Sally Field, Harrison Ford, John Travolta: Iconic roles turned down by major stars
Harrison Ford praises ‘other people’ for making him shine on screen
‘1923’ actor Harrison Ford talks becoming a star during a time when movies had huge impact on culture.
Some of the world's favorite movies could have played out on the big screen very differently.
Sally Field turned down the opportunity to be in the iconic trio seen in "The First Wives Club" and Matthew McConaughey was passed up for the lead role in "Titanic."
John Travolta was originally slated to appear in "Forrest Gump" before Tom Hanks was cast in the starring role. Steven Spielberg wanted Harrison Ford to star in "Jurassic Park" before the actor turned down the opportunity.
Here’s a closer look at other celebrities who had a chance at once-in-a-lifetime movie roles.
SALLY FIELD REVEALS BELOVED MOVIE ROLE SHE TURNED DOWN: ‘WOULDN’T BE THE SAME'
Sally Field – ‘The First Wives Club’
The iconic trio that makes up "The First Wives Club" could have looked a little different, if Sally Field had said yes.
In a new interview with People, the actress revealed that she turned down a role in the 1996 comedy, despite Goldie Hawn asking her to co-star.
Sally Field turned down the offer to star in "The First Wives Club."(Photo by JC Olivera/WireImage)
Field said, "Goldie really wanted me to do it. Maybe it would have been fun, but they were all so musical, and I'm not."
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Field didn’t specify which part she was offered, but the final trio ended up being Hawn, Bette Midler and Diane Keaton.
Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn And Diane Keaton starred in 1996's "The First Wives Club."(Getty Images)
According to Field, "the movie wouldn't have been the same" if she had signed on.
"The First Wives Club" was based on a 1992 novel of the same name by Olivia Goldsmith, and followed Hawn, Midler and Keaton as they made a pact to get back at their ex-husbands who left them for younger women. It went on to earn just over $181 million at the box office worldwide, and has remained a popular rental and streaming option.
Matthew McConaughey – ‘Titanic’
Leonardo DiCaprio’s iconic role as Jack in "Titanic" could have gone to Matthew McConaughey.
In 2021, McConaughey appeared on "Literally! with Rob Lowe" to explain exactly what went down with the casting over 20 years ago.
"So I went and read with Kate Winslet [who starred as Rose] and it was not one of the auditions — they filmed it, so it was like into screen test time," McConaughey explained.
Matthew McConaughey once read for the role as Jack in "Titanic" before the part eventually went to Leonardo DiCaprio.(Getty Images)
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"After we left, you know, it was one of those ones where they, like, followed me and when we got outside they were like, ‘That went great.' I mean, kind of like hugs. I really thought it was going to happen. It did not."
The "Dallas Buyers Club" star went on the record to clarify he did not turn down the role, but the decision was left with the film’s director James Cameron.
Matthew McConaughey said James Cameron did not cast him for the role.(Getty Images)
"I asked [James] Cameron about this, because the gossip over the years that I heard and would see written about me was that I had the [lead] role in ‘Titanic’ and turned it down," McConaughey recalled. "Not factual. I did not get offered that role."
"For a while I was saying, ‘I gotta find that agent. They're in trouble,’" he said. "I did not ever get the offer."
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"Titanic" was the first film to reach the billion-dollar mark in 1997, with an initial worldwide gross of $1.8 billion. It remained the highest grossing film of all time until 2009's "Avatar" -- another Cameron film -- was released.
Gwyneth Paltrow – ‘Titanic’
Another near-casting for "Titanic": Gwyneth Paltrow came close to starring as Rose.
Fans know the part ultimately went to Kate Winslet, who was nominated for an Academy Award for her work in the 1997 hit.
"I know that the story is that I turned it down," Paltrow told Howard Stern of the film in 2015. "I think I was really in contention for it — I was one of the last two."
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Another near-casting for "Titanic": Gwyneth Paltrow came close to starring as Rose.(Getty Images)
She continued: "I look back at the choices I’ve made and think, ‘Why the hell did I say yes to that? And no to that?’ And you know, you look at the big picture and think: There’s a universal lesson here. What good is it to hold onto roles?"
