Note: This post includes references to fat-shaming and anti-fatness that might be hard for some to read.
1.Just six weeks before Sharon Stone was cast in Basic Instinct — which would make her a sex symbol and household name — her manager told her she wasn't getting roles because nobody thought she was sexy. "I wasn't, as they liked to say in Hollywood at the time, 'fuckable,'" Stone wrote in her autobiography.
2.Samantha Morton also claimed she lost out on a role in The Brothers Grimm because producers thought she was "unfuckable" — and that Harvey Weinstein had apparently specifically said, 'Who'd fuck that?" There were also claims that he said her upper arms were "too fat" (which he denied).
3.Amy Adams claimed that she was fired from Dr. Vegas for "not being sexy enough" to play Rob Lowe's love interest, a claim Lowe echoed in his book Love Life, adding that Adams wasn't pretty "in a TV way." Adams did clarify she wasn't technically fired, but they "brought in a really tall blonde, and I knew."
4.Fellow redheaded beauty Jessica Chastain was also told she wasn't pretty enough to get roles in Hollywood. "Only in the past five years have people been telling me I’m attractive. Before then, I wasn’t getting parts because people kept telling me I wasn’t pretty enough," she revealed. "People would tell me to dye my hair blonde when I first started auditioning. Funny how defined we are by how we present ourselves."
5.Burt Reynolds claimed he had to fight for Sally Field to be cast alongside him in Smokey and the Bandit because of her looks. "I wanted her really bad, but the filmmakers said, 'Well, she's not sexy,'" he told the Today show. "And I said, 'You don't get it, talent is sexy.' And she's got that."
6.Nia Vardalos's first agent told her she was "wasn’t pretty enough to be a leading lady and not fat enough to be a character actor." It was negative experiences like these that pushed her to write the megahit My Big Fat Greek Wedding. "It hurt to be told that my ethnicity and my looks were the problem," Vardalos said. "I never had my looks categorized as being detrimental to my career. So, anyway, f— her, because look how it turned out.”
7.Kristen Bell was similarly told after auditions, "Well, you're not pretty enough to play the pretty girl, but you're not quirky enough or weird enough to play the weird girl.'" She found the feedback disheartening, saying it made her wonder if she could be an actor. Luckily, she feels that as she's gotten older, "those boxes have changed and they've almost gone away."
8.Early in her career, Kate Winslet was told she should settle for "fat girl" roles, and her agent was constantly asked about her weight. And after her breakout role in Titanic, she was subject to intense body-shaming that she later called "borderline abusive" and "straight-up cruel."
9.Elle Fanning was once told she didn't get a role because she was "unfuckable." Fanning was 16, and the role was for the daughter in a father-daughter road trip comedy.
10.Gwyneth Paltrow was told by the studio that she wasn't pretty enough to star in Golden Gate at age 20, despite the fact that director John Madden was interested in her for the role.
11.Melora Hardin was fired from Back to the Future after Eric Stoltz was replaced with Michael J. Fox because — at 5 feet 5 inches — she was 1 inch taller than Fox. Surprisingly, the concern was raised by female executives who “felt that it emasculated their lead character to have a taller girlfriend.”
Hardin was replaced by Claudia Wells, who was 1 inch shorter, the same height as Fox.
12.Tiffany Haddish used to "accidentally" leave her purse (with her phone on inside, recording) in audition rooms so that she could hear what casting directors said about her and why she was rejected. Reasons included, "She is not as urban as I thought she would be," "She's so ghetto, I just can't," "Her boobs aren't big enough," and "I really think we should just go with a white girl. This role should be changed to white."
13.Zoë Kravitz was similarly rejected for an audition for The Dark Knight Rises because she was "too urban." Saying that it probably came from a casting director or their assistant and not Christopher Nolan himself, Kravitz expressed frustration. "Being a woman of color and being an actor, and being told at that time that I wasn’t able to read because of the color of my skin, and the word 'urban' being thrown around like that, that was what was really hard about that moment," she said.
14.Rene Russo was cast in Batman Forever when Michael Keaton was still set to play Batman — but when Val Kilmer replaced him, Russo was fired for being "too old" to believably be Kilmer's love interest. She is five years older than Kilmer (she's three years younger than Keaton).
In Russo's place, they cast Nicole Kidman, who is eight years younger than Kilmer. So...basically, a five-year-plus age difference between love interests was fine, as long as the woman was younger.
15.Elizabeth Banks was deemed too old to play 18-year-old MJ in Spider-Man — which may have been fair enough, as Banks was 28...except that Tobey Maguire, who played Spider-Man, was only a bit over a year younger.
The role instead went to Kirsten Dunst, who is seven years younger than Maguire.
16.Nia Long was passed over to play Alex in Charlie's Angels because she looked "too old" next to Drew Barrymore. She is four and a half years older than the 25-year-old, and less than two years older than the third star, Cameron Diaz.
She was replaced by Lucy Liu, who is two years OLDER than Long and over six years older than Barrymore.
17.Ashley Benson said she's been told multiple times that she's "too fat" for roles. "It's come up a few times in the last few years, like, 'You're too fat for this.' And I'm just sitting here like, 'Wait, what? Do you want a skeleton?' But I feel good. I don’t want to lose 20 pounds, because I don’t need to," she said.
