ByJack Mitchell, writer at
I'm a student at the University of Sussex, studying Drama and Film. I'm a huge cinephile, watching and discussing a wide variety of cinema
Jack Mitchell

The film industry is notoriously unforgiving. For an aspiring actor it can be near impossible to get even a sniff at a game-changing opportunity. The line between filmic failure and success is a thin one, and can be tough to gauge. So, you'd like to think that actors are making good career choices. However, many high-profile actors have been guilty of some hideous career moves, casting away the rare lifeline Hollywood offers them. So, let's laugh and simultaneously cry at these missed opportunities we can only wish would come our way.

5. Harrison Ford Turns Down Oskar Schindler

'Schindler's List' [Credit: Universal Pictures]
'Schindler's List' [Credit: Universal Pictures]

Is Schindler's List the best film ever made? Many would say so. has had one of the most unbelievable careers of all time. The man lucky enough to play Han Solo and Indiana Jones would have even more acclaim however, had he taken on the now legendary role of Oskar Schindler.

Liam Neeson nailed his performance, perfectly showing Schindler's growing conscience and his reluctant — but eventually embraced role — as the unlikely hero of the piece. This truly is a bittersweet masterpiece, and with Hollywood legend Spielberg at the helm directing his passion piece, this was clearly going to be something special. So, what were Ford's reasons for his refusal?

Surely, to turn down such a role you would need some strong justification. Well, this wasn't really the case. Ford stated that the film's vital message would be detracted by his star power. Think what you will of this reasoning, but to me this is rather weak. It sounds like Ford was afraid the role required more depth in terms of acting than he had ever mustered up. Ford is an established star and Hollywood legend, and doesn't need to prove himself, but he clearly has some insecurity about his quality.

4. Al Pacino Turns Down Han Solo

'Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope' [Credit: Lucasfilm]
'Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope' [Credit: Lucasfilm]

has had an illustrious career. Regardless of whether or not he missed some golden career opportunities, he will forever be remembered for his roles in classics like The Godfather, Scarface and Jack and Jill (no one's perfect). However, Pacino massively regrets turning down the role of Han Solo.

He would've fit this role, too. His charisma and "bad boy" attitude would have been perfect for the roguish character of Solo. I guess now that history has been written, and Harrison Ford has masterfully performed the role of Solo, it seems strange to consider someone else playing this part, but I'm sure Pacino would've done a great job.

The reason Pacino cited for his refusal was that he didn't understand the script properly. To be fair, Pacino was already an established star after his turn in The Godfather. This would've been one of many roles offered to him, and he would have been none the wiser that Star Wars would become one of the greatest film franchises in the galaxy. Either way, this was an opportunity missed.

3. Jack Nicholson Turns Down Michael Corleone

There's no need to feel too bad for Pacino, everyone. Despite a few bad decisions, he still had some great breaks. A whole host of actors turned down the now historic role of Michael Corleone, with the initial target due to the producers wanting an established actor to take on the lead role.

Jack Nicholson is a legend, and still undoubtedly one of the greatest ever actors to grace the screen. However, Michael Corleone was Pacino's role. Nicholson is diverse and probably would've performed this role fantastically, but it'd be hard to imagine an actor outdoing Pacino in this instance. Luckily, things fell into place and Pacino's star was born.

Don't worry everyone, Nicholson seemingly doesn't regret his decision. In fact, he turned it down to give another actor of Italian origin a chance, stating that "Back then I believed that Indians should play Indians and Italians should play Italians." So, Nicholson has always been an advocate against whitewashing seemingly. This role wasn't Nicholson's, and he had the humility to realize this.

2. Sean Connery Turns Down Gandalf

'The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring' [Credit: New Line Cinema]
'The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring' [Credit: New Line Cinema]

This one is kind of sad when contextualized. Connery, despite a glittering career full of fame and acclaim (and the occasional controversial sexist comment), made some rather crushing career choices in the final years before his retirement from the big screen. These choices actually caused his withdrawal from acting.

After turning down The Matrix as he didn't understand the screenplay, he did exactly the same thing with the role of Gandalf. Connery rued these missed opportunities, with both films spawning some of the most lucrative and iconic series ever made. As if this wasn't bad enough, Connery then took on a role in The League of Extraordinary Gentleman. However, to Connery's dismay, despite its stellar cast, this film (unlike those he turned down) was a critical and financial flop.

After such painful opportunities were passed by, Connery failed to make the right decision yet again. After a difficult time in production, which was intensive and bitter, Connery vowed never to act again. You can see why he decided this. It would be difficult to forgive yourself for such misguided decisions. Either way, I guess three isn't always the magic number.

1. Emma Watson Turns Down Mia

'La La Land' [Credit: Summit Entertainment]
'La La Land' [Credit: Summit Entertainment]

While the other actors on this list would have been great in their rejected roles, I've got to say that this one is a relief to me. I loved La La Land, and Emma Stone did a great job. The Birdman actress nailed this role, and is deserving of wide praise in her blossoming career. , on the other hand, I don't think too much of.

I'm not a huge Harry Potter fan, and while I'm not idiotic enough to instantly dismiss the stars of this teen franchise (I loved Swiss Army Man), I just don't like Watson as an actress. She got the role of Hermione as a child, and no child is ever particularly great at acting. As the golden rule of directing states: Never work with children or animals. However, Watson, though an inspiring advocate for female rights, just hasn't displayed any great acting ability.

Watson was difficult in production, making demands so that the film would fit around her, and showed little commitment to the role. She was eventually dropped from the part, as it would be easier to just get another actress more enthusiastic about the project. After La La Land (despite its Best Picture snub at the Oscars) established itself as the film to watch in 2016, I'm sure Watson regrets her lack of dedication to the role, which subsequently won Emma Stone the Best Actress Oscar. This film is undoubtedly set to be a future classic. Either way, I'm glad the other Emma got the part.

What bad decisions by actors make you weep in pity? Let us know in the comments!


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