Heath Ledger (1979-2008)
- Jason Behr, Roswell, TV, 1999-2002. Lucky break! He auditioned for Max but having already been part of the Fox flop, Roar, 1997, he was voted out. Fast. Making him free for movies.
- Martin Lawrence, What’s The Worst That Could Happen? 2000. "It takes a thief to nail a crook." But it took $13m to get Ledger was due to play the crook. Then, Lawrence did it , opposite Danny De Vito’s zillionaire, Chicago critic Roger Ebert said they seemed to be in different movies.
- Ewan McGregor, Moulin Rouge! 2001. Or, at least, to try for them. “And I 'm really, really bad at auditions." His Satine would have been Catherine Zeta-Jones. “They didn’t have to be big singers,” director Baz Luhrmann explained his needs, “but they had to be able to move you emotionally. Basically, Ewan and Nicole [Kidman] were the best for the job. That’s the bottom line of it.”
- Tobey Maguire, Spider-Man, 2001.
- Jeremy Sumpter, Peter Pan, 2001. First choice for the lead... once Tobey Maguire buffed up for Spidey.
- Brendan Fraser, The Quiet American, 2001. Or quiet Australian… Director Philip Noyce wanted his fellow Aussie in the titular rôle in a much better take on Graham Greene’s prophetic novel about Vietnam - shockingly homogenised by Joseph L Maniewicz (of all people) in the 50s. Noyce’s Michael Caine was fine at the UK journo but Fraser was as weak as Audie Murphy in ’57.
- Paul Bettany, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, 2003. From the sublime...
- Seann William Scott, Bulletproof Monk, 2003. ...to the ridiculous. Even the ultra cool Chow Yun-Fat seemed lost.
- Gerard Butler, The Phantom of the Opera, 2003. Ledger and Hugh Jackman were the two Aussies in the titular short list of Antonio Banderas, Michael Crawford, Meat Loaf, Matthew McConaughey, Kevin Spacey and John Travolta… and Butler.
- Matt Damon, The Brothers Grimm, 2004. Director Terry Gilliam led them swop roles once Heath preferred Jacob to Wilhelm, and vice versa for Matt. And to appease America, they became Will and Jake!
- Colin Farrell, Alexander, 2004. First choice when writer-director Oliver Stone reactivated an old project he had planned for Tom Cruise - or Val Kilmer (who stayed aboard as the hero's father). Ledger said he is the worst auditioner. "I mean, you're being judged and that consumes me. I can't relax, I'm tied in knots, so the voice is very taut and tense." And so Farrell wore "the Doris Day wig."
- Chris Evans, Cellular, 2004. Writer Larry Cohen updated his Phone Booth premise for the non-phone booth age.. This time, the shock call is on a guy's cell-phone - from a kidnapped Kim Basinger seeking help.
- Ryan Philippe, Crash, 2004. Ledger’s talks with debuting auteur Paul Haggis came to naught on choosing Brokeback Mountain instead. The two films were great Oscar rivals, with Brokeback winning almost everything except Best Film which, inexplicably, went to Crash.
- Christian Bale, Batman Begins, 2005.
- Josh Brolin, No Country For Old Man, 2006. The Coen brothers held talks with Ledger about becoming Llewelyn Moss - but he preferred “some time off.”
- Hugh Jackman, Australia, 2007. “But I don’t have a script,” said Jackman. “Forget the script,” said Nicole Kidman, “Baz Luhrmann is directing.” After various battles with Russell Crowe. Aussie director Baz Luhrman chose Ledger, who then quit for The Joker in The Dark Knight. Enter Jackman: "He just continues to astound in terms of his range, whether it's Boy From Oz or Wolverine," said Baz. "He's always been a leading man, but he’s moving toward being an iconic leading man - perfect for the story we're doing." And then Heath was suddenly dead in his New York apartment - at 28.
- Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell & Jude Law, ] The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, 2008. This was the Terry Gilliam film that Ledger was on leave from when he ODed. Depp, Farrell and Law answered Gilliam's call when he devised a way to complete Ledger's role with different… beings. "I met Heath's father and sister," explained Farrell, "and they were OK with it. I did two weeks. But it was crap. Terry’s great - mad as a fucking brush!”
- Brad Pitt, The Tree of Life, 2010. The Aussie was due to play the father of three sons of the 50s in autuer Terrence Malick’s sixth film in 40 years. When Ledger quit to plan a directing debut - and then died - producer Pitt volunteered to take over, quitting the re-make of the BBC TV thriller, State of Play, 2008. “I had a great experience with Terry, great conversations with Terry... a kind, competitive, deep-thinking man. And the whole style of the way he approached filmmaking was unlike anything I had done before.” But even with a crew cut, Pitt was just too much of a nice guy to be a tough, intolerant father.
- Colin Farrell, Fright Night, 2010. For the third time, Farrell took over a role from the late Ledger. This time, - a horror movie for Spielberg’s DeamWorks. And when he didn’t think one of Farrell’s make-ups was scary enough, The Master insisted: “Put the shark-like jaw back.”
- Tom Hardy, Mad Max: Fury Road, 2012. Every tough guy from Mel Gibson himself in 2003 (before discovering The Passion of Christ, anti-Semitism and LA ostracism) to Ledger (all set in 2006), James Cameron regular Michael Biehn, actor-producer Liam Fountain (the titular Mad Max Renegade in his 2011 short), Jeremy Renner and Channing Tatum were up and down many a flagpole before creator George Miller won his budget. Hardy wore Mel’s old jacket and Charlize Theron stole the wheelie Western as a Mad Maxine. No way to treat Max Rockatansky after a 30-year hiatus, George!
- Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher, 2014. The Faustian wrestling drama too so long to hit the mat that Heath Ledger (dead in 2008) and Ryan Gosling were substituted by Ruffalo and Channing Tayum as the Olympic gold medallist wrestling brothers involved with a twisted zillionaire played by Steve Carrel - in make-up and prosthetics that were more disconcerting than convincing.