"I get told all the time to lose weight. I got that a month ago," Benson, best known for starring in Pretty Little Liars, continued. "It’s just weird. With my stuff recently, it’s been, ‘You have to be skin and bones or you’re not getting it.’"
18.Reese Witherspoon posted on Instagram that she was once told she was "too smart" to play the role of a young woman. She did not reveal the role or even her age at the time, but she finished the post by talking about crying in the shower in her 20s over lost roles, so we can assume it was around then.
She also shared in an interview how studio heads associated her too much with her Election character, Tracy Flick, so her rep told her to "wear a sexy outfit" and "pretend not to be smart" next time she met with a studio head.
In fact, Witherspoon almost lost out on the role of Elle in Legally Blonde because “they thought [she] was a shrew" and "repellent." She was again told to "dress sexy" for the studio head.*
19.At age 37, Maggie Gyllenhaal was told she was "too old" to play the love interest of a 55-year-old man.
20.Similarly, Geena Davis was told she was too old to play the love interest of a character 20 years older than she was.
21.And Olivia Wilde was interested in playing Naomi in The Wolf of Wall Street at age 29, but she was also told she was too old. This was opposite Leonardo DiCaprio, who was 37.
The role went to then-22-year-old Margot Robbie instead.
22.Jamie Denbo was also told she was "too old" to play the mother of an 18-year-old and the wife of a 57-year-old at age 43. This means that execs thought a 25-year-old — the age she would've had to be to have an 18-year-old at 43 — was too old to give birth.
23.Priyanka Chopra was rejected from a 2017 movie role because of her race. "I was out for a movie, and somebody [from the studio] called one of my agents and said, 'She's the wrong...' ― what word did they use? — 'physicality.' So in my defense as an actor, I'm like, 'Do I need to be skinnier? Do I need to get in shape? Do I need to have abs?' Like, what does 'wrong physicality' mean?" Chopra told InStyle, via HuffPost. "And then my agent broke it down for me. Like, 'I think, Priy, they meant that they wanted someone who's not brown.'"
24.Catherine Zeta-Jones was told she was "too old" (at age 19) and "too pretty" for the lead role in Andrew Lloyd Webber's theatrical show Aspects of Love. The lead was supposed to be 20.
25.The very day Rachel Brosnahan found out she'd been cast as the lead in the comedy series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, she'd lost a role that morning for not being "funny enough." This was something Brosnahan was told throughout her career.
26.Mindy Kaling was told that not only was she not attractive enough to play herself in a sketch show, but she also wasn't funny enough.
She then, of course, became a writer and an actor on The Office, one of the most famous and successful comedies of all time.
27.Winona Ryder was told in the '80s that she wasn't attractive enough to be a star. In particular, at a specific audition, a casting director stopped her mid-sentence and told her, "You should not be an actress. You are not pretty enough. You should go back to wherever you came from and you should go to school. You don’t have it."
28.Emma Thompson says she was deemed "not pretty enough" by male executives to do nude scenes, which lost her roles. "I have also never conformed to the shape or look of someone they might want to see naked."
Thompson was also originally considered too old to play Hugh Grant's love interest in Sense and Sensibility. She's only a year older than he is.
29.Scarlett Johansson was judged "too sexy" to star in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. In fact, director David Fincher said, "Scarlett Johansson was great. It was a great audition, I'm telling you. But the thing with Scarlett is, you can't wait for her to take her clothes off."
30.According to Kate Beckinsale, director Michael Bay didn't think she was attractive enough for her role in Pearl Harbor because she "wasn't blonde and [her] boobs weren't bigger than [her] head."
"I didn’t make sense to him as an attractive woman,” Beckinsale told Yahoo Entertainment. “So there was a lot of panic and concern over, ‘How on earth are we gonna make her attractive?'" Beckinsale was put on an intense workout regimen and diet.
31.Minnie Driver almost didn't star in Good Will Hunting because the producer didn't think she was "hot enough." Driver called it the rudest thing anyone had said to her in Hollywood — she later revealed that it was Harvey Weinstein who said it. Luckily, writers Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, as well as director Gus Van Sant, fought for her to get the role, for which she was nominated for an Oscar.
32.Meryl Streep was considered "too ugly" to star in King Kong. Producer Dino De Laurentiis actually said, "Che brutta" ("How ugly") in front of Streep when she came to audition — she understood Italian and fired back in the same language.
33.And finally, Viola Davis was told she wasn't pretty or light-skinned enough numerous times throughout her career. She didn't mention specific roles, but she did say the feedback was often in relation to romantic comedies. “A lot of it is based in race. It really is,” she said. “Let’s be honest: If I had my same features and I were five shades lighter, it would just be a little bit different. And if I had blonde hair, blue eyes, and even a wide nose, it would be even a little bit different than what it is now."
Davis continued, "We could talk about colorism, we could talk about race. It pisses me off, and it has broken my heart — on a number of projects, which I won’t name." She has, however, spoken about feedback from other actors that she "wasn't pretty enough" to star in How to Get Away With Murder.
The National Eating Disorders Association helpline is 1-800-931-2237; for 24/7 crisis support, text “NEDA” to 741741.