- Wes Bentley, American Beauty, 1998. The Swedish-Ashkenazi Jewish “Jill-en-hall” from LA was seen for the dark Ricky Fitt: “I’m the best piece of ass in three States.” Of course, he was considered. He was better known at the time as… Donnie Darko.
- Heath Ledger, The Patriot, 2000.Seen many times for Mel Gibson’s eldest son. Five years later, Gyllenhaal and Ledger were cock o’ the Hollywood walk as the Oscar-nominated gay shepherds in Brokeback Mountain.
- Ewan McGregor, Moulin Rouge!2001. “It was soooo close. I sang and everything... through months of auditions. It was between me, Heath Ledger and Ewan. I think it came down to age. I was the youngest and the least known. I would hope it didn’t have anything to do with talent. Maybe it did.” No, he was deemed too young to partner Catherine Zeta-Jones or Courtney Love or even, the final choice. Nicole Kidman. “They didn't have to be big singers,” director Baz Luhrmann explained about his needs, “but they had to be able to move you emotionally. Basically, Ewan and Nicole were the best for the job. That’s the bottom line of it.”
- Elijah Wood, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, 2001-2003.
- Nick Stahl, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, 2002. Stahl beat both Jake and Shane West in Chapter 3, but when asked to continue being John Connor in Chapter 4, Terminator Salvation, 2007, he shook the team by saying:“I don’t care really, to be honest. I don't have much interest…Something like T3 was so unexpected… not something I can honestly say that I expected to be doing, given the films I'd been in before. Sometimes you find that there is better material in small and more independent movies… more risk-taking. I want to keep doing.”
- Tobey Maguire, Spider-Man 2, 2003.
Michael Pitt, The Dreamers, 2003.
His agent said: “No frontal nudity.” Bertolucci replied: “No film.” Leading lady Eva Green added: “Jakethought thatif he showed his penis in the film, he’d be considered a porno actor.” The DiCaprio-esque Pitt, from Dawson’s Creek, said the skintimacy required by Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci (of Last Tango In Paris fame...or infamy!) was not easy but that censorship “was the insecurity of a bunch of old men who feel uncomfortable if they see a young guy without clothes.” Or old women. Veteran actress Celeste Holm, 84, was rushed to hospital, after falling ill, “gasping for breath,” during the New York premiere.
Christian Bale, Batman Begins, 2004.
- Brandon Routh, Superman Returns, 2006.
Jim Sturgess, Across The Universe, 2006. Director Julie Taymorconsidered the LA dude for Jude. As implied bytitle and characters (Dr Robert, JoJo, Lucy, Mr Kite, Prudence, Rita, Sadie) this was visually enchanting musical tribute to ($10m worth of) The Beatles’ music.“Where,” said Chicago critic Roger Ebert, “we walk into the theatre humming the songs.”
- Michael C Hall, Dexter, TV, 2006-2014. The Showtime cable network shortlisted 14 stars, from the impossible (Dan Aykroyd, Macauley Culkin, Tom Cruise, Sean Penn, Ben Stiller) to the plausible (Gyllenhaal, John Cusack, James Spader) for the Miami Metro PD blood splatter analyst moonlighting as a serial killer... of serial killers.
- Aaron Eckhart, The Dark Knight, 2007.
- Zach Galifianakis, The Hangover, 2008. “We can't find Doug!” No one knew that losing the bridegroom after his stag night would smash comedy records. And go on to a three movie franchise. So… #1. Knowall Jack Black passed. #2. Gyllenhaal, Thomas Haden Church, Jonah Hill were looked over with apparent askance. #3. Alan was retooled to suit the exuberant Zach The Greek.
- Sam Worthington, Avatar, 2008. “My worst audition ever,” recalled Chris Pine, Fox wanted a star – Pine, Gyllenhaal or Matt Damon - for hero Jake Sully. As if director James Cameron wasn’t The Star! Poor Worthington was reduced to living in his car at the time…Poor Worthington was reduced to living in his car at the time…
- Bradley Cooper, Valentine’s Day, 2009. Orlando Bloom and Sam Worthington also passed on Holden - in the 21-star-jammed LA take on Love Actually. Director Garry Marshall struck gold - then re-made it (badly) as New Year’s Eve in New York.
