John Travolta Turned Down ‘Forrest Gump’ & Other Stars Who Chose Not to Play Iconic Characters

SHOUT, John Travolta, 1991
Universal/Everett Collection

Think about your favorite movie of all time. Can you picture the main character being played by anyone else? Some films and characters become so engrained in pop culture, that it can be hard to imagine those roles going to anyone else. Yet, before that star was cast in the film, there were likely others who were offered the part or auditioned for it. Let’s go over some stars who turned down roles and now either regret it or realize that it just wasn’t right for them to begin with.

John Travolta (‘Forrest Gump’)

john travolta pulp fiction tom hanks forrest gump

Everett Collection

Back in 2007, John Travolta revealed that he turned down the chance to play the lead role in Forrest Gump because he said yes to Pulp Fiction instead. He said he doesn’t regret turning down the role because he was happy to appear in Pulp Fiction. He explained, “No, because if I didn’t do something Tom Hanks did, then I did something else that was equally interesting or fun. Or if I didn’t do something Richard Gere did, I did something equally well. But I feel good about some I gave up because other careers were created.”

Henry Winkler (‘Grease’)

henry winkler john travolta grease happy days

Everett Collection

During the height of his Happy Days fame, Henry Winkler was asked to play Danny Zuko in the 1978 film Grease. However, Winkler was worried that Danny was too similar to his Happy Days character Fonzie and he didn’t want to be typecast in one kind of role. Winkler revealed that after Happy Days ended, he struggled to find work for about a decade because he was only being offered Fonzie-type roles, so maybe Grease wouldn’t have been a bad option.

Sally Field (‘The First Wives Club’)

sally field the first wives club goldie hawn bette midler diane keaton

Everett Collection

Goldie Hawn wanted Sally Field to co-star in The First Wives Club but Field turned it down because she is not musical. The trio ended up being Hawn, Bette Midler, and Diane Keaton and Field says that they are perfect in each part.

Matthew McConaughey (‘Titanic’)

matthew mcconaughey leonardo dicaprio kate winslet titanic

Everett Collection

One of Leonardo DiCaprio’s most beloved roles is Jack in Titanic. Turns out that Matthew McConaughey almost played the part. He clarified that he didn’t turn down the role but was not cast. Director James Cameron ended up being drawn to DiCaprio for the part. In addition, Gwyneth Paltrow was almost cast as Rose in the film, with Kate Winslet getting the part.

Jack Nicholson (‘Godfather’)

jack nicholson al pacino the godfather

Everett Collection

Al Pacino played the iconic role of Michael Corleone in The Godfather but the role almost went to Jack Nicholson, who passed on the offer because he wasn’t Italian. He said, “Back then I believed that Indians should play Indians and Italians should play Italians. Mario Puzo had written such a great book that if you go back to it you’ll see so much of what was special about the movie. There were a lot of actors who could have played Michael, myself included, but Al Pacino was Michael Corleone. I can’t think of a better compliment to pay him.”

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1980s Top Summer Blockbusters

July 2019

Celebrate the biggest summer movies of the ’80s, when moviegoing morphed from mere entertainment to blockbuster events.

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