- Patrick Dempsey, With Honors, 1994. Up for Brendan Fraser’s friend at Harvard University. The only film Gore Vidal made with Joe Pesci. And vice-versa.
- DB Sweeney, Spawn, 1996. Change of Terry Fitzgerald when Norton left to play Rounders. With Martin Sheen aboard, Washington Post critic Rita Kempley said Hollywood’s first African-American superhero’s adventure should have been called… Apocalypse Pow!
- Matt Damon, The Rainmaker, 1997. “It was like a last-minute replacement,” Damon recalled.“I actually got called the night before the screen test. When I heard Edward Norton was involved, I didn’t think I had a chance in hell.”
- Keanu Reeves, The Devil’s Advocate, 1997. One ofdirector Taylor Hackford’s early notions.
- Jude Law, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, 1997. Instead of working under Clint Eastwood, Norton preferred American History X.D’oh!
- Edward Furlong, Pecker, 1998. The John Waters movie was just empty.
- Jim Caviezel, The Thin Red Line, 1998. Ed was among the many aching to be in Terrence Malick’s comeback - but only in the chief role of Witt, the universal soldier.
- Matt Damon, Saving Private Ryan, 1998. Not many people turn down Steven Spielberg. Norton nixing the titular Ryan was the second (after Michael Madsen) to rather stupidly avoid the best (anti) war film since All Quiet on The Western Front, 1930. No wiser, Spielberg felt Damon was too skinny - until introduced to him by Robin Williams when shooting Good Will Hunting, 1997.
- Matt Damon, The Talented Mr Ripley, 1999. Offered Ripley, Man on the Moon and Runaway Jury, Ed began prepping his boxing, taekwondo, grappling- and soap-making- forFight Club.
- Christian Bale, American Pscyho, 1999. Perfect for Norton! Except he had nointerest in becoming Patrick Bateman, Wall Street broker and psychopath.
- Jim Carrey, Man on the Moon, 1999. After all the auditions to play Andy Kaufman’s life (Hank Azaria, Nic Cage, John Cusack, Kevin Spacey, etc) it came down to Norton v Carrey. Czech director Milos Forman could not decide. He left it to the studio - itwent, bien sur, with the better box-office name. And he was masterly
- Liev Schreiber, RKO 281, 1999. Ridley Scott’s choice for Orson Welles making Citizen Kane. As the budget grew as large as Welles, the Scott Free project was scaled down to an HBO movie.
- Hugh Jackman, X-Men trilogy 1999-2005.
- James Marsden, X-Men trilogy 1999-2005.
- Christian Bale, American Psycho, 1999. Loooong story! The Lions Gate producers wanted Edward Norton as the titular Patrick Bateman. Instead, director Mary Harron ran through a bunch of fresher faces: Ben Chaplin, Billy Crudup, Robert Sean Leonard, Jared Leto, Jonny Lee Miller, Jonathon Schaech. She was allowed Bale, if she backed him up with some bigger names (enter: Willem Dafoe, Reese Witherspoon). Harron then quit when the suits reneged and signed Leonardo Di Caprio as Bateman! Oliver Stone moved in. Then, Leo (getting bad Press for pushing Bale out) quit for The Beach (pushing Ewan McGregor out). Stone followed him… Ultimately, Harron and Bale were welcomed back.
- Colin Farrell, Hart's War, 2001. In one of those let’s-make-him-a-star moments (ie good agents) the unknown Irishman worked, in two years, with Tom Cruise, Joel Schumacher, Steven Spielberg, Bruce Willis... and played Jesse James! (Norton and Farrell co-starred in Pride and Glory, 2006).
- Colin Farrell, Phone Booth, 2001. And on the same day, Colin picked up another of Norton’s leavings.The big names (Jim Carrey, Will Smith) moved on. Therefore, director Joel Schumacher entrusted the almost one-man-show to the new star he had created with his 'Nam war film, Tigerland, 2000.
- Willem Dafoe, Spider-Man, 2001.
