- Kenneth Mars, The Producers, 1968. “I was told I was a character juvenile That's the code. You’re the funny-looking Jew that's alongside Robert Redford.” Mel Brooks was keen on Hoffman for Zero Mostel's partner, Bloom. "Dusty" preferred Franz Liebkind, the "unreconstructed Nazi" author of the Springtime For Hitler show, "a gay romp with Adolph and Eva in Berchtesgarten" - the perfect Broadway flop to make the producers more money than a hit. Then, Hoffman had to test for The Graduate. "Go ahead," said Mel, "at least you'll meet my wife [Anne Bancroft], she's going to seduce you in it. But you won't get it because you're an ugly little rat." Hoffman called back: "I'm working with the family - with Anne not you."
- Paul Newman, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, 1969. I’m ridin’ here!
- Jack Nicholson, Five Easy Pieces, 1970. He could hardly have been a better Bobby Dupea, but was more keen on an upcoming stage revue, All Over Town. “Didn’t think I was right for the movies, didn’t like the hoo-ha.”
- Marlon Brando, The Godfather, 1971.
- Elliott Gould, Beröringen/The Touch, Sweden-US, 1971. Yes, he turned down Ingmar Bergman. (Not to mention Bibi Andersson and Max von Sydow). “My first wife was pregnant and didn’t want to leave her obstetrician in New York to go to Sweden Oh. I’ve always had great rationalisations. They rarely are the truth.”
- Woody Allen, Play It Again, Sam, 1971. The suits wanted Hoffman as Allen Felix, the neurotic film critic with a Bogart complex - played by Woody on Broadway. Woody preferred Benjamin (who’d d been in the play and became Woody’s alter ego in Deconstructing Harry, 1996. With Mrs B, Paula Prentiss, for Linda. But then Bananas was such a surprise success that Paramount agreed to all the stage stars: Woody, Diane, Tony Roberts and Jerry Lacy (as Bogie),
- George Segal, A Touch of Class, 1973. Hoffman-Sophia Loren became Segal-Glenda Jackson. "We were an off-the-wall, unexpected couple," Segal told me in Paris. "I'd seen her in the Elizabeth series, so I knew she could act and Mel Frank [writer-producer-director] had seen her on a Morecambe & Wise TV show, singing and dancing - so he put us together. "
- John Huston, Chinatown, 1974. Robert Towne wrote it for Jack Nicholson and Hoffman. “I’ve turned down some wonderful projects.”
- Donald Sutherland, The Day of the Locust, 1974. Hoffman had already worked with UK director John Schlesinger on, 1968, and would again on, 1976. Just. Not. This. Time.
- Robert De Niro, Taxi Driver, 1975.
- James Caan, Funny Lady, 1975. Producer Ray Stark always thinks big. “Look, I started acting 12 years before The Graduate came along and made me an instant star. After that, I got scripts sent to me daily, whereas before I had none sent to me, and I just said no.”
- Al Pacino, Dog Day Afternoon, 1975. "I quit once," said Al. "I was the original one, and then Dustin, then it went back to me. I had just done Godfather II and was tired of film. I found it a battle." Hoffman v Pacino would continue for 20 years or more.
- Robert De Niro, The Last Tycoon, 1975. Mike Nichols was so keen on Hoffman for the titular Monroe Stahr that he quit when producer Sam Spiegel signed De Niro. Screenwriter Harold Pinter had not taken kindly to Hoffman insisting that Pinter come to see him at the Dorchester and not vice-versa. Pinter sent him a cable: “Sorry unable to accept royal command to visit you at your hotel. Ring, if you feel like it.” And this upset Hoffman… (It’s like a 2001 Larry David-Jason Alexander episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm!). When he tried turning director with Straight Time in 1977, Hoffman sigend up the Tycoon find, Theresa Russell, as his co-star.
