- Val Kilmer, Batman Forever, 1994.
- Keanu Reeves, A Walk in the Clouds, 1995. According to Hollywood legend, CAA eased Brad Pitt out and pushed in the boring Ralph Fiennes, to help bump up his salary for the film the agency really wanted him in, Strange Days. Both films bombed.
- Matthew Modine, Cutthroat Island, 1995. They all wanted to play pirates: Jeff Bridges, Michael Douglas, Michael Keaton, Liam Neeson, Keanu Reeves, Charlie Sheen. Just not when the director Renny Harlin would obviously favour his leading lady Geena Davis, aka Mrs Harlin!
- Martin Donovan, The Portrait of a Lady, 1995. For director Jane Campion’s take on the Henry James classic, Fiennes (and Daniel Day Lewis, John Malkovich) passed on being poor little heiress Nicole Kidman’s cousin Ralph Touchett - who hides his love for her as he’s dying of consumption.
- Pierce Brosnan, GoldenEye, 1995.
- Tom Cruise, Mission: Impossible, 1995. Before Tom Cruise (and JJ Abrahms) took it on - for 20-plus years! - Paramount offered the (expected) franchise to Cage, George Clooney, Mel Gibson, John Travota, Bruce Wills. And, inexplicably, Ralph Fiennnes… who made a right dog’s breakfast out of another TV cult hero, John Steed of The Avengers, three years later.
- Pierce Brosnan, The Mirror Has Two Faces, 1996. La Barb, boss lady, director and star Barbra Streisand, wanted Anthony Hopkins and Fiennes backing her and Jeff Bridges up in her semi re-make of the (better but not good) 1958 French movie with the incomparable Michèle Morgan.
- Jeremy Irons, Lolita, 1996. But who could succeed James Mason as Humbert Humbert? UK director Adrian Lyne lost his first choice: Dustin Hoffman. Then, Gerard Depardieu was rejected by his producers. Anthony Hoppkins was considered. And Fiennes was in the frame until...
- Paul McGann, Doctor Who (The Movie), TV, 1996.
- Val Kilmer, The Saint, 1996. Racing fast cars, breaking into Swiss banks - nothing he hadn't seen before… (Like whenm he was up cor 007?) During the 80s/90s, Fiennes was due to be Roger Moore-Simon Templar’s illegitimate son - for director Sydney Pollack. Then, Moore was out - “first time I was paid not to act in a film.” After Fiennes refused $1m to become the real Simon Templar, other and young Saints were seen. Fiennes, George Clooney, Kevin Costner, Johnny Depp, Mel Gibson, Hugh Grant. Plus a certain James Healey, the Irish-born Aussie who actually rejected Mad Max for its sparse dialogue (!) in 1978, leaving the superstar route clear for Mel Gibson. And finally, horrendously, ego-trippingly, Kilmer. He later admitted to Moore: “We really screwed that up, didn’t we?”
- Matthew McConaughey, Contact, 1997. “Hi, Ellie. Still waiting for ET to call?'' The dullard version of Carl Sagan’s book was boring enough without Ralph on board.
- Kevin Spacey, Midnght in the Garden of Good and Evil, 1996. Before Clint Eastwood got his hands on it.
- Jack Nicholson, As Good As It Gets, 1997. Or Old Friends when UK director Mike Newell was due to make Mark Andrus' black comedy. Sony wanted Kevin Kline and Holly Hunter to complete the trio. Nicholson made such a memorable job of it, he collected his third Oscar.
- Joseph Fiennes, Dust, 2001. Hallucinogenic Macedonian Westerm, with Joe replacing Ralph as the younger of two brothers. Tommy Lee Jones and Ralph had been the initial siblings. Apparently, no one, not even the Before The Rain Oscar-winner Mikko Manchevski, thought of matching the Fiennes boys as the brothers.
- Andy Garcia, Ocean's Eleven, 2001. A few months after the smash opening, Ralph confessed while presenting a Golden Globe. that his agent had "ordered me to smile! "
- Clive Owen, Beyond Borders, 2002. Kevin Costner was dumped for being too demanding, reported producer Peter Guber. Ralph Fiennes replaced him - but left when director Oliver Stone quit. Owen was at RADA with Fiennes. But no one could save this turkey. Budget: $35m, US take: $4.5m.
