Bruce Willis


  1. Steve Guttenberg, Police Academy, 1984.    Difficult to understand but Hanks, Michael Keaton, Judge Reinhold and Bruce Willis were all turned down for baby cop Corey Mahoney.  They were upset… until seeing how each of the next six of these  Carry On Cops were worse than the one before.  Guttenberg threw away his badge after three more. Probably to appease his father – an NYPD officer. Willis, of course,  became exactly that in the Die Hard franchise.
  2. Alan Thicke, Growing Pains, TV, 1985-1992.  Bruce’s  latest auditions were for the psycologist father of the Seaver clan of Long Island – and a private dick named  David Addison Jr in an unknown quantity called… Moonlighting.  The different sets of producers chose well.
  3. Robert Joy, Desperately Seeking Susan, 1985.     After horsing around in tests with Madonna in three ear-rings, tattoos and chopped hair (and she didn’t look any better),he decided to do some Moonlighting TV tests as well…
  4. Matthew Modine, Full Metal Jacket, 1985.    “I got the call two daysbefore we were to start the first Moonlighting.I was crushed!I’d alwaysbeena student ofthe Vietnam war. As it turned out,it took them two years to complete the film and get it out. So, everything happens for a reason.”
  5. Kevin Costner, No Way Out, 1986.  For his excellent thriller – labyrinthine and ingenious, said Roger Ebert – the under-praised Aussie director Roger Donaldson caught Costner on the cusp of susperstardom (betweern The Untouchables and Field of Dreams) after seeing if the hero’s US Navy uniform would suit… Alec Baldwin, Michael Biehn, Jeff Bridges, Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, William Hurt, Tommy Lee Jones, Michael Keaton, Michael Nouri, Bill Paxton,  Sean Penn, Dennis Quaid, Kurt Russell, Patrick Swayze
  6. Tom Berenger, Platoon, 1986. 
  7. Mel Gibson, Lethal Weapon, 1986.      In all, 39 possibilities for the  off-kilter, ’Nam vet cop Martin Riggs – not as mentally-deranged as in early drafts (he used a rocket launcher on one guy!)  Some ideas were inevitable: Alec Baldwin, Michael Biehn (shooting Aliens), Jeff Bridges, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Al Pacino, Sean Penn, William Petersen, Dennis Quaid, Christopher Reeve, Kurt Russell, Charlie Sheen, Sylvester Stallone, John Travolta, Bruce Willis. Some were inspired: Bryan Brown, Nicolas Cage, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum (he inherited Gibson’s role in The Fly), William Hurt (too dark for Warner Bros), Michael Keaton, Michael Madsen, Liam Neeson, Eric Roberts. Some were insipid: Jim Belushi, Pierce Brosnan, Kevin Costner, Kevin Kline, Stephen Lang, Michael Nouri (he joined another cop duo in The Hidden),  Patrick Swayze. Plus TV cops  Don  Johnson, Tom Selleck… three foreign LA cops:  Austrian Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dutch Rutger Hauer and French Christophe(r) Lambert. And the inevitable (Aussie) outsider Richard Norton.  Willis inherited Gibson’s Die Hard…and just to complicate things further, Die Hard With A Vengeance, 1994,was first penned as sequel to… (this is where we came in)… Lethal Weapon.
  8. Whoopi Goldberg, The Burglar, 1987.     Whoopi had been set as his sidekick. “Bruce didn’t sign,” recalled Whoopi, “the studio cannedthe project.I called a week after:‘I can do this’ And they said: ‘Of course!’’My attitude is I can play anything.”
  9. Roddy Piper, They Live, 1987The pitch was fine:Drifter finds some sunglasses that let him to see that aliens have taken over the Earth. And, apparently, the film.  Lousy! Which is probably why 18 other big guns, said nadato being Nada: Willis,Alec Baldwin, Michael Biehn, Jeff Bridges, Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Tommy Lee Jones, Michael Keaton, Christophe(r) Lambert, Dolph Lundgren, Bill Paxton, Ron Perlman, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Patrick Swayze, Jean-Claude Van Damme (plus three mere pistols: Brian Bosworth, Bruce Campbell, Stephen Lang).  And the less said about Russell’s wrestler replacement, the better.“Just John Carpenter as usual,” said the Washington Post,  “trying to dig deep with a toy shovel.”
  10. Michael Douglas, Fatal Attraction, 1987.

  11. Mark Harmon, The Presidio, 1987.  The usual old cop-young cop routine but set to a dull military beat in San Francisco’s Presidio Army Base.  Due for Lee Marvin-Jeff Bridges, but Lee fell ill and died.  Gene Hackman-Bridges were not as hot as Sean Connery-Don Johnson – except Don was hog-tied to Miami Vice.  OK, Sean-Kevin Costner – he quit so no Untouchables reunion as the pair finally became Sean-Mark Harmon.  Also up for the young upstart were 15 others:  Alec Baldwin Michael Biehn, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, Michael Keaton, Bill Pullman, Dennis Quaid, Kurt Russell, Sylvester Stallone, Patrick Swayze, Bruce Willis, even Europeans Dolph Lundgren, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jean-Claude Van Damme None could have saved what Chicago critic Roger Ebert called “a clone, of a film assembled out of spare parts from… the cinematic junkyard.”
  12. Kevin Costner, Bull Durham, 1987.   Ron Shelton had one helluva  job trying to win backing for his directing debut. “Baseball? Get outa here. Ball movies don’t sell.”  But his producer Thom Mount was part-owner of the real Durham Bulls squad and recognised what Roger Ebert would call a sports movie that knows what it is talking about. – because it knows so much about baseball and so little about love.” Orion stumped up $9m, eight weeks, creative freedom – the cast cut their costs because of the script. For the minor-league veteran, Crash Davis, Shelton  looked at: Alec Baldwin, Tom Berenger, Jeff Bridges, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Don Johnson, Tommy Lee Jones (he was baseball icon Ty Cobb in Shelton’s Cobb, 1994), Michael Keaton, Stephen Lang, Nick Nolte (more into football), Bill Paxton, Ron Perlman, Dennis Quaid, Kurt Russell (who worked on the script with Shelton), Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis – and even three foreigners to the game: Aussie Mel Gibson, French Christophe(r) Lambert and Austrian Arnold Schwarzenegger. Result: more sports from Shelton (basketball, golf, boxing) and more baseball movies from Hollywood: A League of Their Own, Eight Men Out (with Sheen), Field of Dreams (Costner), Major League I and II  (Berenger and Sheen).  
  13. Charles Grodin, Midnight Run, 1987.  In the frame for Jonathan “The Duke” Mardukas were Albert Brooks, Chevy Chase, Cher (oh yes!), Steve Martin, Bill Murray, Robin Williams. Plus  Bruce Willis – also up for Robert De Niro’s skip-tracer, or modern-day bounty-hunter, dragging Grodin’s hysterical embezzler ($15m!) back to Vegas… with the FBI and the Mob chasing them.   Rejected by the studio meant Willis was freeto take a chance with Die Hard.  Both films opened the same week.  This explains why so few people ever heard of Midnight Run.
  14. Michael Keaton, Batman, 1988.
  15. Michael Keaton, Clean and Sober, 1989.      Keaton’s last four films had bellied-up. Warners wanted Willis. Hewas the top TV name – and his TV producer was turning director with this project. Executives could not fathom him rejecting Bruce – or Tom Hanks. Keaton wasn’t sure about playing the coke-snorting, alcoholic, promiscuous, thieving, lying scumbag until Bruce told him:“You’re crazy if you don’t.”
  16. Kurt Russell, Tango & Cash, 1989.   ‘Tius the season for cops – and he had the choice of two…   Sylvester Stallone was Raymond Tango – without question. But who would he accept as his equally frame cop pardner, Gabriel Cash? After Patrick Swayze ran (to solo billing in Road House), the list was long… Willis, Michael Biehn, Pierce Brosnan, Kevin Costner, , Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, Don Johnson, Michael Keaton, Ray Liotta, Liam Neeson, Michael Nouri, Gary Oldman, Robert Patrick, Bill Paxton, Ron Perlman, Dennis Quaid, Gary Sinise. Plus three future Sly co-stars: Harrison Ford, Bruce Willis and  James Woods. It took 21 years, but Willis finally worked with Stallone on two chapters of his Expendables – then wanted too many millions for the third.
  17. Patrick Swayze, Next of Kin, 1989.   Next…?   Country bumpkins v the Mafia. Again. For the hero of his respun Raw Deal, 1985, UK director John Irvin went from The Obvious Aces: Kevin Costner, Tom Cruise, Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis… to the Tango and Cash possibles: Michael Biehn, Jeff Bridges, Pierce Brosnan, Kurt Rusell… plus The Also-Rans: Tommy Lee Jones, Kris Kristofferson, Dennis Quaid. And even French Christopher Lambert, Swedish Dolph Lundgren and Belgian Jean Claude Van Damme… for a Chicago cop!
  18. Fred Ward, Henry & June, 1989.  Considered to play Henry Miller.  Because he was bald. There could be no other reason. Such a role was beyond Brucie – handled perfectly (likewise Uma Thurman and Maria de Mederios as his women) by Ward, who, yes, added to the budget by needing his head shaved.  Robert Altman chose both guys for The Player in 1991.    
  19. Patrick Swayze, Ghost, 1990.    “I simply could not see how a romance between a ghost and a living person would work. D’oh!”  His wife, Demi Moore,  was the co-star but he felt thought playing a ghost would be detrimental to his career. (Kevin Bacon, Toms Cruise and Hanks also fled). Willis learned his lesson.  He  was a  ghost in his best work, The Sixth Sense,   1998
  20. James  Caan, Misery, 1990. 
    “Leading men hate to be passive; hate to be eunuchised by their female co-stars.”  Top scenarist William Goldman on why 22 actors avoided the prospect of being beaten up and beaten to an Oscar by  Kathy Bates as the mad fan of writer Paul Sheldon. Warren Beatty prevaricated but never actually said no (nor yes).  Richard Dreyfuss regretted disappointing director Rob Reiner again after refusing When Harry Met Sally, 1988 (they had earlier made a classic of   King’s novella, The Body, as Stand By Me, 1985).   William Hurt refused – twice. Jack Nicholson didn’t want another King guy so soon after The Shining.  While Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino being up  for the same role was nothing new  – but Robert Redford and Morgan Freeman was  Also fleeing the  32nd of Stephen King’s staggering 313 screen credits were Tim Allen, Jeff Daniels, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, close pals Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman, Ed Harris, John Heard, Robert Klein, Bill Murray, Ed O’Neill, Denzel Washington, Robin Williams and Bruce Willis… who went on to be Sheldon in Goldman’s  2015 Broadway version.

  21. Michael Madsen, Thelma & Louise, 1990.

  22. Mickey Rourke, Harley Davidson and The Marlboro Man, 1990.    Willis was up for HD – to join his pal Don Johnson as MM.  Bruce’s official acting debut was as an arms dealer opposite Don’s cop  in  Miami Vice #8: No Exit, 1984. (Directed, incidnetally, by David Soul, aka Hutch, from Starsky and…).

  23. Jim Belushi, Curly Sue, 1990.    “What I thought would be this cute, sweet little movie experience ended up going on for something like five months,” reported Kelly Lynch. “So much money was spent. It was insane! It was going to be me, Alec Baldwin and Kevin Spacey –  a whole different situation.  [They left for stage dates].  Those were two guys I knew really well, but I’d never met Jimmy [Belushi] before, and then he and [director John Hughes making his final film] didn’t get along. I kinda felt like a mom dealing with two 12-year-old boys.“  Also in the Bill Dancer mix were Jeff Bridges, Richard Dreyfuss, Mel Gibson, Jeff Goldblum, Steve Guttenberg, Ray Liotta, Bill Murray (off shooting What About Bob?), Kurt Russell, Tom Selleck, Sylvester Stallone. Plus John Travolta, off  shooting Look Who’s Talking Too… with Willis voicing baby Mikey again. His problem was money.  As per often, Willis’ agent wanted a bank. Or two.   [Quotes va IMDb; no other source credited].

  24. Jeff Bridges, The Fisher King, 1991.   
    “The thing that’s always impressed me about Bruce,” explains director Terry Gilliam, “is a scene in the first Die Hard, where he’s in the loo picking glass out of his feet, on the phone to his wife, and he’s crying.When I first met him, I mentioned that and he said: ‘Well, that was my idea, really, the crying bit.’ I thought: ‘Mmm, this is interesting.    He’s got a lot more going on than he pretends.” Plus “one of the finest bald heads I’ve everseen,” he added on the set of their 12 Monkey, 1995, when he calmly gave Bruce a list of his acting clichés to avoid, including the “steely blue eyes look.”

  25. Val Kilmer, Thunderheart, 1991.  UK director Michael Apted’s first  thriller was inspired by 57 unsolved murders on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the 1970s as The Traditionals fought Tribal government goons…  making Pine Ridge (pop: 1100) the Murder Capitol of the Nation. The only cliche in sight is the usual pairing of old cop-young cop (or FBI agents here), the rest was the usual Apted brilliance.  He shuffled 13 choices for the younger agent, Ray Levoi: Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Mel, Gibson, Tommy Lee Jons, Michael Keaton, Dennis Quaid, Kurt Russell, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvster Stallone, Patrick Swayze, Bruce Willis Levoi was 1/4th Sioux. Kilmer (“the most unsung leading man of his generation,” for Chicago critic  Roger Ebert) is 1/8th Cherokee.

  26. Michael Douglas, Basic Instinct, 1991.

  27. Jean-Claude Van Damme, Sudden Death, 1994.  Rather easy to refuse to this blatant Die Hard At The Stanley Cup Final as he was into Die Hard With A Vengeance. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone also saw little sense in it.
  28. John Travolta, Pulp Fiction, 1993.   
  29. Keanu Reeves, Speed, 1993.  There were  30 stars queuing for Die Hard On A Bus. From A Listers Jeff Bridges, Kevin Costner, Tom Cruise, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks, Kurt Russell, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Patrick Swayze, even Mr Die Hard, himself, Bruce Willis… to the B group: Kevin Bacon, three Baldwin brothers (Alec, Stephen and William), Michael Biehn, Bruce Campbell, George Clooney, Johnny Depp, Richard Dreyfuss, Michael Keaton, Christophe(r) Lambert, Viggo Mortensen, Dennis Quaid, Mickey Rourke, Tom Selleck… and two also-rans  Bruce Campbell and Chuck Norris.  All crushed by a whippersnapper!

  30. David Thewlis, The Island Of Dr Moreau, 1995.
    A real disaster movie…    The original director Richard Stanley tells all. He had persuaded Marlon Brando to play the doc. “So then it was necessary to [find] a box office draw. We immediately went after Bruce Willis for the castaway. Bruce was looking for something different to do at that point in time – immediately pre-Sixth Sense.  He really liked the script, and like everyone else, wanted to work with Brando.” But… Willis quit to deal with his divorce from Demi Moore. Val Kilmer wanted to leave “the crazy shoot” to deal with his divorce from Joanne Whalley. Brando’s daughter, Cheyenne, committed suicide. And new helmer John Frankenheimer never knew Stanley had joined the extras… Brando welcomed Thewlis by saying: “Go home, David. This is not a good film to work on. It is cursed.” Thewlis could say much more about the making of the farce – but feared such honesty would kill his career.

  31. John Travolta, Get Shorty, 1995.      Nobody wanted to be Chili Palmer, the  mobster going to Hollywood: Robert De Niro, Danny De Vito, Michael Keaton, or Bruce. Nor even Dustin Hoffman … and author Elmore Leonard said Shorty (De Vito as  movie star Martin Weir) was based on his 1986  dealings with Hoffman about the never made La Bravo.
  32. Tom Cruise, Mission: Impossible, 1995.     Before Tom Cruise and JJ Abrams took it on – for 20-plus years! – Paramount had offered the (expected) franchise to Willis, Nicolas Cage, George Clooney, Mel Gibson, John Travota. And, inexplicably, Ralph Fiennnes… who made a right dog’s breakfast out of another TV cult hero, John Steed, in The Avengers three years later.
  33. Tom Cruise, Jerry Maguire, 1996.    Super-Tom One, Hanks, was into his helming debut, The Thing That You Do, 1996. Super-Tom Two, Cruise, said: “I may not be right for this but let me just read for you.” And Super-Tom-One added: “It couldn’t have been anyone but Cruise.” Except auteur Cameron Crowe had also considered Willis, Tim Allen (briefly, thankfully), Alec Baldwin, Edward Burns (who reccommended his latest co-star, Connie Britton, for Dorothy; they both came second), Johnny Depp, Sean Penn (from Crowe’s first script, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, 1981), John Travolta.
  34. Laurence Fishburne, Event Horizon, 1996. The title warned us… In astrophysics, an event horizon is a boundary beyond which events cannot affect any observers. Exactly   Bruce, Tommy Lee Jones and Arnold Schwqarzenegger and Bruce Willis refused the captaincy of the rescue-mission spaceship, Lewis and Clark (!) in director Paul WS Anderson’s The Shining in Space – studio slashed from 130 (violent) mjnutes to 96.
  35. Wesley Snipes, Murder At 1600, 1997.        Er, Die Hard At The White House...
  36. Stephen Baldwin, Mr Murder, TV, 1997.   Before becoming  a so-so ABC tele-film, Mr Murder was supposed to be a Ulki Eel movie with Bruce Willis as ta wannabe Stephen King cloned as a killing machine.  Two much for Baldwin. He ain’t Alec.  Willis also had double-trouble in Looper, 2011
  37. Jackie Chan, An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn, 1997.      For what started as Amok, scenarist Joe Eszterhas wanted all three supertoughs to play themselves: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Brucie. Sending up Hollywood was one thing, but Willis did not go for sending himself up. Again. (He’d done that for Robert Altman in The Player, 1992). So, Brucepassed. So did his body-double.
  38. Steven Seagal, Fire Down Below, 1997.   Die Hard In Appalachia…Bruce had outlived such trash as a guitar-strumming, singing environmental protection agent. So now Seagal was picking up Willis leavings… and had the flicflick Seagaled up. Or dumbed down. (Same thing).   Result: The box office flop of his life and the abrupt end of hisk Warner Bros deal after Exit Wounds, 2001. He came back three years later, slimmer, sans ponytail, but into 16 direct-to-video thud ’n’ blunders. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.
  39. Mark Boone Junior, The Thin Red Line, 1998.  Numerous stars – Cage, Clooney, Costner, Depp,  DiCaprio, McConaughey, Pacino, Pitt,  etc –  collided over themselves to offer their services (even for free) for wizard auteur Terrence Malick’s first movie since Days of Heaven…  21 years before!  Others wondered if he still had “it”.  He did.  (And lost it with one too many iconoclastic/pretentious pieces.)   Woody Harrelson and John Savage hung on another month in Australia, just to watch Malick work.  
  40. John Travolta, The General’s Daughter, 1998.    Die Hard On An Army Camp…  passed by Willis and Michael Douglas to Travolta. Rolling Stone called it: Southern gumbo simmering in Gothic cliché.

  41. BD Wong & Donny Osmond, Mulan, 1998.    Willis could have managed both chores. But Disney preferred Wong (Dr Henry Wu in Jurassic Park) talking as Shang – with Osmond singing his songs. (For China, Chang was dubbed by Jackie Chan).
  42. Kevin Spacey, American Beauty, 1998.      Chevy Chase, Kevin Costner, Jeff Daniels, Tom Hanks,  Woody Harrels (!)  and  John Travolta were also in the mix for the miserable spouse/father, Lester Burnham. UK stage director Sam Mendes fought hard  for Spacey. “There’s one thing better than having a really good actor, and that’s having a really good actor who has never done this kind of role before.” Spacey won his second Oscar despite masturbating in the shower – the high point of Lester’s  day: “it’s all downhill from here.”
  43. Alec Baldwin, The Simpsons #208:  When You Dish Upon A Star, TV, 1998.  Since its 1989 birth, the yellowtoon family Simpson smashed records for episodes, audiences, and the most guest stars (as themselves or others). From Buzz Aldrin, Glenn Close (Homer’s Mom), Dennis Franz (Evil Homer!), George Harrison, Stephen Hawking, Dustin Hoffman, Bob Hope, Eric Idle to Paul and Linda McCartney, Conan O’Brien (a Simpsons writer made good), Michelle Pfeiffer, Mickey Rooney, Ringo Starr, Meryl Streep plus Barry (and Betty) White! Not all celebs played ball. Willis refused a second inviote – and his then-wife, Demi Moore, with him. Other candidates for the celeb couple were Tom Cruise-Nicole Kidman, Kurt Russell-Goldie Hawn… and Alec Baldwin-Kim Basinger, who said: Sure! Eventually leading Baldwin’s unknown funny-bone into 30 Rock, 2006-2013.
  44. Al Pacino, Any Given Sunday, 1999.     So, writer-director Oliver Stone turned to Pacino. “Hair loss is God’s way of telling me I’m human.”
  45. Denzel Washington, Training Day, 2000.     Denzel got an Oscar.  Well, he’s a better adlibber than Willis.  (Or Gary Sinise and Tom Sizemore). 
  46. Billy Bob Thornton, Bandits, 2001.    Quentin Tarantino snapped up the best Elmore Leonard books, leaving the bad to Bruce, et al. Finally, this script had nothing to do with the book and Willis passed his lowly role to Billy Bob and took over the lead once Val Kilmer flew the coop.
  47. Russell Crowe, A Brilliant Mind, 2001.   The choice of the right actor to portray the schizophrenic Noble Prize-winning mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr was vital.  Which had me wondering why Keanu Reeves, Charlie Sheen, John Travolta and  Bruce Willis   were on the short-list!    Then again they might have proved as surprising as Crowe. Director Ron Howard’s other candidates included  Alec Baldwin, Matthew Broderick, Nicolas Cage, Kevin Costner, Tom Cruise, John Cusack, Johnny Depp, Robert Downey Jr, Ralph Fiennes, Mel Gibson,  Jared Leto, Gary Oldman, Guy Pearce, Sean Penn, Brad Pitt. Nash liked the six-Oscar-winner. “But it wasn’t me.”  Certainly wasn’t  Brucie-baby, either! 
  48. George Clooney, Ocean’s Eleven, 2001.    First signed as Danny Ocean, the over-scheduled Willis later agreed to be Terry Benedict –  who kicked Danny off  the Vegas Strip and wed his gal, Julia Roberts. During a Comedy Central roast of Willis, his ex-wife Demi Moore said:“Bruce considered the end of our marriage his biggest failure. Bruce, don’t be so hard on yourself, you had much bigger failures: Planet Hollywood, Hudson Hawk… campaigning for Michael Dukakis, turning down Clooney’s role in Ocean’s Elevento focus on playing the harmonica.”
  49. Andy Garcia, Ocean’s Eleven, 2001.       But…  “I’m a big fan of Clooney  but I kinda wanna save it up for when it’s just me and him…  Another bad choice! Andy did a great job with it, and the rest is history.”Bruce  turned up for the sequel,  Ocean’s Twelve, 2004, as… Bruce Willis.
  50. Robbie Coltraine, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, 2001.    A Hollywood director was bad enough, but Warner Bros seemed determined to ruin its hoped-for franchise by also considering a US cast: Liam Aiken as Harry, Rose O’Donnell as Ron Weasleyl’s mother and Williams as the 8ft. Rubeus Hagrid. They were keen, offering to work for free!) Wiser heads prevailed (mainly author JK Rowling’s) and, in fact, Coltrane was the first actor cast for the franchise. 

  51. Richard Gere, Unfaithful, 2001.   For Adrian Lyne’s passionate US update of Madame Bovary, Willis, George Clooney, Johnny Depp, Robert Redford, John Travolta were also up for Diane Lane’s husband – unaware she’s playing away. Chicago critic Roger Ebert reported her French lover Olivier Martinez could suspend a woman indefinitely in any position during sex. French guys adored this commercial for Ze French lurverrrrs!
  52. Johnny Depp, Once Upon A Time In Mexico, 2003.      Enjoying the film so much when he finished playing Sands (set for Clooney, offered to Nicolas Cage, Sean Penn, Kurt Russell and Bruce), Depp asked for another part and had even more fun channeling Brando as a priest in a scene with Banderas.

  53. Denzel Washington, Man on Fire, 2003.   
    Tony Scott backed out of directing the first version in 1986, but helped  Denzel Washington retrieve his lost taste for acting in this re-make.  Sergio Leone chose  Robert De Niro  and Marlon Brando nearly played A J Quinnell’s ex-CIA hero turned mercenary (certainly helped re-write  him) but Scott Glenn won the  role. Tony Scott  had wanted Robert Duvall. The new scriptwriter, Brian Helgeland,  recalled going  into the LA Video Archives store  in the 80s and asking the clerk: “What’s good?” The clerk said:  Man on Fire. The clerk was Quentin Tarantino.  In both films Creasy  is trying to rescue a kidnapped girl, almost a daughter to him, that  he’s bodyguarding.  Yeah, rather like a matrix for Liam Neeson’s Takens. So no surprise to find Liam among some 25 actors up for Creasy. Alec Baldwin, Sean Bean (a nearly 007),  Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe, Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, Andy Garcia, Mel Gibson, Ed Harris, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, Viggo Mortensen,  Gary Oldman, Dennis Quaid, Keanu Reeves, Alan Rickman, Kurt Russell,  Arnold Schwarzenegger, Will Smith, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis…  even our dear old  Bob Hoskins.  Creasy was later  Bollywooded by the inimitable  Amitabh Bachchan (at age  63!). There were  songs, of course. Three!

  54. Kevin Spacey, Beyond The Sea, 2004.     Six writers, 17 years, 20 producers asthe biopic of singer Bobby Darin traversed Brucie (in 1987), plus Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, Barry Levinson, Paul Schrader… Spacey did it right by his idol- as actor, auteur, singer – on the cheap in Germany.
  55. Vin Diesel, The Pacifier, 2004.     Actor Thomas Lennon is a Jackie Chan fan. Imagine his disappointment when having co-written this tough-guy turns baby-sitter comedy exclusively for Chan, the Hong Kong superstar turned it down. Willis and Dwayne Johnson also passed. No matter, Lennon’s cut of the Diesel version doubtless made up for it.
  56. Will Smith, Jersey Girl, 2004.     Bruce was unavailable, sopoor Will was the guesting movie icon trashed by Ben Affleck’s Ollie. By the time writer-director Kevin Smith’s movie opened, it and Affleck were trashed by the public after all the unabated tabloid furore on his affair with co-star Jennifer Lopez.
  57. Michael Chiklis, Fantastic Four, 2004.   A totally stupid – choice for Ben Grimm, aka The Thing… after a daily three hours of make-up. The great James Gadfolfini was also also lucky to lose this mess, the second of four flop versions of the comic. One day, Marvel will doubtless regain all rights and fit the Four into its triumphant Cinematic Universe.  Fox tried Willis again ten years later…
  58. Karl Urban, Black Water Transit, 2007. When Willis tried make the non-thrilling thriller in 2006, he called his Die Hard 4 mate to join him – as Jack. When Willis split, Sam was offered Bruce’s role of Earl Pike… finally cranked out by Urban. Never seen in any cinema since its market screening (ie looking for buyers) at the 2009 Cannes festival. Transit transferred direct to video.
  59. Larry Bishop, Hell Ride, 2007.  Quentin Tarantino loved The Savage Seven, 1967, and told the star, Larry Bishop, that he was destined to make the best ever biker movie – Larry directing, QT producing. “Any film that gets Dennis Hopper back on a motorcycle can’t be all bad,” said critic Keith Phillips. “ButHell Ridesure tries to be.”  As for Tarantino’s connection, Roger Ebert simply said: “Shame on him.” Yeah Rog, but he thought better of acting in it – splitting to play Ringo in Takashi Miike’s sukiyaki Western, Django,based on guys created by one of his idols, Sergio Corbucci. Bishop was a biker in The Devil’s 8, Angels Unchained and Chrome and Hot Leather. Pistolero was named after the original title of Robert Rodriguez’ Desperado.
  60. Thomas Jane, Kill Shot, 2008.   Interested in playing Wayne Colson, Willis got hold of the rights to the electric Elmore Leonard book (is there any other kind?) in 1987. Four years later, Miramax got the righs for Quentin Taranatino  to direct and co-star with Robert De Niro as Colson. For awhile Tony Scott was at the  helm, but finally another UK director, John Madden, made it with Jane as Wayne.
  61. Brad Pitt, Inglourious Basterds, 2008.   On Quentin  Tarantino’s early wish list for Sergeant Donny “The Bear Jew” Donowitz in the Wild  Bunch take on The Dirty Dozen. Alongside Sylvester Stallone as Lieutenant Aldo Rane (named for Aldo Ray) and Arnold Schwarzenegger as Sergeant Hugo Stiglitz (after the Mexican star of more than 250 mainly B-moivies).  QT sent for his director buddy, Roth – and also asked him to direct the German propaganda filmwithin the film – Stolz der Nation (Nation’s Pride) with 300 extras… and QT, himself, voicing a GI: “I implore you, we must destroy that tower!”  In the Tarantinoverse, Donowitz is the father of   the film producer  character, Lee Donowitz (Saul Riubinek),  in QT’s 1992 True Romance  script.
  62. Liam Neeson, The A Team, 2009.      Rather obvious early idea for the role of Captain John “Hannibal” Smith.

  63. Tom Cruise, Jack Reacher, 2011.   
    Some of the names – and heights – up for Lee Child’s craggy ex-military cop-cum-Sherlock-homeless  were absurd.  Jim Carrey, for example. Jim Carrey!  Some 25 others  were Nicolas Cage, Russell Crowe, Johnny Depp, Cary Elwes,  Colin Farrell, Harrison Ford, Jamie Foxx, Mel Gibson, Hugh Wolverine Jackman, Dwayne Johnson (“I look back in gratitude that I didn’t get Jack Reacher”),  Avatar’s Stephen Lang, Dolph Lundgren, Edward Norton, Ron (Hellboy) Perlman, Brad Pitt, Keanu Reeves (he became John Wick x 5),  Kurt Russell, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Will Smith, Sylvester Stallone, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Vince Vaughn, Denzel Washington and the battle-fatigued  Bruce Willis.  Any of them would have been more acceptable than Tom Cruise  – with the exception of Carrey, Depp, Elwes, Reeves and, obviously the Euros. Pitt was best of the pack (remember Fight Club?)… although no one even thought of the obvious choice –   Liam Neeson!  Reacher fans were livid about  the 5ft 5ins Cruise daring to be  the  6ft 5ins  action hero. Reminiscent of Anne Rice’s capitulation over  tiny Tom as her “very tall” Lestat in  Interview With The Vampire, in 1994, author Lee Child declared: “Reacher’s size is a metaphor for an unstoppable force – which Cruise portrays in his own way.” Ah! But then in 2018, after the sequel, Child changed his tune about his child. (They share the same birthday, October 29).  ”Ultimately, the readers are right. The size of Reacher is really, really important and it’s a big component of who he is… So what I’ve decided to do is – there won’t be any more movies with Tom Cruise We’re rebooting,  we’re going to try and find the perfect guy.” And they did with 6ft. 2ins Alan Richtson – Aquaman  in Smallville and Hawk in Supergirl and Titans – for the Amazon series.

  64. James Gandolfini, Violet & Daisy, 2011.     Aka killer chicks Alexis Biedel and Saoirse Ronan (alomost reprising her Hanna). Wllis was nearly the literal target of the black comedy’s teenage assassins. Instead, said Saoirse Ronan (Daisy): “We’re sent to kill Tony Soprano – which is mad.”
  65. Daniel Craig, Cowboys and Aliens, 2011.   The great title (better than the movie) had been stuck in Development Hell since 1997 which explains why such superstars as Brendan Fraser, Chuck Norris and Mr T (!) had been invited to saddle up as the outlaw hero Jake Lonergan. So were Willis, Jackie Chan, Robert Downey Jr, Bill Paxton and   Kurt Russell.
  66. Sylvester Stallone, Escape Plan, 2012.    In what was going to be a new occupation for him, Willis was first attached to thisa thriller about… wait for it… a structural security expert.  He’s jailed in a master prison he designed. Now all he, well Sly, has to do is… escape. Oh and find who framed him.

  67. Harrison Ford, The Expendables III, 2013.
    When he is asked where Church is, Ford’s character replied: “He’s out of the picture.” Literally! Furthermore, the franchise’s shocked star and creator  Sylvester Stallone famously called Willis “greedy and lazy  – a sure formula for career failure” – for demanding $1m per day for his four days in Bulgaria – not the $3m offered. Sly then staggered Willis with his next Tweet: WILLIS OUT… HARRISON FORD IN!!!! GREAT NEWS!!!!! Been waiting years for this.”

  68. Anthony Hopkins, Solace, 2013. Once upon a time, New Line Cinema wanted a Se7en sequel called Ei8ht and started hunting for a script that could be, er, adjusted to suit their desire.  Morgan Freeman would return as Detective William Somerset – now a psychic in his retirement and investigating a psychic serial killer.  Se7endirector David Fincher made his displeasure known. Freeman, too. And his psychic-chasing psychic became Bruce Willis. For a nano-second or five.  As things panned out, including a two years in the Warner Bros script vaults, Ei8ht was resurrected as Solace with Anthony Hopkins hunting Colin Farrell who was more into mercy-killing the incurably ill than actual murder but by which time nobody gave much of a hoot.
  69. George Clooney, Gravity, 2013.       He’d done the space thing with Armageddon, 1997… When Robert Downey Jr ejected from the science fiction marvel (“technology and Robert are incompatible,” explained Alfonso Cuaron), the Mexican auteur talked “with a bunch of people” for astronaut Matt Kowalski – Willis, Kevin Costner, Daniel Craig, Russell Crowe, Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, John Travolta, Denzel Washington. Most backed off, annoyed that the woman astronaut, Sandra Bullock, had most of the film entirely to herself.   
  70. Jamie Bell, Fantastic Four, 2014.      OK, Brucey-baby, how about just voicing da dude… ?  Plan A for the second Fox sequel was Harry Potter director David Yates in charge of Eve as Sue Storm/The Invisible Woman. Plus Adrian Brody as Reed Richards/Mr Fantastic and Willis or Kiefer Sutherland simply voicing Ben Grimm/The Thing. With the subtitle: Reborn. Plan B? Josh Trank’s version – stillborn! Film flopped. (Only ever made to save the rights). Hollywood Reporter critic Todd McCarthy slapped it down as “a 100-minute trailer for a movie that never happens.”Marvel icon Stan Lee saw it coming and refused his usual seal-of-approval cameo.

  71. Steve Carell, Café Society, 2015.     He was canned when auteur Woody Allen and his cast had enough of Willis’ bad behavior and never knowing his lines. Woody, himself, was more diplomatic. “I shot a few scenes in California with Bruce Willis, and Bruce was going to do something on Broadway [Misery] and it was just too much for him. So we replaced him with Steve Carell” – his second Woody, after Melinda and Melinda, 2003. This was Allen’s 52nd script and his third to open the Cannes festival.
  72. Kurt Russell, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, 2016.   Aged between Christopher Plummer and Max Von Sydow’s 87 and Matthew McConaughey’s 47,  fifteen actors were Marveled about for Ego, father of Chris Pratt’s hero, Peter Quill aka Star Lord.  The others in the  loop were Willis, Alec Baldwin, Michael Biehn, Robert De Niro, Mel Gibson, Stephen Lang, Viggo Mortensen, Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman, Ron Perlman, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Christoph Waltz.
  73. Josh Brolin, Deadpool 2, 2017.   With Ryan Reynolds reigning supreme as the wise-cracking, cancer-ridden, super smart-ass hero, who could oppose him as Cable, the heftily armed cyborg?   (“You’re dark – sure you’re not from the DC Universe?” our Marvel hero asks him). Deadpool creator Rob Liefeld wanted Russell Crowe – and even after Brolin signed, pushed for Jon Hamm. Other Mr Impregnable ideas included Alec Baldwin, Pierce Brosnan, David Harbour, Stephen Lang, Brad Pitt (he shot his Vanisher cameo in two hours), Michael Shannon and the wrinkly brigade (yawn) Mel Gibson, Dolph Lundgren, Ron Perlman, Kurt Russell, Arnold Schawarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis.Already Marvel’s villain Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War, Brolin had a four-film deal, to reveal more about Cable and, doubtless, extra gags about his stepmother Barbra Streisand’s 1982 Yentl.
  74. Mel Gibson, Force of Nature, 2019.   Back in the day, Bruce and Mel  matched  the title.  Not anymore. Nor does the movie. So no release, no streaming, just straight-to-video. “Even a script written by algorithm would make more sense,” suggested web critic Nell Minow, ”A dumb dud of a movie that relies on the most preposterous of coincidences and the most exhausted of premises (in both senses of the word).”  Bad news for director Michael Polish and his wife, Kate Bosworth… as Gibson’s doctor daughter.









 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  74