“They all would’ve changed my career, without a doubt,” Reynolds said of all the roles he turned down that went on to be huge successes in his memoir “But Enough About Me.” “I would’ve been offered all kinds of roles. You know, how much can you do in a ‘Smokey and the Bandit?'”
Below, a list of every painfully successful leading role Reynolds turned down over the course of his 60-year-long career.
One of Reynolds’ biggest regrets was not playing James Bond. His excuse? That the public wouldn’t accept an American playing 007 — and he said as much to producer Cubby Broccoli, who offered him the role after Sean Connery retired. “It was a stupid thing to say,” Reynolds told USA Today in 2015. “I could’ve done it and I could’ve done it well.”
Michael Corleone in “The Godfather”
Reynolds also turned down the role of Michael Corleone in “The Godfather,” but this is one he didn’t regret. In an interview with Andy Cohen on “Watch What Happens Live,” he acknowledged the rumor that Marlon Brando threatened to quit if Reynolds came on board.
“I was flattered that he was upset,” he said.
“I just didn’t want to play that kind of role at the time,” he told Business Insider in 2016 of the role that eventually went to Harrison Ford. “Now I regret it. I wish I would have done it.”
Richard Gere’s Role in “Pretty Woman”
Despite telling the Sydney Morning Herald in 2016, “If there was a pretty leading lady I would do it no matter how bad the part was,” Reynolds turned down Richard Gere’s role in “Pretty Woman.” Why? “Because I’m an idiot,” he told Cohen on “Watch What Happens Live.”
Jack Nicholson’s Role in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”
Though he “desperately wanted to play it,” for some reason he still turned down this role for which Nicholson went on to win an Oscar. “You can’t out drink Jack. And you can’t out smoke him either,” Reynolds told Cohen.
Bruce Willis’ Role in “Die Hard” and Jack Nicholson’s Role in “Terms of Endearment”
Though Reynolds told Cohen that he doesn’t remember turning down either role, it still stands as an often-repeated Hollywood rumor.
“You can’t go back,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald. “You can’t relive that moment when you should have said, ‘I’ll take it, I’ll do it.'” To add insult to injury, Nicholson went on to win yet another Oscar for “Terms of Endearment.”
Still, there’s one near-miss that made it big, but almost didn’t — Reynolds admitted to turning down his role as Jack Horner in “Boogie Nights” seven times before finally coming to his senses and accepting the part, as told to Conan O’Brien in an interview earlier this year. Despite earning him critical acclaim and his first and only Oscar nomination, he never did watch it. “It just wasn’t my kind of film,” he told Conan, adding that the pornographic subject matter made him “very uncomfortable.”
Other reported turn-downs include “Rosemary’s Baby,” the Batman TV series, “M*A*S*H,” “Taxi Driver,” and “Rocky,” according to an interview with Reynolds by the Sydney Morning Herald.
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