From Leonardo DiCaprio to Christopher Nolan, 4 times Irrfan Khan turned down Hollywood legends

From Leonardo DiCaprio and Christopher Nolan to Steven Spielberg and Ridley Scott, here are four Hollywood projects Irrfan Khan was forced to turn down.
Irrfan Khan in a still from Jurassic World.
Irrfan Khan in a still from Jurassic World.
Updated on Apr 20, 2020 04:40 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | By

What do Matt Damon, Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christopher Nolan and Ridley Scott have in common? They’ve all been turned down by Irrfan Khan at one point or another, some of them more than once.

Irrfan, easily India’s biggest export to Hollywood, has films such as The Namesake, Life of Pi, Inferno, The Amazing Spider-Man and Jurassic World, just to name a few, to his credit. Collectively, Irrfan’s films have grossed a staggering $3.6 billion worldwide, as of 2017.

His international appeal and amazing talent makes him a popular choice for some of the world's biggest filmmakers. But over the years, Irrfan has found himself turning down several of them, 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.

Tom Hanks and Irrfan Khan in a still from Inferno.
Tom Hanks and Irrfan Khan in a still from Inferno.

Prior to that, Irrfan had expressed regret at turning down Christopher Nolan, who wanted him for a role in his 2016 science-fiction film Interstellar. 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.

Interstellar starred Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain and others. The film went on to make over $650 million worldwide. Nolan’s upcoming film, Tenet, was partially filmed in India, and stars local actors Dimple Kapadia and Denzil Smith, among others.

But Nolan and Spielberg aren’t the only legendary filmmaker’s Irrfan has been forced to turn down. Ridley Scott holds the unique distinction of offering more than one role to the actor, only for things to not fall into place. “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.

Also read: When Christopher Nolan opened up about Aamir Khan’s Ghajini being ‘inspired by’ Memento: ‘I heard it was successful’

The actor’s most recent film, Angrezi Medium, was among the last to be released before the nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. Its box office was severely affected, and the film was given an early streaming release. The actor completed the project while undergoing treatment for neuroendocrine tumour, which has limited his output significantly.

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