Bodybuilding icon Arnold Schwarzenegger is a force to be reckoned with. From the fitness industry to cinema to politics, the Austrian Oak marveled in every field he anchored his focus on. While the name Schwarzenegger became synonymous with bodybuilding during the 60s, he catapulted to the pedestal of glory in the entertainment industry in the 70s. Nevertheless, with his exceptional finesse and acting flair, the seven-time Mr. Olympia champion became Hollywood’s favorite action hero and ruled the cinema for over two decades. However, though the icon has a multitude of blockbuster movies under his belt, he turned down a series of superhit cult classics and action genre films during his prime.

Let’s take a look at the films that the Austrian said no to in his heydays.

The Incredible Hulk – Not Lou Ferrigno but Arnold Schwarzenegger was the first choice


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After making his debut in the entertainment industry with films like Hercules in New York (1969) and Pumping Iron (1977), the Austrian had to wait a little longer for his action-hero era to materialize. Thus, the Terminator actor appeared in a series of auditions in his yesteryears, starting with the screen-testing of the 1977 adaptation of MCU’s The Incredible Hulk (1977). Interestingly, he was considered to star as Bill Bixby’s monstrous alter-ego, the Hulk. However, the role ultimately went to his on-stage rival, Lou Ferrigno. Nonetheless, the sole reason for the makers to cast Ferrigno instead of the Austrian was the height requirements for the role, as the character needed to pose a massive persona. While the seven-time Mr. Olympia stands 6 feet 2 inches, Ferrigno’s stature measures 6 feet 5 inches. The meager difference in size earned Lou his signature acting job. 

I Am Legend – Schwarzenegger almost starred in this now-Will Smith movie

The 2007 sci-fi/horror film I Am Legend earned a hoard full of reviews from critics. With Will Smith as the protagonist, the movie made a haven in the hearts of millions across the continents. Interestingly, it was the seventh-highest-grossing film of 2007 with an overall budget of $585 million. However, way before casting Smith as the lead, director Ridley Scott’s first choice was Arnold Schwarzenegger. Considering his persistent affinity to the action genre, in 1977, Scott almost finalized the Austrian Oak as his leading man. But as Ridley Scott dropped out from the project, the initial plans of casting the Austrian also followed suit. 

Total Recall 2 – A sequel that did not impress Schwarzenegger

With his iconic performance in the 1990 sci-fi movie, Total Recall, the bodybuilder made the shakes among the spectators and the movie went on to earn $261.4 million worldwide. However, for its second installment in 2012, the Austrian turned down the opportunity, as he thought the premise was too complicated. Therefore, the role of the construction worker, Douglas Quaid, was then played by Irish actor Colin James Farrell in Total Recall 2.

The Terminator – A change of role led Schwarzenegger to his most iconic character

The seven-time Mr. Olympia etched his name in the world of action cinema with his iconic role of a supervillain persona in the 1984 film, The Terminator. The T-800 killing machine created a buzz among critics and spectators through its top-notch action sequences. However, initially, it was Michael Biehn, who was supposed to play the role of the vicious antagonist. But, later, director James Cameron got piqued by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s meticulous stature and chose him for the role of T-800. 

Nonetheless, the sci-fi action thriller not just paved the way for Schwarzenegger to solidify his status as a leading man, but also the film gave a completely new perspective of science fiction to the spectators. The film’s success led to the dawning of a new era for the bodybuilder, as it went from a movie to a movie franchise. That was the point in cinematic history when the icon got his alias as ‘the Terminator’.

Die Hard – Experimenting with other genres saw the action hero reject this blockbuster movie

Starring Bruce Willis, the action-thriller movie, Die Hard became the tenth-highest-grossing film of 1988. More so, it received four Academy Award nominations and elevated Willis to leading man status in the entertainment industry. However, before Willis, the makers wanted Schwarzenegger to play the role of NYPD cop, Jon McClane. But the Austrian turned down the offer, as he wanted to branch out into comedy. Hence, after rejecting the opportunity, he went on to work in the 1988 film Twins.

RoboCop – Costume concerns saw Schwarzenegger out of this perfect role

The 1987 action drama RoboCop blended everything from action sequences to humor and satire. Therefore, for its intriguing genre, the film made a splash at the box office. Now, in the wake of The Terminator’s huge success, the makers wanted the seven-time Mr. Olympia to play the role of the dystopian character RoboCop.

Read More: Hollywood Superstar Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Best Movies

However, the RoboCop suit made the bodybuilder look indestructible and massive, and the script demanded someone with low body mass. Therefore, the film creators chose Peter Weller over Arnold Schwarzenegger in order to fit the leading man with the suit proportions. 

Spider-Man – Arnold Schwarzenegger had almost entered the MC Universe

It might be a little surprising to not envision Arnie as a part of the MCU franchise, let alone Spider-Man (all the movies). One of the biggest scripts the bodybuilder said no to was Spider-Man in 1991. The Terminator director, James Cameron, prepared a strong script filled with ferocious antagonists like Electro and Dr. Octopus. Interestingly, Cameron picked the Austrian to play the role of Dr. Octopus. However, unfortunately, that particular Spider-Man never made it to the cinema because the studio board did not like the script.

Full Metal Jacket – Busy schedule, another movie rejected

For the 1987 film, Full Metal Jacket, veteran director Stanley Kubrick, approached the Austrian for the leading man’s role. However, at the time, the bodybuilder was already busy with the movies, Commando (1985), and Predator (1987). Therefore, he turned down Kubrick’s offer and went on to pursue his previous commitments.

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Face/Off – Yet another Schwarzenegger-Stallone pairing missed


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Way before signing Nicolas Cage and John Travolta, the directors of Face/Off planned to cast Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone in the leading roles. However, because of Rocky and Terminator’s infamous rivalry back in the 90s, the makers chose Cage and Travolta as the protagonists. Nevertheless, the spectators later witnessed the on-screen dynamics of the pair through movies like The Expendables (2010), and Escape Plan (2013).

Air Force One – Arnold Schwarzenegger as the President?


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Air Force One is the 1997 American action political thriller film directed by Wolfgang Peterson. With Harrison Ford’s exceptional performance as the President, the movie earned widespread recognition. However, before signing Ford for the role, the makers wanted Schwarzenegger as their leading man regardless of his thick accent. 

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