Tommy Lee Jones
John Heard, Cutter's Way, 1980. Once Dustin Hoffman’s schedule clashed, producer Paul Gurian was keen on Jones or Nick Nolte as Alex Cutter, while Czech director Ivan Passer, preferred Heard. Passer later complained: “UA murdered the film. Or, at least, they tried to murder it.”
Kurt Russell, Escape From New York, 1981. Tommy Lee was just a tad over half the age of the studio's other choice: Charles Bronson. John Carpenter only ever wanted his tele-Elvis.
Harrison Ford, Blade Runner, 1981. UK wiz Ridley Scott spent a long time sniffing out the perfect Deckard. From top notchers Sean Connery, Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman (keen… but on making it a totally different character, of course), Robert Mitchum, Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino… to such excellent journeymen as Jones, William Devane, Robert Duvall, Peter Falk, Frederic Forrest, Scott Glenn, Cliff Gorman, 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.
- Dennis Quaid, Everybody's All American (UK: When I Fall In Love), 1988. Warners refused Michael Apted's budget: $15m. (The toppermost A Listers gets more per film).
- Richard Gere, Internal Affairs, 1989. UK director Mike Figgis said Paramount wanted Mel Gibson or Kurt Russell (big hits in ’88’s Tequila Sunrise) as the badass 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 - TLJ, Alec Baldwin, Tom Berenger, Jeff Bridges, Pierce Brosnan, Kevin Costner, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Ed Harris, William Hurt, Don Johnson, 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.
- Martin Sheen, Gettysburg, TV, 1992. General Robert E Lee went from William Hurt to Tommy Lee to Robert Duvall (who played him in the prequel, Gods and Generals, 2003) to Sheen. No wonder it lasted 4 hours 8 minutes!
- Christopher Walken, Pulp Fiction, 1993.
- Peter Greene, The Usual Suspects, 1994. Jeff Bridges, Johnny Cash, Al Pacino, Charlie Sheen, James Spader, Christopher Walken were also listed for Redfoot, the LA fence. The New Jersey actor got the part – but no credit.
- Anthony Hopkins, Nixon, 1994. The JFK director Oliver Stone’s ideas for Tricky Dicky included Warren Beatty, Gene Hackman, Tom Hanks, John Malkovich, Jack Nicholson, Gary Oldman and Robin Williams. Next time around, Dan Heyda (Stone’s Trini Cordoza) was Nixon in Dick, 1998.
- Gene Hackman, Crimson Tide, 1995. First choice for the comeback of producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer at Disney until Tony Scott moved into higher A-star areas - although Tommy Lee had collected an Oscar in the meantime.
- Dylan Walsh, Congo, 1995. Oscar means changes. The Steven Spielberg production wanted Tommy Lee as the hero (a primatologist), no longer the baddy. With his refusal, the film was downsized.
- Brian Cox, The Glimmer Man, 1996. He would have had to stand in line... One legend said he was replaced because Warners thought he might kill the “star,” Steven Seagal.
- Brian Cox, Chain Reaction, 1995. Once again, Jones passeda project (or was it co-star Keanu Reeves?) to Cox.
- Kevin Spacey, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, 1997. Tommy Lee-Brad Pitt-Ralph Fiennes became Spacey-John Cusack-Jack Thompson.
- Donald Sutherland, Without Limits, 1998. LA auteur Robert Towne could see only Tommy Lee as Steve Prefontaine's running coach - but lost him. Towne got on so well with Sutherland, he asked him back for his next, Ask The Dust, 2006.
- Dennis Quaid, Frequency, 2000. When Finnish film-maker Renny Harlin was prepping the tale of the New York firefighter rescued from death by his son - living 30 years in the future.
- Michael Douglas, Traffic, 2000. Another A List name leapt from Steven Soderbergh's hat after losing Tommy Lee, Kevin Costner and Harrison Fiord.
- Billy Bob Thornton, Monster's Ball, 2001. So many fingerprints to be found on Hollywood's hottest screenplay for five years - by Millo Addica and Will Rokos. And they won the Oscar to prove it.
- David Wenham, Dust, 2001. This time the leads were a whole century apart! The 1996 idea of Tommy Lee-Ralph Fiennes became Wenham-Joseph Fiennes.
- James Garner, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, 2001. Disney science fiction has never gelled until this animated feature from the Lion King/Hunchback of Notre Dame/Beauty and the Beast trio: producer Dan Hahn, directors Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise. Before settling on Garner, they listened to TLJ, Jack Davenport, Tommy Lee Jones, Nathaniel Parker and Kurt Russell voicing Commander Lyle Tiberius Rourke.
- Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Watchmen, 2008. In Terry Gilliam’s version in the early 90s, Tommy Lee was top-listed for Edward Blake, aka The Comedian. Trouble was Gilliam always wanted a three-and-a-half hour movie... in two parts. In the 20 years it took for Alan Moore’s DComic-book to be filmed, other directors came and went (Darren Aronofsky, Michael Bay, Tim Burton, Paul Greengrass). So did their choices for Blake: Gary Busey, Nathan Fillon, Thomas Jane, Ron Perlman.
- Larry Hagman, Dallas, TV, 2011. 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 Jones, Kevin Costnerand Mel Gibson, Travolta remained #1 choice for the villainous oil tycoon JR Ewing. Finally, the original JR led the old-timers returning to their 1978-92 roles... and died after 16 episodes.
- Robert Duvall, The Judge, 2013. Jones and Jack Nicholson were also sought for the titular father of lawyer Robert Downey Jr - accused of murder just when Downey goes home for his mother’s funeral.