- Stuart Margolin, Lanigan’s Rabbi, TV, 1976. Various projects fell into aspic as Hoffman planned his first production for First Artists: a film and TV series from Harry Kemelman’s books about rabbi-cum-tec David Small, working with Police Chief Paul Lanigan in Cameron, California. He passed the piot to Margolin and was not connected with the five episode series (starring Bruce Solomon). Instead, and with the same director, pal, Ulu Grosbard, Hoffman became a paroled ex-con in Straight Time, 1977.
- 1Donald Sutherland, Il Casanova di Federico Fellini (US: Fellini's Casanova), Italy, 1976. He refused Fellini (thrice!) - and the great Italian director stuck to Sutherland because "he’s a sperm-filled waxwork with the eyes of a masturbator! "
- David Carradine, Bound For Glory, 1976. "Yes, I'll do it but I want three months to rest and three months to learn to play the guitar better." Too long. So was Carradine. Far too tall. But he played guitar.
- Richard Dreyfuss, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 1976.
For once, Spielberg felt he needed an A star: Hackman, Hoffman or McQueen. Julia Phillips (one of the eleven producers!)) also sent scripts to Nicholson and Pacino. They all passed. Next, James Caan wanted $1m plus points.. And so it was Dreyfuss - as it always had been since Spielberg told him the story while making Jaws. . “Spielberg says I've turned him down more than any other actor,” said Hoffman. “He sent me three or four films [five!] which I turned down... [for] very silly reasons that I regret now.” He did, however make Hook - often called Steven Spielberg's Revenge. On almost everybody. “I just finally had to say yes! I’m glad I did it.”
- Peter Falk, The Brinks Job, 1977. Suddenly keen on bank heists, Hoffman shuffled between a biopic of “Slick” Willie Sutton, who robbed more than a hundred banks between the 1920s-50s. (never firing his weapon) and this comedy about the legendary - and quite farcical - Boston robbery, January 17, 1950.
- David Carradine, Das Schlangenei/The Serpent's Egg, 1977. The Touch had not worked that well with Elliott Gould, 1971, so Hollywoodians seemed wary of working with such a master as the extraordinary Swedish regissor Ingmar Bergman. Carradine was afraid of nothing and nobody.
- Richard Dreyfuss, The Goodbye Girl, 1977. Neil Simon’s script about an actor, Gable Slept Here, started shooting with Robert De Niro in 1974 as Bogart Slept Here. Far too soon after Taxi Driver... Simon’s script (seen by some as a male/female Odd Couple and inspiring Hoffman’s Tootsie.) was actually based on what happened to Hoffman’s life on becoming a sudden superstar. (No wonder he refused, he’d already suffered it once). Simon saw James Caan, Tony LoBianco and Jack Nicholson before being won over by Dreyfuss - who promptly won an Oscar, bringing him even closer to Hoffman’s instant fame tribulations.
- Robert Powell, Jesus of Nazareth, TV,1977. Italian stage, screen and now TV director Franco Zeffirelli's first choice. The second was "my nemesis" - as Hoffman called - guess who? - Al Pacino.
- Ian McShane, Jesus of Nazareth, TV,1977. So how about Judas?" No!
- Keith Carradine, Pretty Baby, 1977. The subject was horrendous - a prostitute allowing her 12-year-old daughter’s virginity to be auctioned off in a brothel in the red-light district of New Orleans, circa 1917. French director Louis Malle saw 28 hopefuls and/or instant (parental) refusals for little Violet… 15 actresses for her mother… and 15 guys for for the really mis-shapen, hydrocephallic photographer Ernest J. Bellocq, whose Storyville work of the epoch influenced the style of the surprisingly elegant film. Robert Redford was first choice, Jack Nicholson second. Before falling for Carradine, Malle saw Hoffman, Albert Brooks, James Caan, Robert De Niro, Malcolm McDowell (the only Brit short-listed), Al Pacino, Christopher Reeve (planning to make us believe a man could fly), John Travolta (more into Grease)… plus such flat out surprises as Joe Pesci, Burt Reynolds, Sylvester Stallone (prepping FIST), even Christopher Walken.
