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Kurt Russell


  1. Nicholas Hammond, The Sound of Music, 1965.      What better place   for an ex-Disney moppet  than being in director Robert Wise’s loop for Friedrich Von Trapp along with Richard Dreyfuss and all the Osmond brothers except the way too young Donny.
  2. Harrison Ford, Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope,  1976.
  3. Sam J Jones, Flash Gordon, 1979.        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!
  4. Klinton Spilsbury, The Legend of the Lone Ranger, 1980.  After bringing Lassie back alive, producer Jack Wrather aimed to do the same for The Lone Ranger. The first film was about a dog. The second was a dog. (Even worse than Johnny Depp’s 2012 mess).  Instead of the perfect Russell, or Bruce Boxleitner, Stephen Collins or Nicholas Guest,, Jack Wrather ruined it with his unknown lead - surely the only person on the planet to spell Clinton with a K. He spent so much time boozing and brawling that the crew called him “the asshole in the mask.” He never made another move and yet…  taught acting at the Herpolscheimer Academy in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. How many students quit after seeing his movie is not on record.
  5. Michael Keaton, Night Shift, 1981.     John Belushi passed (too Animal House?) and then ODed during the shoot ofactor-turned-director Ron Howard’s first major Hollywood (ie non-Roger Corman) movie.  Ron tested 40 of almost 200 actors for Bill Blazejowski, running a hooker call-out service from the city morgue!   Eight of them (Russell, Mickey Rourke included) read scenes with Howard’s Happy Daysco-star, Henry Winkler, already given the choice of “Blaze” or his boss, Chuck Lumley. He chose wimpish Lumley, way less cool than his Fonzie on TV.  Or as he precised: “I thought I’d play Richie Cunningham for once.”
  6. Richard Gere, An Officer and a Gentleman, 1981.  The way too busy Jeff Bridges (in three films that year) was director Taylor Hackford’s first Zack Mayo.  Dennis Quaid and Christopher Reeve were seen. John Denver, Kurt Russell, John Travolta and Ken Wahl simply refused.Hackford said that Bill Treusch, manager of Eric Roberts, got in the way of any possible director-actor teamanship. “Gere turned this down eight or nine times,” recalled director Taylor Hackford. Until producer Don Simpson “just madehim do it.”So it was Gere who literally swept Debra Winger off her feet. Denver never looked strong enough to sweep her carpet.
  7. Jeff Bridges, The Last Unicorn, 1981.    Russell, Michael Crawford and Richard Harris were the mixed bag (and ages) to voice Prince Lir in the toon based on the book (and script) by Peter S Beagle.
  8. Chuck Norris, Code of Silence, 1984.  When Clint Eastwood passed on what was first called Dirty Harry IV: Code of Silence, the next rewrite of George LaFountaine’s 1976 French book, Le Pétard recalcitrant, was offered to Jeff Bridges Charles Bronson, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Gene Hackman, Tommy Lee Jones, Kris Kristofferson, Nick Nolte, Kurt Russell and Jon Voight. Coming so soon after Burt Reynolds’ Dirty Harryish Sharkey’s Machine, 1981, this one was put down as Dirty Chuckie
  9. 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.
  10. 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

