Al, Pacino, The, Godfather

29+ Actors Who Almost Quit Their Famous Roles


| LAST UPDATE 03/22/2022

By Lily Tipton

Acting is a demanding job. From weight loss to extreme stunts, actors expect to be challenged to an extent to perfect their roles. Sometimes, however, they are pushed a little too far and almost quit as a result...

Mike Myers: Wayne's World

In a 2014 interview with Marc Maron, Mike Myers revealed his iconic role of Wayne Campbell in Wayne's World was almost handed over to someone else. But not because he wasn't deemed worthy: He threatened to quit.

Mike Myers, Wayne’s WorldMike Myers, Wayne’s World
Frank Trapper-Corbis via Getty Images

It turns out the fiery disagreement was about the song that the cast listened to while in the Mirthmobile during the car singalong scene. Although the studio wanted to use a piece by Guns N' Roses, Myers "fought really, really hard" for it to be Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, claiming he would otherwise leave the movie.

Jim Carrey: The Grinch

It's hard to imagine our favorite Christmas movie without its star. But rumor has it, that's almost what happened. When Jim signed up for The Grinch, he assumed some make-up would be involved. However, after Carrey was forced to sit through three hours a day of costume prep, it all proved too much for the star.

Grinch, Jim Carrey, ChristmasGrinch, Jim Carrey, Christmas
Universal via Getty Images

Carrey told Graham Norton the costume was like being "buried alive" and explained he begged the director to let him quit the role in exchange for his acting fee. In response, the producer reportedly hired a military trainer specializing in painful situations to come onto set and whip Carrey into shape. Safe to say, it worked.

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Al Pacino: The Godfather: Part II

After Al Pacino earned an Academy Award Nomination for Best Actor for his performance as Michael Corleone in The Godfather, the movie offers were likely flooding in. Surprisingly, according to ABC News, the studio of The Godfather was ready to say goodbye to the character - hardly eager to renew the star's contract.

Al Pacino, The GodfatherAl Pacino, The Godfather
Paramount via Getty Images

When Al Pacino heard of this, he understandably "did not want to be somewhere he was not wanted" and attempted to leave the franchise. The film's director, Francis Ford Coppola, managed to convince the star to stay. And the rest, as they say, is history.

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Michelle Rodriguez: The Fast and Furious

Michelle Rodriguez is incredibly passionate about her street racer, mechanic, and thief character, Letty Ortiz, in The Fast and Furious movies. But as she explained to the Daily Beast, when the writers proposed that her character betray her boyfriend and childhood sweetheart, Dom, and fall in love with Brian, she was furious.

Michelle, Rodriguez, Fast, FuriousMichelle, Rodriguez, Fast, Furious
Universal Pictures/Moviestore via Shutterstock

Michelle said the scenario was incredibly out of character for Letty and believed it was unlikely she would leave the "alpha-est of the alpha males" for a "cute boy." Thankfully, after threatening to quit, the writers listened and removed the storyline. The movies just would not have been the same without the star.

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Zoe Saldana: Pirates of the Caribbean

Konstantin Stanislavski famously said, "there are no small parts, only small actors." Unfortunately for Zoe Saldana, her Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl costars disagreed with this sentiment. The actress who played a role with limited lines in the movie insisted that the other actors looked down on her.

Zoe Saldana movie rolesZoe Saldana movie roles
IMDB - Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) via Walt Disney Pictures

"It was very elitist. People disrespecting me because they look at my number on a call sheet, and they think I'm not important," Saldana explained in an interview with THR. In fact, the treatment she received was so traumatic for her she almost quit acting altogether! Fortunately for us, she stuck it out.

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Daisy Ridley: The Force Awakens

When Daisy Ridley stepped onto the set of Star Wars: The Force Awakens with almost no acting experience, she was undoubtedly feeling a little anxious. The highly anticipated movie directed by J.J. Abrams was the talk of Hollywood, and Ridley was taking on the role of Rey.

