HomeEntertainmentBurt Reynolds Was Offered The Part of ‘Die Hard’s John McClane Before Bruce Willis: Why He Turned Down the Role

Burt Reynolds Was Offered The Part of ‘Die Hard’s John McClane Before Bruce Willis: Why He Turned Down the Role

by Josh Lanier
(Photo by John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Burt Reynolds is one of those rare actors who is as famous for the movies he turned down as he for the ones he did. And the films he’s turned down are some of the biggest, most celebrated blockbusters of all time.

Variety compiled some of the roles he said no to and why. Those included James Bond — “It was a stupid thing to say,” Reynolds told USA Today in 2015. “I could’ve done it and I could’ve done it well;” Han Solo — “I just didn’t want to play that kind of role at the time,” he told Business Insider in 2016. “Now I regret it. I wish I would have done it; and Richard Gere’s role in Pretty Woman — “Why? Because I’m an idiot.”

He also turned down two roles that Jack Nicholson eventually played and won Oscars for. Those include One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Terms of Endearment.

But most famously, he passed on playing off-duty New York City police officer John McClane in Die Hard. The role Bruce Willis would make iconic. Reynolds was one of several action stars to say no to the role including Sylvester Stallone, Clint Eastwood, and Mel Gibson. Though, Reynolds doesn’t remember turning down the role.

The Actor Never Dwelled on the Past

“They all would’ve changed my career, without a doubt,” Reynolds said of the roles he turned down in his memoir But Enough About Me. “I would’ve been offered all kinds of roles. You know, how much can you do in a Smokey and the Bandit?”

But he says he doesn’t dwell on paths not taken.

“You can’t go back,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald, according to Variety. “You can’t relive that moment when you should have said, ‘I’ll take it, I’ll do it.’”

Reynolds would eventually pick up an Oscar nomination for his role in Boogie Nights.

Burt Reynolds Finally Buried Two Years After His Death

Burt Reynolds‘ family buried his cremated remains last week more than two years after the superstar’s death.

It’s not clear at the moment why it took so long to bury his remains there, but his family gathered for the Hollywood Forever cemetery Thursday on what would have been his 85th birthday.

Hollywood Forever president and co-owner Tyler Cassity told The Associated Press the cemetery plans to unveil a bronze bust of the actor on the third anniversary of his death in September where fans can visit.

Reynolds died in 2018.

“He has had health issues, however, this was totally unexpected,” Reynolds’ niece Nancy Lee Hess said in a statement at the time. “He was tough. Anyone who breaks their tailbone on a river and finishes the movie is tough. And that’s who he was. My uncle was looking forward to working with Quentin Tarantino (in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) and the amazing cast that was assembled.”

Reynolds was set to play the real-life George Spahn, owner of Spahn Ranch where the so-called Manson family lived. Bruce Dern ended up playing the role in the film.