- Michael York, Cabaret, 1971. To accommodate Liza Minnelli, Sally Bowles was changed from Brit to Yank in the Bob Fosse musical - and so vice-versa for her pal, Brian Roberts (aka author Christopher Isherwood, called Clifford Bradshaw on stage). About 20 Brits were seen for Brian including Leonard Romeo Whiting and a future James Bond: Timothy Dalton. Plus Irons, Tim Curry, David Hemmings, Malcolm McDowell, John McEnery, Paul Nicholas, future auteur Bruce Robinson. John Rubinstein was the sole American, when it looked as if York could not get free in time and Brian would be American, after all.
- Malcolm McDowell, A Clockwork Orange, 1971. “If Malcolm McDowell hadn't been available,” said Stanley Kubrick, “I probably wouldn't have made the film.” There had been other Alexes… Mick Jagger was first, after paying a mere $500 to needy author Anthony Burgess for the rights. The other Rolling Stones were to be Alex’s droogs - directed by John Schlesinger. (With a music by The Beatles!) After censor hassles, Jagger sold the rights for a big profit. Ken Russell loomed large with, of course, his main man, Oliver Reed, as Alex. Tim Curry and Irons simply fled. Next director? The Venetian Tinto Brass - who, of course, later chose McDowell for his infamous Caligua, 1979.
- Anthony Andrews, Brideshead Revisited, TV, 1981. When BBC producer Derek Granger asked Andrews to play Charles Ryder, he said no thank you - feel sure I’d make a better Sebastian Flyte. And so he did. After swopping roles with Irons, who stole th show. He also won time off to make The French Lieutenant’s Woman with Meryl Streep.
- Christopher Benjamin,The Plague Dogs, 1981. Read for voicing Rowf, a dog escaping from a research laboratory -the second toon from a Richard Adams novel after Watership Down, 1977.
- Ben Cross, L'Attenzione/The Lie, Italy, 1984.Announced, too rapidly, for the Alberto Moravia novel by the sultry star, Stefania Sandrelli, and her director-lover Giovanni Soldati.
- Neil Dickson, Biggles, 1985. The flying ace of countless UK schoolboys' wascleared for take-off in 1982 after James Fox and even Dudley Moore weregrounded as James Bigglesworth. (Some 21 years later, Dickson and Irons, were in David Lynch’s InlandEmpire).
- Timothy Dalton, The Doctor and the Devils, 1985. First reserve for Anthony Hopkins when US producer Lawrence Schiller set out to make the 32-year-old script by Swansea’s Dylan Thomas, the self-styled “Rimbaud of Cwmdonkin Drive.”
- Theresa Russell, Aria, 1987. London producer Don Boyd's idea was one operatic aria per ten directors.Director Nicolas Roeg set his choice around King Zog of Albania fending off an assassination attempt, outside the Vienna Opera House in 1931. Irons was Zog until a drunken evening in Vienna when Boyd said Nic's wife - setasZog'smistress- should play Zog!" Theresa was immediately keen. And it worked brilliantly - no dialogue for one thing." Make-up artists took three hours transforming Theresa into Zog, packing her waist-length hair under a wig and adding designer-stubble to her chin.
- Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs, 1990.
- Sean Connery, The Russia House, 1990.The book’s celebrated author, John le Carré, blocked Irons- on what he called moral grounds. Because of an incident in a London park. “Irons’s vicious dogs,” le Carré explained, “attacked my smaller dogs. He never stooped to apologize.” (They may have had an altercation, said Irons,but he did not recall any dogs being hurt.)
- Timothy Dalton, The Rocketeer, 1990. Nothing like a sly British villain… Charles Dance was also in the Disney mix for Neville Sinclair, a Hollywood star who is not all he should be - based on Errol Flynn and his alleged Nazi connections. A flop. Of course. It was science-fiction, a subject Disney knew nothing about. Why they bought Lucasfilm!
- Gary Oldman, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, 1991. Part of the 1988 cast with Robert Lindsay and Sean Connery. None survived to Tom Stoppard's film of his play.
- Armand Assante,The Mambo Kings, 1992.Helming debut of producer (and gallery-owner) Arnold Glimcher, who said Assante as César was "the thrill of my life."
- Gary Oldman, Dracula, 1992. Irons was director Francis Coppola's favourite blood-sucker after Daniel Day-Lewis.
- Richard Harris, Unforgiven,1992. Clint Eastwood failed to get all his Irons in the fire of his finest Western.
- Anthony Hopkins, Remains of the Day, 1993. Mike Nichols directing Irons-Anjelica Huston proved too pricey. Nichols producing and James Ivory directing Hopkins-Emma Thompson was more reasonable. Indeed,triumphant.
- Robert De Niro, Frankenstein, 1994. One of Kenneth Branagh’schoices for The Monster... andIrons has a definite Karloffian look.
- Michael Caine, On Deadly Ground, 1994. What - with Steven Seagal directing himself? That was an obvious no-no!Caine must have had another house to buy... Irons kept his villainy for Bruce Willis and the fat betterDie Hard: With A Vengeance, 1995.
- Tom Cruise, Interview With The Vampire, 1994
- William Hurt, Jane Eyre, 1996. Bronte according to Zeffirelli.
- Chazz Palminteri, Diabolique, 1996.Warners' secondchoice afterJack Nicholson did not please Sharon Stone.Shetoldco-star Isabelle Adjani: "I don'tthink he has a dick." Certainly, the film had no balls.
- Jonathan Pryce, Evita, 1996.Met the project's fourthdirector, Glenn Gordon Caron, in March 1991 to discuss being Juan Peron opposite Madonna.
- Stephen Dillane, Welcome To Sarajevo, 1997. Entered inthe 50th Cannes festival.
- Gabriel Byrne, Wah-Wah, 2004. Actor Richard E Grant turned writer-director to relate his Swaziland childhood with dysfunctional, not to say wildly inappropriate parents - finally played by Byrne and Miranda Richardson.
- Titus Welliver, Once in the Life, 2005. With his Matrix fame - and millions! -Laurence Fisburne filmed his own play, offering choices roles toIrons and Madonna.
- John Hurt, The Oxford Murders, 2008. Spanish director Alex de la Iglesia chased his candidates to play hishotshot maths professor Arthur Seldom:Irons, Michael Caine and... Hurt.
- Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn, 2010.He preferred setting up his feature film directing debut to playing Laurence Olivier making The Prince and the Showgirl, with Monroe in London, circa 1956. “A legend, “said The Guardian critic Peter Bradfdshaw, “for the lack of chemistry between its insecure and incompatible stars. One was a sexy, feminine, sensual and mercurial diva. The other would go on to make Some Like It Hot."
- James Corden, Into The Woods, 2013.