- James Coburn, Giù la testa (UK: A Fistful of Dynamite; US: Duck You Sucker), Italy, 1971. “I wanted a boy of 20 who becomes like a father to the old Mexican peon,” said maestro Sergio Leone. But when Eli Wallach was replaced by Rod Steiger as Miranda, Leone ran to Coburn. “He was Clint Eastwood - with more humour. I loved the way he threw his knife in The Magnificent Seven... and the way he walked.”
- David Warbeck, Giù la testa (UK: A Fistful of Dynamite; US: Duck You Sucker), Italy, 1971. Once Coburn became Mallory (to counteract Rod Steiger), McDowell was offered his IRA friend. As a title, maestro Sergio Leone preferred the French Once Upon a Time... the Revolution.
- 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 the future James Bond: Timothy Dalton. Plus McDowell, Tim Curry, David Hemmings, Jeremy Irons, 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.
- Kris Kristofferson, Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid, 1972.
- Keir Dullea, Black Christmas, 1974. What McDowell refused, Dullea shot in a week, without meeting his co-stars. Looks like it, too.
- William Atherton, The Day of the Locust, 1975. He could have beaten Burgess Meredith to stealing the film. Rejecting Tod for being too close to his If and O Lucky Man hero, Mick Travis, is among the reasons why the Brit’s Hollywood career is less A List than Z-schlock: Buy & Cell, Moon 44, Tank Girl, Mr Magoo, The First 9½ Weeks...
- Dennis Hopper, Mad Dog Morgan, 1975. McDowell, Alan Bates, Stacy Keach, playwright Jason Miller and Martin Sheen were all in the mix for the titular Daniel Morgan, chief inspiration of Australia’s most famous bushranger, Ned Kelly. First-time UK producer Jeremy Thomas “somehow” got Hopper for a mere $50,000. “He brought an insanity to the role,” said director Philippe Mora, “and an intensity that most actors would have found impossible to create.” A comeback was born and one of my most memorable Cannes festival interviews on a rainy May 26, 1976. At one point, he and Michael Douglas split for the men’s room, when they returned I’d swear their feet weren’t touching the floor…
- Keith Carradine, Pretty Baby, 1977. The subject was horrendous - a prostitute allowing her 12-year-old daughter’s virginity to be auctioned off in a brothel in the red-light district of New Orleans, circa 1917. French director Louis Malle saw 28 hopefuls and/or instant (parental) refusals for little Violet… 15 actresses for her mother… and 15 guys for for the really mis-shapen, hydrocephallic photographer Ernest J. Bellocq, whose Storyville work of the epoch influenced the style of the surprisingly elegant film. Robert Redford was first choice, Jack Nicholson second. Before falling for Carradine, Malle saw McDowell (the only Brit short-listed), Albert Brooks, James Caan, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Christopher Reeve (planning to make us believe a man could fly), John Travolta (more into Grease)… plus such flat out surprises as Joe Pesci, Burt Reynolds, Sylvester Stallone (prepping FIST), even Christopher Walken.
- Jack Birkett, The Tempest, 1979. Among UK directing legend Michael Powell’s ideas for the deformed (and villainous) Caliban over 25 years of trying to film the Shakespeare play were McDowell, Topol\ and even an extremely keen Telly Savalas (who loves ya, Prospero baby!). According to Dominic Nolan in The Greatest Movies You’ll Never See book, Derek Jarman felt he’d inherited Powell’s obsession. Hah! He made a (typically) homoerotic job of it in 1979. New York Times critic Vincent Canby was unimpressed by the film, “funny if it weren't very nearly unbearable.” Nor by Birkett: “looks and acts as if he'd been borrowed from Hammer Films.
- Harry Hamlin, Clash of the Titans, 1980. Roger Ebert likened it to a Greek mythological retread of Star Wars. Also in the frame for Skywalker - er, Perseus - were Richard Chamberlain, Malcolm McDowell, Michael York. Even an unknown body-builder called… Arnold Schwarzenegger. So destiny for Hamlin. Ursula Andress played Aphrodite. Soon after shooting ended, she gave birth to their son, Dimitri.
- Sting, Brimstone & Treacle, 1982. David Bowie and McDowell passed on being the highly controversial Taylor in Dennis Potter’s reverse take on Pasolini’s Teorema - the strange visitor being more Satan than God. Banned by the BBC in 1976 due to a rape scene, the tele-film was finally aired in 1987 with Michael Kitchen in what became Sting’s first major movie role.
- Dean Stockwell, Quantum Leap, TV, 1989-1993. The time traveling hero Scott Bakula was the first signed for creator Donald P Bellisario ‘s favourite series and helped test actors auditoning for the holographic Admiral Al Calavicci. There was an immediate rapport between Bakula and Stockwell. End of story.
- Jeremy Irons, The Lion King, 1993. In the frame to voice the villainous Scar in the 32nd Disney toon - Bambi meets Hamlet in Africa! - were either top Brits, Irons, McDowell and Tim Curry - or assorted Hollywood-mafiosi James Caan, Robert Duvall, Ray Liotta!
- Paul McGann, Doctor Who (The Movie), TV, 1996.
- Eric Roberts, Doctor Who (The Movie), TV, 1996. Hollywood goes Who. Why? For the pilot of a USeries to exhume the BBC science-fiction cult, buried since it ran out of puff after 26 seasons in 1989. As if to prove this was big deal LA in action (!), some 63 actors were listed for Doc8 and a further 71(well, some were on both lists) for his foe, The Master. Such as… James Bond, Caligula, Dracula, Gandhi, Han Solo, Freddy Krueger, Magnum, Jean-Luc Picard, Spock and - hey, they’re doctors! - Emmett Brown and Frank-N-Furter. Aka… Timothy Dalton, Christopher Lee, Ben Kingsley, Harrison Ford, Robert Englund, Tom Selleck, Patrick Stewart, Christopher Lloyd and Tim Curry. Oh, and…Caligula.
- Derek Jacobi, Love Is The Devil, 1998. UK director John Maybury’s first choice was trapped, since Caligula, in LA and Euro-drek, even TV’s re-born Fantasy Island. Although well in need of comeback, at the very least an acting challenge, Malcolm changed his mind about being Francis Bacon the day before contracts were to be signed. “A real snag but in the end beneficial to the film,” said Maybury, after his agent suggested Jacobi. Perfect!
- David Warner, Wing Commander, 1999. His plan to reprise his Admiral Tolwyn from the video games was stymied due to his Fantasy Island TV series - short-lived, as it happened, just 13 episodes, 1998-99.
- Leonardo DiCaprio, Gangs of New York, 2001. Martin Scorsese’s odyssey began on New Year’s Day 1970, when he found a copy of The Gangs of New York, Herbert Asbury's 1928 history of Five Points. Scorsese immediately called a friend, Time critic turned screenwriter Jay Cocks: “Think of it like a western in outer space.” It was all very 1970s, lots of talk about A Clockwork Orange and writing the lead for McDowell.