- James Fox, Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, 1984.
Hugh loved hinting that he landed the Tarzan role due to bare-chest-in-tennis-shorts pix taken while still at Oxford. He was as likely an ape-man as Rupert Everett - except Everett was also considered for the role! "An hilarious story," laughed casting director Patsy Pollock, who actually penciled him in for the young Lord Esher - who became an older Esher, played by Grant's Godfather in The Remains of the Day. “We don't breed Tarzans, we're a nation of Hamlets,” said Pollock. Ape-man or not, Hugh named his company: Simian. And Lambert nearly quit because he didn’t wish to be separated for so long from his Paris lover, Nathalie Baye.
- Simon Adams, The Bounty, 1983. Simon who…? Iconic UK director David Lean’s planned two-films version was blown out of the water by Italian producer Dino De Laurentiis. He went for a cheaper, single version. "It was butchered," said Lean. "I hadn't the heart to see it." Grant had been listed for HMS Bounty crew member Thomas Heywood.
- James Wilby, A Room With A View, 1985. Merchant-Ivory strangely rejected the one seemingly perfect actor for EM Forster's world. Hugh took over Wilby's original role in Maurice and they shared Best Actor at the 1987 Venice festival.
- Nigel Havers, Empire of the Sun, 1987. No great surprise that Steven Spielberg turned him down - the doctor was not a lord! And that was all Grant was stuck with at the time (Lord Bryon included) in swift succession in Privileged, Maurice, Rowing With The Wind, The Lair of the White Worm, The Lady and the Highwayman.
- Matt McCoy, The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, 1992. Annabella Sciorra's husband was the zero role in this thriller. Before winning Four Weddings And A Funeral, Grant so low on the register, he was teaching an English accent to French star Juliette Binoche and being paid, “like the plumber,” cash in hand, “I was always the Nazi brother," he once said of his film work to date.Grant’s fee for the whole movie was £40,000… Co-star Andie MacDowell’s cut hit $2m.
- Steven Waddington, Last of the Mohicans, 1992. Director Michael Mann saw nearly all the Brit Pack in an office 15 floors above Sunset Blvd.
- Gary Oldman, Bram Stoker's Dracula, 1992. Director Francis Coppola decided to make the old legend "younger, very erotic, very romantic and very horrific." Losing his favourites - Jeremy Irons, Daniel Day-Lewis - Francey looked at everyone else, mainly during auditions at his Napa Valley estate… Grant, Armand Assante, Antonio Banderas, Nicolas Cage, Nick Cassavetes, Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Andy Garcia, Ray Liotta, Kyle MacLachlan, Costas Mandylor, Viggo Mortensen, Dermot Mulroney, Michael Nouri (a long way from Flashdance), Adrian Pasdar, Jason Patric, Aiden Quinn, Keanu Reeves, Alan Rickman, Christian Slater and Sting.
- Eric Stoltz, Little Women, 1994. Winona Ryder said no and the studio howled in protest. Stolz called the role "just a token male. I stand around with facial hair to prove that the little women are, in fact, heterosexual.” As played to perfection by Hugh in Sense and Sensibility, 1995.
- Pierce Brosnan, GoldenEye, 1995.
- Dylan Walsh, Congo, 1995. Instead of the Four Weddings star, it was the Betsy's Wedding star... as an heroic primatologist in Spielberg right-hand man Frank Marshall’s helming debut.
- Jeremy Irons, Lolita, 1996. Adrian Lyne saw them all but just as Warren Beatty was too old, Hugh was too young to film his favourite novel. And in enough (fellatio) scandal... To err is human, to forgive Divine.
- Jeff Daniels, 101 Dalmatians, 1996. What an amazing double - Lolita and Dalmatians! Hugh’s front page blowjob hardly matched the Disney image. And he knew the live version of the hit cartoon belonged to Glenn Close as Cruella DeVille.
- Matthew Perry, Edwards and Hunt: The First American Road Trip, 1996. A wise rejection from the guy who described himself at the 1995 Golden Globes night as "the nastiest, most ill-tempered, prima-donna-ish actor in English cinema."
- Billy Zane, Titanic, 1996.
- Paul McGann, Doctor Who (The Movie),TV, 1996.
- Val Kilmer, The Saint, 1996. 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 aging 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. Grant, George Clooney, Kevin Costner, Johnny Depp, Mel Gibson, 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?”
- Jim Carrey, Liar Liar, 1997. "I can pay Jim Carrey $20m or I can get Hugh Grant for... less," said producer Brian Grazer. "What would you do?" Tom Shadyac said Jim would radically change the movie and its potential. "But you know what with the whole thing that happened to him, it'd be weird to see Hugh as a truth-teller - that might bring its own comedy." Not enoughfor Grazer.
