Dustin Hoffman, The Graduate, 1967. Broadway’s Mike Nichols came to town and saw, tested, auditioned and sometimes called back (Jack Nicholson certainly) almost every guy of the correct age for the titular Benjamin Braddock. From Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) and the kid from Shane (De Wilde, now 25 and dead in a Denver road accident at 30) to Robin (Burt Ward, too busy in TV’s Batman)… Ford was recommended to Mike Nichols by Walter Beakel, head of Columbia's New Talent Programme, who had taught Nichols at Second City in Chicago, Both actors were too old for Ben Braddock, although Harrison's 25 was better than Dusty's 30. Nichols also looked at Keir Dullea, Charles Grodin (he won Nichols’ next, Catch 22 instead), George Hamilton, Steve McQueen, Michael Parks, George Peppard. And the prerequisite outsider: MGM pactee turning director, Lee Stanley. Hoffman got it right: “There is no piece of casting in the 20th century that I know of that is more courageous than putting me in that part.”
- Gary Lockwood, The Model Shop, 1969.
“Jacques Demy was the first to believe in me, ” said Ford, who remained friends with the French realisateur (and his equally talented film-maker wife, Agnes Varda). Demy insisted on casting Ford and scouted locations with him, but Columbia did not agree. But of course! Harrison told me that in 1966 how one executive had already written off the young contractee getting $115 a week… "Kid - they always called me Kid… probably because they didn’t know who the hell I was. “Kid, siddown… Lemme tell you a story.... First time Tony Curtis ever appeared in a movie, he delivered a bag of groceries…. A bag of groceries! You took one look and you knew that was a star! You… You ain’t got, it, kid!” Despite 2001, Lockwood never had it.
- Jon Voight, Midnight Cowboy, 1969. British director John Schlesinger was seeing any young actors who had played cowpokes - Ford, Michael Sarrazin, Don Stroud from Journey To Shiloh, 1968. Sarrazin won and was Joe Buck until scenarist Waldo Salt's actress daughter, Jennifer, told everyone to watch her boyfriend in a TV play.
- Mark Frechette, Zabriskie Point, 1970. As always, casting man Fred Roos was in Harrison's corner and thought him born for the role, on-the-money perfect for the Italian maestro Michelangelo Antonioni's hero - disillusioned with life's mindless materialism. Ford's strongest qualities? "His great sense of masculinity... dangerous intensity... combined with this droll sense of humour... and an air of confidence. I was so bitterly disappointed when I couldn't convince Michelangelo." So was Ford, but Fred found him a walk-on scene to earn some much needed money. And never gave up on him.
- Rob Reiner, All In The Family, TV, 1971-1979. Harrison refused to play Mike Stivic because of his bigot father-in-law, Archie Bunker. The original son-in-law in the BBC series (Till Death Do Us Part, 1965-1975) was Anthony Booth, future father-in-law of 1997-2007 British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
- Frederic Forrest, The Conversation, 1974. Fred Roos was still pushing, but director Francis Coppola preferred one of his rep company - giving Ford the small role of... Young Man. Having seen a garish green suit on sale for $900, Ford immediately turned him into Young Gay Man and his passion for his notion soon had Coppola agreeing to buy the suit for the film.
- Lee Majors, The Six Million Dollar Man, TV, 1977. Bored with Steve Austin, even changing identity with a moustache, Majors was playing hard to get in the spring of ’77 and the producers looked at possible replacements. Ford, they said, was not suitable for an action hero...!
- Tom Skeritt, Alien, 1978. Finally a star, Ford was busy enough with in the Star Wars franchise (he was still Han Solo-ing in 2015). He passed on the Nostromo skipper, Dallas, in Ridley Scott’s perfect film.
- Jack Nicholson, The Shining, 1979.
