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12 Huge Movie Roles That Brad Pitt Turned Down

September 1, 2020 2.2k votes 375 voters 33.8k views12 items

List RulesVote up the movie roles you're surprised Brad Pitt turned down.

Imagine Brad Pitt as Neo or Jason Bourne.

Those are just two huge roles Brad Pitt turned down. Of course, no one is going to cry for the acclaimed actor’s lost movie roles. Even Pitt himself has a great attitude about passing on films that went on to be blockbusters. What other huge movie roles did the Academy Award-winning actor decide to pass on?

Pitt has had the kind of Hollywood career most actors can only dream of. He has been able to take on roles in nearly every genre and every budget. Pitt can shine in arthouse films made by modern-day auteurs like Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life and play the matinee movie star in big blockbusters like the Ocean's trilogy.

But not every career decision Pitt has made has turned into a home run. He passed on The Bourne Identity for Spy Game. He took the red pill when it came time to sign on the dotted line for The Matrix. And, he had the opportunity to appear in one of the seminal films of the 21st century.

Read about all the roles the Se7en star walked away from. Some turned out to be great career decisions, others not so much. While you're at it, vote up the movie roles you're surprised Brad Pitt turned down.

  • Bret Easton Ellis's 1991 novel revolving around Reagan-era yuppie/investment banker/serial killer Patrick Bateman was met with controversy due to its shockingly graphic nature. It was so controversial that Ellis received a number of threats against his life.

    The original big-screen adaptation plans for American Psycho featured an up-and-coming actor named Brad Pitt and veteran horror director David Cronenberg (The Fly, Videodrome). 

    However, Cronenberg had an issue with depicting the movie's over-the-top, often comical, violence. Ellis explained why Cronenberg left the project:

    David was lovely - is lovely, I still like David ­- but he had strange demands. He hated shooting restaurant scenes, and he hated shooting nightclub scenes. And he didn't want to shoot the violence. I ignored everything he said. So, of course, he was disappointed with it and he hired his own writer; that script was worse for him and he dropped out. I did another pass on the script for Rob Weiss in 1995. That didn't work out either.

    In the end, the Pitt/Cronenberg American Psycho never panned out because of creative differences. It took almost an entire decade for Mary Harron to finally take over behind the camera with Christian Bale in the star-making role of Bateman.

    Like many misunderstood satires, American Psycho completely polarized audiences and critics. The movie didn't exactly slay at the box office, either, but it did manage to earn a moderate profit. The psychologically tinged black comedy has become a pop culture classic and one of the most-quoted films of the 2000s.

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  • Pitt started his production company Plan B in 2001. One of the first movies the actor produced was Martin Scorsese's Academy Award-winning The Departed,  a remake of the 2002 Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs

    "I developed that for two-and-a-half years," said Pitt. "We fought for that movie, and then we got William Monahan on the script."

    Pitt did have an interest in acting in the movie. However, he was already in his early 40s at the time and thought the role of undercover gangster Colin Sullivan should go to a younger actor. 

    "Once Scorsese became involved, I thought it would be better if they were younger guys that were just starting their lives, guys coming out of the academy, guys who were hungry," explained Pitt. "I thought I was too old for it."

    Matt Damon, who Pitt knew from the Ocean's movies, was seven years younger. The Departed went on to earn Pitt's production company its first of three Oscars for Best Picture (12 Years a Slave and Moonlight were the other two). The Irish mob movie also earned Scorsese his first Academy Award for Best Director.

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  • Picture Brad Pitt as Russell Hammond tripping face and climbing up on top of a roof to yell, "I am a golden god!"

    Cameron Crowe's 2000 love letter to the 1970s rock 'n' roll scene Almost Famous almost starred Pitt as the Stillwater lead guitarist. The Rolling Stone journalist-turned-Hollywood director originally wanted the Se7en actor to star in his semi-autobiographical story. 

    However, the full scope of Hammond's part hadn't quite fully developed yet. Plus, Pitt was still working on David Fincher's Fight Club. Crowe explained: 

    His head was still in Fight Club, and the part was a little underwritten. It was the most underwritten in the script, and he couldn't trust it enough. I've talked to him since. I love the guy. I think he's hilarious, and I thought he would have been funny in the movie. If I had waited a few more months, he might have come around to it, but we had to get going.

    Crowe and Pitt spent about four months working on the script. The actor even read with Natalie Portman, who was being considered for the role of Penny Lane (Kate Hudson). After Pitt passed on the project, Crowe was completely devastated.

    "I wept," the director admitted. "I knew that [Brad Pitt] had never fully fallen in love with the character. He had fallen in love with the idea of the character. But maybe there just wasn't enough on the page."

    From Crowe's perspective now, it all worked out in the end. The less-known Billy Crudup took the part, and Almost Famous became one of the most celebrated movies of the early 2000s. Crowe discussed just how important Crudup was for the narrative progression of his Oscar-winning screenplay:

    Totally a blessing in disguise. Billy was, make no mistake, the guy who helped the movie out the most. Billy disappeared into the part and learned how to play the guitar in six weeks. Both he and Patrick [Fugit], the casting of both of those characters, sort of saved the movie and got it moving forward as opposed to stalling out.

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  • Big Daddy In 'Kick-Ass'
    Photo: Lionsgate

    One thing Brad Pitt has never done: star in a superhero movie. In a time when it's totally kosher for serious dramatic actors to take on roles for Marvel or DC, Pitt has always abstained (save a teeny cameo in Deadpool 2).

    Turns out, he could have been Big Daddy in Matthew Vaughn's R-rated, hyper-violent romp Kick-Ass. It was a long road for Vaughn to bring his vision to the big screen. No studio was remotely interested in what many regarded as a "terrible script."

    "They called Hit-Girl a disaster and said the only way to save her was to make her 25 instead of 10 years old," revealed Mark Millar, who wrote the original comic book. "They also said no one wanted to hear superheroes cuss and recommended hand-to-hand combat instead of knives and guns."

    Vaughn ended up mortgaging his house to make the project. He also brought in Pitt as a producer. Vaughn and Pitt knew each other from their work on Guy Ritchie's Snatch. The director wanted Pitt to play Hit-Girl's (Chloë Grace Moretz) father Big Daddy. However, Pitt opted to go work with Quentin Tarantino on Inglourious Basterds instead.

    Vaughn eventually cast Nicolas Cage, a huge fan of all things superhero, as Big Daddy. Kick-Ass went on to make a nice profit at the box office and become a cult classic despite generating a ton of controversy.

    Kick-Ass 2 hit the big screen in 2013. Pitt also served as a producer on the sequel.

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