Daisy Ridley, Star WarsDaisy Ridley, Star Wars
Lucasfilm/Bad Robot/ Walt Disney Studios/ Kobal via Shutterstock

When Daisy heard the director describe her performance as "wooden," her nerves got the best of her, and she had a panic attack. Her acting career had almost ended before it had really begun. "I thought I was gonna cry; I couldn't breathe," she explained to Glamour. Safe to say, she picked herself back up and tried again.

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Lauren Cohan: The Walking Dead

The actors in the AMC series The Walking Dead are more than used to its intense scenes and storylines. However, Lauren Cohan, who plays Maggie, told Inside the Actors Studio that when she read the script for this particular scene, she did not believe she could get through its intensity without breaking.

Lauren Cohan, Walking DeadLauren Cohan, Walking Dead
IMDB - The Walking Dead (2010) via AMC

The scene involved Maggie performing an emergency C-section on Lori Grimes in front of her young son. Cohan repeatedly asked the writers to re-write the scene or remove it altogether, but unfortunately, the writers would not budge. When push came to shove, Lauren performed the scene and gave it her all.

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Brad Pitt: Interview with the Vampire

Vampire movies and television shows may be lucrative projects - but it seems once Brad Pitt got a taste of the lifestyle, he wasn't a fan. Pitt told Entertainment Weekly in 2011 that the conditions on the set of the 1994 film, Interview with a Vampire, were so awful he wanted out.

Brad Pitt, Movies, VampireBrad Pitt, Movies, Vampire
François Duhamel/Sygma via Getty Images

Brad was forced to wear make-up and contact lenses to transform into a vampire. Not only that, unlike his character, the actor did not appreciate the lack of sunlight in the studio. So Pitt attempted to buy out of his contract. Unfortunately, considering the $40 million fine, he felt no choice but to stay.

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Tippi Hedren: The Birds

Horror movies are usually terrifying experiences for the audiences, however for the cast, less so. With the surrounding cameras and lack of special effects, it's easy for the actors to remember it's all fake. But for Tippi Hedren on the set of The Birds, director Alfred Hitchcock ensured the scares were alarmingly real.

Tippi Hedren, The BirdsTippi Hedren, The Birds
Universal Studios via Getty Images

To capture Hedren's genuine fear of birds, the director had the crew throw real birds at the actress while the cameras shot her true fearful reactions for the movie. In her memoir, Tippi explained that she completely broke down after five days of constant bird attacks. Doctors prescribed her a week off from the project.

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Carl Weathers: Rocky IV

When Carl Weathers signed up to play the boxer Apollo Creed in Rocky IV, we would assume he was up for a fight. It's unclear if he thought a stunt double would be taking care of the back-breaking work. But either way, the former NFL star was in for a shock when filming for the movie began.

Carl Weathers, Rocky IVCarl Weathers, Rocky IV
Michael Ochs Archives via Getty Images

As reported by Entertainment Weekly, in one particularly intense scene, Creed's fighting opponent threw him three feet into the air, landing him on the other side of the ring. Costar, Sylvester Stallone, recalls that after the startled Carl told directors that he was quitting, he managed to persuade him to get back in the ring.

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Sir Ian McKellen: The Hobbit

Famously, actors perform their best when they can play off their scene partners. For Sir Ian McKellen, this was an essential part of his craft. During the filming of Lord of the Rings, the actor created some of his most iconic work, playing Gandalf alongside his costars. However, The Hobbit was produced differently.

Ian, McKellen, Hobbit, GandalfIan, McKellen, Hobbit, Gandalf
IMDB - The Hobbit:An Unexpected Journey (2012) via MGM

For various reasons, filming for The Hobbit required a significant amount of green screen work, and McKellen was forced to act alone, imagining the other actors around him. As reported by the Guardian, it all became too much of a struggle for the actor, and he debated walking off the set, or rather green screen, altogether.

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Shelley Duvall: The Shining

It takes a lot of mental preparation for an actor to cry on demand. For this reason, after Shelley Duvall was forced to cry in 127 straight takes for The Shining, she was left exhausted and, of course, dehydrated. She recently told Roger Ebert that it was "almost unbearable," hinting that she nearly left.

