Bill Paxton (1955-2017)
- Steve Guttenberg, Cocoon, 1985. Well, he knew, no matter what director Ron Howard said, that the wrinklies would steal it.
- Lance Kinsey Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment, 1985. Paxton passed on Sergeant Proctor in the first sequel as the contract handcuffed him to all future chapters. There were five more of these Carry On Cops - each one was worse than the one before. Paxton’s agent found him something better. Alien.
- Tom Hulce, Parenthood, 1989. Another day, another Ron Howard rejection.
- Liam Neeson, Darkman, 1990. The Irishman was bigger... and able to play dark.
- Dylan McDermott, Hardware, 1990. Impossible to imagine... Bill adored Moses (space marine Moses Baxter, that is). Yet he was rejected by both the US Miramax and the UK’s Palace Pictures because (after 68 screen roles), they did not know who he was! Ron Howard could have told them.
- Bill Campbell, The Rocketeer, 1990. Johnny Depp, Vincent D’Onofrio, Emilio Estevez, Matthew Modine, Dennis Quaid, Kurt Russell were also in the Disney frame for Cliff Secord flying around 30s’ LA in Alan Arkin’s rocket backpack. When interviewing Campbell - in Paris for the opening - he told me he’d spent the previous night climbing the North face of… Notre Dame cathedral! For fun. Not a camera in sight.
- Val Kilmer, The Doors, 1991. “I read my ass off.” But director Oliver Stone could not see beyond his Navy SEALS look - moustache and short hair.
- Jeff Goldblum, Jurassic Park, 1992.
- Eric Stoltz, Pulp Fiction, 1993.
- Michael Keaton, The Paper, 1994. Ron Howard still knew him and finally had the right role for him - as astronaut Fred Haise. In his next movie, Apollo 13, 1995.
- Robin Williams, Jumanji, 1995. Two kids find a jungle board game with magic powers unleashing grotesque animalia and some poor sap trapped inside the game since playing it as a tot. Paxton, Dan Aykroyd, Sean Connery, Richard Dreyfuss, Rupert Everett, Harrison Ford, Tom Hanks, Michael Keaton, Kevin Kline, Kurt Russell, Arnold Schwarzenegger had all fled the incoherent script. Jumanji, incidentally, is Zulu for “many effects.” And how.
- Will Smith, Men in Black, 1996. First choice when Chris O'Donnell preferred sidekicking Batman IV. Then, Will moved in...
- Sean Penn, U Turn, 1997. Bill had to quit about a week before shooting with director Oliver Stone when - coincidence or what? - the first choice proved available after all.
- Chris Penn, American Pie 2, 2001. Bill did the right thing by pulling out of being Stifler's dad. Test reactions were so bad that the character was axed.
- William Sadler, The Battle of Shaker Heights, 2002. Behind the scenes of the second Project Greenlight film made by Miramax and HBOwas more suspenseful than the movie. Christopher McDonald passed on the father of the young hero’s girlfriend. Idem for Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton. Gary Cole willingly auditioned but he had no window available.On, desperately, to an unsuitable Christopher Lloyd and he settled for anothergig (how often is therea Haunted Lighthouse movie, after all?).Finally Sadler was seen, signed… and given a mere hour to bond with Shia LaBeouf before their most emotional scene.
- Tom Hanks, The Da Vinci Code, 2005. And when Billactually,finally,got a Ron Howard lead, he was tied up elsewhere. Although (the title was the star, Howard also chased George Clooney, Russell Crowe, Ralph Fiennes, Hugh Jackman...