- Jon Voight, Coming Home, 1978. After British director John Schlesinger quit (Jack Nicholson went with him), Hoffman was approached. As always. He was tied up on another film.
- Richard Gere, Days of Heaven, 1978. For his second film, the far from prolific director, Terrence Malick, had no luck in winning Hoffman or - guess who? - Pacino. It would be 20 years before Malick's third film.
- Gene Hackman, Superman, 1978.
- Burt Reynolds, Starting Over, 1979. US director Alan J Pakula tried to interest either branch of his “Woodstein” from All The President’s Men, 1976 - Hoffman or Robert Redford.
- Marcello Mastroianni, La Citta delle donne/City of Women, Italy-France, 1980.
“I love Fellini… and I turned him down.” Why? “That's a question I'd ask myself in later years. There is a reason…" Federico Fellini, as per usual, wanted the cast to dub the film and Hoffman had bad memories of this tradition during Alfredo, Alfredo,1972. “Maestro,” he said, “I’ll do the film for nothing, I will pay you to use the original sound.” Neither could work in the other's fashion. Hoffman said 24 years later: "I still deplore my stupidity. My biggest regret… But not one of his best films.”
- Robin Williams, Popeye, 1980. Beaten to Annie, producer Robert Evans put his shirt (and pants) on another comic-strip. Hoffman loved the idea of the Sweethaven saga - not Jules Feiffer's "special effecty" script. "He couldn't believe that I stayed with Jules rather than him," said Evans. "But I believed Jules was right. He'd worked on it for a year and I didn't want to star-fuck... You don't need a star. Anyone can play it. For crissakes, we could use... Robin Williams!" And, alone in Hollywood, Evans had never seen Mork and Mindy on TV.
- John Savage, Inside Moves, 1980. For his first post-Superman film, director Richard Donner almost landed Hoffman. "Dustin felt it too close to Ratso in Midnight Cowboy... John Savage was just brilliant."
- André Gregory, My Dinner With André, 1980. There was a moment - or ten - when Paris auteur Louis Malle wondered what he had got himself into - and, for him, so rapidly. He’d met Wallace Shawn photocopying a 500-page script and now Malle was about to make a movie of it. Of two men doing nothing but talking for 111 minutes. And neither one an actor. “Perhaps,” he told playwrights Shawn and Gregory, “we should give your roles to Hoffman and Redford.” He was not joking. Nor when he added: ”I don’t know how to do this but we will do it.”
- John Heard, Cutter's Way, 1980. After buying Newton Thornburg’s novel, Cutter and Bone, producer Paul Gurian set up a deal for Robert Mulligan to direct Hoffman as Alex Cutter. Then, schedules clashed and the project passed from EMI to UA, with Czech director Ivan Passer… who later complained: “UA murdered the film. Or, at least, they tried to murder it.”
- Christopher Reeve, Somewhere In Time, 1981. Reeve's agent and manager urged him to refuse (and not just due to a reduced fee), but Superman wanted to "escape the cape." And, hey, hadn't that guy Hoffman had been keen on it..?
- John Belushi, Continental Divide, 1981. Avoiding Spielberg again… Before simply producing, Spielberg planned to direct Hoffman or Elliott Gould. “Before I even thought about acting, “ recalled Hofman, “I saw Rebel Without A Cause and I wanted to be James Dean. Brando was the icon. You had to be an idiot to think you could be Brando. Dean, you could buy a red jacket and look in the mirror. In the second year of acting class, I said to myself if I looked like James Dean, I could make it; that's the only thing stopping me.”
- Michael Caine, The Hand, 1981. Both Midnight Cowboys, Voight and Hoffman, and then Christopher Walken refused the horror that was... Oliver Stone's helming debut.
Harrison Ford, Blade Runner, 1981.
