‘The Office’: Philip Seymour Hoffman Was Offered a Role in the Cast but He Turned It Down

The Office may have officially left Netflix, but millions of fans are still completely enamored with the show. The fabulous writing and bevy of colorful characters certainly contributed to making The Office such an iconic show. But the dynamic ensemble cast really cemented the show as one of the all-time great comedies in TV history.

The Office cast: B.J Novak, Jenna Fischer, John Krasinski, Rainn Wilson, and Steve Carell
B.J Novak, Jenna Fischer, John Krasinski, Rainn Wilson, and Steve Carell | Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank

Though there’s no shortage of talent in The Office cast, there are some actors who truly stand out from the crowd. One such actor is, of course, Steve Carell, who played the legendary Michael Scott. For seven seasons, Carell lent his phenomenal comedic chops and improvisational skills to the show, creating one of the funniest and most paradoxical characters in history. Michael, while an ignorant, bumbling, idiot at times, was also intrinsically lovable and, despite his many gaffes, fans still found themselves rooting for him.

Philip Seymour Hoffman turned down a lead role in ‘The Office’

Of course, it’s hard to imagine anyone but Carell playing Michael Scott now, but the role was highly coveted when Carell booked the part. Dozens of actors competed for consideration for the role including Owen Wilson and Stephen Colbert. But the show actually offered the part outright to two actors before any of the other actors had the opportunity to audition for the part. Indiewire reported that according to Andy Green’s book The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s, the role of Michael was offered to both Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti but they both chose to pass on the part.

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Despite Giamatti and Hoffman turning down a part on The Office, casting still had over 30 actors who they were considering for the role. Ultimately they went with Carell. According to an interview with The Guardian, Carell had the “kind of generic Americana appeal that most TV stars of the time had.” Furthermore, casting loved the way Carell approached the character. The actor leaned into the douchier part of Michael while still giving him a lot of emotional depth. Naturally, this allowed the writers to really get creative when dreaming up ridiculous situations for Michael to navigate.

Why Steve Carell was perfect casting for Michael Scott

“Steve [Carell] naturally brings so much truth and emotion to everything he plays that we could write the most extreme comedy scenarios for him, such as stepping on a George Foreman grill and declaring himself disabled or falling in love with a chair model from a catalog and asking the office to help him find her,” B.J Novak (who was a cast member and a writer for The Office) shared. “In anyone else’s hands that might sink the character, but Steve had a three-dimensionality that let him dig himself out of any situation.”

Clearly, Carell was the right person for the job. While it may be interesting to think about what Hofmann or Giamatti could have brought to the role, Carell truly made The Office what it was. The show simply wouldn’t have been the same if someone else was tasked with bringing Michael Scott to life.