Cary Grant Turned Down ‘Bridge on the River Kwai’ for a Chance of Working With Marlon Brando

Actor Cary Grant almost starred in the Oscar-winning movie Bridge on the River Kwai. However, he ultimately turned the part down for the chance to work with Marlon Brando on another project. Grant held the belief that he could have pulled off the Bridge on the River Kwai role, but he doubted his ability to perform it as well as his replacement did.

Cary Grant was famous for the roles he didn’t star in

Cary Grant, who turned down 'Bridge on the River Kwai'. He's wearing a suit with a closed mouth smile in front of a solid red background.
Cary Grant | Herbert Dorfman/Corbis via Getty Images

James Bawden and Ron Miller collected interviews with some of Hollywood’s biggest names in their book, Conversations with Classic Film Stars. Bawden pointed out that the actor is known for the movies he didn’t make. Grant agreed that he turned his back on a lot of big projects extending far beyond Bridge on the River Kwai.

Grant rejected to work with Billy Wilder on Sabrina because “I’d heard he didn’t like actors very much, and I’d already worked with enough of that kind of director to last a lifetime. Humphrey Bogart did the picture, and he looks very unhappy all the way through.” The actor was never afraid to speak his mind when a project didn’t speak to him.

Cary Grant turned down ‘Bridge on the River Kwai’ to work with Marlon Brando

Bridge on the River Kwai director David Lean reached out to Grant to play Colonel Nicholson, although the part ultimately went to Alec Guinness. The story follows British POWs who must complete the construction project of building a railway bridge for their Japanese captors. However, they don’t realize that their allies are planning a raid through the jungle to destroy the very bridge that they’re working so hard to construct.

Grant had good reason to ultimately not star in Bridge on the River Kwai. It’s a phenomenal movie, but he had ambitions to work with Brando, even though things didn’t turn out as he expected them to. Additionally, he thought that the role went to the right actor in the end.

“It’s true I turned down Bridge on the River Kwai [1957] for The Pride and the Passion [1957],” Grant said. “I did it to work with Marlon Brando, and then he quit just before we started and was replaced by Frank Sinatra. I think I could have done Kwai, although not perhaps quite as brilliantly as Alec Guinness.”

The role won Alec Guinness an Oscar

Even though Grant didn’t get to star in Bridge on the River Kwai, the movie continues to stand the test of time. The Rotten Tomatoes score currently sits at a 96% approval rating with critics and 93% with audiences.

Bridge on the River Kwai truly shined at the 1958 Academy Awards, including the role that Grant nearly played. Guinness won for Best Actor in a Leading Role, although the film would also win in another six categories. Best Picture, Director, Writing, Cinematography, Editing, and Score. However, Sessue Hayakawa lost out to Red Buttons for Sayonara for Supporting Actor.

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