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21st Jun 2017

Eight major roles that Daniel Day-Lewis famously turned down

He turned down some classics

Rory Cashin

Daniel Day-Lewis has announced that he will be retiring from acting.

With only one more movie left to go on to his CV, Day-Lewis has had one of the best careers in all of Hollywood’s history (the less said about romantic-musical Nine the better), but in keeping such a high average, there was a lot of roles he had to turn down.

Some of them were intelligent declines, and some of them… we can only imagine how much greater the already great movies might have been had he been involved.

Pulp Fiction

Tarantino had apparently always wanted John Travolta in the role of Vincent Vega, but the movie’s producer wasn’t as confident, because this was back when Travolta’s career was in doldrums (kinda like where it is again today). Day-Lewis got his hands on the script and apparently really wanted to play the role according to Tarantino’s interview with Vanity Fair, but ultimately the writer/director got his way, and the rest is modern movie history.

The Lord Of The Rings

While the role of Aragorn would eventually go on to be played to perfection by Viggo Mortensen, he was far from director Peter Jackson’s first choice. Stuart Townsend, Russell Crowe, Nicolas Cage (?!) and Vin Diesel (?!?!) were all on the potential casting list, but right at the top was DDL, who was offered the role several times, and consistently turning it down. He has never really been a man drawn towards big budget blockbusters, which would explain…


Or, more specifically, Batman Forever. Once Michael Keaton and Tim Burton had left after the first two Batman movies, Warner Brothers spread their casting net far and wide, and one of the names they caught was Day-Lewis. According to Billy “Less Famous Brother Of Alec” Baldwin, he was on the Maybe Batman list alongside Day-Lewis, Ralph Fiennes and, the ultimate winner of the role, Val Kilmer. The idea of Daniel Day-Lewis sharing the screen with Jim Carrey’s The Riddler fills us with the kind of joy that words can’t appropriately express.

Sid & Nancy

It isn’t clear who turned down who here, but rumour has it that Day-Lewis was very interested in playing the role of Sid, which would eventually go on to become Gary Oldman’s big career breakout. DDL had already My Beautiful Laundrette and A Room With A View on his CV, and the movie’s director stated “I think [Day-Lewis] would have been very good, too. He gives one the impression of possessing a soul, and would probably have handled the romantic aspect well. But Gary was an authentic Bermonsey boy […] he really understood the ambitious aspect, the desperate need to get out of South London at all costs.”

James Bond

Now, just to be clear, nobody is 100% sure if Day-Lewis was officially offered the role of Bond James Bond, but in 2013 when there was a lot of noise as to whether or not Daniel Craig would be coming back after Skyfall, the current author of James Bond books said DDL would be perfect for the part, telling The Telegraph that he was a perfect visual match for Ian Fleming’s original look for the secret agent. No we all know that Craig did come back for Spectre in 2015, but we can imagine Daniel in a spiffing suit, holding his PPK in one hand and a dry martini in the other, and just looking like the coolest man in existence.


Offered the lead in this powerful drama opposite Denzel Washington, the movie’s writer was shocked when the role was offered to Day-Lewis, who turned it down in favour of In The Name Of The Father. Ironically, DDL would go on to receive one of his Best Actor Oscar nominations for his role in In The Name Of The Father, but this would end up being one of the two times he would lose out, and on this occasion, he lost out to Tom Hanks… in Philadelphia.

Interview with a Vampire

While he was filming In The Name of the Father, DDL refused to read any new scripts, so invested was he in the role of Gerry Conlon. That didn’t deter the producer of the vampire epic, who told Premiere magazine that he attempted to ring the actor on an almost daily basis for several months to get him to agree to play the role of Lestat, which would eventually go to Tom Cruise.


Or, more specifically, Terminator: Salvation. So not even one of the good ones! Director McG was interviewed about the casting process for the movie: “I’m looking for credible actors. We’ve already got Christian Bale, who is one of the greatest actors of his generation [to play John Connor]. I’d love to get Daniel Day-Lewis, but I don’t know if he goes in for this kind of movie.” The other lead character in this movie was played by Sam Worthington… who, and no offence to Sam, isn’t exactly Daniel Day-Lewis.