Hoffman never understood why he’d been first choice for such a “macho character. In a script-session (lasting a full six hours) with Ridley Scott and writer Hampton Fincher, Hoffman was "candid in acknowledging that he wouldn't be accepted as this hero." Hoffman, being Hoffman, wanted to make Deckard into a whole different person. Whoops! "I'm outa here," said Fincher. UK wiz Ridley Scott stayed, spending s a long time sniffing out the perfect Deckard. From other top notchers,Sean Connery, Clint Eastwood, Gwene Hackman, Robert Mitchum, Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino… to such excellent journeymen as William Devane, Robert Duvall, Peter Falk, Frederic Forrest, Scott Glenn, Cliff Gorman, Tommy Lee Jones, Raul Julia, Nick Nolte, Christopher Walken. Then, in sheer desperation, choices lowered to Cliff Gorman, Judd Hirsch. Even the Virginian Morgan Paull stood a chance, having played Deckard in Scott’s tests of potential Rachaels. (He was given Holden for his pains). Plus Arnold Schwarzenegger, not yet seen as Conan, much less Terminator. And for probably the last time in such an illustrious list, the fading star of Burt Reynolds.
- Robin Williams, The World According To Garp, 1982. "If there's another film you don't want to do, Dustin, just tell me and I'll be there." There was - in '89 - before they joined forces for Steven Spielberg's Hook, 1991.
- Ben Kingsley, Gandhi, 1982. Dustin was keen and worked hard on seducing British director Richard Attenborough - before falling for (and ruling) Tootsie. In that year's Oscar battle, Kingsley won..
- Paul Newman, The Verdict, 1982. New Yorker Sidney Lumet helming a David Mamet script? Of course, he was interested. However, the loser lawyer was more of a surprise from Newman than it would have been from Hoffman.
- Sylvester Stallone, First Blood (aka Rambo),1982.
- Freddie Jones, E la nave va, Italy, 1983. And The Ship Sails On without him... after refusing Federico Fellini for the third and final time.
- William Hurt, Gorky Park, 1983. Dispute at Orion. Mike Medavoy voted Hoffman. Eric Pleskow would not pay him $4m. For much less, Dustin returned to Broadway in Death of a Salesman. And filmed it, too.
- Jack Nicholson Prizzi’s Honour, 1984. ”Do I ice her? Do I marry her?” Conundrum for Charley Partanna, hit-man for the Prizzi Family, when he falls for a fellow contractor: Kathleen Turner. John Huston had ten other Charley notions, each as mad as the other. Italians Al Pacino, Sylvester Stallone, even John Travolta made more sense than, say, Hoffman, Tom Hanks, Bill Murray, Ryan O’Neal, Christopher Reeve (!), Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight. Of course, Nicholson was the unlikeliest Brooklyn Mafioso since the Corleones' James Caan, but terrific. Because Huston kept reminding him: ”Remember, he’s stupid!”
- Matthew Broderick, Ladyhawke, 1985. "Dustin had been involved before me," director Richard Donner told me in London. "We talked about it for months. I never got a No from him. But I never got a Yes. He kept saying: How can I do it different from Ratso Rizo? I said: Limp on the other foot."
- Al Pacino, Revolution, 1985. After Guess Who? and Sam Shepherd walked, Hoffman hovered - for $4m. Guess Who? walked back and the New York Times’ Vincent Canby called it England's Heaven's Gate - "sloppily written, edited and dubbed. Pacino's very first speech is spoken as if he were a ventriloquist."
- Roman Polanski, Pirates, 1985. Roman Polanski wanted Jack Nicholson as Captain Red and Hoffman as Jean-Baptiste – aka The Frog. Neither one would lower his salary. They’d worked too hared to get to where they were…
- Jack Nicholson, Heartburn, 1985. At last, a decent ’85 venture… Director Mike Nichols paid off Mandy Patinkin after a few days’ shooting and thought of Hoffman. Obviously. Without naming names, the role was based on Hoffman’s All The President’s Men role in 1976: Washington Post journo Carl Bernstein. Hoffman is not a repeater.