Judging them solely on Taxi Driver and Mork & Mindy, Stanley Kubrick said Robert De Niro was not psychotic enough while Robin Williams was too much so! Although Kubrick’s only choice was Nicholson, Warner Bros also suggested Ford, Christopher Reeve. Plus Martin Sheen (who’d already made it… as Apocalypse Now!). (He later made Stephen King’s Dead Zone in 1983). Or even the funny Chevy Chase and Leslie Nielsen (what were they smoking?) Author King said “normal looking” Michael Moriarty or Jon Voight going mad would work better than Jack. Didn’t matter who was Jack Torrance as Kubrick, usually so blissfully right about everything, had clearly lost it. He insisted on up to 70 takes for some scenes (three days and 60 doors for “Here’s Johnny!”), reducing Shelley Duvall and grown men, like Scatman Crothers at 69, to tears. “Just what is it that you want, Mr Kubrick?” He didn’t know. He was, quite suddenly, a director without direction. Result: a major disappointment. Not only for Stephen King but the rest of us. Harry Dean Stanton escaped being Lloyd, the bartender. By making a real horror film. Alien.
- Alan Arkin, The Last Unicorn, 1982. Also considered as the voice of magician, Schmendrick, was his Star Wars cohort Mark Hamill, who later made a career of voicing numerous TV and video-game characters.
- Michael Ontkean, Making Love, 1982. Wary of the subject matter: a husband having his gay side awakened by Harry Hamlin.
Jack Nicholson, Terms of Endearment, l983. And Jack collected his second Oscar.
- Al Pacino, Revolution, 1986. "I want to be surprised when I open a script." Producer Irwin Winkler said it had great potential: "I'd like to do it again." Masochist!
- Kevin Costner, The Untouchables, 1987. Casting is never copycat director Brian De Palma's strongest suit. He was playing safe, talking to Ford or Mel Gibson, when pals George Lucas and Steven Spielberg were telling him: Costner, Costner, Costner!
- Kevin Kline, Cry Freedom, 1987. Turned down - quite rightly! - the white journalist who Brit director Richard Attenborough made the hero of the black Steve Biko story!
- Michael Douglas, Fatal Attraction, 1987.
- Tom Hanks, Big,1987. Steven Spielberg’s sister, Anne, wrote the script, so it was perhaps obvious that “for two months I thought of Harrison…” He declined. Politely. Wisely. Ford is not Tom Hanks. And vice-versa.
- Bruce Willis, Die Hard, 1987. There were 15 possible John McClanes… From top TV heroes Richard Dean Anderson and Don Johnson to A-listers: Ford, Tom Berenger, Charles Bronson, Robert De Niro, Clint Eastwood, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, Michael Madsen, Nick Nolte, Al Pacino, Burt Reynolds, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone. And Frank Sinatra had to be contractually offered the hero. In his 1980 move debut, The First Deadly Sin, Willis is seen leaving a bar as Sinatra walks in. So it flows.
- Mel Gibson, Tequila Sunrise, 1988. Chinatown scenarist Robert Towne was working on the Frantic script with the star - when Ford chanced upon the writer’s nearly completed scenario about two LA buddies on either side of the law. Ford wanted in. He later backed off due to “personal conflicts with the role.” Not interested in playing a dealer - repenti, or not. Not that he was anti-marijuana. Towne and producer Thom Mount simply flew down-under and got Gibson aboard.
- Bob Hoskins, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, 1988. Producer Steven Spielberg wanted - naturally - Indiana Solo as the human shamus Eddie Valiant trying to save a toon star’s hide in 1947 Hollywood. Ford’ agent’s price was too high even as the budget swelled from $50 to $70m for, what critic Roger Ebert called “a joyous, giddy, goofy celebration of the kind of fun you can have with a movie camera.”
- Tim Robbins, ErikThe Viking, 1988. There was a flurry of names run up various flagpoles for Erik, from Nicolas Cage and Tom Hulce to... wait for it... Michael Palin and Harrison Ford!!!
- Dwight Schulz, The Shadow Makers (aka Fat Man and Lttle Boy), 1989. "Harrison told me the reason he didn't do it," says Bonnie Bedelia, "was because after reading the script three times, he realised I had the best role. I was a scientist but you wouldn't know it - 95% of what I played was cut out."
- Jack Nicholson, The Two Jakes, 1989.