Gwyneth Paltrow thinks everything happens for a reason, including her not being cast in "Titanic."(REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)
Clarifying on whether she turned down the role or if it was ultimately Cameron’s decision, Paltrow said: "You only get to pick certain movies. When you’re offered Titanic — James Cameron — one of the biggest movies of all time, I don’t know psychologically… I would throw a fit that I turned that down!"
During the time of the interview, the actress noted that she could not change the past and the roles she did star in, including "Sliding Doors," "A Perfect Murder" and "Shakespeare in Love," were ultimately meant for her.
John Travolta – ‘Forrest Gump’
John Travolta almost filled Forrest Gump’s Nikes in the iconic film before Tom Hanks was slated for the role.
Speaking to MTV in 2007, Travolta shared that he did not have any regrets turning down the part.
John Travolta turned down the chance to play the titular role in "Forrest Gump." Tom Hanks was cast for the role.(Getty Images)
"No, because if I didn't do something Tom Hanks did, then I did something else that was equally interesting or fun. Or if I didn't do something Richard Gere did, I did something equally well. But I feel good about some I gave up because other careers were created," he said.
Travolta reportedly turned down the "Forrest Gump" offer to star in Quentin Tarantino’s iconic "Pulp Fiction."
John Travolta reportedly turned down the offer to star in "Pulp Fiction."(2017 Invision)
"Forrest Gump" reached massive success with Hanks earning an Academy Award in 1995 for the role and the film won best picture the same year.
Harrison Ford – ‘Jurassic Park’
"Jurassic Park" could have looked entirely different with Harrison Ford as Dr. Alan Grant.
At the 30th anniversary screening of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" in 2011, Ford joked that Steven Spielberg only hires the actor to star in "Indiana Jones" films.
Harrison Ford chose not to star as Dr. Alan Grant in "Jurassic Park." The role went to Sam Neill.(Getty Images)
In response to the actor’s quip, Spielberg replied, "I gotta correct this. Do you know who I offered Jurassic Park to? This guy. Alan Grant, I first offered to this guy."
Although the Q&A style panel at the time did not allow Ford to elaborate on his decision not to take the role, fans know Spielberg eventually cast Sam Neill as Dr. Alan Grant.
Harrison Ford did not share why he turned down the role.(AP, File)
Christina Applegate – ‘Legally Blonde’
Elle Woods was nearly played by an entirely different actress.
In 2019, Christina Applegate was a guest on "Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen" where she explained that she was sent the script of "Legally Blonde" in 2001 for the role made famous by Reese Witherspoon.
Christina Applegate was sent the script of Elle Woods in "Legally Blonde." The role was made famous by Reese Witherspoon.(Getty Images)
"The story’s been out there, but I wasn’t actually offered it, the script came to me," Applegate said at the time. "But at that time, I had just gotten off of Married with Children and I felt like it was too close to what I had just been doing and I was very interested in removing myself from that."
She continued: "I don’t regret it because Reese Witherspoon did a much better job than I ever could, and she now has way more money and way more success, and so why would I even regret that?"
Christina Applegate said she doesn't regret passing up the role because Reese Witherspoon did a "much better job" than she could have.(Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Critics Choice Association)
The first "Legally Blonde" movie was released in 2001," and "Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde" was released in 2003.
In 2018, a "Legally Blonde 3" was confirmed. The film had an initial release date of 2020 but was pushed back due to the coronavirus pandemic. The movie is now set to premiere in 2023.
Jack Nicholson – ‘Godfather’
"The Godfather" may be one of the most famous movies.
Although the role of Michael Corleone went to Al Pacino, the entire film could have gone a very different way if Jack Nicholson hadn’t said no to the role.
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Jack Nicholson passed on the opportunity to star in "The Godfather" as Michael Corleone. Al Pacino made the role famous.(Getty Images)
In an interview with Moveline in 2004, Nicholson said he did not take the role of the son of Vito Corleone because "Italians should play Italians."
"Back then I believed that Indians should play Indians and Italians should play Italians," he said. "Mario Puzo had written such a great book that if you go back to it you'll see so much of what was special about the movie. There were a lot of actors who could have played Michael, myself included, but Al Pacino was Michael Corleone. I can't think of a better compliment to pay him."
Jack Nicholson said "Italians should be played by Italians."(Reuters)
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The 1972 crime drama that was directed by Francis Ford Coppola won several awards in the 70s, including an Academy Award for best picture.
Janelle Ash is an entertainment writer for Fox News Digital.