- Sean Connery, The Name of the Rose, 1986. Three years later, Connery was Hoffman's (most unlikely) father in Family Business. “I was the difficult actor. That was the word, difficult. I live in a community where there are much more objectionable things being done than disagreeing with a director. I mean, Jack Nicholson threw a television set at Roman Polanski. Bill Murray picked up the producer and threw her in the water, and Gene Hackman would throw a director from one end of the room to another, and I always thought, why have I got this reputation… I'm Jewish! Jews usually do it by negotiation.”
- Jon Voight, Runaway Train, 1986. By Edward Bunker, the ex-con writer of Hoffman's Straight Time, 1978 - both projects once had the same title, No Beast So Fierce. Although a great fan of the Russian film-maker Andrei Konchalovsky, Voight said no. "Until his younger son persuaded him."
- Robert Redford, Legal Eagles, 1986. Mr Ghostbusters Ivan Reitman wanted Dustin and his Tootsie flat-mate, Bill Murray as the titular lawyers. He wound up with Redford and... Debra Winger. Great chemistry. Except on-screen.
- Woody Allen, Hannah And Her Sisters, 1986. "I only cast myself when I can’t get someone else," insisted Woody. Hoffman is always in demand, he added, "not just waiting around for me to call. "
- Burgess Meredith, King Lear, 1986. Marlon Brando passed (he’d made enough rotten movies) and the modern-day Lear - a New York Mafia chief Don Learo - was then offered by Jean-Luc Godard and the Go Go twins, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, to Hoffman, director Joseph Losey, Lee Marvin and, naturally, Orson Welles. Before it fell to Rod Steiger, swiftly replaced by grizzly Meredith. Godard had forgotten the perfect American choice: Robert Mitchum.
- Richard Dreyfuss, The Tin Men, 1987. "I turned it down - like a jerk." Made up for it by calling Barry Levinson to rescue Rain Man after the project had massacred five writers and four directors. And they won an Oscars apiece.
- Mickey Rourke, Angel Heart, 1987. Beaten to the rights by... Robert Redford.
- Richard Dreyfuss, Nuts, 1987. Announced alongside Barbra Streisand by director Martin Ritt in the summer of '86. They later became man and wife (worse: Ben Stiller’s parents) in Meet The Fockers, 2004.
- Harrison Ford, Frantic, 1987. Wanted : for a Roman Polanski thriller… an open-faced, all-American boy, honest, trustworthy, fairly strong physically, someone who becomes what he isn’t - frantic. When his wife disappears from their Paris hotel suite - phffft! like that - while he’s in the shower. Polanksi considered Hoffman, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Costner, then had dinner in Paris with ET scenarist Melissa Mathison to discuss Spielbegr’s Tintin project. And she brought hubby along…
- Harvey Fierstein, Torch Song Trilogy, 1988. Dustin and Richard Dreyfuss fought against being cast in Fierstein's hit musical, stipulating that Fierstein alone should play Arnold Beckoff - and he did when Matthew Broderick (a year before playing Hoffman's son in Family Business) agreed to be the star attraction.
- Robert De Niro, Midnight Run, 1988. Worried by a rising budget, Paramount wanted insurance: Hoffman as the skip tracer bondsman chasing Cher as an embezzler. Universal agreed to credibility: De Niro chasing Charles Grodin.
- Tom Cruise, Rain Man, 1988. Originally booked for Charlie Babbit, Dustin opted for the autistic Raymond. And thought he was so bad, he said: "Get Richard Dreyfuss!" And the Oscar went to...
- Harrison Ford, Frantic, 1988. For his Hitchcockian exercise, director Roman Polanski first considered Hoffman as the American in Paris... losing his wife.
- Jack Nicholson, Batman, 1988.
- Robin Williams, Dead Poet's Society, 1989. Disney offered Dustin this one to direct - "and star in, if you like." He did like. Except Rain Man finally got moving. And Disney couldn’t wait.
- Al Pacino, Sea of Love, 1989. Hoffman commissioned Richard Price to adapt his semi-autobiographical Ladies' Man - "a man and his bedroom, another woe-is-me product." They had a Universal deal in six hours - until Hoffman moved Price to Rain Man "for a ton of money." He quit after a month and headed towards - guess who? - Pacino.