- Seth Rogen, The Green Hornet, 2010. When Miramax owned the rights in 2001, the Weinstein brothers booked New Jersey auteur Kevin Smith to writer-direct - with a green Jake. Scared of a big budget, Smith fled. Paradoxically, his chubby star of Zack and Miri Makes A Porno became the star - after Rogen heroically lost a terrifying 30 lbs. (Smith's script finally saw the light of day in a comic book). During the flop’s 14 year gestation, the others keen on green were George Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Vince Vaughn, Mark Wahlberg… and Corey Reynolds or Eddie Murphy for the black Hornet: John Stewart.
- Ryan Reynolds, Safe House, 2011. All the new guys – Jake, Zac Efron, Andrew Garfield, Tom Hardy, Garrett Hedlund, Chris Hemsworth, Taylor Kitsch, Shia LaBeouf, James McAvoy, Chris Pine, Channing Tatum, Sam Worthington - angled to be the freshman CIA babysitter rescuing Denzel Washington in the Hollywood debut of Swedish director Daniel Espinosa.
- Eddie Redmayne, Birdsong, TV, 2011. It took the one-time 007 book writer Sebastian Faulks more than a decade toget 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 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.
- Jeremy Renner, The Bourne Legacy, 2011.Three was enough for Matt Damon. The studio did not agree and kept the franchise alive by rebooting Jason Bourne as Aaron Cross - “There Was Never Just One.”But who should play him? Not Gyllenhaal, although standing tall among 18 other hopefuls. Renner, Hollywood’s new (and young) white hope since The Hurt Locker, had already been picked as heir apparent to the Mission: Impossible franchise.
- Sam Rockwell, The Way, Way Back, 2012. Jake dropped out of the latest Steve Carell comedy and Sam dropped in. “When it comes to a character,” explained Jake, “I’m moved by folk that I might struggle to love at first; characters that I have to do enough research on and think enough about to be able to really fall in love with them.”
- Mark Ruffalo, Now You See Me, 2012. And now you don’t… Change of FBI agent Dylan Hobbs for French realisateur Louis Leterrier (The Incredible Hulk, Clash of the Titans) as the Fibis and Interpol try to snare some - here’s a first - illusionist bank robbers!
- Chris Pine, Into The Woods, 2013.
- Bradley Cooper, Jane Got a Gun, 2013. Natalie Portman’s fifth outing as a producer ran into all kinds of trouble. Michael Fassbender quit (replaced by Joel Edgerton) after clashes with Scots director Lynne Ramsay. Then, she quit. Then, Jude Law quit Edgerton’s original role - Lynne being the only reason why Law had agreed to make the Western in Santa Fe. Bridges was the (way) oldest of Law’s potential successors: double the age of Jake, Tobey Maguire. (Ramsey’s exit allowed her to join Steven Spielberg’s 2013 Cannes festival jury).
- Benedict Cumberbatch, Doctor Strange, 2014. Discussed, planned, written, re-spun since 1986, always dropped despite scripts from Alex Cox, Wes Craven, Bob Gale, etc, until chosen as the portal into the supernatural side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Among those flown up Marvel’s 21st Century flagpole were Gyllenhaal, TV doctor Patrick Dempsey, Colin Farrell, Ryan Gosling, Jon Hamm, Ethan Hawke, Jack Huston, Oscar Isaac, Jared Leto, Matthew McConaughey, Ewan McGregor, Joaquin Phoenix (too strange!), Vincent Price (in 1986), even zeroes Keanu Reeves (listed but never approached - how wise) and Justin Theroux. Finally, the production waited until after Cumberbatch’s Hamlet stage triumph in London. If Iron Man is Mick Jagger, Strange is Jim Morrison… and should head the MCU when Robert Downey pawns his ironmongery.
- Joel Kinnaman, Suicide Squad, 2015. Held up on The Revenant delays. the busy Tom Hardy had to quit the DC Comic empire’s squad. Gyllenhaal was seen but Rick Flagg was finally waved by the Swedish-American Kinnaman - Hardy’s foe in the under-rated Child 44 flop that year.