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Which Iconic Role Did George Clooney Lose To Brad Pitt?

Gettyimages | Kevin Winter
By Tara Lloyd

Brad Pitt is enjoying an all-time career high after taking home an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in the critically acclaimed Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

It's just the latest acclaimed role in Pitt's impressive filmography, which also includes memorable performances in Inglourious Basterds, Ocean's Eleven and Fight Club.

But there's one role that really kicked off Pitt's career - and he beat a number of big names, including George Clooney and Robert Downey Jr., to get the part.

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One of Pitt's earliest film appearances was in 1991's Thelma & Louise, starring alongside Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon.

Pitt appeared as J.D, an attractive drifter who spends the night with Thelma. However, J.D is secretly a thief who has broken parole and robs Louise of her life savings.

The movie is famous for the raunchy sex scenes between Pitt and Davis - which reportedly would have shot the film's rating "past [rated] R" if they'd remained uncut - and launched Pitt's status as a sex symbol.

Gettyimages | Santiago Felipe

However, Pitt almost lost out on the career-making role.

In the book Off The Cliff: How the Making of ‘Thelma and Louise’ Drove Hollywood to the Edge, author Becky Aikman wrote, “Pitt’s [first] reading [of J.D.] veered into James Dean territory, with a nicely authentic accent and a certain slinky charm.”

However, director Ridley Scott decided Pitt was too young for the role, and the part was given to Billy Baldwin. Pitt received a second chance after Baldwin dropped out of the project.

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And Baldwin wasn't the only celeb that Pitt beat out to the role. According to Aikman, “the applicants, most with few credits at the time, formed a who’s who of future stars.”

Amongst those who auditioned for the role of J.D were Mark Ruffalo, Dylan McDermott and Dermot Mulroney.

The part then almost went to Robert Downey Jr., who was only 25 years old at the time. He lost out after assistant casting director Ira Belgrade claimed he would be "too short" next to Davis.

Gettyimages | Christopher Polk

But it was George Clooney who took the loss of the part the hardest.

“The funniest thing is, I didn’t watch that movie for a long time,” he told the Hollywood Reporter in 2011.

“I was really stuck doing a lot of bad TV at that time… I just couldn’t watch that movie for a couple of years.”

However, he admitted that Pitt deserved the part.

"When I saw it, I thought actually that was the right choice,” he conceded. “He was really good in it, and I would have f—ed it up somehow.”

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