Brad Pitt Was Almost In ‘American Psycho’ (And 11 More Roles The Actor Has Turned Down)

If you’ve watched more than ten movies in your entire lifetime, you might have heard of Brad Pitt. A household name by way of Hollywood, Brad Pitt is considerably one of the most recognizable and talented actors of this age, garnering star power over decades of work and ever-sharpening artistic mastery, which shines through on his extensive filmography both behind and in front of the camera. Also, he was kidnapped on Jackass once. Also, this intro was written at the time of his 60th birthday (🎂).

It can be argued that Brad Pitt’s diverse acting filmography fends off the typecast curse (nothing wrong with typecasting, though). So just consider, for a moment, all the roles that he could have been in. Can you imagine him leading the cast of The Matrix? Now imagine all the American Psycho memes you’ve scrolled past and maybe giggled at once or twice. Instead of seeing the face of Christian Bale, imagine the face of Brad Pitt. Maybe, in a parallel universe, that’s how it all went it down. Let’s explore what could have been with 12 movie roles Brad Pitt turned down. Read more below.

Jack Swigert In ‘Apollo 13’

Photo: Universal Pictures

Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, and Kevin Bacon starred in Ron Howard’s Apollo 13. The 1995 biographical drama about NASA’s doomed 1970 trip to the moon could have also starred John Travolta, John Cusack, and Brad Pitt. 

Travolta wanted the role of Jim Lovell, but Hanks was already attached. Cusack turned down Paxton’s part of Fred Haise and later starred in Grosse Pointe Blank. Pitt passed on Jack Swigert to play ill-fated rookie detective David Mills in David Fincher’s 1995 neo-noir Se7en

Pitt talked about telling his mother he passed on the opportunity to play the astronaut:

I was talking to my mom the other night and she said, “I just saw the best movie called Apollo [13].” She said, “You have to do more movies like this!” I said, “Mom, I turned Apollo 13 down for Se7en! Wait until you see that movie!”

Pitt’s mother was probably more mortified than euphoric after seeing Pitt plead “what’s in the box” in the tragic finale of Se7en. However, the gritty crime movie certainly helped Pitt transition from hunky matinee idol to serious actor.

Tommy In ‘The Shawshank Redemption’

Photo: Columbia Pictures

In the mid-to-late 1980s, before Brad Pitt became one of the biggest movie stars of his generation, he appeared on television soap operas and sitcoms like Another World and Growing Pains. In the early 1990s, producers for the prison drama The Shawshank Redemption cast Pitt to play the minor role of Tommy Williams. Tommy is the inmate that Andy (Tim Robbins) teaches to read. The young man is later shot down because he has information that could get Andy released.

Before The Shawshank Redemption went into production, Thelma & Louise hit the big screen in 1991. In the female buddy picture, Pitt played the minor role of a studly cowboy drifter. Pitt’s turn as the young, chiseled, and shirtless J.D. made the blond bombshell an overnight star and in-demand Hollywood leading man.

Following Pitt’s overnight success, he decided to drop the secondary part of Tommy in Shawshank. The role went to Gil Bellows. The Shawshank Redemption was an initial flop at the box office, but earned seven Academy Award nominations and became a beloved classic, even claiming the No. 1 spot on IMDb’s Top 250 list.

Ford v Ferrari

Photo: 20th Century Fox

The Oscar-winning Ford v Ferrari could have served as a vampire reunion. Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise portrayed Lestat and Louis in 1994’s Gothic vampire version of a buddy movie, Interview with a Vampire. The veteran actors almost rekindled the love-hate friendship, this time on a race track, for 2019’s Ford v Ferrari.

Joseph Kosinski was originally brought on to direct the movie before James Mangold took over. Kosinski revealed that Cruise and Pitt were first considered for the real-life roles of car designer Carroll Shelby and driver Ken Miles:

And that story was one of those great stories of an incredible friendship and an incredible rivalry and an incredibly dangerous race. So we, I wouldn’t say we got close to production, but I got to the point where I had Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt at a table read reading the script together, which was pretty amazing. But we couldn’t get the budget to the number it had to be at.