- Dan Castellaneto, The Simpsons Movie, 2001. First greenlit in 1997, the film of America’s First Family took forever to make – or, at least, to have everybody sign on for once the best of 160 scripts was chosen. As usual, Castellaneto supplied Homer’s voice - plus 20 others (!), including reworking Norton’s Woody Allenish Panicky Man. Film was finally released in 2007.
- Ben Affleck, Daredevil, 2002. In the DD loop for MM, the blind hero Matt Murdock: Norton, Matt Damon, Vin Diesel, Colin Farrell, Guy Pearce, Patrick Wilson. Diesel preferred The Chronicles of Riddick. Norton became The Incredible Hulk in 2007. Affleck (a future Batman) proved more dumb than blind.
- Eric Bana, Hulk, 2002. Not seen as good enough (or too good?) for the big green guy’s movie, Norton eventually won the titular Bruce Banner in the 2007 reboot, The Incredible Hulk. Neither version matched the box-office clout of the Bat, Iron, Spider, Super or X Men.
- John Cusack, The Runaway Jury, 2003. One of four films coming his way in 1999. He wasn’t keen then - nor when it finally left the starting blocks. The fact that director Joel Schumacher quit proved that John Grisham’s same-again books were beginning to bore.Joel had directed two: The Client, 1994,and (with enormous casting hassles with Grisham) A Time To Kill, 1996.
- Tom Cruise, Collateral, 2004. A far better idea than little Tommy as an ice-coldhit-man killing 16 people in one night. “Fame is very corrosive and you have to guard very strictly against it.”
- Cillian Murphy, Red Eye, 2004. Horrorsmith Wes Craven also saw Kevin Bacon, Nic Cage, Willem Dafoe, Ray Liotta, John Malkovich, Sean Penn, Michael Pitt and John Travolta. Craven said Murphy’s eyes won the creepy....Jackson Rippner.(Geddit?)
- Marton Csokas, Kingdom of Heaven, 2005. He was seen about playing Guy de Lusignan ... and held out forthe role ofBaldwin IV. He refused a credit, shooting the role inside two weeks - behind a mask to hide the Jerusalem king’sleprosy.
- Aaron Eckhart, The Dark Knight, 2007.
- Patrick Wilson, Lakeview Terrace, 2007. Had talks (so did Ashton Kutcher) about playing half of an inter-racial couple moving next door to, unfortunately for them, Samuel Jackson’s sociopathic cop. Neil LaBute directed the rare account of a black racist.
- Ben Affleck, State of Play, 2008. Nothing buttrouble for the Hollywood re-hash ofthe greatBBC TV thriller.First Brad Pit dropped out, subbedby Russell Crowe - then Pitt’s co-star Norton quit as the delays interfered with his commitment to Leaves of Grass.
- Josh Brolin, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, 2009. Ed is great with baddiesbut... director Oliver Stone decided upon his Wfrom his2008 study of George W Bush. The sub-title stems from a Michael Douglas-as-Gordon-Gekko line in the first, 1987 film.
- Mark Ruffalo, The Avengers, 2010.
“It's like Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet - a new actor gets a crack at it every year.” Ruffalo on becoming the fourth Incredible Hulk in four movies after Marvel dropped Norton - not “based on monetary factors, but instead rooted in the need for an actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented cast members.” Norton’s agent, Brian Swardstrom, was furious, such comments were “unprofessional, disingenuous and clearly defamatory.” Norton and director Joss Whedon had a “very good meeting,” with the deal only falling apart after weeks of “civil, uncontentious discussions In 2010, he said on Facebook: “It hasn't turned out as we all hoped.” By 2014, the story was that he’d experimented with the role and really, really enjoyed it but desired wanted more diversity. “You can do anything once… If you do it too many times, it can become a suit that’s hard to take off.” He added he could never have made his three big indies - Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Moonrise Kingdom - within Marvel’s paramaters. Rubbish! Ruffalo managed three with no hassles: Begin Again, Foxcatcher and HBO’s The Normal Heart.
- Gary Oldman, Robocop, 2013. Norton refused to be Norton… Dr Dennett Norton, the ethically-ambiguous creator of the half-cop-half-machine for Detroit’s OmniCorp, circa 2028, in the weak-kneed robo-reboot.