Christopher Reeve (1952-2004)
- Patrick Duffy, The Man From Atlantis, TV, 1977-1978. But then Duffy tested, not in a swimsuit, but in his Fruit of the Loom briefs...
- Keith Carradine, Pretty Baby, 1977. The subject was horrendous - a prostitute allowing her 12-year-old daughter’s virginity to be auctioned off in a brothel in the red-light district of New Orleans, circa 1917. French director Louis Malle saw 28 hopefuls and/or instant (parental) refusals for little Violet… 15 actresses for her mother… and 15 guys for for the real life , misshapen, hydrocephallic photographer Ernest J. Bellocq, whose Storyville work of the epoch influenced the style of the surprisingly elegant film. Robert Redford was first choice, Jack Nicholson second. Before falling for Carradine, Malle saw Reeve (busy planning to make us believe a man could fly), Albert Brooks, James Caan, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Malcolm McDowell (the only Brit short-listed), Al Pacino, Christopher Reeve (planning to make us believe a man could fly), John Travolta (more into Grease)… plus such flat out surprises as Joe Pesci, Burt Reynolds, Sylvester Stallone (prepping FIST), and even Christopher Walken.
- Christopher Atkins, The Blue Lagoon, 1979. Or no briefs at all... Too busy with Superman to be theteenager (!) shipwrecked on a desert isle with Brooke Shields.And Grease director Randal Kleiser wanted them both naked. (They were not).
- Jack Nicholson, The Shining, 1979.
Judging them solely on Taxi Driver and Mork & Mindy, Stanley Kubrick said Robert De Niro was not psychotic enough while Robin Williams was too much so! Although Kubrick’s only choice was Nicholson, Warner Bros also suggested Reeve, Harrison Ford or Martin Sheen. . Plus Martin Sheen (who’d already made it… as Apocalypse Now!). (He later made Stephen King’s Dead Zone in 1983). Or even the funny Chevy Chase and Leslie Nielsen (what were they smoking?) Author King said “normal looking” Michael Moriarty or Jon Voight going mad would work better than Jack. Didn’t matter who was Jack Torrance as Kubrick, usually so blissfully right about everything, had clearly lost it. He insisted on up to 70 takes for some scenes (three days and 60 doors for “Here’s Johnny!”), reducing Shelley Duvall and grown men, like Scatman Crothers at 69, to tears. “Just what is it that you want, Mr Kubrick?” He didn’t know. He was, quite suddenly, a director without direction. Result: a major disappointment. Not only for Stephen King but the rest of us. Harry Dean Stanton escaped being Lloyd, the bartender. By making a real horror film. Alien.
- John Travolta, Urban Cowboy, 1980. Chris was flavour of the week after Superman."Throw out the garbage," hetold his agent as the offers piled up. "Feel free to make a bonfire."Supie walked and Travolta danced in from...
- Richard Gere, American Gigolo, 1980. “The biggest star in the world at the time” split for all kinds of true/false reasons - apparently John Travolta wanted no nudity and final cut (!) or simply a break as his girlfriend had just died. “We had a weekend to go get another actor,” co-producer Jerry Bruckheimer told Deadline Hollywood’s Mike Fleming Jr in December 2013. “The studio wanted Christopher Reeve because he was Superman …the perfect star. But he didn’t really fit the part. ["I found the story of a man servicing older women for money quite distasteful"]. We focused on convincing Richard Gere, but we didn’t tell Paramount. And so Monday morning, we go into the office and said that Reeve had passed but we got Gere. He’d just come off Looking For Mr. Goodbar, so he was a hot commodity. They said fine, but you have to cut the budget. We did, and got the movie made.” Reeve felt most of his offers were "just weird." Within a few years, he was sinking in Somewhere In Time, Deathtrap, Monsignor. "I've not made intelligent choices."
- William Hurt, Body Heat, 1981. "I didn't think I'd be convincing as a seedy lawyer." The role went to one of his Juilliard classmates.Their teacher, John Houseman, had told him: "Mr. Reeve, it's very important that you become a serious actor. Unless, of course, they offer you a load of money to do something else."That is exactly what happened to Houseman in 1973, when The Paper Chase led to an Oscarand a whole new acting career...46 role in 15 years!
- Robin Williams, The World According To Garp, 1981. Reeve lost out to his old Julliard room-mate for novelist John Irving’s creation of TS Garp. The two actors were friends for life, with Robin helping to cover Chris’ medical expenses and dedicating his Cecil B DeMille award to Reeve.
- Sean Penn, Fast Times At Ridgemont High, 1981. One among severalseen by director Amy Heckerlingfor Spicoli.
- Tom Hanks, Splash, 1983. He backed away wanting something more... substantial. Hanks said he was the eleventh actor seen for Allen Bauer.
- Mel Gibson, The Bounty, 1983. Directing legend David Lean was always high on Reeve's must list. Katharine Hepburn lobbied for him to be Fletcher Christian but Lean's twin-film version never happened. And Reeve wasn't keen on Roger Donaldson's salvaged version."Christian was knocked out by the exotica of the South Seas," said Lean (who had also been offered the 1962 re-make),"and Bligh couldn't help but disapprove.I was raised as a Quaker. I know about these things."