  11. Mel Gibson, Lethal Weapon, 1986.   Russell turned down Martin Riggs … and then  played him, anyway…   His Gabriel Cash in Tango and Cash, 1989, was based on Riggs as writer Jeffrey Boam worked on both  movies.In all, 39 possibilities for the off-kilter, ’Nam vet cop Martin Riggs - not as mentally-deranged as in early drafts (he used a rocket launcher on one guy!)  Some ideas were inevitable: Alec Baldwin, Michael Biehn (shooting Aliens), Jeff Bridges, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Al Pacino, Sean Penn, William Petersen, Dennis Quaid, Christopher Reeve, Kurt Russell, Charlie Sheen, Sylvester Stallone, John Travolta, Bruce Willis. Some were inspired: Bryan Brown, Nicolas Cage, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum (he inherited Gibson’s role in The Fly),  William Hurt (too dark for Warner Bros), Michael Keaton, Michael Madsen, Liam Neeson, Eric Roberts. Some were insipid: Jim Belushi, Pierce Brosnan, Kevin Costner, Kevin Kline, Stephen Lang, Michael Nouri (he joined another  cop duo in The Hidden),  Patrick Swayze. Plus TV cops  Don  Johnson, Tom Selleck… three foreign LA cops:  Austrian Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dutch Rutger Hauer and French Christophe(r) Lambert. And the inevitable (Aussie) outsider Richard Norton. Finally, Riggs went to Russell’s 1988 co-star in Tequila Sunrise.    
  12. Robert De Niro, Midnight Run,1987.   There were 23 possibilites for the lean, mean  skip-tracer (tracing felons who skipped bail) - on the run from the  FBI and the Mob after capturing Vegas embezzler Charles Grodin. Who knew De Niro could be more subtle at comedy than… Russell, Jeff Bridges, Charles Bronson, Michael Douglas, Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Don Johnson, Tommy Lee Jones, Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Ryan O’Neal (!), Al Pacino, Burt Reynolds, Mickey Rourke, John Travolta, Jon Voight and even the musclebound Arnie and Sly - Schwarzenegger and Stallone. Director Martin Brest, that’s who.
  13. Roddy Piper, They Live, 1987.   The pitch was fine: Drifter finds some sunglasses that let him to see that aliens have taken over the Earth. And, apparently, the film.  Lousy! Which is probably why 18 other big guns, said nadato being Nada: Alec Baldwin, Michael Biehn, Jeff Bridges, Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Tommy Lee Jones, Michael Keaton, Christophe(r) Lambert, Dolph Lundgren, Bill Paxton, Ron Perlman, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Patrick Swayze, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis (plus three mere pistols: Brian Bosworth, Bruce Campbell, Stephen Lang). And the less said about Russell’s wrestler replacement, the better.“Just John Carpenter as usual,” said the Washington Post, “trying to dig deep with a toy shovel.”After four films together, director Carpenter benched d Russell for his next one, Shadow Company, which after this flop  just never happened…
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. Michael Rooker, Days of Thunder, 1989.    Tom Cruise wanted Russell for Rowdy Burns, one of his foes in the NASCAR racetrack thriller. Russell was no fool. He knew on which side the toast was buttered. This twas another formulaic, all-about-Tom tale - another cocky young talent, with an older mentor, older (even taller) woman, and surpassing his enemies… literally, in this chapter, at Daytona. Tarantino (ironically, a Russell fan) loved it, suggesting it was what Grand Prix, 1966, and Le Mans, 19790, should have been.
  17. 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. 
  18. 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!
  19. Sam Neil, Jurassic Park, 1992    
  20. 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.

