- Robert Powell, Harlequin, Australia, 1980. Following his Tim and Mad Max breakthroughs, Gibson auditioned for the role of Gregory Wolfe, a charismatic mystic based (loosely) on Rasputin.... eventually won by the Brit famous for playing another mystic. Jesus.
- Roger Moore, Octopussy, 1983.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Terminator, 1983.In all, 52 actresses were considered, seen, or tested for the robot assassin’s target, Sarah Connor -but a mereeight guys for the killer from the future, itself. Gibson, Michael, Douglas, Kevin Kline, Jürgen Prochnow, Randy Quaid, Tom Selleck,… It was when Orion boss Mike Medavoy decided on OJ Simpson as the Terminator and Arnie as Reese, that CameronrealisedSchwarzi was the perfect, coolest Terminator in town.
- Tom Hulce, Amadeus, 1984. Mel as Mozart! Barely seems credible that Milos Forman could ponder on such an idea.
- Mickey Rourke, A Prayer Before Dying, 1986. Rourke was delighted, going to Belfast to study the accent, getting tattooed with the IRA emblem, saying he’d never made a film with so much passion... And finishing with another flop.
- Eddie Murphy, The Golden Child, 1986. Gibbo's loss (as a serious drama) was hardly Murphy lore as a semi-comedy..
- Kevin Costner, The Untouchables, 1987. Refused Eliot Ness, realising that Sean Connery would steal the movie from even Robert De Niro’s Al Capone.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Running Man, 1987. Four years earlier, this was all his for one MGMillion.
- Timothy Dalton, The Living Daylights, 1987.
- Jean-Marc Barr, Le grand bleu, France, 1988. With the film’s enormous success in France, Barr became something of a Gibson: “a Mickey Mouse, a star, a prostitute being offered enormous sums of money to do anything.”
- Bruce Willis, Die Hard, 1987. There were 16 possible John McClanes… From top TV heroes Richard Dean Anderson and Don Johnson to A-list stars: Gibson, Tom Berenger, Charles Bronson, Robert De Niro, Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, 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.
- Willem Dafoe, The Last Temptation of Christ, 1988. From, his 20s onwards, Gibbo vowed: “Two things I wouldn't do on film - I will never play myself if it ever comes to that and I will never play Jesus.” Instead, he directed Jim Caviezel in Christ’s last 12 hours in ThePassionof the Christ - shot in Latin and Aramaic in 2003. “They think I'm insane, maybe I am. Hopefully I’ll be able to transcend language barriers with filmic storytelling. Many people have told the story but... I mean, Jesus either suffers from bad hair or it's inaccurate or you don’t believe it.”
- Michael Keaton, Batman, 1988.
- Ed Harris, The Abyss, 1989. Just what the water-logged chiller required.
- Richard Gere, Internal Affairs, 1989. UK director Mike Figgis said Paramount wanted Gibson or Kurt Russell (big hits in ’88’s Tequila Sunrise) as the rogue 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 - Alec Baldwin, Tom Berenger, Jeff Bridges, Pierce Brosnan, Kevin Costner, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Ed Harris, William Hurt, Don Johnson, Tommy Lee Jones, Michael Keaton, Nick Nolte, Al Pacino, Christopher Reeve, 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. Where Gibson would be next to spend some time… following his rabid, anti-Jewish rant on 28 July 2006.
- James Caan, Misery, 1990. The film, as Warren Beatty had already understood, belonged to Kathy Bates. So did the Oscar.
- Patrick Bergin, Mountains of the Moon, 1990. Bob Rafelson’s first choice for the 19th Century River Nile explorers, Burton and Speke: Gibson and Bowie. A reduced budget meant unknowns. Bergin also replaced Gibson during Hollywood’s Sherwood Forest battle...
- John Heard, Home Alone, 1990. An astonishing 37 stars (Harrison Ford, 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.
- Patrick Bergin, Robin Hood, TV, 1991. “Bring in Division Two,” commented Bergin. “Or, the bottom of Division One.” When Kevin Costner went to the rival project, Fox tried for Gibson, before scaling down its $36m project to a tele-movie - released in overseas cinemas to scanty audiences as the world awaited Costner’s Dances With Sherwood.
- Kevin Costner, JFK, 1991.
- Campbell Scott, Dying Young, 1991. The stars queued - to refuse.
- Damon Wayans, The Last Boy Scout, 1991. Shane Black’s $1.75m script was to pair private eye Jack Nicholson with ex-football player Gibbo on a murder hunt. Lethal Weapon by another name.
- Michael Douglas, Basic Instinct, 1992.
- Sam Neill, Jurassic Park, 1992.
