Peg DeMarco

Peg DeMarco

The Academy Awards are on TV  and, like millions of other people, I’ll tune in to see my favorites and channel surf during commercials and long thank you speeches. In preparation for the roles that will garner the best actor and best actress Oscar this year, there was an interesting article on that revealed enormously successful movie roles that were turned down by some artists, resulting in the next in line to either make a fortune or often win the coveted Oscar.

Take for instance the starring role in “Forrest Gump” that went to Tom Hanks. Producers wanted John Travolta to play Forrest, but the actor passed up the opportunity to star in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. Hanks opted for performance-based pay, so he took home a paycheck of $60 million and the Oscar for best actor. Although a cult classic, Travolta only took home a meager $150,000 for the role of Vincent Vega.

Al Pacino, best known for gangster movies like “Scarface” and “The Godfather,” was the first one approached for the role of Hans Solo. According to Pacino, “It was at a time in my career when I was offered everything. They didn’t care if I was right or wrong for the role. I remember not understanding it when I read it.” Harrison Ford understood the amazing script and went on to earn $30 million for his work across the “Star Wars” franchise.

It’s hard to imagine any other actress but Jodie Foster going against Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lechner in 1991’s “Silence of the Lambs.” However, Michelle Pfieffer was offered a multitude of high-profile roles that she turned down, including this one. Passing on the part of Clarice Starling likely cost Pfieffer $5 million and the potential Oscar that Jodie won (and Hopkins).

Writer Cameron Crowe worked on the script for “Jerry Maguire” for over four years, all the while with one actor in the forefront of his mind: Tom Hanks. Instead, when Hanks turned it down, Tom Cruise accepted it and it was a huge hit. Cruise was paid $20 million.

Back in the ‘90s, Johnny Depp was a star on the rise thanks to his role in “21 Jump Street.” Tim Burton was looking for Tom Cruise to play the part of Edward Scissorhands, but Cruise wouldn’t play the character unless he was made more masculine and the movie had a happy ending. Depp read for the part, got it, and was fabulous. It also cemented him as a versatile actor on his way to a varied career in all genres.

Back in contention for the lead roles in “Titanic,” James Cameron re-thought his first choice of Matthew McConaughey and Gwyneth Paltrow. Thank goodness something clicked in the director’s mind because the parts of Rose and Jack, as we all know and love, went to Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. Paltrow was in the final two vying for the role and was quick to point out that she didn’t turn the part down. She just didn’t get it.

Gwyneth did pretty good in her career though because she won an Oscar for “Shakespeare in Love.” However, producers originally wanted Julia Roberts to take the lead. When the movie was originally scheduled to go into production, Roberts ultimately pulled out when Daniel Day-Lewis withdrew as Will.

We all know and love Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” but director George Lucas originally wanted Tom Selleck. Selleck turned the role down so he could take a job on the show “Magnum, P.I.” Ford eventually won over Lucas and the rest is history.

When “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” came out, Johnny Depp, Tom Cruise and Jim Carrey were considered for the role of Ferris. However, John Hughes, the writer of the movie, wrote the part specifically with Matthew Broderick in mind and claimed that he couldn’t picture anyone else in the role. Super choice because it’s one of my favorite movies thanks to Broderick’s keen performance.

Molly Ringwald was sent the script of “Pretty Woman” and turned the starring role of Vivian down. Julia Roberts took it and not only did it make her a star, but it was one of the highest-grossing movies of the year.

However, Julia may have made an error when she turned down the movie “The Blind Side” because it was a surprise hit, grossing more than $300 million at the box office. Sandra Bullock turned the role down three times, but then finally accepted it. She made the right choice because she won an Oscar for it.

Perhaps the worst decision regarding turning down a role was made by Dana Delany who turned down the starring role of Carrie Bradshaw in “Sex and the City” multiple times. She stated that she was not someone who “turned everything down” and her reasoning was that she didn’t want to be typecast.

Sarah Jessica Parker didn’t mind and was next in line for the part. In the end, she earned $15 million, won two Emmy awards, and the series made her a gigantic star. The clothes were an added bonus that put Sarah on everyone’s best dressed list and dozens of magazine covers.

Not bad for coming in second.

Peg DeMarco is a Morganton resident who writes a weekly features column for The (Morganton) News Herald. Contact her at