Actors Who Were Deemed Either 'Too Ugly' Or 'Too Pretty' For Roles

Headshot of Jessica Alba
instagram | @jessicaalba

We already know that Hollywood is a realm of beautiful people. But what happens when a casting director believes that an actor is too hot for a role? And, conversely, what happens when they're considered to be too ugly?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, of course, but at the same time, whether an actor is a good fit, appearance-wise, for a role is also in the eye of the beholder.

Let's delve into the details of actors who apparently didn't look quite right for a role.

Benedict Cumberbatch

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch
Wikimedia Commons | Gage Skidmore

Cumberbatch is downright iconic in his role as Sherlock Holmes, but BBC executives initially weren't sold on the casting choice. "You promised us a sexy Sherlock, not [Cumberbatch]," Sherlock showrunner Steven Moffat said of his meeting with the BBC.

Hugh Grant

Actor Hugh Grant
Wikimedia Commons | Kurt Kulac

Back during Grant's heyday in the '90s, he was a bankable leading man for all manner of light movies. But he almost didn't get what ended up being a standout role in Four Weddings and a Funeral because writer Richard Curtis thought he was too attractive.

Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep in an interview laughing and saying "Not really"

Streep might be the portrait of Hollywood elegance, but she wasn't always seen that way. Back when she auditioned for a role in King Kong as a 26-year-old, producer Dino De Laurentiis said, "che brutta" of her appearance. For those keeping score at home, that means "how ugly" in Italian.

Melissa De Sousa

Actor Melissa De Sousa
youtube | ScreenSlam

De Sousa told an interviewer from Rolling Out magazine that she didn't get a role as a "down-on-her-luck stripper" in Hustle & Flow because she was deemed to be too pretty. De Sousa begged the casting director to see her anyway, although she ultimately didn't get the role.

Jessica Biel

Being considered too ugly for a role is bad for the self esteem, but what's it like when you're considered to be too beautiful for any role? That's the position Jessica Biel found herself in after being named Esquire's 'sexiest woman alive' back in 2005.

Aidan Turner

Shirtless Aidan Turner walking in front of the ocean in 'Poldark'
Giphy | Poldark

Turner enjoys certified heartthrob status today, but he almost didn't get the lead role in Poldark because of his appearance. Executive producer Damien Timmer didn't initially think Turner was attractive enough to play a leading man, but he was quickly convinced that Turner had what it takes.

Minnie Driver

Driver was already an established Hollywood star by the time she auditioned for Good Will Hunting in the late '90s, but she almost didn't get the role. Why? It turns out Harvey Weinstein (yes, that Harvey Weinstein) didn't think she was hot enough to play the role.

Mark Webber

Webber initially had a leading role in Stumptown, but he was quickly recast after the pilot episode. He said that he'd been fired from the role for not being hot enough, later describing his treatment as "degrading."

"These 'executive' decisions are why network TV is dying," he said.

Keira Knightley

Keira Knightley reading a book as she walks
Giphy | Working Title

Anyone who's watched the version of Pride & Prejudice from 2005 likely remembers how excellent Keira Knightley was in her role, so it may come as a surprise that she almost didn't get the role in the first place. Director Joe Wright initially thought she'd be too hot for her role before coming around.

Kate Beckinsale

We all know that Michael Bay likes big explosions and big boobs. When he was mapping out Pearl Harbor, he ran into a roadblock with Kate Beckinsale because she "wasn't blonde and [her] boobs weren't bigger than [her] head."

It sounds like paraphrasing, but knowing Michael Bay, this might be verbatim.

Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett Johansson at a red carpet raising an eyebrow at the camera

ScarJo was almost cast in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but Rooney Mara was cast instead. To explain, David Fincher offered a quote that hasn't aged well: "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."

Mindy Kaling

After a successful run both writing and acting in The Office, Kaling was ready to pitch her own show. There was just one problem: network executives didn't think she was hot enough to play...herself. For what it's worth, the unnamed network is apparently no longer on the air.

Andrew Garfield

Andrew Garfield looking confused
Giphy | Film4

Garfield might be an optimal Peter Parker, but he apparently isn't quite hot enough to play Prince Caspian. He was incredibly close to landing the role in the Chronicles of Narnia series, but producers went with Ben Barnes, deeming him to be hotter.

Emma Thompson

Actor Emma Thompson
Wikimedia Commons | Elena Ternovaja

Thompson spoke out not about a specific role, but more about a trend she's seen in Hollywood: one where male executives have repeatedly deemed her "not pretty" enough to do nude scenes.

"I have also never conformed to the shape or look of someone they might want to see naked," she added.

Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence sarcastically saying "okay" and giving a thumbs up

Lawrence's breakout role in Winter's Bone was a tough one for her to pin down. That's because she almost didn't get it for being "too pretty." She says that taking a red eye to the audition and wearing no makeup helped her secure the part.

Emmy Rossum

Shameless producers wanted the character of Fiona to be somewhat haggard. This posed a problem, as they thought that Emmy Rossum was "too glamorous" and that "[she] couldn't not be pretty." Fortunately, they came around to their senses eventually.

Jessica Alba

One of the bigger stars of the early aughts, Jessica Alba was seriously miffed after receiving instructions from Fantastic Four director Tim Story. "Can you be prettier when you cry?" he apparently asked. "Cry pretty, Jessica. Don't do that thing with your face. Just make it flat."

Alison Brie

Brie is known for playing peppy, energetic characters, and being typecast almost affected her role in Glow. Her character of Ruth was not meant to be "conventionally attractive," Brie said, adding that she would intentionally dress down during auditions to fit the image.

Winona Ryder

Confused Winona Ryder onstage appearing to do complex mathematical calculations

Ryder's long career in Hollywood has not come without its challenges. A casting director told her in the '80s that she "should not be an actress."

"You are not pretty enough," he said. "You should go back to wherever you came from and you should go to school. You don't have it."

David Harbour

Harbour may have made his name co-starring with Ryder in Stranger Things, but an earlier role in Brokeback Mountain left an impression. Harbour said that he was told by director Ang Lee that he needed to look more handsome.