- Liam Neeson, Schindler’s List, 1993. “Oskar Schindler is the most romantic character I’ve ever worked with. He romances the entire city of Krakow, he romances the Nazis, he romances the politicians, the police chiefs,the women. He was a grand seducer.” Steven Spielberg spent ten years growing up before making the Holocaust film and not just because he couldn’t find his Oskar Schindler. Among those offering to play the Nazi businessman who saved the lives of more than 1,100 Jews were Kevin Costner... and Mel Gibson, 13 yearsbefore his rabid, anti-Jewish rant on July 28, July 2006. After four previous nominations, this is the film that finally won Spielberg his first Oscar on March 21, 1994.
- Jeff Bridges, Fearless, 1993. Mel turned down Australian director Peter Weir to direct himself as The Man Without A Face.
- Woody Harrelson, Natural Born Killers, 1993. Warners pushed for Gibbo or Kevin Costner, no matter how inappropriate. Oliver Stone was musing between Harrelson and Michael Madsen.
- Tommy Lee Jones, Batman Forever, 1994.
- Jean Reno, Léon (US: Leon: The Professional), France, 1994.The word spread about auteur Luc Besson’s new projects. Gibbo (and Keanu Reeves) made it known they expected to be the hit-man. Besson, however, kept the faith with his pal Reno - who had been five of the previous six Besson movies.
- Patrick Swayze, To Wong Fu, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar, 1995. Mad Max in drag! Well, he flirted with the notion for a (short) while. Until - legend insists - Mel heard that Vida was Jewish.
- Sylvester Stallone, Assassins, 1995. After Arnold Schwarzenegger passed a year earlier, Warners asked Gibson to star and direct in what was then Day of Reckoning. Finally, director Richard Donner took it on.
- Richard Gere, First Knight, 1995. Proved to be a bad day’s knight.
- Dennis Quaid, Dragonheart, 1995. Not interested in being second banana to a computerised dragon... with Sean Connery’s voice! Liam Neeson Patrick Swayze, Robin Williams were also on the short-list for Bowen.
- Tom Cruise, Mission: Impossible, 1995. Before Tom Cruise and JJ Abrams took it on - for 20-plus years! - Paramount had offered the (expected) franchise to Gibson, Nicholas Cage, George Clooney, John Travota, Bruce Wills. And, inexplicably, Ralph Fiennnes… who made a right dog’s breakfast out of another TV cult hero, John Steed, in The Avengers - when Gibson rejected the role three years later.
- Steven Seagal, Fire Down Below, 1996. Batman producrs Peter Guber and Jon Peters bought it for Mel - or, again, Harrison Ford - as a EPAgent fighting environment polluters.
- Val Kilmer, The Ghost and The Darkness, 1996. Gibbo was on Paramount’s short must-have-or-no-film list - but was never even contacted during a six month wait for Cruise to decline what Costner had agreed to.
- Val Kilmer, The Saint, 1997. Roger Moore played Simon Templar for 118 tele-chapters, stayed with the company making Return of the Saint with Ian Ogilvy and was due for sainthood again as 80s and 90s plans had Moore set to produce a St Pierce Brosnan (!) or be the ageing hero, finding his illegitimate Saint son - nearly Ralph Fiennes for director Sydney Pollack. Final director was Philip Noyce and Moore was out - “first time I was paid not to act in a film” - and junior Saints were in. Gibson, George Clooney, Kevin Costner, Johnny Depp, Hugh Grant, even Arnold Schwarzenegger. 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 Gibson. And finally, horrendously, ego-trippingly, Kilmer. He later admitted to Moore: “We really screwed that up, didn’t we?”
- Ralph Fiennes, The Avengers, 1998. To be bowler-hatted for Tim Burton’s 1990 version. The big-screen John Steed sure needed some charisma. The UK Daily Telegraph’s anonymous columnist, Peterborough, felt the not-so-Fiennes Steed “appeared to be inspired by an old ironing board.”
- John Travolta, Primary Colors, 1998. Even with Mike Nichols directing, Tom Hanks also passed on being the tres Clintonesque Governor Jack Stanton running for The White House.
- Nicolas Cage, Snake Eyes, 1998. Also rejected by Kevin Costner, Tom Cruise, Brian De Palma began directing without his star - when Cage was still shooting City of Angels and due to fly into Superman Reborn. De Palma got lucky, Superman got aborted.
- Tom Hanks, Saving Private Ryan, 1998. This once, Spielberg needed an A-name to support and encourage all the necessarily young actors. He thought of Harrison Ford (bien sur) plus Gibson, before making his friend, Hanks, into Captain John Miller - first of three films together.
