- Sam Elliott, Mask, 1984. For what became her triumph, Cher wanted her lover to play her screen lover. No, said director Peter Bogdanovich, he’s too young. He was almost too young for Cher - 25 to her 38. Sam was 40.
- Willem Dafoe, Platoon, 1986. Kilmer sent writer-director Oliver Stone a video of himself as Sergeant Elias. "He was pretty eccentric in those days. His reading... was insane. He sat on a table, took his shirt off, did all kinds of weird stuff." That is how Kilmer became... Jim Morrison in The Doors, 1991.
- Kyle MacLachan, Blue Velvet, 1986. Director David Lynch had one idea only for Jeffrey Beaumont: Val Kilmer. And he just fled the “pornographic” scenario. .Years later, he said he would have agreed to the final version.
- Patrick Swayze, Dirty Dancing, 1987. Passed and so we can blame Kilmer (and next choice, Billy Zane) for the birth of Swayze.
- Matt Salinger, Captain America, 1990. Back in the days when comicbook heroes were seen as the stuff of B-movies. As they should be. Exactly why Kilmer preferred being Jm Morrison in The Doors.
- John Stamos, Born To Ride, 1990. "We were very close to Val," producer Fred Weintraub told me in Yugoslavia, "then Oliver Stone's Doors opened..." ie his price soared!
- Robby Benson, Beauty and the Beast, 1990. Kilmer, Tim Curry, Laurence Fishburne and Mandy Patinkin made sense as potential voices for The Beest - but morning TV and game show host Regis Philbin, c’mon! The US audience would have laughed its collective socks off
- Andy Garcia, The Godfather: Part III, 1991.
- Clint Eastwood, In the Line of Fire, 1992. When Tom Cruise was a no-go (no, really!), so was Kilmer. Obviously. Both guys were far too young to have been a Secret Service man on JFK's detail in Dallas, November 22, 1963... when Kilmer was four and Cruise just 16 months.
- Michael Biehn, Deadfall, 1992. Kilmer and his wife Joanne Whalley changed minds about the project - and within four years, about each other. Biehn had made Navy Seals with Whalley in 1989.
- Christian Slater, True Romance, 1993. Val lost Clarence Worley but stayed aboard as Worley's mentor: Elvis.
- Woody Harrelson, Indecent Proposal, 1993. Not about to sell his wife for $1m for a one night to some horny zillionaire.
- Keanu Reeves, Johnny Mnemonic, 1994. Everything was set for a 1993 fall shooting in Toronto when Val "couldn’t be bothered with it anymore," said producer Peter Hoffman. "He comes in, loves the project, then he reads the script again, decides he hates it, wants dramatic surgery before he'll do the movie. You know something? It was the luckiest thing that ever happened... because we got Keanu." It still tanked... So, Kilmer replaced Reeves in Michael Mann's Heat.
- Kevin Bacon, Apollo 13, 1995. Bowed out, went to Africa researching a fond project and was (purportedly) in a real batcave when phoned with offer to be Batman Forever. Or once, as it turned out.
- Denzel Washington, Crimson Tide, 1995. Refused being a junior officer to Hackman or Pacino.
- William Baldwin, Fair Game, 1995. To be opposite Cindy Crawford's debut as a leggy lawyer in the re-make of Sylvester Stallone's Cobra churned into a total farce.
- David Thewlis, The Island of Dr Moreau, 1995.
Cast as the hero, Kilmer wanted out of the project on hearing (on TV) that his wife, Joanne Whalley, was divorcing him. Needing him after his Batman Forever hit, the studio forced him to stay put... in the lesser role of the assistant to the Doctor now played by Thewlis... and Rob Morrow quit when director Richard Stanley was fired after a few days. (Numbers differ). After Kilmer’s final scene, director John Frankenheimer said: “Cut! Now get that bastard off my set.” Bruce Willis left due to his divorce battle. Marlon Brando’s daughter, Cheynne, committed suicide. And without new helmer John Frankenheimer knowing, Stanley had joined the extras... Brando (the reason most people wanted to make the film) welcomed Thewlis by saying: “Go home, David. This is not a good film to work on. It is cursed.” Thewlis could say much more about the making of the farce - but feared such honesty would kill his career.