Shelley Duvall, The ShiningShelley Duvall, The Shining
Warner Bros/Hawk Films/ Kobal via Shutterstock

In the book The Complete Kubrick, the actress noted, "she was in and out of ill health because the stress of the role was so great." Reflecting on her experience working on the movie, Duvall told Dr. Phil in an interview that she became so stressed while filming her hair began to fall out!

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Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio: The Abyss

For Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, there was one particular scene in The Abyss that was too much for the star to handle. After almost drowning, her character, Lindsey Brigman, is resuscitated by her ex-husband, played by Ed Harris, who slaps her across the face in a desperate attempt to bring her back to life.

Mary, Elizabeth, Mastrantonio, AbyssMary, Elizabeth, Mastrantonio, Abyss
IMDB - The Abyss (1989) via Twentieth Century Fox

Harris told Entertainment Weekly that after filming the intense physical encounter, they were informed the cameras had run out of tape, and the scene would need to be re-filmed. Mastrantonio was so shaken and angry about the mistake she stormed off set and did not return until a few hours later.

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Jeremy Renner: The Avengers

Fans of The Avengers love Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye. Funnily enough, the actor behind the character, Jeremy Renner, is not as big of a fan. In actual fact, Renner was so vehemently opposed to the character's story arc he suggested Hawkeye be written off the franchise entirely.

Jeremy Renner, Hawkeye, AvengersJeremy Renner, Hawkeye, Avengers
Marvel Enterprises/Kobal via Shutterstock

In the movie's first scene, Clint Barton is brainwashed by Loki. In 2016, Renner told the London Film and Comic-Con that he strongly disapproved of Barton being "Loki's minion" and was more than happy to abandon the character. Luckily for the fans, Jeremy's powers of persuasion fell short, and Hawkeye lived to see another day.

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John Cena: 12 Rounds

He may be a friendly giant with a higher muscle percentage than most, but as it turns out, even John Cena is scared of something. While filming 12 Rounds, Cena was forced to face his fear of heights, and he wasn't too happy about it, to say the least.

John Cena, 12 RoundsJohn Cena, 12 Rounds
IMDB - 12 Rounds (2009) via Fox Atomic

In an interview with ESPN, John explained that the scene where his character, Danny Fisher, hangs off a skyscraper on just a rope was extremely difficult for him to film. After almost leaving the set to avoid performing the stunt, the crew coached him through it, and the movie was saved.

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Johnny Depp: What's Eating Gilbert Grape

Johnny Depp was going through a tough time on and off-screen during the production of What's Eating Gilbert Grape. With his public breakup with Winona Ryder, Depp struggled to find the strength to come to set each day. Once he got there, the movie's highly emotional storylines only made things worse for the actor.

Johnny Depp, Gilbert, GrapeJohnny Depp, Gilbert, Grape
Paramount via Getty Images

In particular, Johnny grappled with the scenes in which his character yelled at his mother, played by Darlene Cates. Entertainment Weekly explained that Johnny would often break down after these scenes and call Cates in a panic to make sure she was okay. That's enough to put an actor off for life.

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Jake Gyllenhaal: Zodiac

Actors are no strangers to re-shoots. In an attempt to get the perfect shot, directors will often have their actors re-do a scene a number of times. For Jake Gyllenhaal, however, it was one time too many on the set of Zodiac where he worked with director David Fincher.

Jake, Gyllenhaal, Zodiac, ParamountJake, Gyllenhaal, Zodiac, Paramount
IMDB - Zodiac (2007) via Paramount Pictures

The actor, who played reporter Robert Graysmith, told the New York Times that he almost quit the film as a result of the long hours he was made to work. After Fincher forced him to do 70-90 takes of one scene, he had had enough and demanded a change in the schedule.

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Lily Tomlin: 9 To 5

Cinematic special effects have come a long way since Lily Tomlin played Violet Newstead in the 1980 movie 9 To 5. After Tomlin saw the dailies of her Snow White scene where she talks to fake birds, she was not impressed! Believing "she was going to be horrible" in the movie, she told Stephen Colbert she tried to leave.

Lily Tomlin, Nine FiveLily Tomlin, Nine Five
20th Century-Fox via Getty Images

Lily's co-star Jane Fonda told Cobert, "[Lily] asked my producing partner to let her go, and she'd give the week's money back." The next day, after watching a different scene and thinking she was "so good," she convinced Fonda to let her take back her role.

