Actors Who Were Almost Cast in Iconic Roles

Casting decisions often have a far-reaching ripple effect on the films we cherish. While our favorite movies may seem perfectly cast in hindsight, behind the scenes, the process of selecting the perfect actor for an iconic role can be a labyrinthine journey, marked by near misses and unexpected choices. In this article, we embark on a captivating exploration into the world of Hollywood’s alternate realities, uncovering the stories of actors who were almost cast in iconic roles. These are the tales of what could have been, where a single casting choice could have rewritten cinematic history. Join us as we peel back the curtains on these intriguing casting what-ifs and discover the actors who came tantalizingly close to making these legendary characters their own. 

Iconic Characters Almost Portrayed by Different Actors

1. George Clooney as Noah (The Notebook)

In an unexpected twist of casting possibilities, there was once a prospect that George Clooney could have taken on the role of Noah in “The Notebook.” This proposition seems unusual, considering Clooney’s distinct charm and style. The elder version of Noah was initially envisioned to be portrayed by the legendary Paul Newman, but Clooney’s involvement was seriously contemplated. Clooney’s hesitation stemmed from his reverence for Newman’s legacy, especially after delving into Newman’s early filmography. As he reflected on this unexpected opportunity during an interview at the 64th BFI London Film Festival, he candidly admitted, “He’s one of the handsomest guys you’ve ever seen.” However, despite the desire to collaborate with Newman, Clooney ultimately decided against accepting the role. His reason was plain and honest: “I can’t play you. I don’t look anything like you. This is insane.” The decision boiled down to the realization that the physical disparity between himself and Newman would have made the casting choice incongruous.

Actress Anne Hathaway at the Berlin Film Festival 

2. Anne Hathaway as Tiffany (Silver Linings Playbook)

Anne Hathaway was initially considered for the role of Tiffany in the acclaimed film “Silver Linings Playbook.” However, creative differences with director David O. Russell ultimately led to Hathaway stepping away from the project. Then, Jennifer Lawrence stepped into the role, a decision that would prove to be both transformative and highly lauded. Anne Hathaway’s departure from the role of Tiffany, a character known for her complexity and emotional depth, paved the way for Jennifer Lawrence to bring her own unique interpretation of the character. Lawrence’s performance in “Silver Linings Playbook” was nothing short of remarkable, earning her critical acclaim and the coveted Academy Award for Best Actress. This casting twist underscores the delicate and often unpredictable nature of the filmmaking process, where the dynamics between actors and directors can shape the outcome of a film. 

3. Vince Vaughn as Joey (Friends)

Vince Vaughn was once considered for the role of Joey Tribbiani in the beloved sitcom “Friends.” The idea may seem intriguing, given Vaughn’s comedic prowess and charisma, but casting decisions for such an ensemble show are notoriously challenging, as revealed by Friends casting director Ellie Kanner in a 2018 interview with HuffPost. During the audition process, numerous actors vied for the coveted role, including Vaughn, who undeniably had the qualities that could make him a convincing Joey. However, despite his suitability for the part, Vaughn didn’t quite fit seamlessly into the ensemble dynamic that included actors like Matt LeBlanc. Kanner shed light on the complexities of casting for “Friends,” explaining, “It’s just a matter of putting the pieces of the puzzle together.” In essence, while Vince Vaughn possessed the comedic talent and charm required for Joey Tribbiani, the final casting decision was a delicate balance aimed at creating a cohesive group dynamic among the six main characters. Ultimately, the role of Joey found its perfect match in Matt LeBlanc, contributing to the iconic chemistry that defined the show.

Will Smith in 1999 

4. Will Smith as Neo (The Matrix)

Will Smith was initially offered the iconic role of Neo in “The Matrix” before it ultimately went to Keanu Reeves. The film, which catapulted Reeves to movie legend status, almost had a different face of the Matrix, and the story behind this change provides intriguing insights into Hollywood’s casting dynamics. At the time of casting, Will Smith was given the opportunity to play Neo but made the surprising decision to accept the lead role in “Wild Wild West” instead. This decision, while unexpected to many, had a significant impact on the trajectory of both actors’ careers. In a video posted on his YouTube channel in February 2019, Smith offered a candid perspective on the situation, explaining why he believed Keanu Reeves was the perfect choice for Neo. Smith humorously quipped, “I probably would have messed ‘The Matrix’ up. I would have ruined it, so I did y’all a favor.”

5. Blake Lively as Karen (Mean Girls)

This casting revelation sheds light on Hollywood’s intriguing “what if” scenarios. The character of Karen, famously portrayed by Amanda Seyfried, became an iconic part of the film, known for her charming but somewhat dim-witted personality and her uncanny ability to predict the weather. However, before Amanda Seyfried brought this memorable character to life, the role was on the brink of being played by Blake Lively. Considering Lively’s charisma and acting talent, it’s easy to envision her taking on the role of Karen with her own unique flair. Nonetheless, the role eventually found its perfect match in Amanda Seyfried, and her portrayal contributed significantly to the film’s enduring popularity. This casting revelation serves as a reminder of the intricate casting decisions that shape the entertainment industry and how the right actor in the right role can leave an indelible mark on cinematic history.

