George Clooney has come a long way in his 30-plus years as a working actor in Hollywood, but his career hasn’t always been Gravity and ER. For a long time,Clooney was stuck in mediocre TV shows like The Facts Of Life and low-grade movies like Return To Horror High — a bottom-of-the-barrel Netflix pick if there ever was one.
Even when Clooney did find success, there were still great films he missed out on due to circumstances such as prior commitments and competition from Brad Pitt. In honor of his recent 53rd birthday, here are 10 film roles, that, for better or worse, George Clooney didn’t land.
1. Thelma & Louise (1991) — Clooney auditioned several times for the part of J.D., and in the end it came down to him and Brad Pitt, and we all know how that turned out. In an interview at the Telluride Film Festival, Clooney admitted that he was so distraught about losing the role that he avoided watching the movie for several years.
2. Reservoir Dogs (1992) — George Clooney read for the role of Mr. Blonde, but Tarantino didn’t feel he fit the part and switched Michael Madsen from his original role as Mr. Pink.
3. About A Boy (2002) — Producers knew they wanted an attractive actor to play the part of Will. Brad Pitt was offered the role, but turned it down because he thought “it was implausible that someone so attractive would need to pretend to be a single father to meet women.” George Clooney was considered for the part, but was busy with ER, Solaris and Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind at the time. Hugh Grant got the part in the end.
4. Down With Love (2003) — Clooney was offered a part in the Dorris Day/Rock Hudson tribute flick, but opted out to star in the Coen brothers’ Intolerable Cruelty. The role went to Ewan McGregor instead.
5. Once Upon A Time In Mexico (2003) — Robert Rodriguez intended the role of crooked FBI agent Sands to go to George Clooney, but the actor was unable to commit because of Intolerable Cruelty and the Ocean’s franchise. Rodriguez went through several other actors, including Kurt Russell before landing Johnny Depp.
6. The Life Of David Gale (2003) — Both George Clooney and Nicolas Cage were initially interested in the part, but turned it down because of prior commitments to other film projects. The dramatic lead went to Kevin Spacey in the end.
7. Sideways (2004) — Clooney wanted to be in director Alexander Payne’s indie flick, but Payne didn’t believe Clooney would be believable as a “loser TV actor.” Payne admitted that he didn’t use that description when offering the role to Thomas Haden Church.
8. King Kong (2005) — I’m guessing that Jack Black and George Clooney aren’t often offered the same role, but that was the case with King Kong. Peter Jackson had actually been eyeing Clooney or Robert De Niro for the role since the 1990s, but delayed production because of Mighty Joe Young, and inflated production costs put the kibosh on that. Jackson ultimately got Jack Black, his bronze medal.
9. The Da Vinci Code (2006) — Ron Howard’s first choice for the part of Robert Langdon was Bill Paxton. When Paxton couldn’t commit because of scheduling conflicts, Howard went through several other actors including Ralph Fiennes, Hugh Jackman and George Clooney, before landing superstar Tom Hanks.
10. The Fountain (2006) — Writer/director Darren Aronofsky had originally cast Brad Pitt in the lead role, but the two couldn’t see eye-to-eye on the creative direction of the film and Pitt left to do Troy. Aronofsky then considered both Russell Crowe and George Clooney for the part before finally settling on Hugh Jackman.