With credits like "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" and "Mildred Pierce," Joan Crawford—born March 23, 1904—cemented her name in cinematic history several times, yet she forfeited the opportunity to share the screen with Burt Lancaster in one of his most iconic roles. Join us in revisiting the film Joan narrowly avoided and other big screen stars who turned down famous roles.
Turned down: "From Here to Eternity" (1953)
What happened: Crawford's demand that the film be shot by her own cameraman was a deal-breaker. Deborah Kerr was then cast against type and ended up making out on the beach with Burt Lancaster in one of the most iconic movie scenes ever.
Also rejected: The part of Bette Davis' poor cousin in "Hush ... Hush Sweet Charlotte." (She and Davis loathed each other.)
Turned down: "The Hustler" (1961)
What happened: "When I read it ... I thought it sounded ridiculous," Novak said of the screenplay. In the end, the script was rewritten and both Piper Laurie (now better known as Crazy Carrie's crazier mom in "Carrie") and Paul Newman were nominated for Oscars.
Also rejected: The part of Dean Wormer's wife in "Animal House."
Turned down: "The Diary of Anne Frank" (1959)
What happened: Given that she grew up in Amsterdam during the war (Anne Frank's diary even describes the shooting of Audrey Hepburn's uncle), it seemed like a natural bit of casting. But Hepburn didn't want to relive her wartime experience.
Also rejected: The part of Maria in "West Side Story" and the title role in "Cleopatra."
Turned down: "Bonnie and Clyde" and "Rosemary's Baby" (both 1968)
What happened: Instead of starring in these Oscar-winning films, Fonda opted to play "Barbarella" in the sci-fi turkey directed by her first husband, Roger Vadim. Some now consider it a camp classic.
Also rejected: The part of Lara in "Doctor Zhivago" and the Meryl Streep role in "Kramer vs. Kramer."
Turned down: "Thelma and Louise" (1991)
What happened: Streep was on track to co-star with Goldie Hawn, but reportedly dropped out because she was pregnant. A year later, the two shared the screen in "Death Becomes Her."
Also rejected: The lead in "Fatal Attraction."
Turned down: "Marnie" (1962)
What happened: A year after the release of her last Alfred Hitchcock movie, 1955's "To Catch a Thief," she had become Princess of Monaco, and her subjects freaked when word got out that their princess might play a kleptomaniac. She then bowed out and Hitchcock turned to another cool blonde, Tippi Hedren.
Also rejected: The part in "Giant" that went to Elizabeth Taylor.
Turned down: "Cleopatra" (1963)
What happened: After Gardner passed, Elizabeth Taylor signed a record-setting contract for what became the year's No. 1 box office hit and, up to that point, the most expensive movie ever made.
Also rejected: The Elizabeth Taylor role in "Giant."
Turned down: "Barefoot in the Park" (1967)
What happened: Wood, who had done two earlier films with Robert Redford, wanted to take a break to attend UCLA. So Jane Fonda took the starring role in the popular Neil Simon comedy.
Also rejected: "Bonnie and Clyde" and "Goodbye Columbus," both made during her three-year hiatus.
Turned down: "Bullitt" (1968)
What happened: Jacqueline Bisset got the part of Steve McQueen's girlfriend. But Ross, in big demand after "The Graduate," soon returned in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." "I'm not a movie star," she said at the time. "That system is dying and I'd like to help it along."
Also rejected: The role of chief stewardess in "Airport." That too went to Jacqueline Bisset.
Turned down: "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (1961)
What happened: Last year, MacLaine said passing on the opportunity to play Holly Golightly, which would have come right after her Oscar–nominated performance in "The Apartment," remains one of her biggest regrets.
Also rejected: Another iconic role—Sally Bowles in "Cabaret," for which Liza Minnelli won the Academy Award.
Turned down: "High Society" (1956)
What happened: Taylor was the first choice for the part of Tracy Lord in this musical version of "The Philadelphia Story." After she declined, Grace Kelly was cast in what would be her final film.
Also rejected: The part of Mary Magdalene in "The Greatest Story Ever Told." (It wasn't.)
Turned down: "Casablanca" (1942)
What happened: Warner Bros.' first choice for one of the greatest romantic roles ever, Hayworth was held back by her contract with Columbia Pictures. The producers had to "settle" for Ingrid Bergman.
Also rejected: "The Barefoot Contessa," which became Ava Gardner's signature role.
Turned down: "An Affair to Remember" (1957)
What happened: The original plan was to re-create the chemistry Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant had exhibited a decade earlier in Alfred Hitchcock's "Notorious." After Bergman opted out, Deborah Kerr stepped in.
Also rejected: A chance to co-star with Charlton Heston in "Planet of the Apes."
Turned down: "Blue Velvet" (1986)
What happened: "Helen Mirren really helped me on that script," said director David Lynch. But she eventually left the part of a sadomasochistic lounge singer to Isabella Rossellini. (Not that the film was too edgy for Mirren—in 1979, she co-starred in "Caligula," which she called "an irresistible mix of art and genitals.")
Also rejected: The Mariah Carey role in "Precious."
Turned down: "The Lost Weekend" (1945)
What happened: Although it was a small part—Ray Milland's girlfriend—Hepburn was interested. But then came the chance to co-star with Spencer Tracy in "Without Love."
Also rejected: The role of a school teacher accused of being a lesbian in "The Children's Hour."
Turned down: "The Man With the Golden Arm" (1955)
What happened: Bacall rejected a low-ball offer but later regretted her decision. Kim Novak took the part..
Also rejected: What would be Doris Day's breakthrough role, in "Romance on the High Seas." Warner Bros. put Bacall on suspension for not taking it.
Turned down: "American Gigolo" (1980)
What happened: Christie was set to co-star with Richard Gere but dropped out when he was replaced by John Travolta. By the time Gere returned to the project, Lauren Hutton had been hired to replace Christie.
Also rejected: The roles of Anne Boleyn in "Anne of a Thousand Days," Daisy in "The Great Gatsby" and the femme fatale who betrays Paul Newman in "The Verdict."
Turned down: "The African Queen" (1951)
What happened: "If you can't shoot the picture in a boat on the back lot, then I'm not interested," Davis told Jack Warner. Enter Katharine Hepburn, who was later nominated for an Oscar.
Also rejected: A role in the seminal women's prison drama "Caged," originally conceived as a vehicle for her and Joan Crawford. Davis said she didn't want to be in a "dyke movie."
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