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Actors Who Were Originally Offered Some Of TV And Film’s Biggest Roles

Ever wonder what your favorite shows or movies would be like without their stars?

It's hard to imagine someone other than Ty Burrell as the lovable Phil Dunphy on Modern Family, or Keanu Reeves as Neo in The Matrix, but these iconic roles were almost filled by other actors.  So let's explore a few of Hollywood's close casting calls. 

Jack Nicholson in The Godfather:

Nicholson was already a star when The Godfather was being cast. He said he passed on the role of Michael Corleone because "back then I believed that Indians should play Indians and Italians should play Italians."

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The role went to Al Pacino, and Nicholson agreed with the choice. "There were a lot of actors who could have played Michael, myself included, but Al Pacino was Michael Corleone," Nicholson said. "I can't think of a better compliment to pay him."

Will Smith in The Matrix:

A bonafide movie star thanks to blockbusters like Independence Day, Men in Black, and Wild Wild West, Smith could have donned the black trench coat ultimately worn by Keanu Reeves in The Matrix trilogy.

But it wasn't meant to be, according to Smith. "In the pitch, I just didn't see it," he said. "I watched Keanu's performance — and very rarely do I say this — but I would have messed it up." 

That hasn't stopped fans from imagining Smith in the role:

Christina Applegate in Legally Blonde:

According to Applegate, after her stint as Kelly Bundy on the hit sitcom Married...With Children, when the role of Elle Woods landed in her lap, she turned it down for what seemed like a valid reason at the time. 

"The script came along my way and it was right after I had just finished 'Married (... With Children)', and it was a blonde who in that first script didn't win it but ends up going to Yale, or Harvard, I don't remember," she told Entertainment Tonight. "I got scared of kind of repeating myself."

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After the success of the movie, she regretted her decision, saying, "What a stupid move that was, right?"

The part went to Reese Witherspoon, who Applegate thought was the better choice, and rocketed her to fame. "Reese deserved that," she said. "She did a much better job than I ever could, and so that's her life. That's her path."

Dana Delany in Sex and the City:

The iconic role of Carrie Bradshaw in the hit HBO comedy Sex and the City almost went to Delany, known for her work on TV shows like Desperate Housewives and China Beach. Delany was friends with Darren Star, the show's creator.

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Unfortunately for Delany, she was afraid of being typecast after appearing in the films Exit to Eden and Live Nude Girls (with Kim Cattrall, oddly enough). 

"It was women sitting around talking about sex. Darren Star was a friend of mine and he had joined up with Candace Bushnell and came up with this idea and he asked if I'd be in it," she said.

"I cannot do a show with 'sex' in the title," Delany argued. "People will lynch me if I do one more thing about sex." The role went to Sarah Jessica Parker, who went on to win multiple awards for her work. 

Thomas Jane in Mad Men:

According to eventual star Jon Hamm, "I think they went to Thomas Jane for it and they were told that Thomas Jane doesn't do television."

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The Deep Blue Sea and The Punisher actor went on to star in HBO's Hung, which lasted just two seasons.

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Matt LeBlanc in Modern Family:

LeBlanc, a star thanks to hit sitcom Friends, was originally offered the role of Phil Dunphy in the critically-acclaimed comedy Modern Family after his show Joey was cancelled.

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But LeBlanc knew he wasn't right for the role. "I remember reading it thinking, this is a really good script, (but) I'm not the guy for this," he said. "I'd be doing the project an injustice to take this."

The role ended up going to little-known character actor Ty Burrell, and launched him to stardom.

Twitter seemed to agree with LeBlanc's assessment:

Guess we dodged a bullet with that one.

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H/T: CNN, Twitter