- Jeffrey Hunter, Fourteen Hours, 1950. RJ was first chosen for Danny until it became Hunter’s screen debut. Idem for Richard Beymer, John Cassavetes, Ossie Davis, Brian Keith, Grace Kelly, Janice Rule, etc.
- James Dean, Rebel Without A Cause, 1955. Clark Gable’s ex-caddy was Warners’ oldest choice for Jim Stark at 25. And far too anyone-for-tennis for director Nicholas Ray. Wagner married Dean’s co-star (and old man Ray’s lover) Natalie Wood. Twice.
- Elvis Presely, Love Me Tender, 1956. The black-white B Western, with Richard Egan, William Campbell, James Drury and and RJ (Jeffrey Hunter or Cameron Mitchell) as Western siblings, was transformed when Hall Wallis at Paramount agreed (for a hefty fee) that Fox could take the first box-office gamble on his new contract star - as the youngest brother, whose almost blond hair was suddenly dyed pitch black for the tacked on finale of, what else, but the new Love Me Tender title song. (Try singing The Reno Brothers!). Losing one role to Dean and the next to Elvis was no way to start a career. However, RJ was still working more than 50 years later - 132 screen roles in 58 years.
- Cornel Wilde, Omar Khayyam, 1956. In the Persian frame for the poet Khayyam - and not Khaiyyam as in a 1945 film, or Khayham for a 1924 short were Wagner (too young), Rossano Brazzi, John Forsythe and John Neville.
- Pat Boone, Bernardine, 1956. RJ was Beau until Fox preferred making it Boone’s debut…. and, in her first movie since The Young in Heart, in 1937, Janet Gaynor’s finale.
- Steve Forrest, Flaming Star, 1959. At first it was Black Star, and enemies Brando and Sinatra were the half-brothers. One white, the other Kiowa Indian. For awhile, the half-Indian was for Wagner, but who could say no to Elvis…? Although hushed up by his manager, Colonel Parker, Elvis was proud of his own Cherokee roots from his maternal great-great-great grandmother Morning Dove White - and shared them with his GI Blues character. (Dolores Del Rio played Elvis’ mother; she had been as Wagner’s also Indian Ma in Broken Lance, 1953).
- Robert Conrad, Hawaiian Eye, TV, 1959-1963. Wagner was an odd choice for Thomas Jefferson Lopaka - the half-Polynesian partner of Hawaii private eye Anthony Eisley - and suggested a well beach-tanned friend.
- Tony Curtis, The Great Race, 1964. The Great Leslie nearly wasn’t the fourth movie role Curtis played for Blake Edwards. After Charlton Heston rejected it to be Michelangelo in The Agony and the Ectasy, the director wanted a younger daredevil hero: Wagner or John Derek. Head brother Jack Warner did not. It became, said Curtis. a matter of TC or no $$.
- Max von Sydow, The Greatest Story Ever Told, 1965. RJ as JC? Yes, when it was a Fox project. And he was under contract. And, therefore, cheap.
- Dean Jones, Any Wednesday, 1966. At one time, it seemed set for RJ and his pal, Frank Sinatra - vying for Jane Fonda.
- John Gavin, Thoroughly Modern Millie, 1967. The gals were great - Julie Andrews, Mary Tyler Moore. They would have been greater with RJ’s polish in the place of the granite Gavin.
- John Cassavetes, Rosemary's Baby, 1968. A surprising early choice by director Roman Polanski for his Hollywood debut was the only Hollywood guy that top showbiz lawyer Greg Bautzer knew ”who was a star without being in a movie.”
- Robert Redford, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, 1969.
- Robert Redford, The Sting, 1973.
- Christopher Reeve, Superman, 1978.
- Victor Garber, Charlie’s Angels, TV, 2011. RJ was cast as Charlie.Or, rather, as Charlie’s voice on the phone. ”Hello, Angels!” Then, well,he must have read the scripts. Garber was a proper Charlie for agreeing to such crap. IGN’s critic, Matt Fowler,called itthe worst pilot of the season, due tobad acting and writing and, anyway, he “didn't believe that these ladies could change a flat tyre, much less take down a notorious human trafficker.” Goodbye, angels...!