- Jeremy Northam, Possession, 2002. Fiennes was first choice for Randolph Henry Ash, Queen Victoria’s Poet Laureate in 1859 - and, apparently, unfaithful, as discovered by two modern day literary sleuths.
- Colin Firth, Girl With A Pearl Earring, 2003. Ralph hung around as Vermeer while directors and titular girls changed (Kate Hudson, Kirsten Dunst) until he could wait no longer.
- Paul Bettany, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, 2003. Various actors were talked of for the ship’s doctor. Crowe stayed faithful to his alter-ego from A Beautiful Mind.
- Liam Neeson, Kinsey, 2003. After Jeff Bridges and George Clooney said no, Bill Condon looked to Britain for his Dr Alfred Kinsey. “It's time to remind people of Kinsey's liberating ideas.”
- Steve Martin, The Pink Panther, 2004. As if his massacre of John Steed was not enough, he was now being thought of for Inspector Clouseau!
- Gabriel Byrne, Wah-Wah, 2004. Actor Richard E Grant turned writer-director to relate his Swaziland childhood with dysfunctional, not to say wildly inappropriate parents - finally played by Byrne and Miranda Richardson.
- Tom Hanks, The Da Vinci Code, 2005. Phew, what an escape! (For us).
- Daniel Craig, Casino Royale, 2005.
- Marlon Brando, Superman Returns, 2006.
- Colin Firth, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, 2010. Fiennes was fine for the terrific first cinema version of the John Le Carré’s 1974 classic - then not so much. His hair looked fienne, though. Impressed by Le Carré’s well cut floppy on their previous Constant Gardener set, Fienne badgered him for the name and address of his barber!
- Eddie Redmayne, Birdsong, TV, 2011. It took the one-time 007 book writer Sebastian Faulks more than a decade to get his WW1 novel into cinemas.. In 2006, he reported: “All the original actors are now too old - Ralph Fiennes and before him Daniel Day-Lewis. More recently they were talking about Orlando Bloom... By the time it gets made, the star of Harry Potter could end up being old enough for it - is he a good actor?” Hollywood even insisted upon Jake Gyllenhaal for the UK hero. Finally, Working Title TV made it with BBC and NBC as a mini-series with the Old Etonian of the hour - from Tess of the D’Urbervilles, The Pillars of the Earth, My Week With Marilyn.
- F Murray Abraham, The Grand Budapest Hotel, 2013. Bearing in mind that Monsieur Ivan was always reserved for Bill Murray, director Wes Anderson sent his script to Fiennes and asked: “Tell me what part you would like.”
- Mathieu Almaric, The Grand Budapest Hotel, 2013. “No, no, it’s not a joke. That is what he said.”
- Adrien Brody, The Grand Budapest Hotel, 2013. “Well, Wes has this theory that if you ask actors to play a certain part, they’ll go: Why can’t I play the other one?”
- Willem Dafoe, The Grand Budapest Hotel, 2013. “I guess it can be true…”
- Jeff Goldblum, The Grand Budapest Hotel, 2013. … “Sometimes.”
- Harvey Keitel, The Grand Budapest Hotel, 2013. “But in this case, no… ”
- Jude Law, The Grand Budapest Hotel, 2013. … “ I mean Gustave was a very attractive part on the page.”
- Edward Norton, The Grand Budapest Hotel, 2013. So he played Gustave - and not Mr Moustafa, Serge X, Dmitri, Jopling, Deputy Kovacs, Ludwig, The Young Writer or Henkels.
- Stellan Skarsgård, Our Kind of Traitor, 2015. Fiennes had starred in the film of Le Carré’s 18th book, The Constant Gardener, 2004. But changed his mind about being the Russian Mafiosi, Dima. The new M would have been the fourth 007 player in a slice of John Le Carré espionage - after Sean Connery in The Russia House, 1990, Pierce Brosnan in The Tailor of Panama 2000, and the new Miss Moneypenny, Naomie Harris, in this one. Indeed, the 2005 Casino Royale villain, Mads Mikkelsen, had been first up for Dima.