- Randy Quaid, Fool For Love, 1985. John told playwright Sam Shepherd he wanted to join his movie. "But then," director Robert Altman told me in Paris, "he was not available. Or chose not to do it. Or something."
- William Hurt, The Accidental Tourist, 1988. Although bought as a vehicle for himself, Malkovich simply co-produced. He was pleased with Hurt's work, but felt both women (Kathleen Turner, Geena Davis) were "disastrous." He wuz right, despite the Geena's inexplicable Oscar.
- Jeff Goldblum, The Fly, 1988. A robot for Susan Seidelman was one thing, but a human-insect... "You may do a film that interests you fantastically as an actor, or as a character," he explained in 2007, "but maybe it's less interesting as a film. Meaning a kind of a character in search of a film. And I've done that also. "
- Dudley Moore, Crazy People, 1990. Suffering a marital crisis, he was too melancholic for comedy. "I've been flipping out in a real incredible depression." He split for Bertolucci's Sheltering Sky. No better.
- Timothy Dalton, The King's Whore, France 1990. Interested when French realisateur Daniel Vigne called about a film opposite Isabelle Adjani. He quit when she did.
- Steven Hill, Billy Bathgate, 1991. Still avoiding Dustin Hoffman after The Death of A Salesman.
- Kevin Costner, JFK, 1991.
- Joe Pesci, JFK, 1991
- Alan Rickman, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, 1991. John would have made an evil Sheriff of Nottingham, but dammitall Alan is English!
- Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven, 1992. In the early 80s, producer-director Francis Coppola owned it as The William Munny Killings, and had a long New York meeting with Malkovich. "The offer was not very serious - thank God! I say that for myself and the poor public. And for Clint - absolutely! I would have been a total, total failure. Total! Who would've wanted to see that? I wouldn't! I would've just been acting-schmatching. There are some things you can only have with a kind of mythic figure which Clint is." They worked together - extremely well - In The Line of Fire, 1993, and Clint directed him in The Changeling, 2007.
Kenneth Mars, We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story, 1992. Change of voice in the Amblin toon for Professor Screweyes, evil brother of time-travelling Captain Neweyes - Walter Cronkite, no less!
Anthony Hopkins, The Innocent, 1993. Before director Brit John Schlesinger inherited the project from Jon Amiel. "The power has to be with the story."
- Jean-Pierre Mocky, Le mari de Léon, France, 1993. The only star to agree to the Frederic Dard best-seller, although he did not (then) speak French well enough. "Unthinkable for his accent, " said Mocky, the film-maker who played the film-maker, himself.
- Robert De Niro, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, 1994. Producer Francis Coppola passed the direction to Kenneth Branagh (also playing Frankenstein). The Creature went through various faces... From those of Gérard Depardieu, Andy Garcia (!) and Malkovich to a real monster. Don Corleone.
- Dennis Hopper, Waterworld, 1995. Director Kevin Reynolds did not really want Kevin Costner as his hero - until the two ex-pals made up. Then, neither could decide on the villain.
- Tom Cruise, Interview With The Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, 1994.
- Jim Carrey, Batman Forever, 1994.
- Anthony Hopkins, Nixon, 1994. The JFK director Oliver Stone’s ideas for Tricky Dicky included Warren Beatty, Gene Hackman, Tom Hanks, Nicholson, Gary Oldman and Robin Williams. Hopkins was cast while Malkovich was taking too much time pondering the offer. Next time around, Dan Heyda (Stone’s Trini Cordoza) was Nixon in Dick, 1998.
- William H Macey, Oleanna, 1995. Playwright-turned-movie-maker David Mamet's two-hander about sexual harressment - by her of him.
- David Thewlis, Total Eclipse, 1995. “John ran out for reasons that are complicated,” said Polish director Agnieska Holland. But understandable. Mainly the OD death of River Phoenix, due for Rimbaud opposite Malkovich's Verlaine in Christopher Hampton's script.
- Russell Crowe, Rough Magic, 1995. For the detective following a politico’s runaway fiance to Mexico where she searches for a Mayan shaman to teach her ancient magic.
- Martin Donovan, The Portrait of a Lady, 1995. For Jane Campion’s take on the Henry James classic, Malkovich (after Daniel Day Lewis, Ralph Fiennes) passed on being the poor little heiress Nicole Kidman’s cousin Ralph Touchett - who hides his loves her as he’s dying of consumption. Malkovich elected to be the con-man Gilbert Osmond.
- Tony Curtis, Brittle Glory, 1996. Unknown director Stewart Schill said he also chased after Anthony Hopkins and Havey Keitel for his Reptile Man. They all ran from the first title: The Continued Adventures of Reptile Man and His Faithful Sidekick Tadpole. True!
- Eric Roberts, Doctor Who (The Movie), TV, 1996.
- Julian Sands, Il fantasma dell'opera, Italy, 1998. Dario Argento’s version of Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera was always intended for Malkovich. Sands was hardly a suitable substitute.
- Johnny Depp, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, 1997. In the mix somewhere for Raoul Duke (aka gonzo jouro Hunter S Thompson) as directors switched from Martin Scorsese and Oliver Stone to Alex Cox and (the winner) Terry Gilliam. Idem for Dan Aykroyd and Jack Nicholson. All lucky to escape such an ugly movie.
- Anthony Hopkins, Hannibal, 2001. First reserve in case Hopkins vetoed the sequel; Tim Roth was second. Either way it didn’t bother Malkovich. "I don't know how passionate I ever was as an actor. Meaning it was something I did that I liked doing, and it’s remained that. But it’s not as if I ever spent a lot of time sitting around and thinking about acting. I just did it."
- Willem Dafoe, Spider-Man, 2001.
- Jeremy Irons, And Now Ladies And Gentlemen, France, 2002. The look-Ma-no-hands realisateur Claude Lelouch got out of his depth. He first signed Dustin Hoffman, then Malkovich, a French resident, better used to Euro ways. He quit, too, and so Irons supported the film debut of the divine French chanteuse Patricia Kaas. Divine was not the adjective for the film.
- Leonardo DiCaprio, The Aviator, 2004. With production partner Russell Smith, Malkovich tried to launch a Howard Hughes biopic in 1993.
- Cillian Murphy, Red Eye, 2004. Horrorsmith Wes Craven first desired Malkovich, Ray Liotta and John Travolta for Jackson Rippner - then opted for younger leads: Kevin Bacon, Nicolas Cage, Willem Dafoe, Edward Norton, Michael Pitt.
- Laurence Fishburne, CSI, TV, 2008-2009. Malkovich and Kurt Russell were in the frame, before Laurence Fishburne became William Petersen’s replacement.