Don Johnson, The Hot Spot, 1989.
Robert Mitchum was the matrix for drifter Harry Madox - and first choice in 1962. Nearly 30 years later, it was to be Mickey Rourke and Debra Winger. Or Ford, Kevin Costner, Richard Gere, Dennis Quaid, Tom Selleck, Sam Shepard, Patrick Swayze opposite Anne Archer, Jodie Foster, Melanie Griffith, Theresa Russell, Uma Thurman and ultimately, Virginia Madsen. Not necessarily for this movie… Replacing UK director Mike Figgis, Dennis Hopper totally changed the entire gig! In a 2014 AV Club interview, Johnson explained how three days before shooting began Dennis “called a meeting. ‘OK, we’re not making that script. We’re making this one.’And he passed a script around the table that had been written for Robert Mitchum in the ’60s... based on a book called Hell Hath No Fury… Wow! The Figgis script was really slick and cool, and it was a heist movie. But this was real noir. The guy was an amoral drifter, and it was all about how women were going to take him down… And that was the movie that we ended up making.” Hopper’s Last Tango In Texas was hailed by Chicago critic Roger Ebert as “a superior work in an old tradition.” He wuz right!
- Alec Baldwin, The Hunt For The Red October, 1989. Passed on the first film of the Thomas Clancy books about CIA's Jack Ryan. "Always my first choice from the moment I read the book," said producer Mace Neufeld. "But he wanted to play the Russian submarine commander." "It was," said Ford, "the better part." By 1992, it was a case of Jack's Back and Ford's got him as he headlined the next two Ryan thrillers.
- Richard Gere, Internal Affairs, 1989. UK director Mike Figgis said Paramount wanted Mel Gibson or Kurt Russell (big hits in ’88’s Tequila Sunrise) as the badass cop-cum-hit man. “If we’d hired a movie star to play Peck,” noted producer Frank Mancuso Jr, “we might not have been able to so successfully explore the darkness of the character.” Some 19 other stars - Ford, Alec Baldwin, Tom Berenger, Jeff Bridges, Pierce Brosnan, Kevin Costner, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Ed Harris, William Hurt, Don Johnson, Tommy Lee Jones, Michael Keaton, Nick Nolte, Al Pacino, Christopher Reeve, Kurt Russell, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, John Travolta - and four outsiders Richard Dean Anderson, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Ron Silver - all passed Peck to Gere for a double whammy comeback with Pretty Woman. “I’ve never been away,” snapped Gere. Oh, but he had. Almost to Palookaville.
- Richard Dreyfuss, Always, 1990. Steven Spielberg invariably thinks of Ford first. Harrison's reasons for rejecting offers are: "I didn't know how to do it, or it was too close to something I'd already done or I didn't like the idea." In this case, Spencer Tracy had already done it in 1943. And anyway, Spielberg, flubbed it.
- Warren Beatty, Dick Tracy, 1990. Project went through five writers, two leading men, three directors: Martin Scorsese, Walter Hill, Richard Benjamin before Beatty took it on. All of it.
- Harvey Keitel, The Two Jakes, 1990. "I'd rather find the thing that's written with somebody else in mind and be able to add layers to that."
- James Caan, Misery, 1990. "The idea of playing a victim didn't appeal to a lot of people," said director Rob Reiner explaining such refusniks as Ford, Warren Beatty, Jeff Daniels, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Gene Hackman, Ed Harris, John Heard, Dustin Hoffman, William Hurt, Robert Klein, Kevin Kline, Ed O’Neill, Al Pacino, Robert Redford, John Ritter, Denzel Washington. Why did Caan agree? "I think he wanted the work."
- Patrick Swayze, Ghost, 1990. Me a ghost? Shut the door as you get outa here.
- John Heard, Home Alone, 1990. An astonishing 37 stars (Mel Gibson, Jack Nicholson, Jessica Lange, Michelle Pfeiffer, etc) were considered for the forgetful parents - nothing roles in a film written for and duly stolen by the stranded kid, Macauley Culkin.
