Tom Selleck and other actors who turned down famous roles

Magnum PI tom selleck
Magnum PI Tom Selleck

I have been watching all of Magnum PI lately and still enjoy it just as much as the first time I saw it.


Tom Selleck landed the role of Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. As much as I like Harrison Ford, I think Tom would have been a PERFECT Indiana Jones. Swashbuckling, a matinee idol in the old fashioned sense of the word, a glint in his eye, funny, like a big affable bear…BUT he had to turn it down because Magnum was due to began filming in March 1980 and the makers of Magnum would not release him to do the film. Ironically, after he turned Raiders of the Lost Ark down and Harrison Ford got the role, filming of Magnum was delayed due to a strike and only started in December 1980. So Selleck would have been able to do both of them after all.

High Road to China - I like this movie as well
High Road to China – I like this movie as well

He was given a very similar role in High Road to China, and a special episode of Magnum PI called Legends of the Lost Art (an Indiana Jones spoof which shows you how absolutely brilliant Tom Selleck would have been as Indie) in Magnum PI’s last season, to make up for it. But it must take a big person to get over something like that quickly. Artistic people are often sensitive and insecure so it must be harder than a sports person losing a match or a game.

Magnum PI - Legend of the Lost Art
Magnum PI – Legend of the Lost Art
Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 5.00.42 PM
Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 5.02.23 PM

Many actors have turned down leading roles in films that have become huge hits, so it goes with the territory. But it must really burn for a while anyway. On the other hand, some of the brilliant actors in the roles below may have led to it being a failure rather than a success. Who, for example, could imagine anyone other than Tom Hanks being Forrest Gump?

  • Jack Nicholson turned down The Godfather
  • Al Pacino turned down Pretty Woman
  • John Travolta turned down Forrest Gump
  • Michelle Pfeiffer turned down Silence of the Lambs
  • Will Smith turned down The Matrix
  • Sean Connery turned down Lord of The Rings
  • Bette Midler turned down Sister Act
  • Sandra Bullock turned down Million Dollar Baby
  • Julia Roberts turned down The Proposal and The Blind Side (both of which went to Sandra Bullock)
  • Matthew Broderick turned down Breaking Bad
  • Tom Cruise turned down Footloose
  • Tom Hanks turned down Jerry Maguire
  • Chevy Chase turned down American Beauty
  • Melanie Griffith turned down Thelma and Louise
  • Matt Damon turned down Avatar and The Dark Knight
  • Kevin Costner turned down The Shawshank Redemption (my all-time favourite movie)
  • Henry Winkler turned down Grease
  • Mel Gibson turned down Gladiator
  • Bruce Willis turned down Ghost

And of course, Tom Selleck (who is 70 now can you believe?) is fantastic in Blue Bloods


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