- Dennis Quaid, Caveman, 1981. One of the songs that Quaid wrote with co-star Ringo Starr during the Mexican locations summed it all up. Deranged in Durango.
- Tom Hanks, Splash, 1983. He turned down Ron Howard’s offer to do Johnny Dangerously, the first of a four-picture Fox deal that crumbled faster than toast. He later made Howard’s Gung Ho, 1986, and The Paper, 1994.
- Bill Murray, Ghost Busters, 1983. Who ya gonna call - at 555-2368…? Well, not Keaton. He rejected both the roles of Doctors Peter Venkman...
- Harold Ramis, Ghost Busters, 1984. ...and Egon Spengler.
An unwise career move. But then, Keaton made many of those. Read on!
- Jeff Daniels, Purple Rose of Cairo, 1984.
© Orion Pictures, 1985
"This character is vanilla, he's neutral, he's dangerously bland," warned Keaton's manager Harry Colomby. "You're like the house goy." But, like everyone, Keaton wanted to work with Woody Allen. Didn't last long. Less than a week. "I'm not sure what he wants, he keeps saying: Less." After two days, Keaton asked Woody if he wanted to forget it. "No, no, no - 80% of what you're doing is great. There's maybe 20% I'm not really happy with." Two days later, Allen agreed that he was 100% was off. "This isn't working. You’re too contemporary” - for the 30s double role of screen hero Tom Baxter and the actor who plays him when thrust into the real world knowing nothing about anything, Particularly, women… Such as his greatest fan, Mia Farrow.
- Steve Guttenberg, Police Academy, 1984. Difficult to understand but Keaton, Tom Hanks, Judge Reinhold and Bruce Willis were all turned down for baby cop Corey Mahoney. They were upset… until seeing how each of the next six of these Carry On Cops were lousier than the one before. Guttenberg threw away his badge after three more. Maybe to appease his father - an NYPD officer. Keaton became exactly that in One Good Cop, 1990.
- Jeff Goldblum, The Fly, 1986. Keaton (real name: Michael Douglas) had no wish to be a mad scientist. Not even for Canada’s David Cronenberg.
- Emilio Estevez, Stakeout, 1988. Too tired after The Squeeze, his fourth successive flop.
- Billy Crystal, When Harry Met Sally…, 1989. Rob Reiner considered Keaton and his eternal shadow, Hanks,before banking on his closest pal.
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 - Keaton, Alec Baldwin, Tom Berenger, Jeff Bridges, Pierce Brosnan, Kevin Costner, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Ed Harris, William Hurt, Don Johnson, Tommy Lee Jones, 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.
Scott Glenn, The Silence of the Lambs, 1990.
- Kevin Costner, JFK, 1991.
- Steve Martin, Leap of Faith, 1992. All set as the travelling evangelical con-man until schedules (and money?) clashed, allowing Martin to dabble in drama anew. Cue: instant prat-fall.
- Richard Gere, Mr Jones, 1993. When Martin Ritt was in charge.
- Dana Carvey, Clean Slate, 1993. Preferring the sob-opera, My Life, he left the tale of an amnesiac private eye ("every day is literally the first day of the rest of his life") to Garth from Wayne's World.
- Tom Hanks, Philadelphia, 1993. By now, it was Keaton in Hanks’ shadow.
- John Travolta, Pulp Fiction, 1993.
- Harvey Keitel, Pulp Fiction, 1993.
- Eric Stoltz, Pulp Fiction, 1993.
- Keanu Reeves, Speed, 1994. The studio wanted anyone other than Reeves as the hero of Bus 2525 - the one with a bomb aboard! Keaton joined the Jack mix, alongside brothers Billy and Stephen Baldwin, Jeff Bridges, Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks(!), Arnold Schwarzenegger and, of course, Bruce Willis. Well, it was Die Hard On A Bus!
- Kevin Bacon, The Air Up There, 1994. Obscure college basketball coach tries to find potential glory in Africa. You could not get more obscure thanKeaton at this juncture.
- Tom Hanks, Forest Gump, 1995. Received a script before any director had signed. Wavered,then waved it goodbye.
- Matthew Modine, Cutthroat Island, 1995. All the A List guys (Keaton, Jeff Bridges, Ralph Fiennes, LiamNeeson, Keanu Reeves, Charlie Sheen) avoided the voyage because Renny Harlin would obviously favour his leading lady wife, Geena Davis. Particularly in the close-ups. And in the clinches.
- John Travolta, Get Shorty, 1995. The A List would not touch it until QuentinTarantino (once tapped to direct) talked Travolta into... the best adaptation of an Elmore Leonard book until Justified came along on TV in 2010.
