- John Phillip Law, The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming, 1966. Almost his screen debut as a handsome Russian submariner.
- Terence Stamp, Far From The Madding Crowd, 1966. Stamp always said that director John Schlesinger first wanted Jon Voight for Sergeant Troy. Hmm, two years before they made Midnight Cowboy???
- Charles Bronson, Città violenta (UK: Violent City; US: The Family), Italy-France, 1969. As a switch from his spaghetti West, Rome director Sergio Sollima tried an urban thriller - Quentin Tarantino called it a re-hash of Jacques Tourneur’s Out of the Past. Replacing 1947’s Jane Greer-Robert Mitchum with Florinda Bolkan-Tony Musante or Sharon Tate- Voight. Until Bronson became the betrayed hit-man, inevitably insisting on his wife…as his double-crosser. Sollima loved them. “A weird couple, the coal-miner and the chic English woman.”
- Ryan O'Neal, Love Story, 1970.
- Kris Kristofferson, Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid, 1972.
- Harvey Keitel, Mean Streets, 1973. New York director Martin Scoresese talked with Voight about Charlie and he quit on the eve of shooting, preferring to be the teacher in Conrack - so saintly that had the role been black, it would have been Sidney Poitier. Scorsese kept the faith with the actor he found for Who's That Knocking At My Door?
- Paul Williams, Phantom of the Paradise, 1973. Gerrit Graham talked of musical chairs casting: Paul Williams for Winslow, Graham as Swan, Boyle for Beef - nothing for William Finley, even though his pal, director Brian De Palma, had written Winslow for him. Stop the music! Now, Williams is Swan (Graham is Beef, Finley is Winslow. Boyle? Otherwise engaged. Finley later revealed that De Palma also considered Voight for Swan, the manipulative, Dorian Grayish rock icon, first called Spectre, after Phil Spector. Prophetic!
- Richard Dreyfuss, Jaws, 1974.
- Jack Nicholson, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, 1974.
- Gene Hackman, Lucky Lady, 1975. Unlike many of Jon's decisions, refusing this offer from Deliverance pal, Burt Reynolds, was absolutely correct.
- Robert De Niro, Taxi Driver, 1975.
- Michael York, Logan's Run, 1976. Or Brits' Run as three of the top four roles were filled by York, Jenny Agutter, Peter Ustinov - under a UK helmer, Michael Anderson. MGM's first choices had been Voight and Lindsay Wagner.
- Richard Burton, The Exorcist II: The Heretic, 1976.
- Bruce Dern, Coming Home, 1978. They swopped roles, Dern becoming Jane Fonda’s militarist husband, Jon her paraplegic lover. He told director Hal Ashby: “This role should be played by a lover, Hal. And I am a lover!” He next badgered producer Jerome Hellman. “In the end, he was right. Brilliant performance.” And Oscar agreed.
- Roy Scheider, All That Jazz, 1979. When director Bob Fossewas convinced (by his health) not to try and play his screen self, Broadway choreographer Joe Gideon was chased and/or avoided by… Voight, Alan Alda, Alan Bates (“too British,” said Fosse), Warren Beatty (keen, but Gideon must not die at the end!), Robert Blake, Richard Dreyfuss (“afraid of the dancing”), Elliott Gould, Gene Hackman, Jack Lemmon (“too old”), Paul Newman (“Dumb of me… a terrible oversight”), Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, George Segal. Scheider just grabbed it. “Outrageous, assaulting, melodramatic, very funny, stupid, silly, simplistic, vulgar - a wonderful movie!” Exactly.
- Dustin Hoffman, Kramer vs Kramer, 1979. Another battle for the Midnight Cowboys.
- Bruce Dern, Middle Age Crazy, Canada, 1979. Dern learned from swopping the Coming Home roles with Voight. “I was second on the list and I wouldn’t let ’em pass to the third. I couldn’t afford to let this film go." Audiences did.