  21. Keanu Reeves, Speed, 1993.  There were 30 stars queuing for Die Hard On A Bus. From A Listers Jeff Bridges, Kevin Costner, Tom Cruise, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks, Kurt Russell, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Patrick Swayze, even Mr Die Hard, himself, Bruce Willis… to the B group: Kevin Bacon,three Baldwin brothers (Alec, Stephen and William), Michael Biehn, Bruce Campbell, George Clooney, Johnny Depp, Richard Dreyfuss, Michael Keaton, Christophe(r) Lambert, Viggo Mortensen, Dennis Quaid, Mickey Rourke, Tom Selleck… and two also-rans  Bruce  Campbell and Chuck Norris.  All crushed by a whippersnapper!
  22. Michael Keaton, The Paper, 1993.    For another of his tepid movies, director Ron Howard mused over Russell, Alec Baldwin, Kevin Costner, Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, John Travolta andRobin Williams for Henry Hackett, the New York Sun‘s metro editor...  who tells his editor-in-chief (a superb Robert Duvall - is there any other kind?): “Every day I’m behind from the minute I get up.”
  23. Tim Allen, The Santa Clause, 1994.   The guy who accidentally kills Santa (it was shootinghim, but Disney wasn’t having that) and take over his duties was penned for for Bill Murray. “Not my kind of humour,” he retorted.  Next in line:Allen, Rowan Atkinson, Jim Carrey, Richard Gere, Steve Guttenberg, Tom Hanks, Robin Williams.  Plus eight  Batman candidates:  Russell, Alec Baldwin, Jeff Bridges, Pierce Brosnan, Michael J Fox, Mel Gibson, Patrick Swayze and the winning Michael  Keaton.
  24. 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.
  25. Alec Baldwin,The Simpsons #208:  When You Dish Upon A Star,TV, 1998.  Since its 1989 birth, the yellowtoon family Simpson smashed records for episodes, audiences, and the most guest stars (as themselves or others). Not all celebs played ball.  Bruce Willis refused a second invite - and his then-wife, Demi Moore, with him. Other candidates for the celeb couple were Tom Cruise-Nicole Kidman, Kurt Russell-Goldie Hawn… and Alec Baldwin-Kim Basinger, who said: Sure! Eventually leading Baldwin’s unknown funny-bone into 30 Rock, 2006-2013.
  26. Bob Peck, Jurassic Park, 1992.
  27. Brendan Fraser, The Mummy, 1998. A surprise winner, particularly as it starred Fraser instead of…  Ben Affleck or Matt Damon (they’d just won their Good Will Hunting script Oscars), Evil Dead’s Bruce Campbell (his first studio offer), Leonardo DiCaprio (keen but tied to The Beach), the unknown Stephen Dunham (instead, he debuted as Henderson), Matthew McConaughey, Chris O’Donnell, Brad Pitt, Kurt Russell, Sylvester Stallone and the star of the 2016 flop, Tom Cruise. Not as the titular Imhotep, of course,  but the heroic Indiana…er… Rick O’Connell.
  28. 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 voicing Commander Lyle Tiberius Rourke.
  29. 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.
  30. 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.”

  31. Gary Oldman, Batman Begins, 2004.
  32. 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.
  33. 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?
  34. 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.
  35. Laurence Fishburne, CSI: Criminal Scene Investigation, TV, 2008-2011.     Who could  succeed William Petersen at the Las Vegas PD CSI unit? Russell, Fishburne, or John Malkovich?
  36. Bruce Willis, The Expendables, 2009.     “I came, I saw, I failed.” Auteur and top star Sylvester Stallone was “taken aback” on being snubbed by his old Tango & Cash co-star when asking him to join his testosterone movie as Mr Church, the McGuffin 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 to Quentin Tarantino’s offer to join his Django Unchained Western in  2012.But agreed to  grow a mammoth moustache for QT’s next Western, The Hateful Eight, 2015. 

  37. 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.

  38. Kevin Costner, Man of Steel, 2011.
  39. Daniel Craig, Cowboys and Aliens, 2011.       The great title (better than the movie) had been stuck in Development Hell since 1997 which explains why such "superstars" as Brendan Fraser, Chuck Norris and Mr T (!) were invited to saddle up as the outlaw hero Jake Lonergan. So were Russell, Jackie Chan, Robert Downey Jr, Bill Paxton and Bruce Willis.
  40. James Remar, Django Unchained, 2012.
  41. Josh Brolin, Deadpool 2, 2017.   With Ryan Reynolds reigning supreme as the wise-cracking, cancer-ridden, super smart-ass hero, who could oppose him as Cable, the heftily armed cyborg? (“You’re dark - sure you’re not from the DC Universe?” our Marvel hero asks him). Deadpool creator Rob Liefeld wanted Russell Crowe - and even after Brolin signed, pushed for Jon Hamm. Other Mr Impregnable ideas included Alec Baldwin, Pierce Brosnan, David Harbour, Stephen Lang, Brad Pitt (he shot his Vanisher cameo in two hours), Michael Shannon and the wrinkly brigade (yawn) Mel Gibson, Dolph Lundgren, Ron Perlman, Kurt Russell, Arnold Schawarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis. Already Marvel’s villain Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War, Brolin had a four-film deal, to reveal more about Cable and, doubtless, extra gags about his stepmother Barbra Streisand’s 1982 Yentl.










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