In the end, Matt Damon stepped in to play the role of Shelby (the third time he took a lead role in a movie Pitt turned down), and Christian Bale took on Miles. Kosinski never stated which of the two lead roles they originally had in mind for Pitt. However, it would have been interesting to see Cruise relive his Days of Thunder glory years and play another reckless race car driver three decades after he portrayed Cole Trickle.

Ford v Ferrari went on to earn $225 million worldwide. It also won two Academy Awards and earned a nomination for Best Picture.

Jason Bourne In ‘The Bourne Identity’

Photo: Universal Pictures


n 2000, Pitt was certainly one of the best-known actors in Hollywood. But he hadn’t yet taken on a headlining role in a franchise-type blockbuster. He had the opportunity that year when he was offered the part of Jason Bourne in The Bourne Identity

However, Pitt was already committed to star alongside Robert Redford as a CIA agent in Tony Scott’s action-thriller Spy Game

Matt Damon stepped in to play the amnesiac spy, and the Bourne series became one of the highest-grossing movie franchises in cinema history. Damon played the eponymous assassin in four high-octane installments. He took a break in 2012 when Jeremy Renner starred in the spinoff, The Bourne Legacy.

The box office totals for the Bourne movies come in at around $1.6 billion.

Patrick Bateman In ‘American Psycho’

Photo: Lions Gate Films

Bret Easton Ellis’s 1991 novel revolving around Reagan-era yuppie/investment banker/serial killer Patrick Bateman was met with controversy due to its shockingly graphic nature. It was so controversial that Ellis received a number of threats against his life.

The original big-screen adaptation plans for American Psycho featured an up-and-coming actor named Brad Pitt and veteran horror director David Cronenberg (The FlyVideodrome). 

However, Cronenberg had an issue with depicting the movie’s over-the-top, often comical, violence. Ellis explained why Cronenberg left the project:

David was lovely – is lovely, I still like David ­- but he had strange demands. He hated shooting restaurant scenes, and he hated shooting nightclub scenes. And he didn’t want to shoot the violence. I ignored everything he said. So, of course, he was disappointed with it and he hired his own writer; that script was worse for him and he dropped out. I did another pass on the script for Rob Weiss in 1995. That didn’t work out either.

In the end, the Pitt/Cronenberg American Psycho never panned out because of creative differences. It took almost an entire decade for Mary Harron to finally take over behind the camera with Christian Bale in the star-making role of Bateman.

Like many misunderstood satires, American Psycho completely polarized audiences and critics. The movie didn’t exactly slay at the box office, either, but it did manage to earn a moderate profit. The psychologically tinged black comedy has become a pop culture classic and one of the most-quoted films of the 2000s.

Colin Sullivan In ‘The Departed’

Photo: Warner Bros.

Pitt started his production company Plan B in 2001. One of the first movies the actor produced was Martin Scorsese’s Academy Award-winning The Departed,  a remake of the 2002 Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs

“I developed that for two-and-a-half years,” said Pitt. “We fought for that movie, and then we got William Monahan on the script.”

Pitt did have an interest in acting in the movie. However, he was already in his early 40s at the time and thought the role of undercover gangster Colin Sullivan should go to a younger actor. 

“Once Scorsese became involved, I thought it would be better if they were younger guys that were just starting their lives, guys coming out of the academy, guys who were hungry,” explained Pitt. “I thought I was too old for it.”

Matt Damon, who Pitt knew from the Ocean’s movies, was seven years younger. The Departed went on to earn Pitt’s production company its first of three Oscars for Best Picture (12 Years a Slave and Moonlight were the other two). The Irish mob movie also earned Scorsese his first Academy Award for Best Director.

Russell Hammond In ‘Almost Famous’

Photo: DreamWorks Pictures

Picture Brad Pitt as Russell Hammond tripping face and climbing up on top of a roof to yell, “I am a golden god!”