Danes in Toronto, for a MuchOnDemand promotion

6. Claire Danes as Rose (Titanic)

In a revealing interview on Dax Shepard’s Armchair Expert podcast, Danes disclosed that she was indeed in contention for the role, a role that would have reunited her with Leonardo DiCaprio after they collaborated in “Romeo + Juliet.” However, she ultimately decided to turn down the opportunity, a decision she stands by with unwavering conviction. Despite the “strong interest” in her for the role, Danes explained her reasoning for declining the iconic part. She had just completed filming the romantic epic “Romeo + Juliet” with DiCaprio in Mexico City, where the production for “Titanic” was set to take place. Danes candidly admitted, “I just didn’t have it in me.” The prospect of diving into another colossal romantic production right after their previous endeavor didn’t align with her feelings at the time.

7. Adam Brody as Star-Lord (Guardians of the Galaxy)

Recognized for his captivating on-screen presence, he once aspired to become a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) by taking on the role of Star-Lord in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” In a recent appearance on Variety’s “Just for Variety” podcast, he candidly shared his aspiration for the role, expressing a genuine desire to inhabit the character. Brody’s interest in portraying Star-Lord, a character known for his wit, charm, and heroic qualities, was clear. He admitted, “I wanted that one,” highlighting the appeal of being part of the MCU’s expansive universe. However, Brody also acknowledged that the casting decision ultimately went in a different direction, with Chris Pratt landing the Star-Lord role. Brody understood and respected this choice, recognizing that Pratt brought a different physicality to the character. 

Jennifer Lawrence attends the world premiere of the IMAX film 

8. Jennifer Lawrence as Bella (Twilight)

his revelation came to light during her appearance on Bill Simmons’s podcast, “The Rewatchables,” in June 2023. Lawrence candidly shared that her audition for “Twilight” did not yield the desired outcome, as she was turned down “immediately,” without even receiving a callback. Reflecting on this missed opportunity with a touch of humor, Lawrence remarked, “I didn’t even get a callback. But my life would’ve been totally different. I got ‘Hunger Games’ a year later. This revelation sheds light on the unpredictable nature of the entertainment industry, where a single casting decision can shape an actor’s trajectory. While Kristen Stewart ultimately embodied the role of Bella in the “Twilight” series, Jennifer Lawrence’s career took a different path with her portrayal of Katniss Everdeen in the “Hunger Games” movies, beginning in 2012. Lawrence’s presence in the “Hunger Games” franchise solidified her status as a leading actress in Hollywood.

9. Rob Lowe as Derek Shepherd (Grey’s Anatomy)

Rob Lowe had the opportunity to step into the role of Derek Shepherd, famously known as McDreamy, in the popular medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy.” However, the role eventually went to Patrick Dempsey, who became one of television’s most iconic characters. Lowe’s decision to decline the role and its rationale provides a captivating insight into the unpredictable nature of casting decisions in Hollywood. In his 2014 memoir, titled “Love Life,” Rob Lowe candidly revealed that he had indeed received an offer to portray Derek Shepherd on “Grey’s Anatomy.” Nevertheless, Lowe’s choice to reject this opportunity in favor of starring in the CBS series “Dr. Vegas” was a carefully considered one. Lowe justified his decision at that time by highlighting the ever-shifting dynamics within the television industry.

Amy Schumer in a black dress

10. Amy Schumer as Barbie (Barbie)

In a casting twist that generated quite a buzz, Amy Schumer was initially in discussions to portray the beloved Barbie in the upcoming film aptly titled “Barbie.” However, the coveted role eventually found its home with Margot Robbie. The story behind this change of casting choice sheds light on the intricate dynamics of Hollywood decision-making. Initially, the explanation for Amy Schumer’s departure from the project was attributed to scheduling conflicts, leaving fans to wonder what might have been. However, Schumer later revealed the true reason during an interview with the Hollywood Reporter: creative differences. Schumer explained that her vision for the film and the character of Barbie didn’t align with the studio’s perspective; “They definitely didn’t want to do it the way I wanted to do it, the only way I was interested in doing it.”


The indispensable contributions of actors undeniably shape the world of cinema. Their ability to breathe life into characters, infusing them with emotions and depth, is a transformative process that leaves an enduring imprint on audiences. As we reflect on the impact of actors, we must acknowledge that the allure of our favorite films often hinges on their exceptional portrayals. This consideration prompts us to envision an alternate reality where different actors step into beloved roles. It underscores the profound influence an actor’s interpretation can have on a movie, from shaping the narrative to forging connections with viewers.