- Richard Gere, Runaway Bride, 1999. Across a decade, the reporters changed - Ben Affleck, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford. So did their story: from Sandra Bullock to Demi Moore
- Will Smith, The Wild, Wild West, 1999. Seven years before, Richard Donner (one of the TV series directors) and his Lethal Weapon tried to cut a deal - before switching to the eminently more polished Maverick. Tom Cruise simply bolted… Everybody making - or wasting good money to watch - the lame-brained Western, hated it. Smith gave up The Matrix to succeed Conrad as Captain James West, as he was a huge fan of the show. Hah! ah ! Some years later, “when older and more experienced,” he found the grace to publicly apologise to Conrad for such a diabolical mish-mash.
- George Clooney, Three Kings, 1999. Bullying director David O Russell never wanted Clooney as Archie Gates. And only agreed (and then got into a fist fight with him) when Gibson, Nicolas Cage, Clint Eastwood, Dustin Hoffman never wanted his script! Jeff Bridges’ previous film, The Big Lebowski, had tanked and Nick Nolte said he was too old. Idem, apparently, for Jack Nicholson. Although respecting his work, Clooney said he’d never work with Russell again. Their fight had been over Russell’s treatment of an extra, throwing him to the ground. Then, foolishly taunting Clooney. “Hit me!” So, he did.
- Russell Crowe, Gladiator, 1999.UK director Ridley Scott talked but Gibson balked rather than bulked upabout Maximus. “I’m too old.”
- Hugh Jackman, X-Men (1, 2, 3), 1999-2005.
- George Clooney, The Perfect Storm, 2000. “In the same week,” reported Mel, “I was offered The Pefect Storm, The Patriot and...”
- Russell Crowe, Proof of Life, 2000. Mel was the producers’ first choice.Taylor Hackford fought harder for the younger Aussie - whose on-screen affair withMeg Ryannever stopped off-screen.
- Chris Klein, Rollerball, 2001. Gibbo wanted a rest.
- Colin Farrell, Phone Booth, 2001.
After about 30 years of B-pix, directing 18 of them, Larry Cohen moved from B to A List scripter at 58. “I wrote the character of a small-time hustling publicist and patterned him on Tony Curtis in Sweet Smell of Success and even had Tony ready to star but…” It took 40 years to get his suspenser made. Alfred Hitchcock wanted it in the ’60s, but neither man could work out why the hero stayed trapped in the titular box. By the ’90s, Cohen found the (all-American) idea of a sniper - threatening to shoot the hero if he left the booth. Director Joel Schumacher talked to Jim Carrey when they made Batman Forever, 1994, then Gibson, Will Smith, Mark Wahlberg and, finally, the young Irish lad he’d made into a sudden star with Tigerland, 1999. And Schumacher shot it all in nine days! “It was a blast,” said Farrell, “the most intense experience of my life.” But young fans with their cell phones, didn’t know from … whaddyer call ’em again… phone booths? Cohen heard them and brought his tale up to date as Cellular for Kim Basinger and Chris Evans in 2003.
- Patrick Bauchau, Panic Room, 2001. Having given up being the Cannes festival jury chief to rescue this thriller after Nicole Kidman’s knee injury, Foster almost insisted that her best mate play her ex-husband. This once, she didn’t get her own way. … Bauchau is Brigitte Bardot’s brother-in-law.
- Leonardo Di Caprio, Gangs of New York, 2001. Some time after his zonked-out nonsense about using The Blues Brothers in 1978, directing ikon Martin Scorsese prepped anew with Gibson as young Amsterdam Vallon and Willem Dafoe as the fearsome Bill “The Butcher” Cutting. No better without them... Gibson got something out of it - all the film’s left over scaffolding at Cinecitta studios. Most usedful for his sets forn The Passion of the Christ, 2003.
- Steve Martin, Cheaper By The Dozen, 2002. When Gibson bowed out of the the dom-com, it became yet another Martin re-tread. Mainly because the character was called Tom Baker - and Martin was a major fan of Doctor Who. For visiting Martians, let me explain: UK actor Tom Baker was Doc4 during 1974-1981.
- Keanu Reeves, Constantine, 2003. If ever a movie deserved to fail... Fascinated by Alan Moore’s DC/Vertigo comic book hero, Hellblazer, Hollywood changed the title in case anyone was dumb enough to muddle it with Hellraiser (impossible with the target geek audience), and changed the Liverpudlian cop hero (supernatural detective, it says here) into just another LA cop chasing demons down mean streets. Nic Cage, Kevin Spacey also fled and Moore took his name off it.
- Aaron Eckhart, Thank You For Smoking, 2004. “The message Hollywood needs to send out is: Smoking Is Cool!” When Christopher Buckley sold rights to his novel in the ’90s, Gibson was due to be Nick Naylor - tobacco industry lobbyist.
