- Jude Law, Shopping, 1993. It was director Paul WS Anderson who revealed that Ewan was in the final two for the Billy role. And so Law met his first wife Sadie Frost (1997-2003) on the set.
- Chris O'Donnell, Batman Forever, 1994.
- Linus Roache, Wings of the Dove, 1996. As the original tabloid journo, Henry James' creation: Merton Densher.
- Christopher Eccleston, Jude, 1996. Preferred to be stoned in Trainspotting, rather than a stonemason.
- Harold Perrineau, Romeo + Juliet, 1997. Nearly chosen for Mercutio, Ewan was remembered by the bravura Australian director Baz Luhrmann for Moulin Rouge, 2001… by which time Harold was a star of Oz with The Matrix and Lost around the corner.
- Keanu Reeves, The Matrix, 1998. Ah but, McGregor was still into Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace. 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), Lou Diamond Phillips (his agent said: instant flop) and the surprisingly honest Will Smith - "I would have messed it up!"
- Leonardo DiCaprio, The Beach, 1999. After three films together, Irish director Danny Boyle dumped Ewan for the King of the World. “Trainspotting, they gave me the script to read: What do you think? Same thing for A Life Less Ordinary. Same thing with The Beach. They gave me the book to read. So, yes, I thought I was up for it." It tanked. And they never talked again.
- Don Cheadle, Ocean's Eleven, 2001. Ridley Scott called him for Black Hawk Down duty - just as he was reading about Basher Tarr, who cuts the Las Vegas power as a cover for three casino heists in director Steven Soderbergh's “radical re-imagining" of the Sinatra Clan movie. Ewan would, at least, have had a credit; Cheadle came first, before George Clooney alphabetically - and was, therefore, absent from titles and posters.
- Marton Csokas, xXx, 2002. He talked to director Rob Cohen about being the nihilistic Yorgi. Finally, the baddy opposite Vin Diesel, became a big break for a Kiwi with a Hungarian name.
- Tobey Maguire, Spider-Man, 2002. Horrorsmith Sam Raimi was moving up in the world - and spoilt for choice with the new millennium's impressive batch of new stars. McGregor voted Ridley Scott, instead.
- Hugh Grant, About A Boy, 2002. Surely Hugh was too good-looking for man unable to land bedable women.
- Cillian Murphy, 28 Days Later, 2002. Naturally, director Danny Boyle wanted the star he made in Shallow Grave and Trainspotting to play Jim - “His fear began when he woke up alone. His terror began when he realised he wasn't.” But relations remained strained since Boyle had dropped Mac for Leonardo DiCaprio in The Beach, 1999. The Irish Murphy also headed Boyle’s Sunshine, 2006.
- Paddy Considine, In America, 2003. Ewan and Kate Winslet were Jim Sheridan’s first Irish couple taking on what he then called East of Harlem - and having their saga stolen by their daughter.
- Orlando Bloom, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, 2003. No matter who played Jack Sparrow, Will Turner was always going to be British - Ewan, Christian Bale, Jude Law... Or was he? Two Americans were also considered. Tobey Maguire and Christopher Masterson, younger brother of Danny from The 70s Show, TV, 1998-2006, and quite a Bloom clone.
- Robert Carlyle, Hitler: The Rise of Evil, TV, 2003. Most of the (eight) producers wanted Ewan. They got his Trainspotting co-star Caryle. Either way, a Scottish Adolf.
- Matt Dillon, You, Me and Dupree, 2005. First idea from the directing brothers Anthony and Joe Russo for Molly and Carl were two Macs: Ewan and Rachel McAdams.
- David Morrissey, Basic Instinct 2, 2005. Wholly understandableif Sharon Stone felt Ewan might take the shine of her sequel.He, alone among some 14 possibilities for her London shrink,had no qualmswhatsoever about movie nudity (justified or otherwise, he didn’t care).In fact, the world had seen more of the McGenitalia than it ever had of Sharon’s. “I let myself down,” said Morrissey. “When it came out… I didn’t want to leave the house.It was a very bruising experience.”
- Daniel Craig, Casino Royale, 2006.
- Mark Ryan, Transformers, 2006. Obi-Wan Keobi was on the list to voice Steven Spielberg and Shia LaBeouf’s favourite - Bumblebee. Ryan is the series’ unsung hero… playing the autobots during shooting to give the live (?) actors something to work with. He was the third Che in the London Evita - a mere waiter in Madonna’s movie. Now he is a busy voice-actor, supplying several of the franchise’s film and video-game characters.
- Robert Foxworth, Transformers, 2006. Well, if you don’t have time to be Bumblebee, said director Michael Bay to his star of The Island, 2004 - can you voice Ratchet for us? Impossible, he was too booked.
- Sam Riley, Dark World (aka Franklyn),2007. The parallel universes were first aimed at McGregor as the shattered dreamer and Paul Bettany as the vigilante detective. Instead, Ewan broke a leg in a motor-cycle accident and Eva Green was caught between Riley and Ryan Philippe in… wait for it… Meanwhile City. The Last Word, 2009, proved third time lucky for a McGregor and Green coupling.Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right, 2009. Well, he’d sure waved it around enough in movies - so Mac was first idea for the sperm-donor father of the lesbian Julianne Moore and Annette Bening’s two children. (Other kids acting in the film were fathered by Michael Eisner, David Mamet, Steven Spielberg – Lisa, Zosia and Sasha).
- François Arnaud, The Borgias, TV, 2010. Neil Jordan’s 2002 choice for Cesar - with Christina Ricci as Lucretia - poisoned budget issues.. They became Colin Farrell and Scarlett Johansson in a 2006 plan. Ewan and Colin played brothers in Woody Allen’s Cassandra’s Dream, 2006 …long before Jordan got his film off the ground. As a TV series.
- James D’Arcy, WE, 2010. Change of King Edward VIII for director Madonna’s (often, unintentionally, hilarious )investigation into why he gave up the UK throne for American divorcee Wallis Simpson. In the troubled shoot, Madonna also lost two more of her chosen cast (Vera Farmiga and Margo Stilley)and her casting director!
- John Cusack, The Raven, 2011. The Shakespeare tale (Helen Shakespeare!) was originally set for Ewan as Edgar Allen Poe helping Baltimore cop Jeremy Renner solve some Poe-style murders in the 1880s. They became John Cusack and Luke Evans.
- James McAvoy, Gnomeo & Juliet, 2010. One Mac for another for Gnomeo’s voice in this first toon from Elton John’s Rocket Pictures. Kate Winslet was nearly Juliet. The two garden gnomes lived in the properties of the Montagues and Capulets.
- John Cusack, The Raven, 2011. The Shakespeare script (Helen Shakespeare!) was originally set for Ewan as Edgar Allen Poe helping Baltimore cop Jeremy Renner solve some Poe-style murders in the 1880s. They became John Cusack and Luke Evans.
- Ben Drew, The Sweeney, 2011. Orlando Bloom, Daniel Craig and Damien Lewis were far too expensive for Detective Constable George Carter in the totally unnecessary re-hash of the 1975-1978 Thames TV series about the Metropolitan Police’s Flying Squad. (Or, Sweeney Todd in Cockney rhyming slang). Drew, aka rapper Plan B, was also a director.
- Jim Sturgess, Electric Slide, 2013. Shelved for years, Sturgess inherited the true tale of serial bank robber Eddie Dodson, an ex-furniture salesman hitting64 banks in eight months - including six in one day!On release from jail, Jack Nicholson organsied drug rehab and a house-sitter’s job forhim but Dodson went back to his day job - and jail after eight more banks jobs, said the FBI… nine, said Eddie.
- Henry Cavill, The Man From UNCLE, 2013. After securing the 60s’ TV series rights in 1993, producder John Davis went through 20 years, 14 scripts, four directors (letting slip Soderbergh and Tarantino!), plus 19 Napoleon Solos. From George Clooney in 2010 to Tom Cruise three years later. By way of the early-21st century suspects: McGregor, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Joel Edgerton, Michael Fassbender, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ryan Gosling, Jon Hamm, Joel Kinnaman, McGregor, Robert Pattinson, Chris Pine, Ryan Reynolds, Alexander Skarsgård (he switched to Tarzan), Channing Tatum. Even Russell Crowe, surely a better bet at 50 for old Waverly, the UNCLE boss. Poor Davis never got it right!
- James Franco, Every Thing Will Be Fine, Germany-Canada-Norway, 2013. Wim Wenders knew exactly who to turn to when the Scot quit for Natalie Portman’s troubled Western, Jane Got A Gun. Because the German auteur admired the New York University class on film-making and production s taught by… Franco.
- Paul Bettany, Transcendence, 2013. Christopher Nolan’s usual cinematographer Wally Pfister was spoilt for choice of stars eager for his directing debut. Max was up between McGregor, Jude Law, Tobey Maguire, - and Tom Hardy from the Chris ’n’ Wally 2011 show, The Dark Knight Rises.
- Colin Farrell, True Detective 2, TV, 2014. Due for a meet with creator Nic Pizzolatto for the second HBO season (changing from Southern to West Coast noir, still owing everything to Elmore Leonard’s Justified), Ewan was a more solid rumour than Christian Bale, Josh Brolin, Michael Fassbender, Joaquin Phoenix, Brad Pitt or the wild card hopes of Idris Elba and Chiwetel Ejiofor.
- Paul Rudd, Ant-Man, 2014. The micro-superhero had been rolling around Hollywood ever since New World’s 1988 plan was tossed because Disney was into Honey, I Shrunk The Kids. Well, nowDisney was Marvel and, started prepping in 2006, with the great (and great Ant Man fan) Edgar Wright writer-directing. By 2013, the script was done, effects tests made and Rudd beat McGregor, and Adrien to the on-off little guy. Then, Marvel maven Kevin Feige shook his cage and replaced Wright (for being Edgar Wright!) in 2014 with obedient Peyton Reed.
- Benedict Cumberbatch, Doctor Strange, 2015. Discussed, planned, written, re-spun since 1986, always dropped despite scripts from Alex Cox, Wes Craven, Bob Gale, etc, until chosen as the portal into the supernatural side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Among those flown up Marvel’s 21st Century flagpole were McGregor, TV doctor Patrick Dempsey, Colin Farrell, Ryan Gosling, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jon Hamm, Ethan Hawke, Oscar Isaac, Jared Leto, Matthew McConaughey, Joaquin Phoenix (too strange!), Vincent Price (in 1986), even zeroes Keanu Reeves (listed but never approached - how wise) and Justin Theroux. Finally, the production waited until after Cumberbatch’s Hamlet stage triumph in London. If Iron Man is Mick Jagger, Strange is Jim Morrison… and should head the MCU when Robert Downey pawns his ironmongery.