What if Denzel Washington had been in "Seven" instead of Brad Pitt? And what if he played the title character in "Michael Clayton" instead of George Clooney?
If Washington could go back in time, he would reverse his past decisions to pass up those plum roles, citing them as his two biggest career regrets in a recent interview with GQ. "With 'Clayton,' it was the best material I had read in a long time, but I was nervous about a first-time director, and I was wrong. It happens," Washington admitted.
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We can't help but think how incredibly different those two movies would have been had Washington starred in them. In terms of casting 1995's "Seven," would Gwyneth Paltrow have played Washington's young wife? Would Morgan Freeman still have been the sage detective helping David Mills (played by Pitt) along? Washington said he initially passed it up because it was too dark and evil, but later kicked himself when he saw the David Fincher film in theaters. (Shockingly, Sylvester Stallone has said he also turned down a role in "Seven." *Whoa!*)
While it's true that "Clayton" was Tony Gilroy's directorial debut, Clooney had enough faith to take the leap that Washington didn't. The film garnered (coincidentally) seven Oscar nominations -- including Best Director for Gilroy -- and one win for Tilda Swinton in the Best Supporting Actress category. Clooney was also nominated in the Best Actor category, proving that Washington did, in fact, seriously miss out.
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Washington also told GQ that he really wanted to be in two of the '80s most lauded military flicks -- "Platoon" and "Full Metal Jacket." But he said the producers of "Jacket" wouldn't allow him to see the screenplay in advance. "They were like, 'Well, [Kubrick] doesn't send out his scripts.' I was like, 'Well, then what do you want me to do?' 'Platoon,' I wanted to play the part Willem Dafoe played," Washington revealed.
Still, it doesn't seem like these missed opportunities are keeping Washington up at night. And to be fair, he has also benefited greatly from taking on roles that other actors passed on first. Here are memorable Washington roles -- one for which he won an Oscar -- that other actors reportedly turned down: "Crimson Tide" -- turned down by Val Kilmer, "Training Day" -- turned down by Samuel L. Jackson, and "Man on Fire" -- turned down by Robert De Niro. (Washington told GQ that De Niro and Al Pacino were still on his list of actors he wants to work with: "Anybody whose last name ends in an o.")
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Washington next appears in the upcoming drama "Flight," in theaters November 2. He plays a commercial airline pilot who safely lands his plane after a mid-air catastrophe, miraculously saving almost every person on board. Afterward, he is revered as a hero, but once the crash is further examined, more questions arise as to who was really at fault and what really happened. John Goodman, Brian Geraghty and Don Cheadle also star.
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