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Roger Moore: James Bond

For most actors, one of the greatest appeals of playing the legendary James Bond is the chance to handle the most dangerous firearms in a safe environment. However, for Roger Moore, this was a feature of Bond he was not so keen on and almost abandoned the role as a result.

Roger Moore, James BondRoger Moore, James Bond
Michael Ochs Archives via Getty Images

Its main star, Roger Moore, told the Palm Beach Post that the James Bond franchise was becoming "too violent," and he was not happy with how the character's story arc was developing. Despite this, Moore seemingly overcame his objections and stuck it out for seven Bond movies! The generous paycheck must have helped with that!

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Jessica Alba: Fantastic Four

Jessica's experience playing Sue Storm, aka The Invisible Woman, in Fantastic Four was a true turning point in the actress's career. After her negative experience working with director Tim Story, she realized she needed to be more selective with the projects she signed onto.

Jessica, Alba, Fantastic, FourJessica, Alba, Fantastic, Four
20th Century Fox/Marvel/Kobal via Shutterstock

In an interview with Elle in 2010, Alba revealed that after Story told her, "It looks too real. It looks too painful. Can you be prettier when you cry? Cry pretty, Jessica," she felt she didn't understand "how to be a person in the movie industry." After almost quitting acting, she found success in other movie genres. 

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Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson: Rampage

Dwayne Johnson understood that when it comes to the movies, the audience expects a happy ending. So when the Rampage writers suggested they kill off his character's lovable sidekick gorilla, George, The Rock threatened to leave. The actor spent over two months convincing the movie's producers why George should survive.

Dwayne, Johnson, Rock, RampageDwayne, Johnson, Rock, Rampage
IMDB - Rampage (2018) via New Line Cinema

Speaking to Rolling Stone, Johnson explained his fight: "I don't like a sad ending. Life brings that **** - I don't want it in my movies. When the credits roll, I want to feel great." Not wanting to break the trust he built with audiences over the years, he dropped the "you're gonna have to find another actor" card. It worked. 

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Emma Watson: Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix

Her role as Hermione Granger may have made her a household name. But before filming began on the fifth movie in the Harry Potter franchise, Emma Watson considered leaving it all behind. Talking to co-star Rupert Grint during the HBO reunion, she explained that "the fame thing had finally hit home in a big way."

Emma Watson, Harry PotterEmma Watson, Harry Potter
IMDB - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) via Warner Bros.

Despite this, Emma explained that when she thought of the fans, she knew she had to return to her magical role. "No one had to convince me to see it through. The fans genuinely wanted us to succeed, and we all genuinely had each other's backs. How great is that?"

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Nicole Kidman: Being the Ricardos

When Nicole Kidman was announced as the actress playing Lucille Ball in Being the Ricardos, a backlash followed as people criticized the casting choice. Talking to Kelly and Ryan, she explained that after seeing this reaction, the reality of playing Ball became too much for her, and she tried to back out of the project.

Nicole Kidman, Lucille BallNicole Kidman, Lucille Ball
IMDB - Being the Ricardos (2021) via Amazon Studios

According to Jezebel, Kidman sent director Aaron Sorkin an email saying, "I think I'm actually the wrong person now. I know I said 'yes,' but I'm now saying 'no." Sorkin, however, forced her to commit to the role and told her quitting was no longer an option. In hindsight, she was grateful for the push. 

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Emma Thompson: Brideshead Revisited

As a longstanding advocate for gender equality, it makes sense that when Emma Thompson overheard her "absolutely exquisite" Brideshead Revisited costar being told to lose weight by one of the producers, she was so furious she threatened to leave the film.

Emma Thompson, Brideshead, RevisitedEmma Thompson, Brideshead, Revisited
IMDB - Brideshead Revisited (2008) via Ecosse Films

On a Norwegian Swedish TV show Skavlan, Thompson recalled the confrontation in which she told a producer, "If you speak to her about this again on any level, I will leave this picture. You are never to do that." Defending her extreme reaction, Thompson insisted body-shaming is "evil and getting worse."

