Actors who turned down big Disney roles

Taryn Davies
Published: March 17, 2017

Disney is one of the biggest film studios on the planet, and people who have worked for them have gone on to be household names, but not all actors want to work for them – here are the actors who turned down big Disney roles.

A number of stars have refused roles in big Disney movies and shows, and what’s surprising Emma Watson did previously, before she became Belle for the live-action version of Beauty and the Beast which is out today.

Here are the actors who turned down big Disney roles.

Emma Watson

Emma Watson might now be seen as the perfect choice as Belle in Beauty and the Beast, which hits cinemas today, but it isn’t the first time Watson was involved with Disney. The actress was one of the lead contenders to play Cinderella in the live action version.

The Disney live-action remakes scheduled so far, starting with Beauty and the Beast

Variety reported that Watson was one of a few front-runners, along with Saoirse Ronan, Gabriella Wilde, and Alicia Vikander. The role eventually went to Lily James, but that wasn't until after Watson turned it down.

There was no reason given why she turned it down, but there was supposedly a change in the theme for the film when it changed directors, so perhaps that could have been the reason she wasn’t Cinderella.

Anne Hathaway Oscars 2009

Anne Hathaway Oscars 2009
S Bukley/Shutterstock Inc

Anne Hathaway

The Oscar-winning actress is rumoured to have been offered the lead role in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, but since she'd already done the sweet girl role in The Princess Diaries, she turned it down for something a little different.

Instead, Anne Hathaway took on the White Queen, and Mia Wasikowska played Alice.

Warren Beatty/Joe Pesci/Danny DeVito

In Disney’s Aladdin, alongside the Genie, there was plenty of laughs from Jafar’s sidekick Iago, who was voiced by Gilbert Gottfried. But he almost didn’t get the chance to play the iconic role, he wrote in his memoir how the role came down to him, Danny DeVito and Joe Pesci.

Warren Beatty was also said to have turned down the role too, he is said to have thought that the role was similar to his one Ishtar.

Reese Witherspoon

Reese Witherspoon very nearly voiced Scottish princess Merida, but after backing out the role was given to Kelly Macdonald.

Producer Katherine Sarafian said that they were willing to hire the American because the character is more about her being a teenager, rather than the face she's Scottish.

Witherspoon is also said to have even worked with an accent coach, but it was due to scheduling conflicts she couldn't take the role.

But she later admitted that Scottish is one of the hardest dialects she's ever had to learn, and she even quit a movie because she couldn't master it.

Billy Crystal turned down the role of Buzz Lightyear

Billy Crystal
Ga Fullner/

But it looks like she’s getting another go with Disney, as it’s believed that she will play Tinkerbell in the live-action version of Peter Pan’s fairy friend.

Billy Crystal

Billy Crystal passed on the role of Buzz Lightyear when the film was only in its early stages, he says it's on the only regret he has in the business.

But it's not too bad really because he later worked for Disney Pixar voicing Mike Wazowski in the Monsters, Inc. movies.

JoJo turned down the role of Hannah Montana



Hannah Montana might have launched the career of Miley Cyrus, but singer JoJo actually turned down the role of the central character.

JoJo was at the beginning of her career when she was offered the role, and she's later claimed that she has no regrets about passing it up.

She has said that she wanted to be an artist in her own right.

Leonardo DiCaprio

Hocus Pocus might not have been a big box office success, but is it really Halloween if you don’t watch this film? It never tires, no matter how old we get or how many times we’ve seen it.

Leonardo DiCaprio turned down the role of Max, despite the huge pay packet he was due to receive because he was desperate for the lead in What's Eating Gilbert Grape.

He stuck to his guns, and for that he's proud. Turning down Hocus Pocus was definitely the best option, he scored the lead role, and got his first Academy Award nomination for the film.

The man who played Max, Omri Katz, hasn't managed the same success as DiCaprio, and he even quit acting in 2002.

Bill Murray has turned down a few Disney roles

Bill Murray

Bill Murray

Bill Murray was first in line to voice the lovable monster Sulley in Monsters, Inc, but even though he screen-tested for the part when it came to offering the part, the director couldn't get him to pick up the phone.

He even turned down the role of Buzz Lightyear too. Who knows why?!

Michael Douglas

Michael Douglas might just have one regret with his career, but he’s just going to have to ‘Let It Go’. Frozen shattered box office records when it hit cinemas in 2013, it won two Academy Awards and dozens of other nominations.

Michael Douglas told James Cordon that he turned down the voiceover role, but he couldn't remember which character it was, and it would have been more profitable for him than anything else, he whispered, Frozen.

After Wizards of Waverley Place Selena Gomez turned down Disney on any further roles

Selena Gomez
Featureflash Photo Agency/

Selena Gomez

Selena Gomez pretty much has Disney to thank for her career, with roles in The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Hannah Montana and then starring in The Wizards of Waverley Place.

But she turned down the leading role in Camp Rock, and then another part in High School Musical 3 too.

Jack Nicholson

Jack Nicholson turned down the role of Hades in Hercules, a role which was written with him in mind. And while he liked the role, he wouldn't commit because Disney wouldn't offer him much in terms of bonuses, such as a percentage on merchandise sales.

There were a number of other actors who auditioned for the role, including Robert Evans and John Lithgow. The role eventually went to James Woods.

Beyonce missed out on a Disney Princess role because she refused to audition



According to a behind-the-scenes book called Confessions of a Casting Director, Beyonce was originally the frontrunner to play Tiana in The Princess and the Frog. The book's author, Jen Rudin, said that in order to formally be considered for the role, actors were required to audition. Many did, some more than once. Except, Rudin said, Beyonce. She claims that Beyonce didn't want to audition, so she never got the role.

It was as simple as that, and by refusing to audition, Beyonce turned down the opportunity to be a Disney Princess.