- Richard Dreyfuss, Always, 1989. “A love story,” says Hoffman, listing the Spielberg offers he trounced. This was the third in a dozen years.
- Harvey Keitel, The Two Jakes, 1989.
- Edward Asner, Not A Penny More, Not A Penny Less, TV, 1990. Minus Hoffman, Jeffrey Archer's pulp fiction sunk to it's own level - a TV mini. Really, more of a micro.
- 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 Hoffman, Warren Beatty, Jeff Daniels, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Richard Dreyfuss, Harrison Ford, Gene Hackman, Ed Harris, John Heard, William Hurt, Robert Klein, Kevin Kline, Ed O’Neill, Al Pacino, Robert Redford, John Ritter, Denzel Washington. How come Caan agreed? "I think he wanted the work."
- Tom Courtenay, Poslední motýl/The Last Butterfly, Czechoslovakia-France-UK, 1990. Started shooting in 1980 with Marcel Marceau as the clown hired by Nazis to entertain kids in the infamous Trezin concentration camp during a Red Cross inspection.
- Harvey Keitel, Thelma & Louise, 1990.
- Richard Dreyfuss, Once Around, 1991. Hoffman was Swedish film-maker Lasse Hallstrom's dream. Richard Dreyfuss became his nightmare.
- Martin Scorsese, Guilty By Suspicion, 1991. Robert De Niro asked him to play one of the McCarthyism victims.
- Danny De Vito, Other People's Money, 1991. All set as Larry The Liquidator (opposite Michelle Pfeiffer) but dates clashed with the start of director Robert Benton’s Billy Bathgate.
- Danny DeVito, Batman Returns, 1991.
- Robert Downey Jr, Chaplin, 1992. Another bio. Another meet with UK film-maker Richard Attenborough - who needed, of course, and finally tested, much younger actors.
- Clint Eastwood, In The Line Of Fire, 1992. Jeff Maguire’s impeccable script hung around Hollywood for a decade as they all – Beatty, Connery, Redford - backed away from the ageing Secret Service man. Hoffman was ready to go with his 1978 Agatha director Michael Apted… until UK producer David Puttnam became the new Columbia chief. They’d had a public row about the studio’s mega-flop, Ishtar.
- Bob Hoskins, Super Mario Brothers, 1993. Chose Hook instead - lesser of two evils. . “It’s shocking that I got so tied up in reasons not to take parts” - he had refused Spielberg five times. “You can find reasons not to do anything.”
- Ben Kingsley, Schindler’s List, 1993.
Steven Spielberg spent ten years growing up before making the 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. Spielberg kept asking others to direct - Sidney Lumet (he’d dealt with the Holocaust in The Pawnbroker), Roman Polanski (“too soon”: he made his WWII film, The Pianist, in 2001), Sydney Pollack, Martin Scorsese (“a Jew should make it”) - until he felt mature enough to handle such a personal subject. Hoffman was keen to be Schindler’s Jewish accountant but there was a communication failure between them and Spielberg thought Dustin had passed. “It’s shocking that I got so tied up in reasons not to take parts” - he saiod about refusing Spielberg five times. “You can find reasons not to do anything.”
- Robert Redford, Indecent Proposal, 1993. UK helmer Adrian Lyne offered the role (rejected by Warren Beatty) of the zillionaire tycoon offering $1m for one night with a young loser's beautous wife.
- Joe Pesci, With Honours, 1994. First, Hoffman, then - guess who? - Pacino were seen by nine producers before the true tale of an emotionally-impaired guy tended by Havard students passed to a Scorsese mafioso.
- Harvey Keitel, Imaginary Crimes, 1994. Over eleven years, Hoffman, Robert Duvall and Harrison Ford had been up for the hustler-father of two young girls - based on Sheila Ballantyne’s autobio.