- Julian McMahon, Fantastic Four, 2004. Gibson, Tim Robbins - and Cliff Curtis, the Maori actor from The Piano and Blow - were lucky to lose Victor Von Doom in this mess, the second of four flop versions of the comic. One day, Marvel will doubtless regain all rights and fit the Four into its triumphant Cinematic Universe.
- Jack Nicholson, The Departed, 2006. Mel passed on Scorsese’s offer - too busy creating his own violence in Apocalypto.
- Nicolas Cage, World Trade Center, 2006. Gibson liked the script and the lead role of Port Authority police sergeant John McLoughlin - but was committed to directing his second movie, Apocalypto, 2006.
- Will Smith, I Am Legend, 2007. During the 30-year history of Warners and the Richard Matheson sf novel (two films - one Italian - ten directors), potentials for the last man on earth also included Nicolas Cage, Tom Cruise, Daniel Day-Lewis, Ted Levine, Kurt Russell, even Arnold Schwarzenegger. And, ultimately, Smith, who had first considered making it with director Michael Bay in 2002. (They gave it up for... Bad Boys II).
- George Clooney, Leatherheads, 2008. “The problem with the movie [that took 17 years to get made] is that we wrote it for Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell,” confessed scenarists Duncan Brantley and Rick Reilly. “In 1990, the closest to that was Mel Gibson and there really wasn’t anything again until the modern-day George Clooney.” He chose it for this third outing as a director (and star) was a shock flop.
- Liam Neeson, The A Team,. 2009. “When you’re in trouble, for the right price, maybe you can hire The A-Team... ” of Vietnam vets led by Hannibal Smith. But you cannot get Gibson for any movies of TV series. He also refused Hawaii Five-O and Hogan’s Heroes (un-made) and The Avengers (badly made).Liam Neeson, The A Team, 2009. “When you’re in trouble, for the right price, maybe you can hire The A-Team... ” of Vietnam vets led by Hannibal Smith. But you cannot get Gibson for any movies of TV series. He also refused Hawaii Five-O and Hogan’s Heroes (un-made) and The Avengers (badly made).
- Alex Loughlin, Hawaii Five-0, 2010. Five years earlier there had been a lot of chat about a Five-0 movie - headlined by Gibson, Michael Douglas or Harrison Ford.. However, the island cop Steve McGarrett was rebooted (badly) as a new TV series. Dead in the water after ten episodes.
- Sean Penn, The Tree of Life, 2010. At one time during its long gestation, director Terrence Malick considered Gibson for the short but central role of his wildly ambitious film, trying encompass all of existence in 139 minutes. Monty Python did it better. And 32 minutes shorter.
- Nick Cassavetes, The Hangover Part II, 2010. The cameo was a crazily intense tattoo artist. The hungovers - Bradley Cooper, Zack Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Justin Bartha - objected to the idea of the disgraced Gibson. Bradley Cooper suggested his A Team pal Liam Neeson - and he shot the role but was busy in another sequel, Clash of Titans 2, when required for re-shoots. Finally, actor-director Cassavetes took up the needle. Neeson and Gibson had sailed together on 1983's The Bounty.
- Larry Hagman, Dallas, TV, 2011-2014. Efforts were made since 2002 to reboot the iconic 1978-92 series (and tele-films) for the cinema. Result? This pilot for a 2012 series... about JR and Bobby’s rival sons. Directors, stars, genres changed: Robert Luketic, Gurinder Chadha quit, Betty Thomas was to shoot a Southfork comedy; Drew Barrymore, Minka Kelly, Catherine Zeta-Jones were named for Pam, James Brolin as Jock and Jane Fonda, Diane Ladd or Shirley MacLaine as Miss Ellie. Despite some talk of Gibson, Kevin Costner and Tommy Lee Jones, Travolta remained #1 choice for the villainous oil tycoon JR Ewing. Finally, the original JR led the old-timers returning to their 1978-1992 roles.
- 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: Gibson, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, 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 was Liam Neeson - 6ft. 4in.
- Tom Hardy, Mad Max: Fury Road, 2012. Every tough guy from Gibson himself in 2001 (before discovering The Passion of Christ, anti-Semitism and LA ostracism) to James Cameron regular Michael Biehn, actor-producer Liam Fountain (the titular Mad Max Renegade in his 2011 short), Heath Ledger, Jeremy Renner and Channing Tatum were up and down many a flagpole before creator George Miller won his budget, Hardy wore Mel’s old jacket and Charlize Theron stole the whole miss-smash as a Mad Maxine. No way to treat Max Rockatansky (or his fans) after a 30-year hiatus, George! So what stalled Miller in 2001? "We were about 11 weeks from pre-production. The deal was never finished and then 9/11 happened - and overnight everything changed."