When you’re an actor, you’re faced with many decisions. Should you take that pro-bono job? Should you ask for more money than they’re offering? Should you pursue soaps? Should you take that roll that typecasts you? Should you use botox? What kind of exposure will a particular role get you? There are a million questions such as these that will come your way. Of course, you care deeply about your career aspirations and you’re going to oversee these decisions better than anyone, even those you trust the most. Regardless, you’re going to make some decisions you regret—that is, if you’re human. So, all you can really do is minimize the amount of poor decisions you make. To keep your career on the best track possible, and to prevent such regrets, give thought to how you want your career to go. Be clear: What do you most want to be remembered for? What do you want to pour your heart, soul, and passion into? What roles do you think will get you where you want to go? Unfortunately, correct decisions don’t always make themselves obvious. You may despise criminals but repeatedly get invited to casting calls to read for mobsters. And some plum roles may slip through your hands; only in retrospect, will you see you made the wrong decision. You may renege on a low-profile TV role for a choice role in a pilot—a pilot, that is, that gets dropped. Acting career decisions are really a big balancing act. You want to steer your career the way you believe is best; at the same time, you don’t want to become too picky. Sometimes you’ll want to just take the work that comes your way. Just know, the best of them make mistakes, even with their teams surrounding them.

Here’s a list of actors who turned down significant roles, some because they wanted more money, some because they didn’t want to be tied up in a series, some because they didn’t agree with the social implications of the role—among many other reasons:

Shia Labeouf turned down a leading role in The Social Network and 127 Hours.
Gwyneth Paltrow turned down Titanic.
Jake Gyllenhaal turned down Avatar.
Halle Berry turned down Annie Potter in Speed.
Daryl Hannah, Meg Ryan, and Molly Ringwald turned down Vivian in Pretty Women.
Julia Roberts passed on Shakespeare in Love and Sleepless in Seattle.
Will Smith turned down Neo in Matrix.
Mel Gibson turned down The Terminator.
Al Pacino turned down Han Solo in Star Wars.
Melanie Griffith turned down Thelma and Louise.
John Travolta passed on Forrest Gump.
Tom Selleck turned down Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Cary Grant turned down playing James Bond.
W.C. Fields turned down the Wizard in The Wizard of Oz.

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