Sir Ian McKellen
- Daniel Massey, Star!, 1967. McKellen screen tested as Noel Coward, performing Coward’s Parisian Pierrot - to great applause from the crew. But Massey, Coward’s Godson, got the part, a Golden Globe trophy and an Oscar nomination. He had made his screen debut as Coward’s son at age nine in the UK classic, In Which We Serve, 1941.
- Ben Kingsley, Betrayal, 1982. Sam Spiegel’s final (and ill-chosen) production from his The Last Tycoon scenarist Harold Pinter’s semi-autobiographical play dissecting a love affair. At first, Sam said Ben was too old and that was that… until Ben seduced him at their meeting. Next, Sam was upset by his fledging director David Jones. Why? “Because he’s never worried and that worries me a great deal.”
- Sean Connery, Der Name der Rose/The Name of the Rose, France-Italy-West Germany, 1986. Réalisateur Jean-Jacques Annaud was not keen on 007 as Umberto Eco’s medieval monk turned detective. Columia Pictures even refused financing if Connery was involved as his post-Bond star was imploding. Naturally, Brando topped Annaud’s further 14 ideas. Six Americans: Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, Frederic Forrest, Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, Roy Scheider; four Brits: McKellen, Michael Caine, Albert Finney, Terence Stamp; plus Canadian Donald Sutherland, French Yves Montand, Irish Richard Harris, Italian Vittorio Gassman and Swedish Max von Sydow. Connery’s reading was the best and his career exploded anew. Two years later, he won his support Oscar for The Untouchables.
- Alfred Molina,Prick Up Your Ears, l986. "I was going to first do it with Ian as Halliwell, Joe Orton's lover," director Stephen Frears revealed."Then, Ian withdrew, for reasons I really don't know, although I believeheexpectedtobe on Broadway."
- Paul Scofield, Henry V, 1988. He passed on actor-director Kenneth Branagh’s request to be King Charles VI of France. Seven years later, Sir Mac directed himself as another Shakespearian king, Richard III.
- Jonathan Freeman, Aladdin, 1991. Disney’s voice choices for Jafar, our hero’s foe, the Sultan’s evil vizier, were Tim Curry, Kesley Grammer, John Hurt, Christopher Lloyd plus the future X-Men co-stars McKellen Patrick Stewart. Channeling Boris Karloff meets Vincent Price, Freeman remained in Jafar mode (for sequels and video games) for the next 20 years.
- Tony Jay, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1995. Fellow Brits Derek Jacobi, McKellen and Patrick Stewart (twogether again) were listed for Frollo. Until directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale went back to their deep-voiced Monsieur D’Arque from Beauty and the Beast, 1990.
- Paul McGann, Doctor Who (The Movie), TV, 1996.
- Brian Blessed, Tarzan, 1999. McKellen and Patrick Stewart were both up for the villainous Clayton until the directors fell for Blessed, the walking boom box. He also provided Tarzan’s yell in this 48th apeman movie - the first cartoon, and the firstwith a one word title.
- Anthony Hopkins, Mission: Impossible II, 2000.
Too busy to be Tom Cruise’s M, Commander Swanbeck - first person in the films to use the words: mission, impossible. “If I’d decided to do that, I wouldn’t have been in X-Men and… Lord of the Rings.” Following his Oscar-nomination for , Gods and Monsters, McKellen was offered M:I. “But they wouldn’t let me see the whole script, because I might have spilled the beans. I only got my scenes. Well, I couldn’t judge from reading just those… So I said no. And my agent said: You cant say no to working with Tom Cruise! And I said: I think I will.” The next day, Bryan Singer asked him to be Magneto and soon afterwards, Peter Jackson offered Gandalf. When X-Men ran behind schedule, Jackson told McKellen he’d hold the part for him. Singer promised to finish with him in time. Meantime, John Woo’s M:II was “put off, put off, put off,” costing Doug Scott, the role of Wolverine.
- Max von Sydow, Minority Report, 2001. In the mix (as Tom Cruise’s Pre-Crime boss) when Steven Spielberg first planned the 2054 neo-noir sf thriller in 1999 - with Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon and Jenna Elfman.
- Michael Gambon, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, 2003. McKellen was better suited than realised at the time - author JK Rowling only revealed that Harry’s headmaster, Professor Albus Dumbledore, was gay in 2007. Anyway, Lord of the Rings and X-Men were hit series enough, without adding Mission: Impossible and Harry Pott to his surcoat. UK director Michael Radford’s film with Al Pacino as Shylock, nearly fulfilled one of the gay knight’s burning ambitions - “to play Antonio, Shakespeare’s major openly gay character: ‘In sooth, I know not why I am so sad,’ the play opens. Well, everybody knows why he’s sad; his boyfriend’s just told him he’s going to get married. That’s what it’s all about but you don’t seen it played like that.” He also stated it would have been inappropriate to succeed the late Richard Harris - since he had always called McKellen a "dreadful" actor.
- Jeremy Irons,The Merchant of Venice, 2003. Scheduling got in the way of UK director Michael Radford’s invitation to play Antonio.
- Jeremy Irons, Eragon, 2006. Now X-Men III got inthe way of “One boy... One dragon... One world of adventure.” Then again, after Shakespeare and Tolkein why mess with Christopher Paolini.
- Max von Sydow, Rush Hour 3, 2007. Director Brett Ratner asked McKellen (fromtheir X-Man: The Last Stand, 2006), to play Renard but...
- Colin Salmon, Doctor Who #195: Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, TV, 2008. Two theatrical knights, McKellan and Michael Gambon, had to pass on being Doctor Moon opposite Doc10 David Tennant.
- Jim Broadbent, Cloud Atlas, US-Germany-Hong Kong-Singapore, 2011. The Wachowski siblings (Lana and Andy at the time, now Lana and Lilly) offered not one but five roles to McKellen. (Doona Bae, Halle Berry, Tom Hanks, Jim Sturgess, Hugo Weaving had six each). When a script needs gimmicks…