- Nick Nolte, Cape Fear, 1991. Might have been interested if Steven Spielberg had stayed aboard. Neither the final director Martin Scorsese - nor phone calls from Robert De Niro - could persuade him. Harrison always understands who has the better role.
- Kevin Costner, JFK, 1991.
Nick Nolte, Cape Fear, 1991. After Spielberg passed the Amblin project to him, Martin Scorsese tried to win over Ford (then, Robert Redford) to play the (this time, unsantised) lawyer Sam Bowden. Scorsese even asked Robert De Niro to call Ford to talk him into co-starring. You talkin’ to me!
- Michael Douglas, Basic Instinct, 1991.
- Sam Neill, Jurassic Park, 1992.
- Tom Berenger, Sliver, 1993 "If you can't do it, you can't do it. No sense regretting it." There would have been much regret about this turkey!
- Sam Shepard, The Pelican Brief, 1993. "Julia Roberts asked me to play her boyfriend - but the timing was not right."
- Morgan Freeman, The Shawshank Redemption, 1993. Keen on being the cellmate of a wrongfully imprisoned Tom Cruise - who became Tim Robbins.
- Liam Neeson, Schlindler's List, 1993. Steven Spielberg spent ten years growing up before makingthe Holocaust film and not just because he couldn’t find his Oskar Schindler, the Nazi businessman who saved the lives of more than 1,100 Jews. "I was looking for the actual guy, as close to the actual man as I could find." Ford was worried by his movie star baggage. Other possibilities: Warren Beatty, Kevin Costner, Robert Duvall, Swiss Bruno Ganz, Mel Gibson, Swedish Stellan Skarsgård, AustralianJack Thompson… and his2011 Lincoln, Daniel Day-Lewis. Ford had the more joyful job ofpresenting Spielberg with his first Best Film and Director Oscars (after four previous nominations) on March 21, 1994.
- Harvey Keitel, Imaginary Crimes, 1994. Over eleven years, Ford, Robert Duvall, and Dustin Hoffman had beenup for the hustler-father of two young girls - based on Sheila Ballantyne’s autobiography.
- Dennis Quaid, Dragonheart, 1995. A hard day's knight - opposite a computerised dragon voiced by Indy's dad, Sean Connery! Mel Gibson, Liam Neeson Patrick Swayze, Robin Williams were also on the short-list for Bowen.
- Dustin Hoffman, Outbreak, 1995. Thirteen year before, Harrison's Blade Runner had been aimed at Hoffman. Ford won - twice!
- Robin Williams, Jumanji, 1995. Two kids find a jungle board game with magic powers unleashing grotesque animalia and some poor sap trapped inside the game since playing it as a tot. Williams lapped it up after Ford, Dan Aykroyd, Sean Connery, Richard Dreyfuss, Rupert Everett, Tom Hanks, Michael Keaton, Kevin Kline, Bill Paxton, Kurt Russell, Arnold Schwarzenegger had all fled the incoherent script. Jumanji, incidentally, is Zulu for “many effects.” And how.
Jeff Bridges, The Mirror Has Two Faces, 1996. With La Barb getting $20m and a cut of the action, Ford would have doubled the budget by co-starring with Barbra Streisand.
- Steven Seagal, Fire Down Below, 1996. Jeb Stuart's script was snapped up by Batman's dynamicduo (producers Peter Guber, Jon Peters) for Harrison or Mel Gibson... Jinxed title. Despite Rita Hayworth, Robert Mitchum, Jack Lemmon, a 1957 film with the same name also deep-sixed.
- Paul McGann, Doctor Who (The Movie), TV, 1996.
- Nick Nolte, Nightwatch, 1997. Re-treading his own 1994 Danish thriller in America, the original's director, Ole Bernedal, wanted Harrison for Inspector Thomas Albert Cray.
- Tom Sizemore, The Relic, 1997. Another cop, another pass. So, no Lieutenant Vincent D’Agosta for director Peter Hyams.
