- Matthew Davis, Tigerland, 2000. Fresh off the boat from Dublin’s fair city, the handsome Irishman read for Paxton. Then, his LAgent told him director Joel Schumacher wanted him for the lead. “I felt… It’s all gonna change.” And it did. From great reviews to a slagging off for Hart’s War, a movie he never enjoyed making. “The tumult was so loud, that it blocked out the purity of the 16-year-old in the Dublin workshop.”
- Ben Affleck, Daredevil, 2002. The suddenly and greatly known unknown Irish actor was approached about the title role - with Ben as the nasty Bullseye. Commitments being as they were (ie the inexplicable rise and rise and rise of Farrell), they swopped. Farrell’s LA discoverer, director Joel Schumacher often opined: “If Julia Roberts walked into your house when she was 20, or Colin Farrell at 24, and you didn’t hire them, you shouldn’t have a job making movies.”
- Tom Cruise, Collateral, 2004. Good grief, a film Farrell did not make! Hard to credit, the way he knocked off a dozen movies in his first four LA years including, two years back, being second banana to Cruise in Minority Report. Now he was Tom’s rival for the lead! Director Michael Mann called Colin back for Miami Vice, 2006.
- Ryan Reynolds, Blade: Trinity, 2004. After working with Cate Blanchett, Tom Cruise, Al Pacino, Joel Schumacher, Steven Spielberg, Bruce Willis, the Irishman had no desire to be Hannibal King. Even Reynolds had to improvise the best line to Blade, “You might wanna try blinking.” That year, after his worst reviews - for Oliver Stone's Alexander epic - Farrell “seriously thought of walking away from it all.”
- Adrien Brody, The Jacket, 2005. Farrell could not make everything. He was, though, trying. Yeah, very trying - by now with rumours of him sleeping his way through the directors’ A List. Malick, Schumacher, Spielberg, Stone - and Michael Mann to come. Not bad going for someone who had been a boozer since swallowing his parents' drinks cabinet at 13 and finding that “pubs fitted like a fucking glove.”
- Heath Ledger, I’m Not There, 2006. Six actors in search of Bob Dylan... by playing him. (One was Cate Blanchett with a sock in her pants, “it helped me walk like a man”). Farrell was due as the incarnation called Robbie Clark, but in joined Woody Allen’s quite abysmal Cassandra’s Dream direct from rehab. Two years later, viced-versa, as Farrell helped take over one of three incarnations of the suddenly dead Ledger in Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus."
- Daniel Craig, Casino Royale, 2006.
- Cuba Gooding, What Love Is, 2007. Val Kilmer’s combine was due to produce Colin, Robert Downey Jr and, of course, The Boss, following Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Farrell was so bloated after Miami Vice, that after the wrap party he flew into rehab. “The bottom line is I became a common or garden drug addict... really put a lot of stuff in my body chemical and alcohol abuse.” He was still up for Batman in Wolfgang Petersen’s 2006 cross-over project, Batman vs Superman... and a certain 007.
- Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker, 2007. An early idea for the bomb disposal expert in what James Cameron called, after persuading his ex-wife Kathyryn Bigelow, to direct it, “the Platoon of the Iraq War. ” It beat Avatar for Best Film and Director on March 7, 2010 - the first woman to win either or both. “Well, the time has come, ” proclaimed Barbra Streisand presenting the directing Oscar. It had only taken 81 years!
- Jude Law, Sherlock Holmes, 2008. Doesn’t seem likely, but apparently, Col and Sam Worthington had talks about being for Dr Watson. Then, Law became free - which then meant his ex-lover, Sienna Miller, fled from playing Irene Adler in Guy Ritchie’s lock-stock-and-bleedin’-barrel take on effing’ Conan Doyle.
- Brad Pitt, The Tree of Life, 2010. So pleased with his young stars of his fourth film in 31 years - The New World, 2004 - director Terrence Malick offered his fifth film, The Tree of Life, 2010, to Farrell - and the sixth (in 38 years) to Christian Bale. Malick made both films; the actors did not. “He’s so sure,” praised Farrell. “As fascinated by a blade of grass as by a human being… So endearing… Likes to be able to shoot 360 degrees... With some of the most gracious and sumptuous use of the English language - and he then cuts most of it out!” This ambitious oddity compared by some to 2001 and others to Popeye. Even with a crew cut, Pitt is just too much of a nice guy to be a tough, intolerant father.
- François Arnaud, The Borgias, TV, 2010. Farrell as Cesare, Scarlett Johansson as Lucretia - that was Neil Jordan’s plan four years before the Irish director got his film off the ground... as a TV series.
- Steve Howey, Something Borrowed, 2010. In the mix for Marcus in the screen version of Emily Griffin’s 2005 chick literature… produced by Hilary Swank.
- Chris Pine, This Means War, 2011. And they say Farrell doesn’t recognise a bum script… Two CIA Buddies fall for the same girl. (Reese Witherspoon ?!!). Mayhem ensues. Not! Farrell fled from what made Chicago critic Roger Ebert exclaim: “If there’s anything I hate more than a stupid action comedy, it’s an incompetent stupid action comedy.”
- Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables, 2011. After a two-hour meeting with director Tom Hooper - “a really cool chat” - they both realised Farrell was too young for either of the two leads. The escaped convict Jean Valjean (over the years aimed at everyone from Warren Beatty (!!!) to Jack Nicholson)…
- Russell Crowe, Les Miserables, 2011. …and his unrelenting nemesis, Inspector Javert (the model for Lieutenant Gerard in The Fugitive, TV, 1963-1967).
- Robert Pattinson, Cosmopolis, 2011. Col had to split due to his Total Recall re-make. Big mistake. He was subbed by Pattinson - who then stayed favoured by director David Cronenberg for Maps To The Stars, 2013. “Rob surprised me every day,” said Cronenberg. “He really didn’t realise how good he was. … He was surprising himself, but he was surprising me. By his accuracy. Just dead on.”
- Ryan Phillippe, By Virtue Fall, 2011. Farrell was in, then he was out, back in again until Jeremy Renner was considered... But as Deadline’s Nikki Fine said after Fright Night flopped in 2011... Colin “is decidedly not a star despite Hollywood giving him gazillion chances to become one. Everyone needs to stop trying. He’s a fine actor but audiences don’t want to watch him in massive numbers.”
- Anston Mount, Hick, 2011. Another time, another place and it could have worked out for Farrell (and, indeed, Kirsten Dunst) in the movie of Andrea Portes’ Vegas novel (and script).
- Garrett Hedlund, On The Road, 2011. For producer Francis Copola in 2005, director Joel Shumacher wanted (inevitably) his Tigerland discovery as Dean Moriarty opposite Billy Crudup’s Sal Paradise - aka Beat Generation icons, Neal Cassidy and Jack Kerouac. Hedlund first committed in 2007; he lost out to Farrell for Winter’s Tale, 2013.
- Gerard Butler, Movie 43, 2012.
Poor Col had been in some stinkers but escaped being a foul-mouthed Leprechaun in this “Citizen Kane of awful” (Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times), a series of comedic (?) skits covering defecation, first period, Hugh Jackman having his testicles on his chin, Halle Berry’s breasts in the guacamole and a cartoon cat peeing on Elizabeth Banks. A dozen directors from Banks to Brett Ratner pitched it as “the biggest cast ever assembled for the most outrageous comedy ever made” (Kate Bosworth, Anna Faris, Richard Gere, Stephen Merchant, Chloe Grace Moretz, Dennis Quaid, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts… Jason Sudeikis and Uma Thurman as a fake Batman and Lois Lane. Jackman and Kate Winslet shot their clip some years before the off. Critics dubbed it the worst film of all time, and Farrelly told them to lighten up and “back off.” David Edelstein didn’t in New York magazine: “It's rare to see a piece of shit that actually looks and sounds like a piece of shit… Was someone holding Kate Winslet's children hostage? Threatening to release compromising pictures of Emma Stone? Did Richard Gere or Hugh Jackman have gambling debts?
Dominic Cooper, Warcraft, 2014. Col was first approached for UK auteur Duncan Jones’ take on the the video game series for 2016 release.
- Mark Strong, The Brothers Grimsby, 2014. The pitch was better than Sacha Baron Cohen’s new farce: James Bond has a brother - his complete opposite, family man, football hooligan… Farrell and Clive Owen (both previously suggested for 007) and Australian Guy Pearce were among choices for MI6 agent Commander Sebastian Graves. Perfect for Strong, an espionage film veteran. “Sacha is on a mission to poke fun at everything… and create disorder. But within that anarchy, the process of finding the laughs is actually quite scientific. There's a very structured narrative and the writers are specific about the lines they write and the words you speak.”
Benedict Cumberbatch, Doctor Strange, 2015. Discussed, planned, written, re-spun since 1986, always dropped despite scripts from Alex Cox, Wes Craven, Bob Gale, etc, until chosen as the portal into the supernatural side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Among those flown up Marvel’s 21st Century flagpole were Farrell, TV doctor Patrick Dempsey, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ryan Gosling, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jon Hamm, Ethan Hawke, Jack Huston, Oscar Isaac, Jared Leto, Matthew McConaughey, Ewan McGregor, Joaquin Phoenix (too strange!), Vincent Price (in 1986), Keanu Reeves (listed but never approached - how wise), Justin Theroux. Finally, the production waited until after Cumberbatch’s Hamlet stage triumph in London. If Iron Man is Mick Jagger, Strange is Jim Morrison… and should head the MCU when Robert Downey pawns his ironmongery.
Charlie Hunnam, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, 2015. On Warner shelves almost as long as Justice League, director David Dobkins churned into Guy Ritchie for the first of a possible sextet (but there are no Hobbits!). During which time, the guy pulling the sword from the stonealso included Henry Cavill, Sam Claflin, Dominic Cooper, Jai Courtney, the Scottish Hans Matheson (from Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes, 2009) or Benjamin Walker. Then, Hunnam promised to recover his Sons of Anarchy weight loss. The Dobkins version was axed as too pricey ($130m) for an unknown lead like Harrington. Unknown? Planet Earth was watching him in Game of Thrones!! Farrell was urgently offered Arthur…