- Laurence Fishburne, Higher Learning, 1954. Hoffman was keen on the college professor aiding young Malik - if the film was just about them. Auteur John Singleton had other ideas - and characters. He shoulda listened.
- Tom Hanks, Forest Gump, 1995. Dustin made more sense to author Winston Groom than suggestions like John Goodman and... talk-show legend Jay Leno!
- Danny De Vito, Get Shorty, 1995. Elmore Leonard based the guy on his own dealings with Hoffman during 1986 talks about making La Bravo. "When [producer] Walter Mirisch set it up with Cannon," said Hoffman, "I didn't back out - I flew. They could do anything. And would."
- Anthony Hopkins, Nixon, 1995. Writer-producer-director Oliver Stone knocked on many doors...
- Gary Sinise, Truman, TV, 1995. Nine years earlier, Hoffman had been announed for the role - of the 33rd President of the USA, Harry S. Truman. The S used stood for nothing but added gravitas. Now it stands for… Sinise.
- Brian Cox, Chain Reaction, 1996. Hoffman knew that Morgan Freeman had the best role. (As per usual!).
- Jeremy Irons, Lolita, 1996. Once, he was Adrian Lyne's first choice as Humbert Humbert. Now he was too old! Four years older than James Mason when he Humberted Sue Lyon. The film proved “a great wound in the side” for Irons.. “I stuck my neck out maybe further than I should have and castigated the studio for not getting behind it. A lot of peoope didn’t like the fact I made him likeable. But he’s likeable in the book.”
- Anthony Hopkins, The Edge, 1997. OK, Dusty was working on not saying No so fast but he still recognised duff scenarios.
- Al Pacino, The Devil's Advocate, 1997. Picked up by - Guess Who? It was still Al, after all these years. "God knows I've done enough crap in my life to grow a few flowers."
- Anthony Hopkins, Amistad, 1997. “The one about slaves,” as he calls it when running through the five Spielberg films he refused. (And indeed, the three US presidents: the 33rd Truman, the 37th Nixon and here, the 6th, John Quincy Adams. At the time, Hoffman was too busy flirting with dumb action movies: Sphere, Outbreak.
- Woody Allen, Deconstructing Harry, 1997. “I tried to get Hoffman,” claimed Woody. He also tried for Robert De Niro, Elliot Gould, even Dennis Hopper. “There are plenty of actors and actresses... saying ‘I’m dying to work with you so I’d do anything’ - that are not available or they can’t work for the pay I’m offering.” Harry was a slimeball. Not when Woody played him. Foolishly, Dusty never worked with Woody, his ex-wife did. Anne Byrne, ex-dancer, was Woody’s wife, Emily, in Manhattan, 1978.
- John Travolta, Mad City, 1997. Once getting the script from Paris director Costa-Gavras, Hoffman spent 45 minutes on the phone to convince Travolta to... swop roles with him!
- Harrison Ford, Random Hearts, 1998. Hoffman had optioned Warren Adler’s novel a decade earlier and worked with auteur James Brooks until blowing cold. Hoffman’s Tootsie direct or, Sydney Pollack, made the weepie about two people discovering their partners - dead in the same plane crash - were lovers.
- 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 Hoffman, Nicolas Cage, Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson never wanted his script! Jeff Bridges’ previous film flopped 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. And tyhern, foolishly taunting Clooney: “Hit me!” So, he did.
- Alan Bates, The Cherry Orchard, 1999. UK stage-screen director Lindsay Anderson spent much of his career trying to film the Chekov play. He even talked the dreaded Cannon Films into a deal - which fell apart when Cannon One, Menahem Golan, insisted on Russian locations. With Maggie Smith still aboard (now with Hoffman as Gayev), Anderson agreed to a Prague shoot in 1992. Never \happened - again. Five years after Anderson’s 1994 death, the sole major cinema version was directed by Greek icon Michael Cacoyannis - with Charlotte as Madame Ranevskaya, Alan Bates as Gayev. (There were six TVersions during 1959-1981 with Peggy Ashcroft as Ranevskaya in two of them).