- Treat Williams, Deep Rising, 1998. Soon as Ford passed as the skipper of a cruise liner staffed by reprobates, the budget was slashed. As if money could float this lame-brained pot-pourri of recent grisleys… Alien Resurrection, Anaconda, Hard Rain, Phantom, Toy Story. No, I’m joking about Toy Story. I think.
- James Caan, Poodle Springs, TV, 1998. The final, unfinished Raymond Chandler/Philip Marlowe book came Ford's way after being first aimed at Redford. It ended as a below-par HBO movie.
- Tom Hanks, Saving Private Ryan, 1998. For once, Spielberg needed a name to support/encourage all the necessarily young actors. He thought Ford (naturally) plus Mel Gibson, before joining together for the first time with his friend, Hanks - in a grim WWII drama that led to more of the same in their co-produced HBO masterpiece, Band of Brothers, TV, 2001.
- Tom Cruise Eyes Wide Shut, 1998. A better idea for Bill Hartford. Not that Ford could have saved the old-fashioned mess that proved to be Stanley Kubrick’s final film. And he thought, his greatest. Didn’t he ever see the 15 others? (Truth is, it sucked due to Cruise and the missus, not an ounce of erotica between them). Also up for Hartford: Johnny Depp and Steve Martin.
- Lance Henriksen, Tarzan, 1998. Ford was short-listed for the Disney toon. But Henriksen was chosen by the suits because only his voice - “deep and gruff” - would better suit “the immense size of Kerchak.” Cheaper, too.
- Richard Gere, Runaway Bride, 1999. Over ten years, most A listers, male and female, had been announced for it. Re-uniting Gere and Julia Roberts was a pretty good idea. Except on-screen.
Michael Douglas, Traffic, 2000. Steven Soderbergh had "great interactions" with Harrison. "He had really good ideas, all of which we incorporated and all of which worked. He decided it wasn't what he wanted to do right then, but the time he put into it was invaluable to me." Loving Ford’s changes, Douglas returned to the Soderbergh deal... bringing his pregnant wife with him, Catherine Zeta-Jones. Adds Soderbergh: "These things work out of the way they should."
- Russell Crowe, Proof of Life, 2000. When Ford - one of his wife Helen Mirren’s previous co-stars - dropped out, Taylor Hackford took the advice of fellow directors Michael Mann and Ridley Scott and went for Crowe. “All I needed was to see him in action in Gladiator and Inside Man. In one movie, he’s this hulking Roman soldier and, in the other, a brilliantly intelligent boffin. Perfect. But not easy.”
- George Clooney, The Perfect Storm, 2000. Inevitably, Harrison was first choice of his Air Force One maker, German director Wolfgang Petersen.
- Mel Gibson, The Patriot, 2000. Too violent, too damned simple: “The Revolutionary War boiled down to one man seeking revenge.”
- Kurt Russell, Vanilla Sky, 2001. Scenarist-director Cameron Crowe also asked Alec Baldwin, Michael Keaton. But, hey, who wants to besecondbanana to Tom Cruise!
Al Pacino, Insomnia, 2001. Ford missed that rarity: a re-make improving upon the (Norwegian) original. And so, Pacino became burnt out cop, looking (said Chicago critic Roger Ebert) “like a man who has lost all hope.”
- Ben Affleck, The Sum of All Fears, 2002.
Jack Ryan Junior! "They produced a script and... I didn't care for it . So they went to somebody else." Affleck was 28. "[Author and exec-producer] Tom Clancy was always complaining about how old I was, so I think at least he'll be gratified." Not with the box-office take that brought a sudden end to the Ryan franchise.
- Ray Liotta, Narc, 2002. Quite keen on this cop, Henry Oaks - for awhile. Liotta gained 25 lbs and so impressed Tom Cruise, he
became exec producer to help win a better release for the result.
- Kevin Costner, Dragonfly, 2002. Another grieving doctor-widower? No thanks, he was taking a full year off movies to enjoy his new lady, Calista Flockhart, and her adopted son, Liam.
