Some Of The Greatest Actors Of All Time Turned Down Jurassic Park

Sam Neill has celebrated quite a prolific career, with 148 acting credits to his name according to IMDb. Known by many for his roles in films like "Sleeping Dogs," "The Hunt For Red October," "Possession," and "Event Horizon," it's safe to say that Sam Neill is most recognized for his performance as Dr. Alan Grant in "Jurassic Park." The Steven Spielberg dinosaur blockbuster based on Michael Crichton's novel of the same name has become one of the most easily recognizable pop culture properties in history, spawning five sequels, in addition to the massive merchandising opportunities featuring toys, cards, theme park rides, comic books, and so much more.

It's hard to imagine anyone other than Sam Neill playing Dr. Alan Grant, the triceratops-loving paleontologist with a heart of gold who is willing to do whatever it takes to keep people safe from dinosaurs on the loose and, if needed, absolutely destroy bratty preteens who disrespect velociraptors. Based on real-life paleontologist Jack Horner, Neill effortlessly portrayed Grant's brilliant mind as well as his frequent curmudgeonly behavior. However, when things run amok on Isla Nublar, Dr. Grant jumps into the role of a hero, while still serving as a relatable everyman that makes it seem like we too could save our loved ones from dinosaurs if need be.

Sam Neill was the perfect casting decision, but he was famously only cast three or four weeks before starting production. Here's how "Jurassic Park" would look in an alternate timeline, had the other actors considered for the role actually signed on board.

Harrison Ford

In what should be a surprise to absolutely no one, Spielberg star Harrison Ford was approached to play Dr. Alan Grant. Like Neill, Ford has an extremely decorated resume, but is most remembered for his roles as the titular "Indiana Jones" and Han Solo in the "Star Wars" films. During a Q&A event following a 30th anniversary screening of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" in 2011, Ford cracked a joke about how Spielberg "only hires [him] for Indiana Jones,'" to which Spielberg immediately rebuffed and confessed he had offered the role of Dr. Alan Grant to Ford before approaching anyone else. "Do you know who I offered 'Jurassic Park' to? This guy. Alan Grant, I first offered to this guy," Spielberg said. He apparently equated the project as "a trip to Mars," but Ford ultimately passed on the role.

Had Ford played Dr. Alan Grant, there's a high likelihood that the character would have a bit more of a cocksure attitude, which Ford exudes in any role on screen. He'd certainly have been able to pull off Dr. Grant's grumpy demeanor, and surely would have been able to serve as a protector for young Lex and Tim Murphy, similarly to the way Indiana Jones protected Short Round in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom." However, if Ford had taken the role, we'd likely have had to say goodbye to Dr. Alan Grant's iconic hat, as the Indiana Jones comparisons would have been too obvious.

Kurt Russell

One of the biggest action stars of the 1980s and early 1990s, it makes sense that Kurt Russell was considered for the role of Dr. Alan Grant. The consideration was shortlived, however, as Universal was unwilling to meet his salary demands. The dollar amount has never been made publicly available, but we do know that Russell was given $7 million for "Stargate" the year following "Jurassic Park," which was more than his $2 million asking price. Instead of doing "Jurassic Park," Russell instead took on the starring role in "Captain Ron," a critically panned, box office flop.

Had Russell taken on the role as Dr. Alan Grant, the character would have been more of an unattainable action hero, because regardless if Kurt Russell is playing an eyepatch donning hero like Snake Plissken or even Santa Claus, nothing about Kurt Russell gives off the "everyman" energy. That's surely not a bad thing as Russell has played some of the greatest heroes in cinematic history, but this is one of the few instances where casting someone other than Russell was the correct call.

Richard Dreyfuss

Spielberg definitely pulled from his rolodex when it came to approaching actors for the role, which is why star of "Jaws" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," Richard Dreyfuss, was also considered. According to Joseph McBride, the author of "Steven Spielberg: A Biography," Dreyfuss was one of the final two actors in contention for the role of Dr. Alan Grant before it ultimately went to Sam Neill. McBride claims that Dreyfuss eventually lost consideration because he was too expensive.

Dreyfuss would have been a fantastic Dr. Grant, especially because he'd already made a name as one of Spielberg's go-to heroic everyman characters. Dreyfuss has spoken quite candidly about how difficult it has been in his later years to find work and has been forced to take roles for a paycheck rather than for artistic pleasure, and while there's an immense amount of privilege failing to be acknowledged, had he said yes to "Jurassic Park," the constant cash flow from likeness merchandising would have absolutely prevented any possible money woes for the actor.

William Hurt

Most famously, William Hurt was the longtime frontrunner for the role of Dr. Alan Grant, and it was his ultimate rejection of the project that pushed Sam Neill into the role. A notable stage actor, Hurt had successfully crossed over into the world of film in the early 1990s thanks to films like "The Big Chill," "Body Heat," "Broadcast News," "Kiss of the Spider Woman," and the groundbreaking "Children of a Lesser God." Hurt was known as a serious actor, and reportedly couldn't see himself as the star of an action-heavy blockbuster with gigantic set pieces and plenty of acting opposite CGI and animatronic T-Rex puppets. In the book "The Making of Jurassic Park," Hurt admitted to politely declining the role without having read the script. It didn't interest him, and instead starred in the Anthony Minghella directed romantic comedy, "Mr. Wonderful."

While Hurt would have no doubt provided a fantastic performance as Dr. Alan Grant, the legacy of the character would have certainly been tarnished by Hurt's off-screen antics. Oscar winner Marlee Matlin had accused Hurt of rape and serial abuse, accusations that went ignored by the general public until Hurt's passing in March of 2022 brought the allegations back to light. Dr. Alan Grant is such a beloved character because he inspires us to be the best version of ourselves, which wouldn't have been possible had Hurt taken on the job.