Mandy Patinkin, Yentl, 1962. Who was going to be Avigdor, the rabbinical student lover of Barbra Streisand as the cross-dressing Yeshiav Boy in Isaac Bashevis Singer’s tale? Trouble was, La Barb was also the director, producer, and “co-writer”... Obvious, therefore, who was going to have all the closer-ups! So Gere, Michael Douglas, Kevin Kline and Christopher Walken just fled.
- Perry King, The Lord’s of Flatbush, 1974.
“Yeah, the original part of Chico, was originally supposed to be played by Richard Gere,” recalled Sylvester Stallone on the Ain’t It Cool News website. “But we never hit it off. He would strut around in his oversized motorcycle jacket like he was the baddest knight at the round table. One day, during an improv, he grabbed me (we were simulating a fight scene) and got a little carried away. I told him in a gentle fashion to lighten up, but he was completely in character and impossible to deal with. "Then, we were rehearsing at Coney Island and it was lunchtime, so we decided to take a break, and the only place that was warm was in the backseat of a Toyota. I was eating a hotdog and he climbs in with a half a chicken covered in mustard with grease nearly dripping out of the aluminum wrapper. I said:”That thing is going to drip all over the place.’ He said: ”Don’t worry about it.’ I said: ”If it gets on my pants you’re gonna know about it.’ He proceeds to bite into the chicken and a small, greasy river of mustard lands on my thigh. I elbowed him in the side of the head and basically pushed him out of the car. The director had to make a choice: One of us had to go, one of us had to stay. Richard was given his walking papers and to this day seriously dislikes me. He even thinks I’m the individual responsible for the gerbil rumour. Not true... but that’s the rumour.”
- Brad Davis, Midnight Express, 1977 .“We had tremendous problems getting the studio to accept Brad Davis,” recalled produer David Puttnam in 2013.“They wanted Richard Gere…. If you've got a Gere or a Tom Cruise in a film like Midnight Express, you would expect them to be there at the end. You’d expect them to see it heroically through. We actually wanted someone who, two-thirds of the way through, you thought: 'You know what – he’s not going to make it!' We wanted to seed that doubt into the audience and we needed an actor who was vulnerable and unknown enough to do that.”
- John Travolta, Grease, 1978. Gere had been the London’s West End Danny Zuko.
- John Travolta, Moment By Moment, 1978. Usually it was Gere taking over Travolta rejections. When positions were reversed, John’s gift for rotten choices remained firm.
- Chick Vennera, Yanks, 1979. “I had to audition 50 times with 50 different women and even then [director John Schlesinger] wanted me to play the Italian.”
- Harvey Keitel, Death Watch, La mort en direct (UK/US: Death Watch), France-West Germany-UK, 1979. Lyons realisateur Bertrand Tavernier unwisley insisted on “unbankabler” Keitel (just sacked from Coppola’s Apocalypse Now) and Romy Schneider. His US producers wanted US names Gere or Robert De Niro; Jill Clayburgh, Jane Fonda or Diane Keaton.
- Christopher Atkins, The Blue Lagoon, 1979. The nudity demanded by Grease director Randal Kleiser, hardly bothered let-my-wangle-dangle Gere. However, Richard refused the role of...Richard.
- James Brolin, Night of the Juggler, 1980. Wisely steered clear of the preposterous thriller.
- Al Pacino, Cruising, 1980. First choice for the cop going undercover in the gay community. Director William Friedkin called him “a subtle actor, he possessed a toughness as well as an ambiguous quality,” They were about to make it official when the word came down from upon high. Pacino had read the script... (Al and Billy had met often during the early dances for Born on the Fourth of July). Pacino was swiftly offered $3m (why so much when he wanted in). He often turned up late. His make-up man explained the principle of The Pacino Call to Friedkin. “If you want him on the set at 8am give him a a 6am call or even earlier.” Apparently, he never improved.
Michael Ontkean, Making Love, 1982. With all those gerbil rumours, Gere fretted about the young husband turned on by Harry Hamlin.
- Lambert Wilson, Sahara, 1982. Cannon Films often had good ideas - and lousy scripts.
- Christopher Lambert, Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, 1984. Hey! if Clark Gable could be considered for Tarzan, why not Gere? Warners was over-ruled by director Hugh Hudson. Lambert nearly quit because he didn’t wish to be separated for so long from his Paris lover, Nathalie Baye.
- Al Pacino, Revolution, 1986. This time, Hugh Hudson chased Gere, desperately, when Pacino took a (short) walk. Gere obviously saw the future writing on the Village Voice wall: “This movie is nuts! - the most hilariously maladroit historical pegeant since King David.” (And just who had been King David?).
- Tom Berenger, Someone To Watch Over Me, 1987. The Columbia chief David Puttnam pronounced himself “unbelievably proud” of Ridley Scott's atmosphere-over-plot number at the very studio screening where he announced his resignation. The two events were not un-connected.
- Michael Douglas, Fatal Attraction, 1987. Nobody felt Douglas average enoughto pass for an averagehusband caught with his pants down… And Gere was?!
- Bruce Willis, Die Hard, 1987.
Initially developed for Gere. He turned down $4m and Hollywood shook as Willis - “Who is he?” rasped Fox production chief Alan Ladd Jr - accepted $5m. Director John McTiernan recalled: “Two weeks before the movie came out, the studio took his picture off the poster. Two weeks after the movie came out, they put his picture back.” And seven years after, they paid him $25m for the third Die Hard. There had been 16 possible John McClanes… From top TV heroes Richard Dean Anderson and Don Johnson to A-list stars: Gere, Tom Berenger, Charles Bronson, Robert De Niro, Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, 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.
- Michael Douglas, Fatal Attraction, 1987. Nobody felt Douglas average enough to pass for an average husband caught with his pants down... And Gere was?!
