in the world of HIMYM – and one of the best in the entire series. The gang finds out Robin doesn’t like going to malls, and they set out on a quest as to why. They have their own theories – Marshall thinks she got married in a mall, Barney is adamant Robin did porn – so the two agree to a Slap Bet, in which the winner of the bet gets to slap the loser as hard as they can. Barney finds a video of someone named Robin Sparkles, and thinking he won, slaps Marshall. However, it turns out the tape is actually of Robin as a teen pop star in her native Canada, whose hit single was called Let’s Go To The Mall. Because of his premature slap, slap bet commissioner Lily allows Marshall to dole out 10 slaps in succession or five for all eternity, and Barney chooses the latter. Hence the reason the slaps were randomly placed throughout the series.

I’m assuming there are very few of people out there who lived a past life as a pop star, so let’s put this in layman’s terms. Whether there’s physical evidence of your less-than-stellar years past or emotional remnants leftover, the things that have happened to you yesterday never really leave you. But you can either choose to run away from it or embrace it. Use your personal Robin Sparkles to empower you, to make you a better person.

Some People Have Expiration Dates

Season 2, Episode 22: Something Blue

Ted: Seriously, where do you see yourself in five years?
Robin: Where do you see yourself?
Ted: Honestly, in five years, I’d probably want to be married.
Robin: And I’d probably want to be in Argentina.
Ted: Argentina?
Robin: Or Tokyo, or Paris. Look Ted, I don’t know where I’m gonna be in five years. I don’t wanna know. I want my life to be an adventure.
Ted: We have an expiration date, don’t we?

Spoiler alert: Ted and Robin’s romantic relationship didn’t really legit expire until this past week, TBH. But in general, we have to accept that sometimes we’re not meant to be friends or in a relationship with people that are currently in our lives – even if you think they pass the Front Porch Test. Like I mentioned in my Murtaugh List, I’m too old to waste my time. That applies to people too. If a relationship in your life feels ‘rotten’ or on its way out, it’s time to accept the fact there’s an end date, and you just need to throw it away.

Never Miss Big Events, If You Don’t Want To Know The End

Season 2, Episode 14: Monday Night Football

The gang makes it an annual tradition to watch the Super Bowl together, but this particular year, Mark from their favorite pub dies – and his funeral is the night of the Super Bowl. The wake lasts all night, so they’re forced to watch it all together the next day. However as you know, avoiding big news like who won the biggest game of the year in America is not an easy task. Ted even wears the “Sensory Deprivator 5000” (made of sunglasses with tiny holes to see out of and blinders duct taped to the side made out of an old cereal box) to avoid seeing and hearing anything while he goes to pick up their favorite wings from a sports bar. Hilarity ensues.

I hate spoilers. I am that person who avoids social media starting at 5pm PST if I know a show I love will have a strong social media presence, because I don’t want to know what happens. On #Scandal Thursdays? Forget it. I avoid Twitter like the plague. I often wish I had Ted’s Sensory Deprivator 5000, because I’m that serious about not getting spoiled. That being said, no one can complain about getting spoilers while online, because then you’re just being an idiot. Like our head Gladiator, Kerry Washington recently tweeted:

“Folks mad about spoilers are making me laugh. I feel u’re pain but thats what EVENT TV is! If u dont wanna know the score, dont follow ESPN.”

Challenge Accepted

Most people know that this phrase is used throughout the series by Barney, mainly, even taking on things that aren’t necessarily challenges as challenges anyways. For example, he’s accepted the challenges of sleeping with Marshall’s professor, talking his way out of a speeding ticket, hook up with a girl while wearing Marshall’s old overalls, get a girl’s number while talking like a dolphin, and perhaps my favorite, get a girl’s number in a garbage bag, without using the letter ‘e’.

While I’m not judging if you decide to you Barney’s ‘Challenge Accepted’ to pick up girls/guys (well not that much anyways), perhaps we can accept challenges in our lives a different way. Go out of your way to do something you’re never done before . It can be as simple as trying a new item on the menu of your fave restaurant or as big as deciding to move to another city. Another big theme of HIMYM is taking chances. Don’t be afraid of the possibility of making a mistake. And sometimes even when you know something is a mistake – you just have to make it anyways. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. Stagnancy is the ruin of life – how do we expect to be better if we don’t at least try?

Some Things Are Better Left Unspoken, Enjoy Each Others’ Company Instead

And it’s funny, in a moment like that, when what’s really happening is too intense to deal with, sometimes it’s best to leave it unspoken, and just enjoy each other’s company instead. {x}

Season 9, Episode 19: Vesuvius

The final season, the writers have been focused on one weekend, that of Barney and Robin’s wedding. That’s 24 episodes taking place over the course of three days. A lot happens in that span of time, and by episode 19, Ted’s planning to go off to Chicago and Marshall and Lily are saying Arrivederci to NY and Ciao to Italy. It’s this very moment that the group realizes an epic era is coming to and end and it might be a while before all five of them are in a room together again.

It’s all a bit overwhelming, because as characters, it hits them that they’re not going to see each other every day. As actors, I imagine they thought the same thing. As a viewer, it hit me that the show is actually ending. It has an expiration date. Shit is getting real. But like Future Ted says, ‘sometimes it’s best to leave it unspoken and enjoy each other’s company instead.’ It reminds me of when our group of high school friends were all together one last time before we each went our separate ways for college. It hurt like a motherfucker, knowing it was going to be different when we returned. We would never have that time together again. While I obviously still love them to this day and we go back to our old rhythms as if nothing’s passed when we do see each other, nothing will ever compare to the time we spent in high school. The best we can ever do is enjoy the moment while it’s here.

Wait For It…

Ultimately, HIMYM has always been a lesson in patience. Patience for Ted to find the love of his life and patience for the audience to find out who that person is. We live in a world where we expect everything right away. Our food delivered to us speedily, the scores of the game, information about the exports of Guyana at the click of a button. I mean we live in a world where binge-watching exists, and we want more as soon as it’s over.

Ted had to go through a number of heart-wrenching breakups and a slew of women he didn’t care about (lit’rally called someone ‘Blah Blah’ because he couldn’t remember her name. Carol. It was Carol.) – and if he didn’t experience all those years of frustration in that exact sequence of events, he would have never met The Mother. While it may be inexplicable why you’re going through what you’re going through now, there’s a bigger picture than we can see or even imagine. All we have to do is trust that everything will work itself out the way it’s meant to be.

One of my favorite quotes is by Lewis Smedes, and he says,

“Waiting is our destiny. As creatures who cannot by themselves bring about what they hope for, we wait in the darkness for a flame we cannot light. We wait in fear for a happy ending that we cannot write. We wait for a ‘not yet’ that feels like a ‘not ever.’ Waiting is the hardest work of hope; waiting is the land between where things were and where things will be; and you don’t get to choose when you get to a waiting room, but you certainly get to choose how you will respond to waiting.”

So thank you cast, crew, writers, producers, everyone involved with How I Met Your Mother. It’s clear that you didn’t just create a classic sitcom forever etched in the history of television, but have also inspired millions of people to be better, to do better, to live their best lives, and to love – because it’s the best thing we do.