- Brad Davis, Midnight Express, 1978. "It was down to me and Brad, pretty nip 'n' tuck. Hell, well, they went the other way. You tell yourself: 'Well, there's a reason for that. I know there's a reason... what's the reason? Too tall. Too blond. Too dark.' I don't know of another career that has so much rejection in it." Brother Randy won a strong support role and British director Alan Parker eventually starred a dismal Dennis in Come See The Paradise, 1990.
- John Michael Graham, Halloween, 1978. Director and co-scripter John Carpenter found him a role to keep his lover happy. Except he had to leave PJ Soles for another movie. They wed, 1978-1983, using her real surname: Hardon.
- Tom Wopat, The Dukes of Hazard, TV, 1979-85.“They asked me to play Luke Duke,” recalled Quaid. “I was broke at the time and my first big film had not yet opened - Breaking Away, 1979. I asked the director, Peter Yates about it. ‘Don’t do it,’ he said. ‘A lot is gonna happen for you.” And indeed while Wopat was making 128 episodes, Quaid shot 14 screen roles, including The Right Stuff, 1983.
- John Travolta, Urban Cowboy, 1980. One that got away. Co-writer and director James Bridges had co-written it for Dennis, who had everything except Travolta’s clout.
- Richard Gere, An Officer and A Gentleman, 1982. First choice: Travolta again. Dennis read for the Zack Mayo role after Travolta bolted. So did Kevin Costner and Eric Roberts. “Gere turned thisdown eight or nine times,” recalled director Taylor Hackford. Until producer Don Simpson “just made him do it.”
- Patrick Swayze, The Outsiders, 1983. Gave up a Coppola experience to be NASA's Mr Cool, astronaut Gordon Cooper in The Right Stuff. "I'd wanted to play Gordo a year before they even thought about the movie," he told me in Bavaria, "because I read the book - and I mean, he fell asleep on the launchpad!"
- Michael Douglas, Fatal Attraction, 1987.
- Tom Cruise, Rain Man, 1988.The Babbit brothers were scripted for the Quaid brothers, Dennis reluctantly aiding an autistic Randy.
- Campbell Scott, The Sheltering Sky, 1990. Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci’s budget cuts meant William Hurt, Melanie Griffith, and Quaid, became John Malkovich, Debra Winger and Scott.So says Julidet Taylor,No one knows itbetter. She was the casting director. Author Paul Bowles also knew better: "It should never have been filmed. The ending is idiotic and the rest is pretty bad."
- Don Johnson, The Hot Spot, 1990.
Robert Mitchum was the matrix for drifter Harry Madox - and first choice in 1962. Nearly 30 years later, it was to be Mickey Rourke and Debra Winger. Or Quaid, Kevin Costner, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Tom Selleck, Sam Shepard, Patrick Swayze opposite Anne Archer, Jodie Foster, Melanie Griffith, Theresa Russell, Uma Thurman and ultimately, Virginia Madsen. Not necessarily for this movie… Replacing UK director Mike Figgis, Dennis Hopper totally changed the entire gig! In a AV Club interview, Johnson explained how three days before shooting began Dennis “called a meeting. ‘OK, we’re not making that script. We’re making this one.’And he passed a script around the table that had been written for Robert Mitchum in the ’60s... based on a book called Hell Hath No Fury… Wow! The Figgis script was really slick and cool, and it was a heist movie. But this was real noir. The guy was an amoral drifter, and it was all about how women were going to take him down… And that was the movie that we ended up making.” Hopper’s Last Tango In Texas was hailed by Chicago critic Roger Ebert as “a superior work in an old tradition.” He wuz right!
- Richard Gere, Pretty Woman, 1989.
- John Heard, Home Alone, 1990. An astonishing 37 stars (Harrison Ford, Jack Nicholson, Jessica Lange, Michelle Pfeiffer, etc) were considered for the forgetful parents - nothing roles in a film written for and duly stolen by the stranded kid, Macauley Culkin.
- Bill Campbell, The Rocketeer, 1990. The obvious flop needed something, even Quaid's cockiness, but Campbell better suited Disney's pocket and the comic-book's "regular schmo" hero. Also seen for Cliff Secord were Kevin Costner, Johnny Depp, Vincent D’Onofrio, Emilio Estevez, Matthew Modine and ex-Disney moppet Kurt Russell. When interviewing Campbell - in Paris for the opening - he told me how he’d spent the previous night climbing the North face of… Notre Dame cathedral! For fun. Not a camera in sight.
- Kevin Costner, JFK, 1991.
- Kevin Bacon, JFK, 1991.
- Michael Douglas, Basic Instinct, 1991.
- Sam Neill, Jurassic Park, 1992.
- Tom Berenger, At Play in the Fields of the Lord, 1992. One of many named - along with brother Randy - during a ten year struggle to film the Peter Matthiessen novel.
- Jeff Daniels,The Butcher's Wife, 1991. Planned opposite his wife, Meg Ryan. Instead, they returned to the screen in Flesh and Bone, 1993.
- Patrick Bergin, The Map of the Human Heart, 1992. He had been expected to substitute Willem Dafoe. "I could never hold a job for more than three months, which works out well because that's how long a movie shoots."
- Tom Hanks, Sleepless In Seattle, 1993. A surprise early idea choice (the guy wasn’t cocky!) for When Harry Met Sally Meets When Sam Met Suzy. Same writer, Nora Ephron. Same Sally - Meg Ryan in the second of three ephemeral romcoms with Tom Hanks.
- Patrick Swayze, To Wong Fu, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar, 1995. Hollywood’s first drag race for 36 years... Some guys looked too pretty: Matt Dillon, Rob Lowe, James Spader. The others? You don’t want to know!
- Don Johnson, Tin Cup, 1996. Too expensive as Kevin Costner's rival in putting balls and putting out.
- Lothaire Bluteau, Nostromo, 1996. Dennis was in heaven - selected in 1991 by his all-time favourite film-maker, David Lean.Then, sheer hell - Lean's health and financing tumbled and Joseph Conrad's novel wound up as a dismal TV mini.
- Gary Oldman, Batman Begins, 2004.
- Linus Roache, Batman Begins, 2004.
- Ioan Gruffudd, Fantastic Four, 2004. After being stymied by Roger Corman’s cheap quickie designed to retain the rights, Chris Columbus (not that one!) planned to film the Marvel comic. With the then-wed Quaid and Meg Ryan for Reed Richards and Sue Storm. Before the Welshman won the the timid, brilliant and broke scientist, other possibilities had been George Clooney, Brendan Fraser, Jeff Goldblum, Hugh Jackman, Patrick Wilson.
- Bill Paxton, Haywire, 2010. Due to his his Soul Surfer schedule, Quaid had to part company with the thriller designed by Steven Soderbergh around the redoubtable abilities of all-time Mixed Martial Arts champ, Gina Carano. Poor Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum did not stand a chance against her Muay Thai kickboxing. Preposterous magic!
- Kevin Costner, Man of Steel, 2011.