- Matthew McConaughey, A Time To Kill, 1996. Director Joel Schumacher agreed that Batman Forever was the best behaved Kilmer had ever been on a film. Whether he cared to work with him again was a different story. He still suggested him to author and co-producer John Grisham. "Well, I was desperate," he told me in Deauville. "John and I couldn't agree on anyone. I made a list of ten people. Val was one. John didn't like any of them." Because the role was basically Grisham, himself.
- George Clooney, Batman & Robin, 1996.
- Keanu Reeves, The Matrix, 1998. The score’s composer Don Davis said Johnny Depp was first choice of the Wachowski siblings (then brothers Larry and Andy, now sisters Lana and Lilly). Warners voted: Brad Pitt or Val Kilmer. They passed. OK, said Warners: Depp or Keanu Reeves.
(As if that was a choice). Also seen for the neo-noir Neo: Nicolas Cage (family commitments), Leonardo DiCaprio (“too many special effects”), David Duchovny (preferred TV’s X-Files), Ewan McGregor (shooting Star Wars: Episode 1), Lou Diamond Phillips (his agent said: instant flop) and a surprisingly honest Will Smith. "I would have messed it up!"
- Russell Crowe, The Insider, 1999. He was director Michael Mann's man until Dutch producer Pieter Van Brugge voted Crowe... who won an Oscar nod.
- Bruce Willis, Bandits, 2001. Willis owned rights to Elmore Leonard's book (nothing to do with the script!) and took second lead, until Kilmer left and then, surprise, surprise, Willis took top spot.
- Vincent Cassel, Blueberry, France, 2002. Well out of it... Apart from the hero's name, Jan Kounen's film had absolutely nothing to do with the French comicbook it was based on.
- Mark Ruffalo, Collateral, 2004. Kilmer left for his date with Alexander - as the father of Colin Farrell (who was once due to play the Collateral hitman Vincent).
- Colin Farrell, Alexander, 2004. Director and co-scenarist Oliver Stone and Kilmer originally discussed it during The Doors, 1991..
Instead of Alex, he eventually played the hero’s royal father as a plump Philip of Macedonia - after a daily hour of old age and the scar tissue make-up. Having become a bad boy (drugs and a sex-tape) Farrell had to audition for auteur Oliver Stone – “150 pages of gut wrenching stuff, most of which he cut. Oliver is still working on it. On a fifth version. It’s a period that fascinates him.”
- Colin Farrell, Ask The Dust, 2006. Originally involved (like Johnny Depp) in Robert Towne's version of John Fante's Depression Era novel.
- Aidan Quinn, Dark Matter, 2006. Schedules prevented Kilmer sharing… the only Meryl Streep film that no one has ever seen.
- Sean Astin, What Love Is, 2007. Kilmer’s combine was due to (re)produce Kilmer and Robert Downey Jr after their deft camaraderie in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, 2005.
- Benicio Del Toro, Che: Part One & Part Two, 2007. Kilmer was Steven Soderbergh’s rather surprising first reserve if Del Toro proved unavailable for Ernesto Che Guevara.
- Til Schweiger, De rote Baron/The Red Baron, Germany-UK, 2008. Kilmer turned down another Euro hero. After the French cowboy, Blueberry, 2004, the WW1 hero of the German air force, Baron Manfred von Richthofen.
- Ray Winstone, Noah, 2013. Kilmer, Liam Neeson, Liev Schreiber - Darren Aronofsky searched far and wide for “an actor with the grit and size to be convincing as he goes head-to-head against Crowe's Noah.” They could have all played Noah, himself. But the role was Tubalcain, nemesis of the auteur’s life-long fascination with “a dark, complicated character who experiences real survivor's guilt.” And a lot of water.
- 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 Thuing: Kilmer, Christian Bale, George Clooney, Michael Keaton or Kilmer. (In his voicing debut, Channing Tatum was Superman).