Cameron Crowe’s 2000 love letter to the 1970s rock ‘n’ roll scene Almost Famous almost starred Pitt as the Stillwater lead guitarist. The Rolling Stone journalist-turned-Hollywood director originally wanted the Se7en actor to star in his semi-autobiographical story. 

However, the full scope of Hammond’s part hadn’t quite fully developed yet. Plus, Pitt was still working on David Fincher’s Fight Club. Crowe explained: 

His head was still in Fight Club, and the part was a little underwritten. It was the most underwritten in the script, and he couldn’t trust it enough. I’ve talked to him since. I love the guy. I think he’s hilarious, and I thought he would have been funny in the movie. If I had waited a few more months, he might have come around to it, but we had to get going.

Crowe and Pitt spent about four months working on the script. The actor even read with Natalie Portman, who was being considered for the role of Penny Lane (Kate Hudson). After Pitt passed on the project, Crowe was completely devastated.

“I wept,” the director admitted. “I knew that [Brad Pitt] had never fully fallen in love with the character. He had fallen in love with the idea of the character. But maybe there just wasn’t enough on the page.”

From Crowe’s perspective now, it all worked out in the end. The less-known Billy Crudup took the part, and Almost Famous became one of the most celebrated movies of the early 2000s. Crowe discussed just how important Crudup was for the narrative progression of his Oscar-winning screenplay:

Totally a blessing in disguise. Billy was, make no mistake, the guy who helped the movie out the most. Billy disappeared into the part and learned how to play the guitar in six weeks. Both he and Patrick [Fugit], the casting of both of those characters, sort of saved the movie and got it moving forward as opposed to stalling out.

Big Daddy In ‘Kick-Ass’

Photo: Lionsgate

One thing Brad Pitt has never done: star in a superhero movie. In a time when it’s totally kosher for serious dramatic actors to take on roles for Marvel or DC, Pitt has always abstained (save a teeny cameo in Deadpool 2).

Turns out, he could have been Big Daddy in Matthew Vaughn’s R-rated, hyper-violent romp Kick-Ass. It was a long road for Vaughn to bring his vision to the big screen. No studio was remotely interested in what many regarded as a “terrible script.”

“They called Hit-Girl a disaster and said the only way to save her was to make her 25 instead of 10 years old,” revealed Mark Millar, who wrote the original comic book. “They also said no one wanted to hear superheroes cuss and recommended hand-to-hand combat instead of knives and guns.”

Vaughn ended up mortgaging his house to make the project. He also brought in Pitt as a producer. Vaughn and Pitt knew each other from their work on Guy Ritchie’s Snatch. The director wanted Pitt to play Hit-Girl’s (Chloë Grace Moretz) father Big Daddy. However, Pitt opted to go work with Quentin Tarantino on Inglourious Basterds instead.

Vaughn eventually cast Nicolas Cage, a huge fan of all things superhero, as Big Daddy. Kick-Ass went on to make a nice profit at the box office and become a cult classic despite generating a ton of controversy.

Kick-Ass 2 hit the big screen in 2013. Pitt also served as a producer on the sequel.

Adam Hall In ‘The Chamber’

Photo: Universal Pictures

In the 1990s, several of John Grisham’s legal novels became major hits on the silver screen, including The Firm and A Time to KillThe Chamber was not one of those hits. 

The original plans for the film were to have Ron Howard direct and Brad Pitt star as green lawyer Adam Hall. Then, Ron Howard dropped out of the project in order to direct Ransom. Pitt reportedly decided to leave the movie when Howard departed.

Chris O’Donnell, who in 1996 had a strong public profile, signed on to play Hall. James Foley took over behind the camera. Howard stuck around as a producer. 

The Chamber went on to be a box office and critical disappointment.

