Sometimes, a successful actor fails an audition so epically that, instead of the role of a lifetime, they only get an embarrassing or painful memory.
Here are 19 bad auditions that cost actors some pretty major roles:
1. Chase Stokes read for the role of Steve Harrington on Stranger Things, but the audition went so poorly that he "drove eight hours from Atlanta back to Orlando regretting every moment of [his] life on that."
The role went to Joe Keery, but the Duffer brothers ended up casting Chase in a much smaller role as Reed.
He told Access Hollywood, "I'm just thankful for the Duffer brothers for giving me an opportunity to, like, do my job and start my career. I mean, if it weren't for them, I wouldn't be here."
2. In the middle of her audition to play Annie Kinsella in Field of Dreams, Jamie Lee Curtis stopped and said, "Look, guys, I'm really sorry, I'm out."
She told Backstage, "For some reason, and I don’t remember why, I just wasn’t prepared for it...I just— excuse my French —fucked it up."
The role went to Amy Madigan.
3. Kevin Hart auditioned for Saturday Night Live, but he "did an impression of a person that nobody knew" — Avery Johnson, a former San Antonio Spurs point guard who went on to be an NBA sports analyst. When Kevin announced which impression he was doing, he could tell Lorne Michaels had no idea who he was talking about. It was also a very short impression.
You can watch Kevin reenact his Avery Johnson impression from the audition below at the 1:10 mark:
4. Aubrey Plaza also auditioned for SNL in a "preliminary first-round showcase," where she performed two original characters. She did "a Puerto Rican news reporter that was always trying to make all of the news stories sexy" and "a pill-popping housewife that had a show called Celebri-Tails, where [she] would just name celebrities and name what kind of tail they would have if they had a tail." She did not make it to the next round with Lorne.
However, from 2004–2005, she worked on the show as an NBC page. She was on the set design team.
She hosted SNL for the first time in January 2023.
5. Sean Young was initially cast as Vicki Vale in Batman, but she was recast after she fractured her arm while practicing horseback riding for the role. Then, though she wasn't invited to audition for Catwoman in Batman Returns, she took it upon herself to visit director Tim Burton on the Warner Bros. studio lot and try out anyway. She filmed it and shared it with Entertainment Tonight, then she made her own Catwoman costume and wore it to The Joan Rivers Show. Sadly, her passionate campaign for the role hurt her career.
Sean told Yahoo Entertainment, “At that time, you were expected to behave in a certain way, and I wasn't following the rules. The people that portrayed me in a negative light were pointing at something else so that peoples' [sic] attention went over there. Calling me crazy was a way to protect themselves."
Michelle Pfeiffer played Catwoman.
Watch her appearance on The Joan Rivers Show below:
6. When Josh Brolin tried out for The Fly II, he read from the scene where Martin Brundle was "in a cocoon, transforming into a fly." While pretending to choke, Josh "ended up on the floor, frothing at the mouth." When he got home, "there was already a message on [his] machine from [his] agent that said, 'What the fuck did you do in there? You scared them.'"
He told the Hollywood Reporter, "I said, 'Well, did I get it?' That was the worst audition I ever did."
The role went to Eric Stoltz.
7. About four or five auditions into the casting process for Finn in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Tom Holland was doing a scene with a woman who read the droid's lines, saying, "Bleep, bloop bloop, bleep bloop." Tom found it so funny that he couldn't stop laughing, which ruined his performance.
He told Backstage, "I felt really bad, because she was trying really hard to be a convincing android or drone or whatever they're called. Yeah, I obviously didn't get the part. That wasn't my best moment."
The role went to John Boyega.
8. For Eddie Redmayne, auditioning for Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a childhood dream come true. However, it was also a disaster because, after he was told he was reading for the "baddie," he "put some ridiculous voice on." The casting director was not impressed with his "different versions of [his] kind of 'koohh paaaah' [Darth Vader breathing sound] voice. "
On the Happy Sad Confused podcast, he said, "After like ten shots, she’s like, 'You got anything else?' I was like, 'No.'"
The role went to Adam Driver.
9. Taylor Swift did a screen test for the role of Éponine in Les Misérables with Eddie Redmayne. They dressed her fully in character with brown teeth and dark circles. As she was performing an emotional scene with Eddie, he was weeping, and Taylor "just thought it was because of how [she] looked."
On The Graham Norton Show, she said, "I think it had been established that I had more of a look of Cosette, but I had the range vocally of Éponine. So, it was established that, like, I was there for a good time, not a long time."
