- Nicholas Hammond, The Sound of Music, 1965. What better place for an ex-Disney moppet than the Von Trapp chorale?
- Harrison Ford, Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, 1976.
- Sam J Jones, Flash Gordon, 1980. As Italian producer Dino De Laurentiis ruined the film, changing directors from Federico Fellini to Nicolas Roeg to Mike Hodges, Russell was Dino’s favourite for the re-tread but Kurt let it go - “the character was lacking personality.” Er, wasn’t it theactor’s job to help provide that? Totally devoid of anything close to personality, Jones was recommended by Dino’s mother-in-law after loving him on…The Dating Game show!
- Christophe(r) Lambert, Highlander, 1985. Whoops! Russell’s lover, Goldie voted for John Carpenter’s Big Trouble In Little China (or Big Flop Everywhere). Consequently, Russell passed the entire McFranchise to the McFrench guy.
- Rutger Hauer, Ladyhawke, 1985. He quit before a shot was fired and helmer Richard Donner gave Navarre to Hauer. The Dutch star, quite a Paul Newman clone, had been begging for the lead instead of the Captain of the Guard he had first been signed for.
- Kevin Costner, Bull Durham, 1988. They were ex-minor league baseball players and Kurt helped writer-director Ron Shelton develop the script and was due to play Crash Davis. He loved the result so much, he wrote fan letters to both Costner and Shelton.
- 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 - 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, Christopher Reeve, 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.
- Bill Campbell, The Rocketeer, 1990. A little too old, but the ex-Disney moppet was considered before Billy - Steven Carrington's lover in Dynasty - signed for the $45m flop and never-made sequels. Kevin Costner, Johnny Depp, Vincent D’Onofrio, Emilio Estevez, Matthew Modine, Bill Paxton, Dennis Quaid 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 he’d spent the night before climbing the North face of… Notre Dame cathedral! For fun. Not a camera in sight.
- Burt Reynolds, Cop And A Half, 1992. Begged off, like Jim Belushi, from the trip for the Home Alone kid star Macauley Culkin, due for $1.5m. Big Mac felt the script wrong. Don’t mock - he wuz right!
- Sam Neil, Jurassic Park, 1992
- Jean-Claude Van Damme, Hard Target, 1993. JCVD was not director John Woo’s first choice (or anyone’s) but the suits would have to wait two years for Russell. Van did not gell with Woo, took the film from him and had his editors re-cut it. The pubic, he sid, wanted Van Damme, not (co-star) Lance Henriksen. Even if the muscles from Brussels had learned his English from The Flintstones on TV. Yabba Dabba don’t.
- 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. Russell, Dan Aykroyd, Sean Connery, Richard Dreyfuss, Rupert Everett, Harrison Ford, Tom Hanks, Michael Keaton, Kevin Kline, Bill Paxton, Arnold Schwarzenegger fled the incoherent script. Williams lapped it up. Jumanji, incidentally, is Zulu for “many effects.” And how.
- James Garner, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, 2001. Disney science fiction has never gelled until this animated feature from the Lion King/Hunchback of Notre Dame/Beauty and the Beast trio: producer Dan Hahn, directors Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise. Before settling on Garner, they listened to Russell, Jack Davenport, Tommy Lee Jones and Nathaniel Parker ll voicing Commander Lyle Tiberius Rourke.
- Johnny Depp, Once Upon A Time In Mexico, 2003. The role of Sands shifted between Kurt, Nic Cage, George Clooney, Sean Penn, Bruce Willis, before writer-director Robert Rodriguez landed Johnny Depp... who had such a ball that he asked for a second character to play. And one was found for him.
- Cole Hauser, Paparazzi, 2004. One of many thoughts for movie star Bo Laramie. Script stemmed from a paparazzi discussion between producer Mel Gibson had with fellow stars when, in a lightbulb moment, Gibson declared: “What a great revenge film this would make.”
- Gary Oldman, Batman Begins, 2004.
- Chris Cooper, Jarhead, 2004. Instead of Russell, Gary Oldman or Michael Keaton for the US marine Lieutenant-Colonel Kranksi - “You know, I should really retire because I can’t hear a fuckin’ thing!” - UK director Sam Mendes almost inevitably called upon his American Beauty Marine Colonel Fitts.
- David Morrissey, Basic Instinct 2, 2005. “I let myself down,” said Morrissey. “When it came out… I didn’t want to leave the house.It was a very bruising experience.” Among some 14 others running to Sharon Stone - or from her and the idea of playing her London shrink: Russell, Javier Bardem, Benjamin Bratt, Pierce Brosnan, Gabriel Byrne, Bernicio Del Torro, Robert Downey Jr, Aaron Eckhart, Rupert Everett (!), Bruce Greenwood, Ewan McGrgeor, Viggo Mortensen, Vincent Perezl. An obvious flop before one scene was shot in anger... As in: What can she do for an encore?
- Will Smith, I Am Legend, 2007. During the 30-year history of Warners and the Richard Matheson sf novel (two films - one Italian - ten directors), potentials for the last man on earth also included Nicolas Cage, Tom Cruise, Daniel Day-Lewis, Michael Douglas, Mel Gibson, Ted Levine, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Plus Russell until his Soldier flopped and his phones stopped ringing… Ultimately Smith had nearly made the movie in 2002 with flash-bang-wallop helmer Michael Bay - instead they played safe and flash-banged...well, no, they damp-squibebd Bad Boys II.
- Laurence Fishburne, CSI: Criminal Scene Investigation, TV, 2008-2011. Who could succeed William Petersen at the Las Vegas PD CSI unit? Russell, Fishburne, or Johnm Malkovich?
- Eric Roberts, The Expendables, 2009. “Icame, I saw, I failed.” Auteur and top star Sylvester Stallone was “taken aback” on being snubbedby his oldhis Tango & Cash-star when asking him to join his testosterone movie as Mr Church,theMcGuffin man, the guy with the laundry list, setting out the mission for Sly’s mercenaries. “Put the request in a letter to his agent” was the reply. Sly refused, called Russell’s agent anew and was told: “Kurt Russell is not interested in ensemble acting at this time.” (Is there any other kind?). He said much the same toQuentin Tarantino’s offer to join his Django Unchained Western, 2012.
- Matthew McConaughey, Killer Joe, 2011.
First mounted in Chicago in 1993, the play was called “a hideous carnival of brutality and degradation that leaves you feeling dirty.” After Bug, it became director William Friedkin’s second successive piece by actor-playwright Tracy Letts. Russell was interested in the titular Dallas cop moonlighting as a contract killer. Russell’s lover, Goldie Hawn, even said she’d leave him (after 27 years!) if he played Joe… He baled. Impressed by a McConnaughey TV interview (!), Billy gave him the script. He threw it in the trashcan and said he wanted “to take a shower with a wire brush.” Then, he read it again.
- Kevin Costner, Man of Steel, 2011.