Tom Hanks is one of the most accomplished actors on the planet, with two Best Actor Oscars to prove it. He’s also known as one of the nicest human beings in Hollywood. As you can imagine, Hanks’s services are in high demand, but even a benevolent soul like Hanks cannot say "yes" to every single project he is offered. So let's take a look back at some of Hanks's lost roles.
1. Get Crazy (1983)
It was very early in the actor's movie career, yet director Allan Arkush knew that he wanted Tom Hanks as his lead Neil Allen. Instead, studio executive Herb Solow insisted on Daniel Stern. According to Arkush, Solow also nixed casting Mariska Hargitay and Jerry Orbach.
2. Police Academy (1984)
In 2005, Police Academy creator Paul Maslansky claimed that the filmmakers's wish list for the role of Mahoney read, in no particular order: Michael Keaton, Tom Hanks, and Judge Reinhold. Steven Guttenberg ended up with the part.
3. When Harry Met Sally... (1989)
Director Rob Reiner talked to Hanks about playing Harry in When Harry Met Sally..., as well as Albert Brooks, Richard Dreyfuss, and Michael Keaton. Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal had immediate chemistry, and the rest is cinema (and delicatessen) history.
4. Super Mario Bros. (1993)
According to Jeff Ryan’s book Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America, Hanks was hired to play Mario before he was fired and replaced by Bob Hoskins, who was asking for less money anyway. Hanks won his first Best Actor Oscar for his role in 1993's Philadelphia (the second one came a year later, for Forrest Gump), which came out the same year as Super Mario Bros.—a film that was universally panned and Hoskins later called his biggest disappointment in life.
5. Groundhog Day (1993)
Director Harold Ramis admitted in a 2009 Q&A that he initially wanted Hanks to play Phil Connors. Hanks later told Ramis he made the right choice in Bill Murray, saying, "Audiences would have been sitting there waiting for me to become nice, because I always play nice. But Bill’s such a miserable S.O.B. on- and offscreen, you didn’t know what was going to happen."
6. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Hanks, Kevin Costner, and Tom Cruise passed on Andy Dufresne before Tim Robbins got the role of a lifetime.
7. When a Man Loves a Woman (1994)
Tom Hanks was originally set to play Michael Green, until the first director rewrote Al Franken and Ronald Bass’s darkly comedic script about codependency. After a couple of years, director Luis Mandoki came on board and fixed the script with Franken and Bass. Hanks had moved on by then, and Andy Garcia took the gig instead.
8. Speed (1994)
Screenwriter Graham Yost recalled that the studio went to Hanks and Cruise first, then Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson, and others before Keanu Reeves’ name was ever brought up to potentially play Jack.
9. Nixon (1995)
Hanks had been set to play the 37th President of the United States in The Passion of Richard Nixon, a project that never saw the light of day. Knowing this, Oliver Stone approached Hanks about playing Nixon in his Tricky Dick movie instead. Anthony Hopkins signed on after Hanks turned Stone down.
10. Jerry Maguire (1996)
Cameron Crowe wrote the movie with Hanks in mind as the protagonist. Hanks was busy directing his movie That Thing You Do!. He later told Crowe the movie was perfect with Cruise as the lead.
11. Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
Hanks also missed out on playing Zefram Cochrane as a result of being too busy working on That Thing You Do!. This pass might have hurt more, since Hanks is a huge Star Trek fan, and had already expressed regret two years earlier that he didn’t have time appear in a Star Trek: Next Generation episode or Star Trek movie.
12. Primary Colors (1998)
Hanks initially agreed to play the lead in the Mike Nichols-directed adaptation of the book known to be about Bill Clinton’s first successful presidential campaign, until he realized he was too busy. The media alleged Hanks backed out because of his friendship with Clinton, and had to deny that was the case. In fact, Hanks claimed Clinton told him he had his blessing to take the role. John Travolta got the honor instead.
13. The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001)
Woody Allen alleged that both Hanks and Jack Nicholson turned down the lead in The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, possibly because they weren’t offered enough money.
14. Kinsey (2004)
According to E! Online columnist Anderson Jones, Hanks was among a group of A-list actors who “flirted” with the part of Kinsey. Liam Neeson ended up playing the controversial sexologist.
15. Shopgirl (2005)
Steve Martin approached Hanks to play Ray. Hanks was too busy, so Martin took the role he had written himself.
Martin Scorsese co-wrote the screenplay and was set to direct a Dean Martin biopic, with Hanks playing the singer/comedian. Scorsese had planned to make it after Gangs of New York, but it never got made.
This story has been updated for 2020.