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Mark Ruffalo: 13 Going on 30

We've all had that moment when we feel anxious on the dance floor, and it's comforting to know Mark Ruffalo has had it too. For Ruffalo, it happened during the filming of 13 Going on 30, during rehearsals for the ICONIC Thriller scene. Although he can was smiling in the movie clip, Mark was apparently not happy.

Mark Ruffalo, Quit, ThrillerMark Ruffalo, Quit, Thriller
Tracy Bennett/Columbia Tri Star/Kobal via Shutterstock

Talking on the "Texting with" Instagram series, his co-star Jennifer Garner recalls Ruffalo hated rehearsing the dance sequence so much he almost dropped out of the movie. We shudder to imagine what the film would have been if he hadn't put his dancing shoes back on.

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Jamie Foxx: The Soloist

Jamie Foxx is yet another actor to have been pushed to their psychological limits during the production of their movies. On the set of The Soloist, playing Nathanial Ayers, a gifted musician battling schizophrenia and homelessness, became so taxing for Foxx he considered abandoning the role to protect his mental health.

Jamie Foxx, The, SoloistJamie Foxx, The, Soloist
IMDB - The Soloist (2009) via Dreamworks Pictures

Talking with the Indianapolis Recorder, Foxx recalled the struggle. "It was something that I enjoyed, but it shredded me. I went to places that I never thought I would ever go. I [told] my manager like, 'I don't know if I'll be able to finish this." After consulting a psychiatrist, Foxx found the strength to keep going. 

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Chris Hemsworth: Ghostbusters

Chris Hemsworth is one of the biggest actors on the planet. So when he gives a director some notes to improve his character, we'd expect them to be taken into account. Unfortunately, on the set of Ghostbusters, this was not the case, and Chris was so unhappy he wanted to leave.

Chris Hemsworth movies ghostbustersChris Hemsworth movies ghostbusters
Columbia/Feigco/Kobal via Shutterstock

Chris said, "The night before I was shooting, I almost pulled out. Three or four weeks prior, [director] Paul [Feig] said to me, 'I'm going to write up the character. Don't worry.' And then I got the script, and nothing had changed." Ultimately, Hemsworth decided to give his receptionist character, Kevin Beckman, his best shot. 

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Krysten Ritter: Jessica Jones

A few bumps and scratches are usually expected when playing an action star in a show or movie. However, when Krysten Ritter saw blood coming out of her mouth after a fight scene on the set of her show Jessica Jones, she feared she was biting off more than she could chew. Literally.

Jessica Jones, Krysten, RitterJessica Jones, Krysten, Ritter
IMDB - Jessica Jones (2015) via Marvel Television

In an interview with Vulture, the actress recalled the event. "A guy went to push me or pick me up, and I got his shoulder under my jaw, and I totally saw stars. What really [messed] me up was the blood, because I had bit my tongue so bad that I thought it was worse than it was." Luckily, she kept working. 

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Lil Rel Howery: Bad Trip

When Lil Rel Howery arrived on the first day on the set of Bad Trip, he was a little frightened for his life. After signing up for the pranking comedy, Howery was shocked at the lengths the Netflix movie was willing to go to get the perfect take.

Netflix comedy bad trip Netflix comedy bad trip
Youtube via Netflix Is A Joke

"The first day was the craziest first day of anything I've ever shot; it was like, 'Okay, I'm gonna get murdered the first day, this is crazy. I don't know if I can do this; I quit," the actor told Despite his initial nerves, the actor saw the project through, and we're incredibly thankful he did!

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Michael Keaton: Batman

It may be one of the most sought-after roles in Hollywood, but playing Batman is not always as fun as it looks. In fact, Michael Keaton was so miserable during production he considered hanging up his superhero cape for good. Talking to the Daily Mail, Keaton explained that the Batman costume was incredibly uncomfortable.

Michael Keaton, Batman, SuitMichael Keaton, Batman, Suit
Murray Close/Sygma via Getty Images

According to the actor, the tight black suit triggered his claustrophobia, and he would have an anxiety attack before each take. "Panic attacks," he explained. "I thought, 'I don't know how I'm going to do this, man. I'm feeling really, really scared.'"

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