RIP Irrfan Khan: Leonardo DiCaprio to Steven Spielberg, Hollywood legends the actor turned down to work in India

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByHT Correspondent
Apr 29, 2020 02:58 PM IST

Irrfan Khan died after battling a long illness. Here is a look at all the times he turned down big-budget Hollywood films with celebrated co-stars and filmmaker that he turned down to work in India.

Irrfan Khan breathed his last on Wednesday (April 29), after being admitted to Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital for a colon infection on Tuesday. Considered by many as India’s biggest export to Hollywood, he has worked in films such as Jurassic World and Life of Pi.

Irrfan Khan died at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital on Wednesday.
Irrfan Khan died at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital on Wednesday.

In an interview with HT Brunch in 2016, Irrfan said that though he found success in Hollywood, he ‘never really felt like leaving India’. “I keep getting interesting offers. If I were younger, I might have thought of relocating to Hollywood. But I never really felt like leaving India. My people are here and so are my stories. Today, small and unconventional films are redefining cinema in India. And I am happy to be part of this brave, new world. Hollywood is just a bonus,” he had said.

Matt Damon, Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christopher Nolan and Ridley Scott have all been turned down by Irrfan at one point or another, some of them more than once.

 Also Watch | Actor Irrfan Khan passes away in Mumbai; tributes pour in from celebrities

Irrfan shot to international acclaim with his amazing talent, but ended up turning down big-budget Hollywood films, for a variety of reasons. Most recently, the actor said ‘no’ to Steven Spielberg, for a secret project that could have been Robopocalypse. Irrfan was supposed to appear in the film with Scarlett Johansson. “I didn’t feel the character offered to me gave me much scope. So I said ‘No’; though Scarlett Johansson is an actor I would have loved to share screen space with,” he said in an interview to NDTV.

Also read: Irrfan Khan, actor extraordinaire and India’s face in the West, dies at 54

Before that, Irrfan had to let go of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, which ended up grossing more than $650 million worldwide. While it isn’t clear which part Irrfan was meant to play, it could have been either of the characters played by David Gyasi or Matt Damon. “They expected a huge commitment from my end. I had to stay in the US for four months at a stretch. I tried to work out my schedule and suggested if I could shuttle between India and the US as it wouldn’t have been possible for me to be there for that long. I wanted to be here for The Lunchbox and D-Day. They couldn’t allow that. I don’t have a tendency to regret what I do, but knowing it’s a Christopher Nolan film, I can say that this has been one of the most difficult decisions I’ve made,” he told The Times of India.

Irrfan was also forced to give up a chance to work with Ridley Scott, not once but twice, due to scheduling issues. “I was hoping to do The Martian and Piku but the schedule did not permit. I hope to work with Ridley Scott again. It was a second miss as I was earlier supposed to work with him in Body of Lies but that also did not work out,” Irrfan told India Today. While the role offered to him in The Martian ended up going to Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mark Strong filled the position in Body of Lies, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe in lead roles.

Most recently, Irrfan was seen in Homi Adajania’s Angrezi Medium, as a father who would go to any lengths so that his daughter could study in a foreign university. The film’s business at the box office was affected due to the coronavirus lockdown.

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