Special Report

Actors Who Turned Down Iconic Roles

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Gillian Anderson
> Role: Lady Cora Crawley
> TV series and movies: “Downton Abbey” (2010-2015, pluis two movies)
> Portrayed by: Elizabeth McGovern

Gillian Anderson, who first gained fame as the cool cerebral FBI agent Scully on the “X-Files,” turned down the role of Lady Cora Crawley on the international period-piece hit “Downton Abbey.” Anderson has appeared in similar projects such as “Great Expectations” and “The Crown.”

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Gwyneth Paltrow
> Role: Rose
> Movie: “Titanic” (1997)
> Portrayed by: Kate Winslet

Paltrow turned down the role of Rose, the female lead in the blockbuster “Titanic,” the highest-grossing film of all time until another James Cameron-directed epic “Avatar” topped it. Winslet was nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal of Rose, but lost to Helen Hunt for “As Good As It Gets.” Paltrow won a Best Actress Oscar for “Shakespeare in Love” in 1999.

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Harrison Ford
> Role: Oskar Schindler
> Movie: “Schindler’s List” (1982)
> Portrayed by: Liam Neeson

Harrison Ford has created two of filmdom’s iconic swashbuckling characters: Han Solo from the Star Wars franchise, and Indiana Jones, from the movie series of the same name. Ford was the first choice to play Oskar Schindler, the German industrialist who saved Jews during the Holocaust. However, he turned down the role because he felt people wouldn’t see beyond his Indiana Jones persona and that would diminish the film’s importance. “Schindler’s List” won seven Academy Awards

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Henry Winkler
> Role: Danny Zuko
> Movie: “Grease” (1978)
> Portrayed by: John Travolta

Henry Winkler, who played the “greaser” character The Fonz on the long-running 1950s-nostalgia series “Happy Days,” was the top contender for the role of greaser Danny Zuko in “Grease.” He backed out because the role called for singing and dancing talents that he felt he did not possess. “Grease” became a worldwide success.

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Jack Nicholson
> Role: Michael Corleone
> Movie: “The Godfather” (1972)
> Portrayed by: Al Pacino

Jack Nicholson was on the cusp of major stardom when he was considered for the role of Michael Corleone, the eventual don of the Corleone crime family. He turned it down, telling Movieline that “Italians should play Italians” in movies. “There were a lot of actors who could have played Michael, myself included,” he said, “but Al Pacino was Michael Corleone. I can’t think of a better compliment to pay him.” Nicholson’s career wasn’t hurt by declining the iconic role. He’s been nominated for an Oscar 12 times and won three Academy Awards.

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