We want our great artists to be discerning, and David Bowie showed the kind of restraint that elevated his legend. This week, for instance, we're learning (though a similar story was published to much less fanfare over a year prior to his death) that the late icon not only turned down an opportunity to collaborate with Coldplay but offered the following brutal assessment of the material being proposed: "It's not a very good song, is it?" Harsh, but honest! It's just that kind of artistic integrity that we appreciate from our idols, and in light of the newsmaking tidbit (courtesy NME) we've come up with a "complete" list (or as complete as we could muster) of every notable film, TV show and musical collaboration Bowie turned down during his brilliant, multi-faceted career: from James Bond to American Idol.

(Note: Though there are other rumored rejections from Bowie not listed here -- including the title character in Steven Spielberg's 1991 film Hook -- we only included items for which we could track down the original and/or a reliable source.)

  • 'American Idol'
    Photo Credit: FOX

    As noted by American Idol: The Untold Story author, HitFix editor-in-chief and all-around Idol expert Richard Rushfield, Bowie turned down opportunities to appear on the Fox singing competition on multiple occasions.

  • A Danny Boyle musical film based on his life
    Photo Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

    As Boyle told Radio Times last November, he and screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce were left "in grief" after Bowie turned down their request to use his songs in a film musical about the singer, leaving the director to put all his energy into Steve Jobs to “fill the space in my heart left by the abandoned Bowie script.”

  • 'Doctor Who'
    Photo Credit: BBC

    Though it's unclear what opportunity, exactly, Bowie turned down with regard to the long-running British sci-fi series, in a 2013 interview with Den of Geek 'Who' composer Murray Gold described an interesting conversation he had with the icon after running into him at an ice-cream store: "I said, 'I write music for Doctor Who,' and he said, 'I'm not doing it.' I said, 'What do you mean?' and he said, 'They want me to do it.' I don't know what it means, to this day, but that's what he said. I don't know in what capacity, as an actor or as a musician."

  • 'Flight of the Conchords'
    Photo Credit: HBO

    In an appreciation posted online following Bowie's death, Flight of the Conchords star and creator Jemaine Clement wrote that Bowie had rebuffed an invitation to play himself in a dream sequence on the duo's HBO series, citing a recent guest appearance as himself on Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's BBC sitcom Extras as the reason for his abstention. "[He] didn’t want to do another thing acting as a version of him," wrote Clement. "He’d rather just continue being the actual him."

  • Knighthood
    Photo Credit:

    Bowie in fact rejected two highly-coveted honors in his native country: first a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in 2000, and in 2003 a knighthood. Said Bowie of the latter: “I would never have any intention of accepting anything like that. It’s not what I spent my life working for.”

  • The opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics
    Photo Credit: International Olympic Committee

    The music legend rebuffed Boyle's offer to appear at the opening ceremony of the London Olympics in 2012 after personally sitting down with the director in New York City. As Boyle told the Toronto Star in 2013: “I went to see him because I wanted him to appear. We met in New York, which was a big thing for me, because he’s a hero of mine, a serious hero. ...He sadly didn’t want to do anything live."

  • The Red Hot Chili Peppers
    Photo Credit: AP Photo

    During a recent appearance on KLOS FM radio program Jonesy's Jukebox, RHCP frontman Anthony Kiedis revealed to the host that the band tried to get Bowie to produce two of their albums -- 2002's By the Way and 2006's Stadium Arcadium -- but that the icon "always respectfully declined." 

    [via Alternative Nation]

  • 'Velvet Goldmine'
    Photo Credit: Miramax Films

    Talking to the AV Club in 1998 around the release of Velvet Goldmine, director Todd Haynes confirmed that Bowie had turned down a request to use some of his music in the film, which centered on a fictional Bowie-esque glam rock star named Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Meyers). Nevertheless, Haynes took the rejection in stride, even admitting that Bowie's rebuff may have actually helped the film in the long run: "I did want it to be able to be read as fiction. It's a parallel universe to the real history," he said at the time. "I think that would have been virtually impossible, at least around the Brian Slade character, if he were also singing Bowie songs."


  • 'A View to a Kill'
    Photo Credit: MGM

    Before Christopher Walken bagged the role of A View to a Kill baddie Max Zorin in the 1985 Bond film, Bowie declined the part because -- as the singer reportedly said -- "I didn't want to spend five months watching my stunt double fall off mountains."

  • 'The X Factor'
    Photo Credit: Syco/Fremantle/Thames

    Cowell told The Daily Mail in 2013 that he tried to woo Bowie several times to appear on the X Factor, but that the singer never responded to his repeated requests. "I think if I could have anyone on The X Factor it would be David Bowie," said Cowell. "It’s no secret I’ve asked him, and he hasn’t said yes yet, but I’ll keep extending the invitation."

  • A Scottish stage production of 'Puss in Boots'
    Photo Credit:

    This is a minor footnote, but as Bowie's onetime mime/dance instructor (and Ziggy Stardust stager and performer) Lindsay Kemp described in an interview with the Guardian shortly after his death, Bowie once turned down his offer to play Puss in Boots in a stage rendition of the fairy tale in Musselburgh, Scotland. The deal-breaker, as Kemp describes it, was money: "His agent came back and said that £10 a week wasn’t really enough – could I get it up to £15? Management said no, we couldn’t. What Musselburgh missed!"

A former contributor to sites including MTV's The Backlot and Bloody-Disgusting, Chris Eggertsen worked in film development before indulging his love of pop culture writing full time. He specializes in horror, the intersection of social issues and entertainment and Howard Stern. He's on Twitter @HitFixChris.