When an actor really nails a role, it can be hard to imagine anyone else playing that character. A truly good actor becomes the person they’re portraying. That’s why it’s so jarring to hear that some of the most iconic roles almost went to a completely different actor—but in Hollywood, that’s often the case.
Here are some iconic film and television roles that almost went to a different actor.
Britney Spears could have been Allie in “The Notebook”
Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams seem like a totally natural pair in 2004’s tearjerker “The Notebook,” but McAdams’ role almost went to none other than pop star Britney Spears. In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Gosling talked about Spears’ audition for the role, saying, “She was really good actually. She did a nice job.”
Reese Witherspoon could have been Cher Horowitz in “Clueless”
Reese Witherspoon went on to play her fair share of dynamic blondes (Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde,” anyone?), but back in 1995, she was just one of several Hollywood hopefuls to audition for the starring role in teen comedy “Clueless.” Director Amy Heckerling had her heart set on Alicia Silverstone from the beginning, and that’s ultimately who snagged the coveted role.
Molly Ringwald could have been Vivian Ward in “Pretty Woman”
It ended up being a career-launching role for Julia Roberts, but America’s sweetheart only snagged it after several other prominent actresses at the time turned it down, including fellow redhead Molly Ringwald. On a Reddit Ask Me Anything thread, the teen queen said she’s not disappointed with the way things turned out: “Julia Roberts is what makes that movie. It was her part. Every actor hopes for a part that lets them shine like that.”
Thomas Jane could have been Don Draper in “Mad Men”
Playing Don Draper in “Mad Men” catapulted a previously-unknown Jon Hamm into the limelight, but he wasn’t the only actor under consideration to play the troubled ad man. During an appearance on Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast, Hamm revealed that the network wanted Thomas Jane for the role.
Connie Britton could have been Dorothy Boyd in “Jerry Maguire”
“Nashville” star Connie Britton was devastated when she lost the role of Dorothy in “Jerry Maguire” to Renee Zellweger, telling The New York Times “It was a heartbreak.”
Eric Stoltz could have been Marty McFly in “Back to the Future”
While the “Back to the Future” films may now be synonymous with their star Michael J. Fox, the original film was actually first shot with Eric Stoltz in the leading role, who was fired because the filmmakers didn’t feel he had the comedic chops for the part.
Nicole Kidman could have been Jane Smith in “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”
Nicole Kidman had to give up the role of Jane Smith in “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” due to a scheduling conflict with another film, “The Stepford Wives.” The role ultimately went to Angelina Jolie, who met her future husband, Brad Pitt, on set. Just think—there could have potentially been no Brangelina!
Dana Delany could have been Carrie Bradshaw in “Sex and the City”
It’s hard to imagine anyone else but Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw in “Sex and the City,” but the role was originally offered to Dana Delany (“Tombstone”), who turned it down because she felt she had already done too many movies about sex.
Bette Milder could have been Deloris in “Sister Act”
Who could forget Whoopi Goldberg as Deloris Van Cartier, a lounge singer who poses as a nun to hilarious effect? While it’s hard to imagine the “Sister Act” movies without her, Bette Milder says the role was originally written for her, but she felt her fans wouldn’t like her as a nun.
Hugh Jackman could have been James Bond in “Casino Royale”
Hugh Jackman turned down the chance to be James Bond because of a lack of creative input on the story. As a result, Daniel Craig joined the elite group of actors who’ve played 007.
Connie Britton could have been Olivia Pope on “Scandal”
Connie Britton was up for the role of Olivia Pope on “Scandal.” Ultimately, the casting director switched up the plan and Kerry Washington donned the white hat. Talk about twisty. As a result, Washington became the first black woman to topline a drama in 37 years.
Rumer Willis could have been Serena Van Der Woodsen on “Gossip Girl”
Originally, Rumer Willis was the top choice to play Serena van der Woodsen on “Gossip Girl.” It’s hard to imagine the Upper East Side’s golden girl without Blake Lively‘s flowing blond mane. A relative unknown, Lively nailed her audition, so we don’t have to.
Anne Hathaway could have been Tiffany in “Silver Linings Playbook”
Jennifer Lawrence solidified her star status and won a Best Actress Oscar for 2012’s “Silver Linings Playbook,” but she wasn’t Harvey Weinstein’s first choice for the role.
Weinstein shared in an interview that Anne Hathaway was his pick for Tiffany. Hathaway turned down the part due to “creative differences” with director David O. Russell. It worked out for both actresses. Hathaway won for Best Supporting Actress in “Les Misérables” that same year.
Jennifer Hudson could have been Precious
Jennifer Hudson was approached for the lead role in “Precious.” She turned it down because she didn’t want to gain weight for the part. Gabourey Sidibe snagged the role and won an Oscar for her performance.
Julia Roberts could have been Annie in “Sleepless in Seattle”
Julia Roberts was offered the female lead in “Sleepless In Seattle” but couldn’t do it. Meg Ryan landed the iconic role instead, opposite Tom Hanks. It’s hard to imagine the ’90s without this dynamic rom-com duo.
Matthew McConaughey could have been Jack in “Titanic”
The tragic love story aboard the Titanic could have looked very different. Matthew McConaughey was seriously considered for the role of Jack.
Gwyneth Paltrow could have been Rose in “Titanic”
Speaking of a very different “Titanic,” Gwyneth Paltrow came close to starring as Rose.
Mindy Kaling could have been Lillian in “Bridesmaids”
Mindy Kaling was heartbroken not to land a coveted role as the bride in “Bridesmaids.” Instead, Maya Rudolph had us screaming with laughter throughout the film.
Courteney Cox could have been Rachel on “Friends”
Courteney Cox originally read for the part of Rachel on “Friends,” but she ended up opting for the role of Monica because she connected more with her personality.
Which of these casting near-misses surprises you the most?