Brokeback Mountain

Photo: Focus Features

Just for fun, imagine Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio as Ennis and Jack in the groundbreaking cowboy romance Brokeback Mountain. When the script was originally floating around Hollywood, both Gus Van Sant and Pedro Almodóvar, two auteurs with several works in queer cinema, were approached about directing what would certainly be a controversial project. 

Van Sant revealed in 2018 that several big-name actors turned down the opportunity to make cinema history. “Nobody wanted to do it,” Van Sant said. “I was working on it, and I felt like we needed a really strong cast, like a famous cast. That wasn’t working out. I asked the usual suspects: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Ryan Phillippe. They all said no.”

The My Own Private Idaho director did not say which actors were offered which specific roles. 

Van Sant ultimately dropped out of the project because of the casting hardships. “What I could have done, and what I probably should have done, was cast more unknowns, not worried about who were the lead actors,” he said. “I was not ready. I’m not sure why. There was just sort of a hiccup on my part. There was something off with myself, I guess, whatever was going on.”

Ang Lee eventually took over behind the camera. Jake Gyllenhaal signed on to play Jack and Heath Ledger agreed to the role of Ennis. Both actors received Oscar nominations for their work. Lee took home the Oscar for Best Director. The modern epic also earned Academy Awards for Original Score and Adapted Screenplay. 

Brokeback Mountain was also a massive success at the box office. It cost just $14 million to produce and made $178 million worldwide. But apart from the accolades and financial success, the forbidden 1960s love story served as a seminal moment in cinema history. Two straight popular mainstream actors played gay characters, and it did not hamper their careers one bit.

Tomas/Tommy/Tom In ‘The Fountain’

Photo: Warner Bros.

In 2002, Brad Pitt was all set to star in Darren Aronofsky’s heady science fiction movie The Fountain. The production budget was in place, 400 crew members were hired, and sets had already been built. Then, Pitt decided to abruptly drop out of the project in order to make Troy. The actor reportedly had issues with Aronofsky’s screenplay.

Pitt’s last-minute exit did not sit well with The Fountain‘s crew, who found themselves suddenly unemployed. They were so upset with Pitt that they published an open letter with Ain’t It Cool News:

Aronofsky said he and producer Gil Adler tried everything they could to convince him to come back on, but no cigar. The fact is that Warner Brothers will not go ahead without another big-name star. Aronofsky said there are only four other big names that are of Pitt’s box-office caliber, all of whom are unavailable at such short notice.

What amazes us is that it appears Brad Pitt has no real understanding of the impact of his decision, now only seven weeks from shooting. We estimate there [are] over 1,500 people here in Australia, including family and children, who are now displaced and unemployed.

Aronofsky was not just going to give up on the project. He managed to rewrite the script in order to accommodate a much lower budget. He brought on Hugh Jackman to replace Pitt in the lead role. 

The Fountain finally made it to the big screen in 2006. The epic romance’s narrative, which was split into three different parts, was considered difficult to follow by some. The film lost money at the box office. Over time, The Fountain fans have declared the surreal movie a classic masterpiece, while others just think it’s pretentious. It has become a small-scale cult classic in the cinephile world.

Neo In ‘The Matrix’

Photo: Warner Bros.

Yes, Brad Pitt could have been “The One.” In 2020, the Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood star revealed that he was offered the part of Neo in The Matrix

“I really believe it was never mine. It’s not mine. It’s someone else’s and they go and make it. I really do believe in that,” Pitt said. “I really do. But I did pass on The Matrix. I took the red pill.”

The 1999 sci-fi film went on to become an enormously successful trilogy that revolutionized action and visual effects. Keanu Reeves was eventually cast as the hacker Neo.

Pitt continues to have a great attitude about the roles that he passed on. He added: 

Maybe it’s my upbringing. Faith, like, in the sense that, like, if I didn’t get it and it wasn’t mine, it just wasn’t mine. But I could feel myself getting closer. [That’s] usually the way it works, and I see it with younger actors too.

The first three installments of The Matrix franchise earned around $1.6 billion. A long-awaited fourth film is planned to hit the big screen on April 1, 2022.