Samantha Barks, who'd previously played Éponine on West End, reprised the role in her film debut.
10. Chelsea Kane thought she had an audition for the TV series American Dreams, so she dressed up "in this whole, like, '60s look and learned an old song and had on the whole outfit." However, when she got there, she realized it was actually an audition for "American Dreamz with a Z, that Mandy Moore movie that was supposed to be super cool."
She told BuzzFeed, "I like totally missed the last letter on this casting call, so that was pretty embarrassing."
11. At about 14 or 15, Timothée Chalamet got an audition for Bates Motel. He was told it was "a young Psycho," so he "went to Netflix, and the first thing that came up for 'psycho' was American Psycho, which is obviously very specific tonally and performance-wise." Instead of acting as a young Norman Bates, he auditioned as a young Patrick Bateman.
He told Backstage, "So there’s an audition for Bates Motel somewhere that’s a Patrick Bateman impression that's way off tonally."
Freddie Highmore played young Norman Bates in Bates Motel.
12. When Bradley Cooper tried out for the lead in Green Lantern, he "couldn't not do [an impression of] Christian Bale's Batman." The director told him to "be regular and talk," but he continued acting like Batman.
On The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien, he said, "At one point, I actually walked back and saw it, because they have it on the monitor while you're auditioning. I saw a little clip as they were rewinding it, and I thought, 'Oh my god, that can't be.' It looked like a Saturday Night Live sketch! I was like, 'Oh, I'm not getting this! Now I can really do my Batman! Who gives a shit?'"
Ryan Reynolds starred in Green Lantern.
13. Zoey Deutch knew she didn't book the role of Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games when, in the middle of her screen test, one of the casting directors stopped her and asked, "Why don't you read this other part?"
On the Lights Camera Barstool podcast, she said, "That one was a little painful."
Jennifer Lawrence played Katniss.
14. When Jake Gyllenhaal tried out for Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings, he was given stage directions to act out finding the One Ring, but he "didn't really do it because [he] didn't really understand because there were no lines." Then, he finally was given a scene with lines, but he didn't realize he was supposed to use a British accent.
On The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, he said, "[Director Peter Jackson] turned to me, [and] he was like, 'You are the worst actor that I have ever seen.'"
The role went to Elijah Wood.
15. Two years into playing Matt Murdock on Daredevil, Charlie Cox auditioned to play young Han Solo in Solo, but "halfway through it, the casting director stopped [him] and said, 'Why aren't you looking at me?'." Charlie realized he'd "gotten into a habit of not making eye contact, because the only thing [he] had done for two years is play someone who is blind."
He told the Hollywood Reporter, "I never got invited back, probably because they couldn't figure out why I was acting like a complete idiot."
16. When Freddie Prinze Jr. was in the running for the lead in Spider-Man, he met with director Sam Raimi, who asked, "So, tell me, tell me why you love Spider-Man?" Freddie was so nervous that he "foolishly" brought up Venom, an alien symbiote from the Spider-Man universe, and talked about him the entire time.
On his Prinze and Wolf podcast, Freddie said, "When I left I literally was, like, 'You just talked about Venom instead of Spider-Man for 25 minutes, you stupid asshole,' and I drove home so upset and angry."
The role went to Tobey Maguire.
17. Christy Carlson Romano had an audition to play Mia Thermopolis in The Princess Diaries, but she was stuck on the set of Even Stevens at the time. They wouldn't let her leave, essentially forcing her to miss the audition altogether.
She told BuzzFeed, "I could not make my audition, so I have a really, really big regret of never making that audition. Who knows what could have happened?"
Anne Hathaway played Mia.
18. When Elizabeth Olsen auditioned for Daenerys Targaryen on Game of Thrones, she "was doing the Khaleesi speech when she comes out of the fire [but] it was awful."
19. And finally, though he knew he couldn't sing, Chris Klein took a chance and auditioned for Sky Rymand in Mamma Mia! anyway. It was such a "dreadful audition" that when it leaked, it went viral. However, Chris embraced it and made a parody video with Funny or Die.
He told the Huffington Post, "Talk about a reason that I didn't get a part, man! I mean [laughs], oh my God. What a terrible thing! So, then, I thought, 'Oh my gosh, how many horrible auditions have I had?' Thousands. And what a funny bit. I'm a huge fan of Funny or Die and had toyed with the idea of putting something together with them. So, when that happened, it was just perfect. Let's put together some funny auditions. Because the audition process is such a hoot anyway. And, listen, I'm not going to be great all of the time."
The role of Sky went to Dominic Cooper.