- Eric Stolz, The House of Mirth, 2000. Before UK director Terence Davies re-wrote (and re-cast) Ken Russell's version of Edith Wharton.
- Harvey Keitel, Little Nicky, 2000. The Devil you know...
- Jeremy Irons, And Now Ladies And Gentlemen, France, 2001. First, réalisateur Claude Lelouch nabbed Hoffman (opposiite Barbra Streisand!) for his thriller-musical (!), then lost his replacement, John Malkovich, allowing Irons to score three successive Euro flops in three countries... Oh, and Witney Huston became Patricia Kaas. Dusty and La Barb finally met in Meet The Fockers, 2004 - as Ben Stiller’s parents.
- Robert Downey Jr, The Singing Detective, 2002. Hoffman and Robert Altman had been first choices when the idea of a movie of Dennis Potter’s 1986 BBC mini-series was muted. Next, Dan Dark - falling into several fantasies while suffering Pottter’s own chronic skin and joint disease, psoriatic arthritis -was who else but Al Pacino, of course. (With David Cronenberg ready to helm).
- Denzel Washington, John Q, 2002. Known as Die Hard In A Hospital when being set up with German director Wolfgang Petersen. They did Outbreak instead. And that was akin to catching rabies!
- Gene Hackman, Runaway Jury, 2003. The first time that Dustin and Gene, pals since being struggling actor room-mates in 1965, worked in the same movie. Even so, Dustin sussing (as per usual) which was the stronger role, pushed hard to swop. "Can't you get rid of Gene and give me the part?"
- Al Pacino, The Merchant of Venice, 2003. Hearing of the project, Hoffman called up UK director Michael Radford. Too late! Hoffman’s longtime rival had called first.
- Gene Hackman, Welcome to Mooseport, 2004. After Superman and The Runaway Train, only the third time that the old Big Apple pals were talked of for the same role: an ex-US president running for mayor in a small town... against everybody-loves-Ray Romano!
- Johnny Depp, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, 2004. Director Tim Burton’s wish list included his ole Beetlejuice, Michael Keaton, and three Monty Pythons: John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin. Plus Hoffman, Rowan Atkinson, Nicolas Cage, Jim Carrey, Robert De Niro, Michael Jackson, Dwayne Johnson, Marilyn Manson, Steve Martin, Bill Murray, Mike Myers, Leslie Nielsen, Brad Pitt, Adam Sandler, Will Smith, Patrick Stewart, Ben Stiller, Christopher Walken, Robin Williams. Burton said his Willy, as it were, was part Citizen Kane and part Howard Hughes.
- Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, 2006. During 25 years in Development Hell, the titular casting also included Russell Crowe, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Richard Dreyfuss, Gene Hackman, William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Steve Martin, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino. Tim Curry was the sole Brit considered and the most lunatic notions were... Warren Beatty. Harrison Ford and Robert Redford!
- Sean Penn, Milk, 2008. After Robin Williams, director Gus Van Sant and others withdrew in the mid 90s from the bio of assassinated San Francisco politico and gay rights campaigner Harvey Milk, Hoffman showed interest in a new script by Angels in America playwright Tony Kushner. The project moved to director Bryan Singer and, finally, back to Van Sant.
- Kevin Spacey, Horrible Bosses, 2010. Jeff Bridges, Tom Cruise, and the other Hoffman (Philip Seymour) were also in the frame for Jason Bateman’s supercilious sadist employer - one of three bosses from hell, targets of a hit man hired by disgruntled workers in this masculine take on Nine To Five.
- Steve Martin, The Big Year, 2010. Hoffman and Steve Carell morphed into Martin and Owen Wilson for… Hollywood’s first ever comedy about birding. Or, bird-spotting. And the championships thereof. At last, something new from Hollywood (and Martin). Unless you remember Rocky!
- 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: Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks, Robert Redford, Christopher Walken. Plus close pals, rarely rivals, Beatty and Jack Nicholson. However, Hoffman, Tom Cruise 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.