Before Jamie Foxx was set to play the role, writer-director Quentin Tarantino had another actor in mind to play the titular character in “Django Unchained.” That actor is Will Smith, who will next be seen this summer in “After Earth.”
While Smith as Django might have been a very interesting movie, the actor turned down the role for one simple reason. “Django wasn’t the lead, so it was like, I need to be the lead,” he tells Entertainment Weekly. Smith even asked Tarantino to alter the movie, saying, “I was like, ‘No, Quentin, please, I need to kill the bad guy!'”
In a strange twist, come awards season Christoph Waltz was billed as the supporting role, which he won an Oscar for, while Foxx was credited as the lead. Still, Smith has no hard feelings, and enjoyed the movie. “I thought it was brilliant,” he says, “Just not for me.”
“Django Unchained” isn’t the only big role Smith has turned down. Before Keanu Reeves was an option, he was offered the role of Neo in “The Matrix.” However, when pitched the concept for the film, Smith just didn’t get it. He decided to make “Wild Wild West,” instead. Smith was able to look back on the movie latyer, and admit that Reeves was the right person for the part, saying, “I would have messed it up.” He got his role in “Men in Black” after both Chris O’Donnell and David Schwimmer passed.
Another actor who passed on “The Matrix” was Sean Connery, who turned down the role of Morpheus, which later went to Laurence Fishburne. However, Cary Grant passing on “Dr. No” led Connery to his most famous role, James Bond. Years later, Connery decided against playing Gandalf the Grey in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, which left the part of Ian McKellen.
Other notable refusals include John Travolta saying no to “Forrest Gump,” which he admits was a mistake, “Magnum PI” star Tom Selleck saying no to the role of Indiana Jones in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Molly Ringwald turning down the role that made Julia Roberts a household name in “Pretty Woman,” and Mark Wahlberg and Joaquin Phoenix both passing on lead roles in “Brokeback Mountain,” with Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal ending up in the parts.
Rounding out the list, Gwyneth Paltrow turned down the lead in “Titanic,” while Anne Hathaway left the female starring role in “Knocked Up” over creative issues.
Even with the parts they’ve turned down, it’s hard to say any of those actors haven’t built a strong career. However, it makes you wonder what might have been.