Hollywood in an Alternate Universe: All the Surprising Roles Celebrities *Almost* Played

Can you imagine Gossip Girl without Blake Lively?

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For every famous movie role, there's a long list of actors who wanted it—and a longer list of actors who said no. Almost all of Hollywood's biggest stars have wound up kicking themselves after passing on a part that ended up becoming an iconic part of movie history. Check out just a few.

Update, 10/9: Rumer Willis, the Girl Who Would Have Been Blair, didn't even think she had a shot at the part. 

"You know, it was actually totally news to me," Willis said of Rapaport's revelation in an interview with People. "I felt like I did an awful audition back then. I was so young and it was, like, one of the first things I'd ever auditioned for."

Original post, 10/6: In the same interview he dropped the Ashley Olsen bomb (see below), GG casting director David Rapaport revealed it was Rumer Willis who was initially pitched for the role of Blair Waldorf. "I love Rumer, she's grown into quite an amazing actress and person, but that, to me, was based on protecting the investment of a television show where creatively, these lesser-known girls really captured the essence of the show and carried it for six years," explained Rapaport.

Ashley Olsen as Serena van der Woodsen in 'Gossip Girl'

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Looking back, it's impossible to imagine Gossip Girl without Blake Lively starring as Serena van der Woodsen in her breakout role, but once upon a time the network envisioned Ashley Olsen for the role, as revealed by the show's casting director David Rapaport in an interview with Buzzfeed

Jane Krakowski as Rachel in 'Friends'

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LOL WUT. In an interview with Giuliana Rancic on the Emmys red carpet, Krakowski revealed that she was up for Jennifer Aniston's part on Friends. "Well, I, like almost every actor in the world, auditioned for Friends," she said. "I wish I had gotten that one. I actually auditioned for Rachel, and I didn't go very far." She said she's not even sure that she got a callback. "My business manager is very sad that I didn't," she joked. 

Christina Applegate as Elle Woods in 'Legally Blonde'

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Christina Applegate once got sent a script for a movie called Legally Blonde, in which she'd play a dumb blonde who proves herself at Harvard Law School. She had just finished playing another dumb blonde on Married With Children and didn't want to get typecast, so she didn't go for the part. "What a stupid move that was, right?" she told Entertainment Tonight. The role went to Reese Witherspoon, and the rest is history.

Jennifer Lawrence as Bella Swan in 'Twilight'

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Can you picture Jennifer Lawrence pining after Edward Cullen? Before she won that Oscar, she auditioned for the part of Bella Swan in the Twilight series, according to The Guardian. Lawrence took on the part of another young-adult heroine, Katniss Everdeen, and Kristen Stewart snagged the part of Bella. Looks like that decision worked out well for both of them.

Will Smith as Neo in 'The Matrix'

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Independence DayThe Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: Will Smith is no stranger to iconic roles. But he turned down one movie that became a gigantic franchise. Smith said no to the role of Neo in The Matrix because he didn't quite grasp the movie universe. But he says it was the best decision in the long run. "I would have absolutely messed up The Matrix," he told Wired. "At that point I wasn't smart enough as an actor to let the movie be. Whereas Keanu was smart enough to just let it be." 

Molly Ringwald as Vivian Ward in 'Pretty Woman'

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The role of Vivian Ward in Pretty Woman skyrocketed Julia Roberts to stardom. But another icon almost played the part. In an "Ask Me Anything" Q&A on Reddit, Molly Ringwald said she recalls seeing an early script of the movie, which was then called $3,000. "The script was okay but I gotta say, Julia Roberts is what makes that movie," she said. "It was her part. Every actor hopes for a part that lets them shine like that." 

Johnny Depp as Ferris Bueller in 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off'

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It's hard to picture anyone but Matthew Broderick playing hooky around Chicago in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. While John Hughes reportedly had Broderick in mind the whole time, Johnny Depp was reportedly close to bringing an extra dose of cool to the role. Depp wasn't the only future megastar considered for the part: Jim Carrey, John Cusack, Tom Cruise, and Michael J. Fox were also in talks to star, but it was Broderick who won out in the end. 

Pamela Anderson as Dana Scully in 'The X-Files'

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Gillian Anderson kicked ass as paranormal investigator Dana Scully in The X-Files. But before she was cast, execs apparently wanted to go in a completely different direction—with Baywatch star Pamela Anderson. "They were looking for someone, bustier, taller, leggier than me," Gillian told London's The Times newspaper. But showrunner Chris Carter insisted on casting Gillian, and the chemistry between Mulder and Scully became one for the ages. 

Katie Holmes as Buffy Summers in 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'

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Sarah Michelle Gellar spent seven seasons slaying vampires, but another teen star nearly snatched the role from her. Katie Holmes reportedly was offered the lead in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but turned it down so she could finish high school. She later signed on for Dawson's Creek, so there were clearly enough young-adult parts to go around. 

Anne Hathaway as Tiffany Maxwell in 'Silver Linings Playbook'

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In 2013, Anne Hathaway and Jennifer Lawrence both took home Oscars: Hathaway for Les Miserables and Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook. But both parts were originally slated for Hathaway. Producer Harvey Weinstein told Howard Stern that Hathaway had the role, but had to drop it due to "creative differences" with director David O. Russell. She was meant to star opposite Mark Wahlberg, who dropped out and made way for Bradley Cooper. 

Megan Friedman

Megan Friedman is the former managing editor of the Newsroom at Hearst. She's worked at NBC and Time, and is a graduate of Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism.