Edward Norton

  1. Patrick Dempsey, With Honors, 1994.     Up for Brendan Fraser’s friend at Harvard University. The only film Gore Vidal made with Joe Pesci. And vice-versa.
  2. DB Sweeney,  Spawn, 1996.    Norton switched to head up  Rounders with Matt Damon. Norton and Sweeney were white and the rôle, Al Simmons/Spawn’s best pal,  was black in the Todd McFarlane comix. File it under : Racial Interference by the suits at New Line Cinema suits or… wait for it… Pull Down Your Pants Pictures.
  3. Matt Damon, The Rainmaker, 1996.      Francis Ford Coppola was  Impressed with the way Damon risked his health by losing so much weight for his heroin addict in Courage Under Fire, 1994, and called him up  .“It was like a last-minute replacement,” Damon recalled.“I actually got called the night before the screen test. When I heard Edward Norton was involved, I didn’t think I had a chance in hell.”
  4. Keanu Reeves, The Devil’s Advocate, 1997.    One of  director Taylor Hackford’s early notions.  Of Norton, the future Succession star Brian Cox, wrote ijn his 2021 memoirs, Putting the Rabbit into the Hat:“He’s a nice lad but a bit of a pain in the arse because he fancies himself as a writer-director.”  .
  5. Jude Law, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, 1997.      Instead of working under Clint Eastwood, Norton preferred American History X.D’oh!
  6. Edward Furlong, Pecker, 1998.      The John Waters movie was just empty.
  7. Jim Caviezel, 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 Malic’s first movie since Days of Heaven…  21 years before!   Others wondered if he still had “it”. He did.  And then lost it with one too many iconoclastic/pretentious pieces.
  8. Matt Damon, Saving Private Ryan, 1998.      Not many people turn down Steven Spielberg. Norton nixing the titular Ryan was the second (after Michael Madsen) to rather stupidly avoid the best (anti) war film since All Quiet on The Western Front, 1930.  No wiser, Spielberg felt Damon was too skinny – until introduced to him by Robin Williams when shooting Good Will Hunting, 1997.
  9. Jim Carrey, Man on the Moon, 1998.  Hollywood’s possibles for the biopic of surrealist comic Andy Kaufman included  Hank Azaria, , John Cusack, Matt Damon, Tom Hanks, Edward  Norton, Kevin Spacey. Not for long as  he refused to audition. Czech director Milos Forman could not decide between Carrey and Norton. He let Universal decide. Carrey was the bigger draw. And brilliant!  “During the shooting,” recalled Forman, “I met Jim Carrey only twice. “He was always in the role.  He was Andy Kaufman, Tony Clifton or Elvis Presley 24 hours a day!”
  10. Matt Damon, The Talented Mr Ripley, 1999.      Offered Ripley, Man on the Moon and Runaway Jury, Ed began prepping his boxing, taekwondo, grappling- and soap-making- forFight Club.
  11. Christian Bale, American Pscyho, 1999.      Perfect for Norton! Except he had nointerest in becoming Patrick Bateman, Wall Street broker and psychopath.
  12. Kevin Bacon, Hollow Man, 1999.  Various projects of Dutch director Paul Verhoeven collapsed, so he accepted this pot-boiler, selected Bacon over Guy Pearce and Edward Norton for the increasingly mad (and invisible) scientist Sebastian, and then regretted it.  “This is the first movie that I made that… I should not have made.  Many other people could have done that. I don’t think many people could have made RoboCop  or Starship Troopers.” Bacon said he really wanted to portray an invisible man whose morality decreases. So, not about the money and the Hollywood-pension chance of a franchise, then.
  13. Tobey Maguire, The Cider House Rules, 1999. Author John Irving went through four directors before settling on the Swedish Lasse Hallström to handle what Roger Ebert called a David Copperfieldish story (or, indeed, stories). For Homer, finally leaving his orphanage and surrogate father Michael Caine (winning his first Oscar), Hallström looked at The Class of ‘97 – Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, James Franco, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ethan Hawke, Edward Norton, Ryan Phillippe, Mark Wahlberg, Paul Walker. And chose Leonardo DiCaprio, who passed it to his (monotoned) pal, Maguire. 

  14. Hugh Jackman, X-Men quartet, 1999-2013.   
    “Hey, bub, I’m not finished with you yet…”  Jackie Earle Haley, Gary Sinise and Kiefer Sutherland were in the 1989 Logan/Wolverine frame.  In the early 90s. James Cameron chose, of all people,  chubby Bob Hoskins. The fans voted for Jack Nicholson…   well, he’d been a decent Wolf in 1994. Fox could not think beyond Keanu Reeves. Crowe felt Logan was too similar to his 1999 Gladiatorand just a toon, anyway. Took him a dozen years to understand comics and succeed Marlon Brando, no less, as Superman’s father, Jor-El, in Man of Steel.  Director Bryan Singer searched on through… Singer-songwriter Glenn Danzig, Aaron Eckhart, Mel Gibson, Viggo Mortensen (a great idea but not finished with Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings), Edward Norton (also considered for Scott Summers/Cyclops) and – oh no! – Jean-Claude Van Damme.  Finally, Singer chose Dougray Scott – but he was stuck on Mission: Impossible II in Australia which is where Jackman came from (on Crowe’s reccommendation) to save the day. And the franchise. Jackman remained  Wolverine in ten movies (Deadpool 2 included) across 19 years. (Sean Connery, for example, was James Bond 007 times). 

  15. James Marsden, X-Men quartet, 1999-2013.    Mutation: it is the key to our evolution.”  Producer James Cameron and his then wife, director Kathryn Bigelow, chose Michael Biehn for Cyclops/Scott Summers in the early 90s – and never made the film! James Caviezel wonthis version  before prefering to beDennis Quaid’s son in Frequency. (Nobody’s perfect).  Then, director Bryan Singer looked at pals Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, Ethan Hawke, Thomas Jane (who became Marvel’s The Punisher, in 2003, and opposite Rebecca Romijn, the X-Men’s Mystique), Edward Norton (already turned down as Wolverine/Logan), DB Sweeney, Luke Wilson… and Edward Burns, except the last thing a young and opinionated director like Singer wanted on his set was another young and  opinionated director.
  16. Liev Schreiber, RKO 281, 1999.    Ridley Scott’s choice for Orson Welles making Citizen Kane. As the budget grew as large as Welles, the Scott Free project was scaled down to an HBO movie.  
  17. Tom Cruise, Collateral, 2003.   Hitman Vincent changedLeonardo DiCaprio, Colin Farrell, Edward Norton, John Travolta –  almost as often as the thriller’s director: from Scorsese, Spielberg to Spike Lee and, finally,  Micheel Mann. 
  18. Christian Bale, American Psycho, 1999.     Loooong story! The Lions Gate producers wanted Edward Norton as the titular Patrick Bateman. Instead, director Mary Harron ran through a bunch of fresher faces: Ben Chaplin, Billy Crudup, Robert Sean Leonard, Jared Leto, Jonny Lee Miller, Jonathon Schaech. She was allowed Bale, if she backed him up with some  bigger names (enter: Willem Dafoe, Reese Witherspoon). Harron then quit when  the  suits reneged and signed Leonardo Di Caprio as Bateman! Oliver Stone moved in. Then, Leo (getting bad Press for pushing Bale out) quit for The Beach (pushing Ewan McGregor out).  Stone followed him…  Ultimately,  Harron and Bale were welcomed back. 
  19. Colin Farrell, Hart’s War, 2001.     In one of those let’s-make-him-a-star moments (ie good agents) the unknown Irishman worked, in two years, with Tom Cruise, Joel Schumacher, Steven Spielberg, Bruce Willis… and played Jesse James! (Norton and Farrell co-starred in  Pride and Glory, 2006). 
  20. Colin Farrell, Phone Booth, 2001.     And on the same day, Colin picked up another of Norton’s leavings.The big names (Jim Carrey, Will Smith) moved on. Therefore,  director Joel Schumacher entrusted the almost one-man-show to the new star he had  created with  his ‘Nam war film,  Tigerland, 2000.

  21. Willem Dafoe, Spider-Man, 2001.
  22. Dan Castellaneto, The Simpsons Movie, 2001.     First greenlit in 1997, the film of America’s First Family took forever to make – or, at least, to have everybody sign on for once the best of 160 scripts was chosen. As usual, Castellaneto supplied Homer’s voice – plus 20 others (!), including reworking Norton’s Woody Allenish Panicky Man. Film was finally released in 2007.
  23. Ben Affleck, Daredevil, 2002.Six guys were up for Marvel’s bind hero, Matt Murdock: Matt Damon (who had little faith in what became his mate Affleck’s film), Vin Diesel (he preferred The Chronicles of Riddick), Colin Farrell (took over Bullseye from Affleck), Edward Norton (The Incredible Hulk in 2007), Guy Pearce. As DD, aka MM, Affleck (a future Batman) proved more dumb than blind as his favourite comic-book hero.  Playing Elektra, Jennifer Garner reportedly KOed Affleck in one scene – he still married her three years later!
  24. Eric Bana, Hulk, 2002.     Not  seen as  good enough  (or too good?) for the big green guy’s movie, Norton eventually won the titular Bruce Banner in the 2007 reboot, The Incredible Hulk.   Neither version matched the box-office clout of the  Bat, Iron, Spider, Super or X Men.
  25. John Cusack, The Runaway Jury, 2003.       One of four films coming his way in 1999. He wasn’t keen then – nor when it finally left the starting blocks. The fact that director Joel Schumacher quit proved that John Grisham’s same-again books were beginning to bore.Joel had directed two: The Client, 1994,and (with enormous casting hassles with Grisham) A Time To Kill, 1996.
  26. Tom Cruise, Collateral, 2004.     A far better idea than little Tommy as an ice-coldhit-man killing 16 people in one night. “Fame is very corrosive and you have to guard very strictly against it.”
  27. Cillian Murphy, Red Eye, 2004.    Horrorsmith Wes Craven also saw Kevin Bacon, Nic Cage, Willem Dafoe, Ray Liotta, John Malkovich, Sean Penn, Michael Pitt and John Travolta. Craven said Murphy’s eyes won the creepy….Jackson Rippner.(Geddit?) 
  28. Marton Csokas, Kingdom of Heaven, 2005.    He was seen about playing Guy de Lusignan … and held out forthe role ofBaldwin IV. He refused a credit, shooting the role inside two weeks – behind a mask to hide the Jerusalem king’s leprosy.
  29. Aaron Eckhart, The Dark Knight, 2007.
  30. Dan Castellaneta, The Simpsons Movie, 2006.       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 Ma), DennisFranz (Evil Homer!), George Harrison, Stephen Hawking, Dustin Hoffman, Bob Hope, Eric Idle to Paul and Linda McCartney, Conan O’Brien (a Simpsonswriter made good), Michelle Pfeiffer, Mickey Rooney, Ringo Starr, Meryl Streep plus Barry (and Betty) White! Not all celebs pnned oiut…  Norton had already been to Springfield, but this gime n on the show, but his panicky man crushed by the dome was dubbed-over by Castellaneta, aka  Grampa and Homer Simpson,  Krusty the Clown,  Captain Lance Murdock, Poochie, Gil Gundrson, Rabbi Krustofski, ect, etc.

  31. Patrick Wilson, Lakeview Terrace, 2007.     Had talks (so did Ashton Kutcher) about playing half of an inter-racial couple moving next door to, unfortunately for them, Samuel  Jackson’s  sociopathic cop. Neil LaBute directed the rare account of a black racist. 
  32. Ben Affleck, State of Play, 2008.    Nothing buttrouble for the Hollywood re-hash ofthe greatBBC TV thriller.First Brad Pit dropped out, subbedby Russell Crowe – then Pitt’s co-star Norton quit as the delays interfered with his commitment to Leaves of Grass.
  33. Josh Brolin, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, 2009.      Ed is great with baddiesbut… director Oliver Stone decided upon his Wfrom his2008 study of George W Bush. The sub-title stems from a Michael Douglas-as-Gordon-Gekko line in the first, 1987 film.

  34. Mark Ruffalo, The Avengers, 2010.     “It’s like Hamlet  or Romeo and Juliet – a new actor gets a crack at it every year.”  Ruffalo on becoming the fourth Incredible Hulk in four movies after Marvel dropped Norton – not “based on monetary factors, but instead rooted in the need for an actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented cast members.” Norton’s agent, Brian Swardstrom, was furious, such comments were “unprofessional, disingenuous and clearly defamatory.” Norton and director Joss Whedon had a “very good meeting,” with the deal only falling apart after weeks of “civil, uncontentious discussions In 2010, he said on Facebook: “It hasn’t turned out as we all hoped.”   By 2014, the story was that he’d  experimented with the  role and really, really enjoyed it but desired  wanted more diversity. “You  can do anything once… If you do it too many times, it can become a suit that’s hard to take off. He added he could never have  made his three big indies – Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Moonrise Kingdom within Marvel’s paramaters. Rubbish! Ruffalo managed three with no hassles: Begin Again, Foxcatcher and HBO’s  The Normal Heart.

  35. 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 re-booting,  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.

  36. Gary Oldman, Robocop, 2013.   Norton refused to be Norton…  Dr Dennett Norton, the ethically-ambiguous creator of the half-cop-half-machine for Detroit’s OmniCorp, circa  2028, in the weak-kneed robo-reboot.   


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