- Jack Nicholson, The Shining, 1979.
Author Stephen King desperately tried to talk iconic director Stanley Kubrick out of Jack. The author (rightly) felt Michael Moriarty or Voight “were normal-looking while Nicholson would appear crazy from the start.” Judging them 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 Harrison Ford, Christopher Reeve. 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?) 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.
- Michael Caine, The Hand, 1981. Cartoonist loses hand in an accident. The dismembered limb goes on a murderous rampage. “I liked the idea,” said Oliver Stone of his writer-directing debut. “But I didn’t feel passionate about it.” Nor did Voight, Dustin Hoffman or Christopher Walken.
- Jacques Perrin, Les quarantièmes rugissants/The Roaring 40s, France, 1982. Actor-producer Jacques Perrin (Z, etc), pondered on Nicholson and Voight And then shaved the tight budget by playing the cheating yachtsman, himself - opposite Julie Christie.
- John Cassavetes, Love Streams, 1984. “John Cassavetes wanted to develop the picture with me acting in it. I wanted to direct him in it."” Hmm, good idea but if anyone was going to direct Cassavetes, it would be Cassavetes... in what became his last film, his tenth with wife Gena Rowlands.
- Albert Finney, Pope John Paul II, TV, 1984. Voight was first choice to be the Pope but passed to Albie. After John Paul’s death two decades later, Voight played the Pontiff (Ian Holm passed) in John Kent Harrison’s TV re-make, 2005.
- 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, Voight, Tom Hanks, Dustin Hoffman, Bill Murray, Ryan O’Neal, Christopher Reeve (!), 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!”
- Michael Douglas, Fatal Attraction, 1987.
- Michael J Fox, Casualties of War, 1989. Al Pacino and Voight were among copy-cat director Brian De Palma’s first choices. If only they had made it...!
- Tommy Lee Jones, Lonesome Dove, TV, 1989. Refused the role of ex-Texas Ranger Captain Woodrow F Call, written by Larry McMurtry for John Wayne in 1971. That was Peter Bogdanovich’s idea as a final Western for Duke, Henry Fonda and James Stewart. (Wayne and, thereby the others, were warned off by a jealous John Ford). Voight learned his lesson and played Call in the unofficial (non-McMurtry) sequel, Return to Lonesome Dove, 1993. Three years later, Voight’s ex-son-in-law, UK actor Jonny Lee Miller, played the young Call in the official McMurtry prequel, Dead Man’s Walk.
- Stephen Tobolowsky, Thelma & Louise, 1990.
- Tommy Lee Jones, The Fugitive, 1993. Jones won a support Oscar (and a sequel, US Marshals) as the Les Miserables-inspired Samuel Gerard, hunting Dr Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) . Gene Hackman had also been suggested. A few years earlier, they would have been offered Kimble.
- Tom Cruise, Interview With the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, 1994.
- Willem Dafoe, Victory, 1996. Among Louis Malle’s 1978 choices for Axel inhis 20-year-old dream project - the Joseph Conrad classic. (Plus Sean Connery, Paul Newman or Robert Redford). But Paramount was not as keen as it had been for its 1940 version. Gradually, shooting was planned, a France-Australia-Germany-Canada co-production (with Voight), in Indonesia and the Philippines, forJuly-September 1979. Malle and his new lover (and co-scripter) Susan Sarandon went to Atlantic City, instead.
- Eric Roberts, Doctor Who (The Movie), TV, 1996.
- Peter Fonda, Ghost Rider, 2006. The role? Mephisto, aka Mephistopheles, who gives Johnny Blaze back his soul as he becomes the titular supernatural agent of vengeance and justice. In short, Nic Cage is, finally, a superhero. Yawn!! “I waited too long for things to come along,” said Voight. “I have a perfectionist mentality, I want things to be right. But I’ve had a little duel over the years with that mentality. Because it can inhibit you.”