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Actors Turn Down Famous Roles

Throughout the last century, several actors have turned down roles in movies that eventually became Hollywood legends. For example, Burt Lancaster turned down the lead in Ben-Hur in 1959. The role of Judah Ben-Hur eventually went to Charlton Heston, who won an Academy Award and added another hit to his career of blockbusters. Oops!

Next, for a long while, Sean Connery was a fan-favorite to play Gandalf, the venerable wizard from J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. However, Connery rejected the part in Peter Jackson's recent adaptation, in part because he did not want to spend 18 months filming in New Zealand. Instead, Sir Ian McKellen took up Gandalf's beard to wide acclaim. After the massive success of the first film, The Fellowship of the Ring, Connery was asked if he regretted his decision. "I had never read Tolkien," he said, "and the script—when they sent it to me, I didn't understand bobbits…hobbits."

Third, producers Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, who had bought the film rights to Ian Fleming's James Bond novels, originally approached Cary Grant about playing the part of 007. Grant declined because he did not want to become involved in a film series. Instead, Sean Connery was cast as Bond, starting with Dr. No in 1962. Oops! The series was more than a bit successful.

Fourth, Orion Pictures acquired the film rights to Silence of the Lambs in 1988 because Gene Hackman had expressed an interest in directing and writing the screenplay for it. He was also booked to star as serial killer Hannibal Lecter, with Michelle Pfeiffer taking the role of agent Starling. By mid-1989, Hackman had dropped out of the project, and Pfeiffer declined the part after deciding that the film was too dark. When Silence of the Lambs was made in 1990, the lead roles were played by Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster. Both won Academy Awards for their performances. Oops!

Fifth, both Ewan McGregor and Will Smith declined the role of Neo in the blockbuster science fiction epic The Matrix. The part eventually went to Keanu Reeves, and turned into one of the most successful movie trilogies of all time.

Finally, Bette Davis turned down the role of Scarlett O'Hara in the 1939 classic, Gone with the Wind. Instead, the role went to Vivien Leigh. Davis thought that her co-star was going to be Errol Flynn, with whom she refused to work after the two had just finished shooting The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex. Oops! Bad move, Betty! Clark Gable ended up as Leigh's co-star in what became one of the most beloved films in history.

As we celebrate Christmas, let's remember to be thankful that Jesus Christ decided to accept the role of a lifetime—our Savior—in the form of a baby boy.

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