- William Hurt, Children of a Lesser God,1984. Despite great reviews in The Bostonians, he was stilltoo Supie. When he tried Tolstoi and Jacqueline Bisset's Anna Karenina, one critic called him Clark Kentovich.
- Michael Douglas, Romancing The Stone, 1984. He said no? OK then,saidthe producer, I'lldo it,.
- Jack Nicholson Prizzi’s Honour, 1984. ”Do I ice her? Do I marry her?” Conundrum for Charley Partanna, hit-man for the Prizzi Family, when he falls for a fellow contractor: Kathleen Turner. John Huston had ten other Charley notions, each as mad as the other. Italians Al Pacino, Sylvester Stallone, even John Travolta made more sense than, say, Reeve (!), Tom Hanks, Dustin Hoffman, Bill Murray, Ryan O’Neal, Christopher Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight. Of course, Nicholson was the unlikeliest Brooklyn Mafioso since the Corleones' James Caan, but terrific… because Huston kept reminding him: ”Remember, he’s stupid!”
- Mel Gibson, Lethal Weapon, 1986. Again, he ached for something stronger, harder...
- Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Running Man, 1987. OK, it was Stephen King, not Shakespeare but he had bills to pay. From three homes, various planes and a 40ft yacht .
- Arnold Schwarzenegger, Total Recall, 1989. After 42 drafts, no third act and one bankruptcy, Total Recall was total madness… Italian cinemogul Dino De Laurentiis’ never-ending Martian thriller was nearly made by Dreyfuss in Italy, Patrick Swayze in Australia… and William Hurt for Canadian director David Cronenberg… Next up for the heroics were Jeff Bridges, Christopher Reeve, Tom Selleck before almost becoming a B-movie with little Matthew Broderick (!) or Mark Harmon (cheapest on the list). Then, Dino went belly-up enabling Arnold to take over (Dino had refused to audition him!) and move Mars to Mexico where everyone got the touristas except him - he had his food, water, B12 shots flown in from home after a rotten Mexperience during Predator, 1986.
- Michael Douglas, Fatal Attraction, 1987.
- Richard Gere, Pretty Woman, 1989.
- Richard Gere, Internal Affairs, 1989. UK director Mike Figgis said Paramount wanted Mel Gibson or Kurt Russell (big hits in ’88’s Tequila Sunrise) as the badass cop-cum-hit man. “If we’d hired a movie star to play Peck,” noted producer Frank Mancuso Jr, “we might not have been able to so successfully explore the darkness of the character.” Some 19 other stars - Reeve, Alec Baldwin, Tom Berenger, Jeff Bridges, Pierce Brosnan, Kevin Costner, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Ed Harris, William Hurt, Don Johnson, Tommy Lee Jones, Michael Keaton, Nick Nolte, Al Pacino, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, John Travolta… and four outsiders Richard Dean Anderson, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Ron Silver - all passed Peck to Gere for a double whammy comeback with Pretty Woman. “I’ve never been away,” snapped Gere. Oh, but he had. Almost to Palookaville.
- Tom Hanks, Bonfire of the Vanities, 1990. "I made an impassioned plea... and they said: you'd be absolutely perfect! But no way!"What they meant, said Reeve was: You've not had a hit intwo years. Hah! Apart from the show-off opening steadycam sequence, Brian De Palma never did anything right with this film - starting with absurd casting.
- Tom Skerritt, Picket Fences, TV, 1992-1995. He refused the ageing Sheriff Brocktrying to keep the peace in the small town of bizarre and violent crimes. David E Kelley’s series ran untilthe very year when Reeve was paralysed in a horse riding accident.
- Jeremy Irons, Die Hard With A Vengeance, 1994. "The way to cast me is as someone you would not suspect, who seemsto be onthe right side but is up to no good. I wouldn't want to do anything bland."
- Nick Nolte, Jefferson In Paris, 1995. "I'm just beginning to get the hang of it," he ruminated when he lost one Merchant-Ivory film - and was promised another...
- Sam Waterston, The Proprietor, 1995. Paralysed for life after a horse-riding accident, Chris was replaced by an actor who was far closer to critic Stanley Kauffman'slabel for Reeve as an "old cement block." (Reeve re-made Rear Window in 1998- in his wheelchair).
- Armand Assante, Kidnapped, TV, 1995. Reeve had been booked as the cinema’s eleventh Alan Breck Stewart until his horse-riding accidenty. Producer Francis Coppola sent for Reeves' co-star from Above Suspicion -an Irish-Italian as the Scottish hero Alan Breck Stewart.
- Gary Oldman, Hannibal, 2001. Refused the (bedridden) evil millionaire Mason Verger, horribly disfigured (no eyelids, no lips, no face) after his first encounter with Hannibal Lecter. Oldman declined billing in whatChicago critic Roger Ebert called a carnival geek show.