- Frederic Forrest, Margaret Bourke White, TV, 1989. Due as the famed photographer’s lover, writer Erskine Caldwell, in a 1984 movie that wound up as a tele-movie directed by another illustriousphotographer, Lawrence Schiller.
- Michael Douglas, Wall Street, 1989. Warren Beatty topped director Oliver Stone's list for Gordon (Greed) Gekko.Next: Gere. Neither wantedto be a bad guy. Douglas won an Oscar. Gere changed his tune to rescue his fast-fading career as the badass cop indirector Mike Figgis' Internal Affairs.
- 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 Gere, Kevin Costner, Harrison Ford, 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 critic Roger Ebert as “a superior work in an old tradition.” He wuz right!
Willem Dafoe, Flight of the Intruder, 1990. Top Gun, John Milius style… ie darker. A wooden Brad Johnson plans a forbidden US missile attack on Hanoi, circa 1972. Richards and Dreyfuss were slso seen for the cowboyish Lieutenant Commander Virgil ‘Tiger’ Cole. “I wouldn’t be the kind of guy who’d bomb Hanoi - those people were evil,” Gere said of the (very late) Vietnam film. “Bullshit,” thundered right winger director John Milius. “Give me a liberal, put him on an aircraft carrier for two weeks and I’ll bring him back a raving zealot.”
- Harvey Keitel, Thelma & Louise, 1990.
- Val Kilmer, The Doors, 1991. Once Travolta quit the project, his usual understudy was named as replacement -one of the many, long before auteur Oliver Stone entered the Jim Morrison biz.
- Michael Douglas, Basic Instinct, 1991.
- Tom Berenger, At Play in the Fields of the Lord, 1992. Gere was interested as soon as the Peter Mathiesson book came out.So was director John Huston.
- Val Kilmer, Thunderheart, 1992.UK director Michael Apted had a sticky potato: just not commercial enough for the studios, without four leading names. At least.Producer Robert De Niro helped form the package while Apted searched for others."I remember having a conversation with Richard but he was off to do Final Analysis."
- BruceWillis, The Player, 1992. The idea? To cameo as himself. Director Robert Altman's Willis idea was far funnier.
- Kurt Russell, Tombstone, 1992. According to Russell, the first cast was Gere as Wyatt Earp and Willem Dafoe ss Doc Holliday. And Russell should know. He directed much of the movie after Kevin Jarre was booted out and and before George Pan Cosmatos reached the Arizona locations.
- Patrick Swayze, Father Hood, 1993. Owch!
- Tom Cruise, Interview With The Vampire, 1994.
Gary Oldman, The Scarlet Letter, 1995. Correctly fled the clinker that looked so old-fashioned one was surprised it was a talkie.
- Bruce Willis, The Jackal, 1997. Felt the assassin was too violent for a Buddist (like the killer killed people!), so he preferred the to be the hunter. Do not hold your breath awaiting another Gere-Willis movie. Ain’t gonna happen, mah friend!
- Clive Owen, Bent, 1996. Broadway’s Max was top choice for the movie. Trouble was he was already first choice for Red Corner in China and The Jackal in Europe. Apart from a transvestite Mick Jagger in the opening orgy and the West End Max, Ian McKellen, as Uncle Freddie, Gere missed nothing. The tale was set in a Nazi concentration camp and, inisisted Chicago critic Roger Ebert, “not worthy of its setting.”
- Al Pacino, The Devil's Advocate, 1997. Dropped during his anti-villain days. The role?The devil!
- Michael Douglas, Traffic, 2000. Douglas, Harrison Ford, Al Pacino felt the same about Judge Wakefield The part wasn’t there.Only Ford did somethingabout it,working on the script, line by line. “He still didn’t want to do it,”saidSteven Soderbergh. “The irony is that his notes turned around that role”... and Douglas was so seduced by the changes he returned andbroughtabonus - his new young wife along to the party,pregnant Catherine Zeta-Jones.
- George Clooney, Intolerable Cruelty, 2002. As the world’s #1 divorce lawyer, entranced by a gold-digger he has just ruined in a case- too close to his hopes (achieved in 2002) of being the Chicago lawyer.
- Antonio Banderas, Imagining Argentina, 2003. Due a decade earlier as a third film with Mike Figgis.
- Clive Owen, Beyond Borders, 2002. Director Martin Campbell felt his hero, Dr Nick Callahan, should not suffer from movie star baggage - and dropped Gere and/or Kevin Costner for Owen’s less famous face.
- Chris Noth, Mr 3000, 2004. Twenty-six years later and Gere and Travolta are still after each other's movies.
- Ty Burrell, Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus, 2006. Arbus biographer Patricia Bosworth recalled Gere being named in a casting brainstorming as far back as 1987. All part of the movie experience, “endless talking, note-taking, fantasizing,” that gave hera false sense of accomplishment.
- Sean Penn, Milk, 2007. On director Gus Van Sant’s 1990s’ wish list for Harvey Milk, San Francisco’s first openly gay public official - assassinated in 1978. Also considered: Daniel Day-Lewis, Robin Williams, James Woods. Penn won his second Best Actor Oscar for, as SF Chronicle Mick LaSalle put it, disappearing into the title role.
- Patrick Wilson, Watchmen, 2008. Not so much “Who watches the watchmen?” as Aristotle asked, but who them playeth? And in the 20 years it took for Alan Moore’s DComic-book to be filmed, directors came and went - Darren Aronofsky, Michael Bay, Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam, Paul Greengrass. So did their choices for Dan Dreiberg aka Nite Owl: Gere, Kevin Costner, John Cusack, Nathan Fillon, Joaquin Phoenix. (Fillion was also shortlisted for Edward Morgan Blake aka The Comedian).