Sylvester Stallone has revealed why he didn't jump at the chance to play the lead character in 1984's Beverly Hills Cop.

The actor and his former agent discuss the missed opportunity in a new book called Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood's Creative Artists Agency.

"In the early '80s, I called Sly about an offer I had received for a movie that I was really excited about him doing," Ron Meyer says in the book, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

"I knew that he probably wouldn't want to do this film because it somewhat parodied his tough-guy image."


And he was right.

"Ron told me, 'Don't change it,' but I took the script and rewrote it as a kind of compromise, where the guy was action-oriented but he also had a wry sense of humour," Stallone says.

His agent "begged" him to do the original script but Stallone wasn't convinced.

"I didn't think I could pull it off," Stallone says, "Then that ship sailed".

Eddie Murphy eventually landed the role as Axel Foley and the film made him an international star.

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It was the number one film in the US for an incredible 14 weeks, raked in more than NZ$440 million worldwide and spawned two sequels.

Stallone's not the only star who has passed on an offer to appear in a film which went on to become a huge success though.

Other examples include:

Matt Damon passed on Brokeback Mountain: "Way back, Gus (Van Sant) and I talked about me doing Brokeback Mountain with Joaquin Phoenix, but I had just done The Talented Mr. Ripley and All the Pretty Horses," Damon said to Playboy.

"I said, 'Gus, let's do it in a couple of years. I just did a gay movie and a cowboy movie. I can't do a gay cowboy movie now'."

Sam Neill passed on Priscilla: Queen of the Desert: "I just didn't 'get it'," the actor said to Fitzy and Wippa on Nova.

"I didn't think it was funny in the script, but it turned out to be such a wonderful film. That was my one regret."

Anne Hathaway turned down Knocked Up: "I turned down another movie because it was going to show a vagina ... not mine, but somebody else's," Hathaway said.

"And I didn't believe that it was actually necessary to the story."

Leonardo DiCaprio turned down the role of Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones: "I did have a meeting with George Lucas about that, yes," DiCaprio said.

"I just didn't feel ready to take that dive. At that point."

Hugh Jackman passed on playing James Bond: "I was about to shoot X-Men 2 and Wolverine had become this thing in my life and I didn't want to be doing two such iconic characters at once," the Aussie said.