- Jack Nicholson, Mars Attacks! 1995. Tim Burton’s first two choices, Warren Beatty and Paul Newman, fled. So did Tim’s Burton’s Batman, so The Joker took overtook over the US President - and showing off with a second role of a Vegas casino boss. Didn’t help. Too many stars. Not enough satire.
- Woody Harrelson, Kingpin, 1996. "If movie-making is like childbirth," said Peter Farrelly of this even more Dumb and Dumber tale (about bowling), "then Keaton was one of our big contractions."
- Kevin Costner, The Postman, 1997. Tom Hanks also ran fromit… Keaton was born Michael Douglas but said there were already two other Michael Douglases. "One of whom I hear is doing quite well for himself, the other is making cheap porn movies." Pause. "Like Basic Instinct." Keaton went further, having an affair with porn queen Serina Robinson, star of Honey Buns.
- Kesley Grammer, The Real Howard Spitz, 1997. First Robin Williams, then Keaton was keen on Jürgen Wolff's Writer's Block script of a thriller writer decidingmore money is made by children's books.
- Antonio Banderas, The 13th Warrior, 1998. For the Arab ambassador, US director John McTiernan wanted Keaton - “because of his sense of humour.” The Disney suits didn’t find that funny and hired the Spanish star. “I don’t remember whose idea that was, ” said McTiernan. “But it wasn’t mine!”
- Kurt Russell, Vanilla Sky, 2001. Way out of Keaton’s league. "It's great to make your own choices," hehas said, "but there's a price to pay. I could've made more money or been more famous. I could be the current groovy guy. You don't want to lose your status, but I was never willing to preserve it by doing things I didn't want to do. Hey, it's a business. The studiosknow I make X-amount of money when I play a certain guy, so they want me to play that guy, whoever he is. But my take is: I've done that, and if I do it again I'll end up blowing my brains out. I always thought that was smart. I never wanted to play the short game."
- Kevin Bacon. Mystic River, 2002. You don’t, apparently, wrangle with Clint Eastwood. Keaton had been selected for the Boston homicide cop Sean Devine, started script readings and then with a month to go, director and actor had an almighty dust-up. Keaton went and Clint brought home the Bacon.
- Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean - Curse of the Black Pearl, 2003.. Not a bad idea: Betelgeuse the pirate! Johnny made it a classic. And a quartet.
- Johnny Depp, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, 2004. The People’s Champion was Tim Burton's reserve choice for Willy Wonka. HHonestly! In case Johnny could not get free. Tim’s 22 other fancies were: one ole Beetlejuice, three Monty Pythons - John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin - plus Keaton, Rowan Atkinson, Nicolas Cage, Jim Carrey, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Dwayne Johnson, Steve Martin, Bill Murray, Mike Myers, Leslie Nielsen, Brad Pitt, Adam Sandler, Will Smith, Patrick Stewart, Ben Stiller, Christopher Walken, Robin Williams. Depp said his Willy, as it were, was “part Howard Hughes-reclusive, part 1970s glamorous rock star.” No wonder Marilyn Manson was so keen…
- Matthew Fox, Lost, TV, 2004-2010. Minus any hit film for six years, Keaton still refused TV, even though his doctor hero would die in the pilot. Co-creator JJ Abrams - and Fox - kept him alive for several seasons... never knowing what to do with him and the otherair crash survivors on a desert isle.
- Cooper, Jarhead, 2004. UK director Sam Mendes saw Keaton, Gary Oldman, Kurt Russell and remained faithful to his American Beauty star as the perfect Lieut-Colonel Kranski: "I think I just felt my dick move."
- Sam Rockwell, The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, 2005.
- George Clooney, Leatherheads, 2008. Moving, across 17 years, fromSteven Soderberg, Jonathan Mostow, Mel Gibson, Alec Baldwin to George Clooney (also directing), the gridiron comedy was written by Rick Reilly and Duncan Brantley - when he was caretaking Steven Spielberg’s home in the Hamptons. Brantley refused Reilly’s plea to leave the script on Spielberg’s toilet seat.“I felt that I needed to respect his privacy.”
- Joe Mantegna, Criminal Minds, TV, 2009-2016. When Mandy Patinkin quit over “'creative differences,” Keaton (and Harvey Keitel) were seen about taking over as head honcho of the FBI profilers hunting serial killers among other depraved members of society.
- Kurt Russell, Undying, US-Denmark, 2011. Or Reaper, when Keaton was going to be the private eye out of his depth in aa surreal underworld.
- Will Arnett, The Lego Movie, 2013. Auteurs Phil Lord and Christopher Miller toyed with the idea of having their lego-Batman voiced by The Real Thing - Keaton, Christian Bale, George Clooney or Val Kilmer. (In his voicing debut, Channing Tatum was Superman).
- John C Reilly, Kong: Skull Island, 2016. Schedules inteferred and Reilly substituted Keaton in the seventh variation on the 83-year-old King Kong klassic.