- Edward James Olmos, Battlestar Galactica, TV, 2004-2009. Harrison Ford, Ed Harris, Sam Shepard were the somewhat lofty goals for the 74 hours of Admiral William Adama. Somewhat early to seduce Ford into a series! Olmos (five years younger) was in by the fourth page of the scenario.
Val Kilmer, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, 2005. Warners offered a better budget if Harrison could be enticed. He could not. OK, then, Hugh Grant and Benicio Del Torro? For his directing debut, scripter Shane Black was content with Kilmer and Robert Downey Jr as his latest lethal weapons.
- David Morrissey, Basic Instinct 2, 2005 .Even recalling him sexy when Presumed Innocent, 1990,this was a no-way casting tale from columnist Liz Smith. “I let myself down,” said Morrissey. “When it came out… I didn’t want to leave the house.It was a very bruising experience… I’d do it againtomorrow. But I’d do it differently because I’d have different tools in my armoury.”
- Viggo Mortensen, A History of Violence, 2005. Canadian director David Cronenberg did not seem to know his main character that well. He was turned down by Harrison, aged 63 and Thomas Jane, 36. Mortensen was 47.
- George Clooney, Syriana, 2005. A simple refusal. A major regret. Of course it was. George won a support Oscar (with first, above-title billing?). He brought a political resonance to the Mid East drama that Ford could never have matched.
- Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, 2006. One of Hollywood’s most bizarre ideas. During 25 years in Development Hell, the titular casting also included Russell Crowe, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Richard Dreyfuss, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Steve Martin, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino. Tim Curry was the sole Brit considered and the most lunatic notions were... Ford, Warren Beatty and Robert Redford!
- Mark Wahlberg, Shooter, 2006. According to William Goldman, the film’s script doctor, Ford, Eastwood, Redford refused the betrayed hero tricked into being another Lee Harvey Oswald. So director Antoine Fuqua went younger, changing Bob Lee Swagger’s betrayal from 70s’ Vietnam to 90s’ Ethiopia. Keanu Reeves, was the first choice.
- James Cromwell, W, 2008. Cromwell revealed - and he should know – how autuer Oliver Stone first wanted Ford or Warren Beatty to play W’s father, the 41st US president, George HW Bush. Cromwell has now managed to play a president’s father, two fictional POTUSes and another real one - the 36th Prez, LBJ, Lyndon Baines Johnson - the British Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, Pope Pius XII, William Randolph Hearst and… and the farmer owning Babe, the talking pig who wanted to be a sheepdog. Howzat for a CV?!
- Alex O’Loughlin, Hawaii Five-0, TV, 2010-2016 Five years earlier there had been a lot of chat about a Five-0 movie - headlined by Ford, Michael Douglas or Mel Gibson. However, when the island cop Steve McGarrett was rebooted, it was back on the tube.
- Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables, 2011. Oh, Hollywood… Since the musical’s 1985 London opening, suggestions for Jean Valjean went from the logical - Robert De Niro, Richard Dreyfuss, Gene Hackman, William Hurt, Kevin Kline - to the preposterous: Ford, Michael Douglas, Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks, Robert Redford, Christopher Walken. Plus close pals, rarely rivals, Beatty and Jack Nicholson. However, Tom Cruise, Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino were far too short for the hefty hero who, in a signature scene, has to carry Cosette’s lover, away from the battle of the barricades. Put it another way, Hollywood’s last Valjean had been Liam Neeson - 6ft. 4in.
- Liam Neeson, A Walk Among The Tombstones, 2013. One of the great unmade Hollywood scripts nearly happened in 2002 with Ford. Finally, scripter Scott Frank decided to direct it, himself, and selected Neeson as Lawrence Block's ex-cop turned private dick (unlicensed) Matthew Scudder. Perfect!
- George Clooney, Gravity, 2013. Ford had done science fiction, thank you… 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. Ford, Kevin Costner, Daniel Craig, Russell Crowe, Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks (he loves astronauts, right?), John Travolta, Denzel Washington and Bruce Willis. Most backed off, annoyed that the woman astronaut, Sandra Bullock, had most of the film entirely to herself. “More like 2001 than an action film,” said a delighted Clooney.