“Last summer while I was playing Elizabeth, on the weekends I was auditioning in person to play Glinda in the movie version of Wicked,” Seyfried told Backstage, sharing just how badly she wanted to play the part that ultimately went to pop star Ariana Grande. “Because I wanted it that much that I was like, You know what? Yeah, I have to play the last scene of The Dropout on Tuesday. I’ll give my Sunday to you. I literally bent over backward while playing the hardest role of my life.”
Seyfried is not the only actor to express disappointment after getting passed over for a plum role. Jessica Biel discussed her dismay over auditioning for The Notebook while covered in blood (she was filming Texas Chainsaw Massacre at the time) and losing the part to Rachel McAdams. In an alternate universe, Matthew McConaughey is holding Gwyneth Paltrow at the bow of a ship on the poster for Titanic. “I wanted that. I auditioned with Kate Winslet,” McConaughey said on THR’s Awards Chatter podcast. “Walked away from there pretty confident that I had it. I didn’t get it. I never got offered that.” Here’s an informal list of more stars who laid it all on the line for a role that ultimately went to someone else.
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The Special singer has made it very clear that she wanted to play Ursula in Disney’s forthcoming live-action Little Mermaid movie. She even tweeted a video of herself singing ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls’ while covered in purple makeup and sporting white hair, tagging Disney in the caption, “I’M URSULA. PERIOD.” The video went viral and inspired an online campaign to help her nab the role. Alas, the part of the wicked sea witch went to Melissa McCarthy, which is probably for the best—Lizzo doesn’t need to steal Ariel’s voice to win hearts.
Can you imagine the front woman of Hole singing ‘Elephant Love Medley’? Well, according to Courtney Love, it could have happened. Love told Contributor magazine that after earning a Golden Globe nomination for The People vs. Larry Flint, she was in consideration for a bevy of film roles, including Janis Joplin and Lisa in Girl, Interrupted—the part that ultimately won Angelina Jolie an Oscar. But “the one that got away, which I am still not completely over, is Moulin Rouge!” said Love. “Baz [Luhrmann] thought I was a great representation of tragedy, and I thought I could intertwine that with comedy, which would have been ideal for the role.” Hard to argue with that logic.
There are some roles that everybody wants. Before the Madonna boot camp, there was the cutthroat competition to play Scarlett O’Hara—which saw luminaries of Hollywood’s yesteryear, such as Bette Davis, Norma Shearer, and Katharine Hepburn, vying to star in Gone With the Wind. In the Atlantic article “The Making of Gone With the Wind (Part 1),” Gavin Lambert details the painstaking process of landing on Vivien Leigh for the role of Scarlett. Of all the would-be Scarletts, it seems Davis took losing the role the hardest. She reportedly waged an “ardent campaign” for Scarlett, had an “inconsolable desire for the part,” and “the loss of the role haunted her for years.”
Even one of the highest-earning Hollywood actors loses out on a role every now and again. Dwayne Johnson has shared that early in his film acting career, he was up for the role of Jack Reacher in the Paramount Pictures film adaptation of Lee Child’s book series. In the novels, Reacher is described as six feet five and 250 pounds, similar in proportion to Johnson. However, Johnson ended up losing the role to none other than Tom Cruise, who is a lot closer to five feet six than six feet five. “Tom was the biggest movie star in the world, and I was not,” said Johnson in a Facebook interview session years later. “I got the call saying, ‘Hey, you didn’t get the role.’ Look, I didn’t even know if I had a shot for it, but the people around me at that time made me think that I did. I felt like I did. I felt like, Why not me?” Clearly, size isn’t everything.
Nicole Kidman wanted to be a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her. In a conversation with Hugh Grant for Marie Claire, Kidman revealed that she wanted to star opposite Grant as Anna Scott in the 1999 romantic comedy Notting Hill, but lost out on the role to Julia Roberts. “I really wanted the role that Julia Roberts played in Notting Hill.… Yeah, I did,” Kidman said. “But I wasn’t well known enough, and I wasn’t talented enough.” Nicole Kidman? Not talented enough? Likely story.
While promoting A Wrinkle in Time in 2018, Oprah was stopped on the streets of NYC and asked if there was ever a role she didn’t get that she regretted. “Yeah: Doubt,” she said. “I wanted to be in Doubt. I mean, it’s fantastic ’cause Viola [Davis] got it—it’s wonderful. But the director told me no because it wasn’t long enough to lose ‘the Oprah factor.’” Indeed, Davis’s character wound up having less than 11 minutes of screen time (which was still enough for her to earn an Oscar nomination). Not every film can handle the Oprah factor.
Jennifer Lawrence might have taken home $25 million for Don’t Look Up, but that doesn’t mean that she’s gotten every role she’s gone after. While appearing on The Howard Stern Show, Lawrence revealed that she was “devastated” when she lost out on the starring role in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. Alice was ultimately played by Mia Wasikowska, who Lawrence said “was perfect and amazing.” Besides, Lawrence said she couldn’t do a British accent—so perhaps it’s for the best that she didn’t go down Burton’s rabbit hole.
Sometimes the role you’re meant to play isn’t the one you initially auditioned for. In 2018, Glen Powell took to Twitter to lament losing the leading role of Goose’s son, Rooster, to Miles Teller in Top Gun: Maverick. “I’m taking down all the Tom Cruise posters in my bedroom,” Powell tweeted, sharing an article about Teller’s casting. “Maybe, I’ll leave one. Two for symmetry. Okay, the posters are staying.” Powell was smart to leave up all those posters—he eventually was cast as Hangman in the billion-dollar flick and, according to some, stole the film.
Although the internet can’t get enough of Keke P, Palmer has occasionally been told Nope by casting directors. Palmer told Glamour that she was bummed to lose out on a role in Ice Cube’s 2005 road trip comedy, Are We There Yet?, as the part went to Aleisha Allen. “I remember being so sad I didn’t get it,” she told Glamour. “But when I look back on it, I wasn’t ready.” Palmer was ready to act opposite the rapper turned actor just a few years later, when she starred in 2008’s The Longshots.
The Flight Attendant star was extremely confident that she had booked a role in the buzzy Knives Out sequel, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. “I was convinced [the part was mine].… I was so convinced that my bags were packed for Greece,” Cuoco told Glamour. “And then I didn’t get it. I was so devastated. And I’m not [normally] devastated over roles.” The part ultimately went to Kate Hudson. “I cried and I cried all night long,” Cuoco said of her response to losing the part. As the saying goes, it’s better to have auditioned and lost than to have never auditioned at all.
Yes, even the acting GOAT, Meryl Streep, has experienced roles not going her way. The three-time Oscar winner once told People that she wanted to play country singer Patsy Cline in the biopic Sweet Dreams, directed by her friend Karel Reisz. “Karel was a friend of mine who I adored, and he was making a film about Patsy Cline, who is a singer I adored,” she said. When the role ultimately went to a different blonde, Oscar-winning actor, Jessica Lange, Streep was able to parlay her loss of a film role into free housing while she was shooting Plenty in England near Reisz’s home. “I told him, ‘Well, the least you can do is let me stay at your house while I am there,’” she said. “He did, and it was a beautiful house.” Streep never loses.
Originally published in Vanityfair.com
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