- Ralph Fiennes, The Avengers, 1997. Seinfeld’s bete noir, Newman the postman, would have been a livelier Steed - particularly with Nicole Kidman (or Gwyneth Paltrow) suggested for Emma Peel.
- Kenneth Branagh, Celebrity, 1997. For the showbiz journo, obvious kin to Marcello Mastroianni in La dolce vita and Woody’s Ike Davis in Manhattan. Woody Allen was keen on Grant but was not sure if he could deliver a good US accent. To prove that Branagh could, director Robert Altman showed Woody most of their movie, The Gingerbread Man, and that won Woody over, alas. (Worse for Vanessa Redgrave, her subplot was completely cut). Pity Branagh wasn’t - he irritatingly played it exactly like Woody would/should have. Woody made it up to Grant two films later, with Small Time Crooks (actually with Woody) as an art expert in New York. A pukka Brit, of course.
- Pierce Brosnan, Mars Attacks! 1998. Finally, director Tim Burton went for Irish over English for the utterly clueless scientist Profesor Kessler. Didn’t help. Too many stars. Not enough satire.
- Christian Bale, American Psycho, 2000. "You think I'd make a credible pyschopath? Anyway, it's impossible to film what's written inthat book."
- Kenneth Branagh, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secret, 2002. "In the book, GildroyLockhart is a great role. Not in the the script - it didn't do him justice." Alan Cumming was also talked about. Not, of course, in the same breath.
- George Clooney, Intolerable Cruelty, 2002. After Richard Gere and Will Smith backed out, Hugh was- momentarily - keen on becoming the world'sfinest divorce lawyer.
- Steve Coogan, Around The World In 80 Days, 2003. A mess of a film, as proven by usingJackie Chan as Passepartout.
- Paul Bettany, Wimbledon. 2003. As good as he was, Bettany could not disguise the fact that his tennis champion (falling for KirstinDunst) was penned for Hugh. "All I can say is, thank God he didn't do it, whatever the reason."
- Stuart Townsend, Head in the Clouds, 2004. The reunion with Sirens maker, John Duigan, neverhappened. So Charlize Theron’s lover took over - opposite Charlize and Penelope Cruz.
- Martin Freeman, The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, 2005.
- Robert Downey Jr, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, 2005. Grant and Benicio Del Torro was an early offering before Downey-Val Kilmer became Shane Black’s latest lethal odd couple in his directing debut.
- Christopher Eccleston, Doctor Who, TV, 2005.
- Russell Brand, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, 2008. Scenarist-and-starJason SegelwantedGrant as his rival, a very British author. Until UK stand-up Brand bounced in. “He was so charismatic and good. It was a different choice, but made perfect sense. He captured that guy you totally hate and is dating your ex-girlfriend.”
- Ewan McGregor, The Ghost Writer, 2009. Once bitten... Grant had starred in Roman Polanski’s Bitter Moon, 1993. And was not about to make another well intentioned mess. NicolasCage, George Clooney, Daniel Craig, Philip Seymour Hoffman also refused to be the writer of a UK Prime Minister’s memoirs in Roman Polanski’s un-thrilling thriller.
- John Cleese, Spud, South Africa, 2010. The (five) producers ofwriter-director Donovan Marsh’s schooldaze memorieschased Grant “relentlessly,” but Cleese finished up as The Guv - Spud Milton’s gruff English teacher. He gives him“the best book ever written” (The Lord of the Rings) and Catch 22 (“it's about choice and not giving a damn what people think”).
- Ashton Kutcher, Two And A Half Men, TV, 2011-2013 . Highest paid comedy TV star Charlie Sheen was sacked after eight years due tohis meltdownfeud with the show’s co-creator Chuck Lorre - massivenews on TV, Twitter, Facebook, every media known to man, including Sheen’s own national tour. Unless he could find a replacement he could work with and be excited about, Lorre wasn’t sure if he wanted to continue Men - he already had two other hit shows, Mike & Molly and The Big Bang Theory.Suggestions included Woody Harrelson, Rob Lowe, Jeremy Piven, John Stamos. No, saidCBS suits,thinkbig, get an A Lister, not a TV star. Grant flew in for talks -$1m a show, $25m a year. But he passed. Not over the money (the highest he’d seen in years), he just couldn’t hack a series. Far too tough! Look what melted Charlie...
- Colin Firth, Gambit, 2011. One Bridget Jones star replaced by another in theCoen Brothers re-make of Michael Caine’s 1966 Hollywood debut. Well, Firth had soemething Grant never obtained - an Oscar.
- Woody Harrelson, Now You See Me, 2012. And now you don’t… after the suits decided - hadda happen one day, Hugh! - to go with a younger cast of (here’s a first!) illusionist bank robbers.