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Tom Hanks Reveals He Almost Died While Filming 'Cast Away' AP Photo/Chris Pizzello
AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Is it really possible for the world’s nicest man to turn down anyone? Tom Hanks hosted Saturday Night Live just a few weeks after he and his wife Rita Wilson tested positive for COVID-19. You sort of get the feeling that Tom Hanks is so friendly and accommodating that he actually allowed someone to infect himself and Rita Wilson with Coronavirus just because they asked politely.

“Now now, Rita. A pandemic is no reason to be rude. Just let the man cough on us a little. Maybe it’s a custom here in Australia, we don’t know.”

Tom Hanks might say yes to playing Geppetto in your high school theater’s terrible rendition of Pinocchio if you asked nice enough. The man probably had to do a maximum of five minutes of prep to play Mister Rogers. He is Fred Rogers.

It turns out, though, that despite his recent post-Coronavirus diagnosis SNL hosting gig and general friendliness the Emmy and Golden Globe and Oscar-winning, World War II loving, Hollywood legend has indeed turned down or missed out on quite a few movie roles since he left Oakland for Los Angeles as a young, skinny Greek kid.

These are some of the most famous movies Tom Hanks has turned down over the course of his long and storied path to becoming a national treasure in the United States.

Police Academy (1984)

The zany cop comedy starring Steve Guttenberg and a guy with a really cool mouth originally had Hanks in its sights to play the lead. Though the star of Cast Away and The Post is mostly known for prestige work these days he actually came up through the ranks as… a zany comedic actor. First in the sitcom Bosom Buddies and then in films like Big. 

Movies Hanks Did Instead: Splash, Bachelor Party

Big (1988)

Hanks actually turned down Big before ultimately accepting the movie that would catapult him from a well-liked actor to genuine superstar. He was at first unavailable because of scheduling conflicts with two other movies he was starring in, Dragnet and Punchline. Robert DeNiro was offered the lead role in Penny Marshall’s beloved comedy but he asked for too much money and passed. When Hanks became available again he accepted the role and went on to score his first Best Actor nomination. It’s crazy to think that deathly serious HBO projects like Band of Brothers and The Pacific, or films about the military industrial complex like Charlie Wilson’s War, don’t happen without Hanks playing a literal piano dancing man-child.

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Movies Hanks Did Instead: Big (duh)

When Harry Met Sally (1989)

Another comedy that wanted Hanks while he was still primarily known as a funny (and sweet) leading man. After his Academy Award nomination for Big his profile started to rise significantly but it’s not exactly like he was too bigtime to star in a romantic comedy with Meg Ryan (You’ve Got Mail, anyone?). Still, director Rob Reiner loved the chemistry between Billy Crystal and Ryan and so Hanks lost out on this New York rom-com classic.

Movies Hanks Did Instead: The Burbs, Turner & Hooch

Hook (1991)

Unlike Police Academy or the next entry on this list, it’s almost a bummer we didn’t get to see Tom Hanks play the adult version of Peter Pan in Steven Spielberg’s wonderful (unless you’re a boner critic) kid’s film. But the thing is… we got Robin Williams instead, and he was brilliant, so everything worked out pretty well for everybody.

Movies Hanks Did Instead: A League of Their Own

Super Mario Brothers (1993)

Tom Hanks is Greek (and a Greek citizen now) but hey, Greece, Italy — what’s the difference anyway when you’re playing a ridiculous Italian stereotype made up by Japanese video game designers to fight mean turtles? Tom Hanks was originally slated to play the titular role in Super Mario Brothers — considered one of the worst films of the ’90s and the worst video game movie of all time, the latter of which is a bar so low you’d have to drill deep into the earth to set it any lower. He was fired, however, and the role went to Bob Hoskins, who hated Super Mario Brothers so much he would likely go back in time to stop that movie from being made before he would go back in time to stop 9/11.

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Movies Hanks Did Instead: Philadelphia (For which he won his first Academy Award.)

Groundhog Day (1993)

Much like Hook, it’s hard to imagine anyone other than Bill Murray in the lead here. But director Harold Ramis initially wanted Hanks for the role. While Hanks taking the role might have been better long term for Murray and Ramis’ relationship — the good friends and decades-long comedy partners had a brutal falling out during filming that they didn’t resolve until just before Ramis’ death in 2014 — the movie likely would have been worse off. (And it’s all about us here.)

Movies Hanks Did Instead: Philadelphia, Sleepless in Seattle

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

This is a role Tom Hanks straight-up turned down. It’s hard to believe the guy willing to take a risk and release a harrowing drama like Greyhound straight to Apple TV these days would say no to a traditional film that turned out to be as monumental as Shawshank, but he did. Whatever day Hanks turned down the role of Andy Dufresne ended up being a beautiful day for eventual leading man Tim Robbins, though.

Movies Hanks Did Instead: Forrest Gump (For which he won his second Academy Award.)

Nixon (1995)

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Who says no to Oliver Stone at the height of his powers? Tom Hanks, apparently. The Concord, California native was asked to play another (in)famous Californian but declined. Instead of playing America’s most publicly vilified president (until Donald Trump started squaring off on a daily basis with CNN) Hanks passed on this biopic and instead decided to just go ahead and casually redefine the future of animated Disney films as everyone’s favorite toy cowboy, Woody. He did some space movie too.

Movies Hanks Did Instead: Toy Story, Apollo 13

Batman Forever (1995)

Tom Hanks could have been a Batman. By 1995 Hanks had three Academy Award nominations and two wins so he was hardly still considered the whacky comedic actor people thought of at the beginning of the ’90s. Considering that previous Batman Michael Keaton basically had the same reputation as Hanks when he got the role for Tim Burton’s two Batman films, however, it’s not surprising that Hanks, who, despite action-packed turns in films like Saving Private Ryan, is nearly impossible to picture as Gotham’s Dark Knight, was considered for the role that eventually went to Val Kilmer.

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Movies Hanks Did Instead: Toy StoryApollo 13

Jerry Maguire (1996)

Screenwriter Cameron Crowe wrote arguably Tom Cruise’s most iconic role with Tom Hanks in mind. Despite reading the brilliant script Hanks was more interested in another script he had on his desk. Because it was one that he wrote. Honestly, though, it’s hard to picture Hanks in this role. He’s a brilliant actor but Cruise was born to play Jerry Maguire. And, presumably, Hanks loved his own passion project so much he would have said no to an offer from Cecil B. Demille’s reanimated corpse to star in a remake of The Ten Commandments. ​​​​

Movies Hanks Did Instead: That Thing You Do! (Which he wrote, directed, and appeared in.)

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Rob Fox About the author:
Rob Fox is a writer, comedian, and producer based in Austin, TX. God made him left-handed to hide his own averageness from him.
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