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Top 10 Brits Who Turned Down Massive Roles

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Written by Richard Bush Oh how different it could have been. Welcome to WatchMojo UK and today we’ll counting down our picks for the top 10 massive roles turned down by British actors. For this list, we’ve gathered some of the most surprising examples of British actors who either turned down, were in serious contention for or were pipped to the post by another actor for a huge role. One thing’s for sure, you’ll never watch these films the same again. Special thanks to our user RichardFB for submitting the idea on our interactive suggestion tool: WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Top 10 Brits Who Turned Down Massive Roles


Oh how different it could have been. Welcome to WatchMojo UK and today we’ll counting down our picks for the top 10 massive roles turned down by British actors.

For this list, we’ve gathered some of the most surprising examples of British actors who either turned down, were in serious contention for or were pipped to the post by another actor for a huge role. One thing’s for sure, you’ll never watch these films the same again.

#10: Hugh Grant as King George VI
“The King's Speech” (2010)

Although Paul Bettany was also considered for this role, Hugh Grant would have undoubtedly been the more game-changing choice. Ultimately refusing the role after it was offered to him, Grant would have brought a completely different feel to King George VI. Sure, the posh, mumbling persona is something he’s perfected in many a rom-com over the years, but Colin Firth adds an aura of distinct unlikeability to the King, at least early on, something Grant would arguably struggle to muster. It probably would’ve gone from serious to silly.

#9: Joseph Fiennes as Wladyslaw Szpilman
“The Pianist” (2002)

Fiennes is a brilliant actor, but it’s difficult to imagine him as the lead in 2002’s “The Pianist”, after seeing Adrien Brody smash it out of the park with an Oscar-winning performance. Apparently Fiennes was director Roman Polanski’s first choice to play Szpilman, but due to theatrical commitments, he turned it down. Fiennes would have no doubt given a great performance, but after you witness Brody’s emotional rendition and discover his dedication to learning the piano, I think it’s safe to say the role went to the right guy.

#8: Henry Cavill as James Bond
“Casino Royale” (2006)

Whenever the regeneration of Bond comes around, countless hats get thrown into the ring. For “Casino Royale”, the likes of Sam Worthington and Dougray Scott were considered, but according to director Martin Campbell, Henry Cavill was the only other actor in serious contention. And after seeing him in “Man of Steel” and “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” you’ve got to admit, he’s got the action chops. However, due to being just 22 at the time, Cavill was considered too young - and the part went to Daniel Craig.

#7: Gary Oldman as Edward
“Edward Scissorhands” (1990)

A lot of people were considered for this one - from Tom Cruise to Tom hanks, and Jim Carrey to John Cusack. But only a few were actually offered the role, one of which was chameleonic actor Gary Oldman. However, Oldman found the film's story absurd, so he swerved it - only to regret the decision after seeing the finished product. It would have been brilliant to see what he’d have brought to the table, but credit where credit’s due, Johnny Depp nailed it.

#6: Ewan McGregor as Patrick Bateman
“American Psycho” (2000)

Okay, so Bale was absolutely perfect for Bateman, but if it wasn't for Bale’s determination to bag the role, we may have seen McGregor play the narcissistic, axe-wielding maniac. Although the likes of Edward Norton and Leonardo DiCaprio were considered, Ewan was offered the role by the studio, Lionsgate. But, enamoured with the part, Bale personally told McGregor to turn it down. And he did. And we can’t help but wonder what might’ve been. We think McGregor’s nice guy image would have played well.

#5: Tom Hiddleston as Thor
“Thor” (2011)

There’s something about Tom Hiddleston’s charm that screams baddie. But in early production for 2011’s “Thor”, things were looking a little different for Tom. Wanting to bag the lead role of the hammer-wielding Thor, Hiddleston auditioned, but was ultimately urged by director Kenneth Branagh to fulfil the role of villain, Loki. And we’re glad, mainly becomes Hiddleston plays the bad guy role pitch perfect. He also won a Best Male Newcomer award for his efforts.

#4: Liam Neeson as Abraham Lincoln
“Lincoln” (2012)

Spielberg at the helm and Daniel Day-Lewis as the lead, it was bound to rake in accolades. However, the role of the 16th President of the United States didn’t just nearly go to someone else, it did. Although Day-Lewis was offered the role initially, he turned it down, and Liam Neeson was subsequently cast. Neeson then went on to swat up on Lincoln extensively, only to leave the project a few years later. Following an apparently enlightening table read, Neeson deemed himself too old and not right for the role.

#3: Emma Watson as Mia Dolan
“La La Land” (2016)

Yep, we nearly saw Watson star as Mia in the 2016 musical hit, and not alongside Ryan Gosling, but Miles Teller. The two were originally set to star but dropped out, with Watson committed to another musical - “Beauty and the Beast”. The role eventually went to Emma Stone. But, funnily enough, Gosling turned down the part of The Beast in that film, for “La La Land”. Watson turned down the lead in another musical before this too - Disney’s live-action “Cinderella”.

#2: Tim Roth as Severus Snape
“Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone” (2001)

As Snape, Alan Rickman could induce terror with a mere glance. I mean, just look at him. This casting choice only happened however, as the original pick for the role, Tim Roth, gave it up to star in Tim Burton’s “Planet of the Apes”. Although we love Roth’s character acting, we can’t help but feel he may have potentially missed the mark with Snape’s reserved, monotonous, man of few words persona. Or maybe he’d have thrown that out and gone for something completely different. Imagine, a cockney Snape.

#1: Sean Connery as Gandalf the Grey
“The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” (2001)

Here it is, the one role to rule them all. A commanding presence, an iconic, stern voice - Sean Connery surely would have suited Gandalf down to the ground. So why didn’t it happen? Well, Connery was approached for the role, but turned it down simply because he didn’t understand the plot. Patrick Stewart apparently give it a miss too as he disliked the script, leading the way for Sir Ian McKellen. But, known for being somewhat anti-Hollywood when it comes to films, it’s no surprise that Connery disregarded the role so readily.
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