Brad Pitt and George Clooney, quietly, have made a ton of great movies together. The real-life friends have collaborated on everything from Coen Brothers comedies to a trilogy of Ocean’s capers. But back in the day, the two reportedly went out for the same roles, with Pitt getting the better on Clooney for at least one specific role that haunts the one-time Batman to this day.
Decades ago – long before he played Tyler Durden or Benjamin Button – Brad Pitt was cast as the handsome thief J.D. in Ridley Scott’s Thelma & Louise. Naturally, Pitt’s looks and charisma helped earn him the part, but as it turns out, he edged future bestie George Clooney for the role. Geena Davis, who played Thelma in Sir Ridley’s classic, recalled that she learned this fact while sitting opposite Clooney on a flight. As she recalls:
At one point, he says to me, ‘I hate that Brad Pitt.’ And I say, ‘No you don’t. He’s your good friend, right?’ And he said, ‘Oh, I hate him because he got the part in Thelma & Louise.’ And I said, ‘Did you want that part?’ And he said, ‘Couldn’t you tell when I read with you?’
Only, according to Geena Davis, she had no recollection of reading with George Clooney for the part! She was so enamored with Brad Pitt – who, to be fair, looks like a god constructed from perfect clay – that she hardly noticed Clooney, and didn’t recall meeting him until that day on the airplane, years later. Davis tells the whole story on The Late Late Show With James Corden, and it’s really worth a listen:
Now, when Thelma & Louise would have been casting (in 1989 or ’90), George Clooney was a TV actor whose “greatest” cinematic credit was playing Matt Stevens in Return of the Killer Tomatoes. He’d appeared on The Facts of Life, and was starting to make a name for himself playing Roseanne Barr’s supervisor, Booker, on the sitcom Roseanne.
But he hadn’t yet become “George Clooney, International Superstar," and it probably cost him a significant role. Of course, both Clooney and Pitt ended up doing just fine. But could you imagine Clooney as J.D. in Thelma & Louise? Would the part have worked just as well without Pitt’s outlaw charms?
Clooney isn't the first actor to deeply regret passing on a role. And he won't be the last. But I don't think he regrets it nearly as much as these actors, who ALMOST played superheroes but, for reasons we may never understand, passed on the chance. Some of these still hurt!