- Eddie Murphy, 48 Hrs, 1982. Murphy admitted that he was the "fourth or fifth" choice for the role, after Gregory Hines, Richard Pryor, Howard E Rollins Jr and D - Denzel.
- Richard Gere, Pretty Woman, 1989.
- Dennis Haysbert, Love Field, 1990. "It was Michelle Pfeiffer's film - that was fine. I was just a guy who helped the story move along." He tried working with director and writer on polishing the script - "they never got it right and I literally got sick" - recalling the objections to his previous inter-racial love scenes with Mimi Rogers in The Mighty Quinn, 1989. His replacement, Eric La Salle (later an ER star) was replaced by Haysbert (later a 24 star) and due to Orion's collapse, the release was delayed two years.
- Wesley Snipes, Jungle Fever, 1990. At last count, Denzel and Spike Lee made four films together, but not this one - the big breakthrough for Snipes... as Flipper Purify.
- Joe Morton, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, 1990. D passed on Miles Bennett Dyson. "No offence to [director] Jim Cameron but when I read the script… all he does is look scared and sweat." And so, like, Hasta la vista, Jim-baby.
- James Caan, Misery, 1990. "The idea of playing a victim didn't appeal to a lot of people," said director Rob Reiner explaining such refusniks as D, Warren Beatty, Jeff Daniels, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Richard Dreyfuss, Harrison Ford, Gene Hackman, Ed Harris, John Heard, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Klein, Kevin Kline, Ed O’Neill, Al Pacino, Robert Redford, John Ritter. How come Caan agreed "I think he wanted the work."
- Wesley Snipes, White Men Can't Jump, 1992. Fox wanted D but the Snipes audition "just knocked me out," writer-director Ron Shelton told me in Deauville. France. "Everyone was saying: 'Who's Wesley Snipes?' The other guy in Mo' Better Blues! 'Oh yeah!' When we were making the movie, New Jack City and Jungle Fever came out and it was as if I'd made the obvious choice. I had, of course. I cast him first. He's so strong, just blows people away - like Jimmy Cagney!"
- Kevin Costner, The Bodyguard, 1992. Once Witney Houston entered the picture, D was on guard duty. But he went with the film that he and Spike Lee were born to make. Malcolm X.
- Samuel L Jackson, Amos and Andrew, 1993. One Spike Lee favourite succeeds another - as Jackson's star rises after winning the first best supporting actor award at the Cannes festival for Jungle Fever in 1991.
- John Travolta, Pulp Fiction, 1993.
- Kevin Costner, A Perfect World, 1993. Director Clint Eastwood's initial choice; his second asked him to co-star - taking second billing for time time in 24 years
- Brad Pitt, Se7en, 1994. “Too dark and evil.” Washington later regretted passing in for young cop David Mills investigating murders inspired by the seven deadly sins. So, he played a different detective that year in Devil In A Blue Dress.
- Dustin Hoffman, Outbreak, 1995. D went to sea on a Crimson Tide leaving Hoffman 24 hours to agree to playing his first action hero. "I never get offered those parts," he told German director Wolfgang Petersen. "The audience would be intrigued if it was you," said Petersen. "They woudn't know whether you were going to survive or not, whereas with other people, there's no doubt they're going to make it."
- Gregory Hines, Waiting To Exhale, 1995. Too busy with Virtuosity.
- Morgan Freeman, Kiss The Girl, 1996. Schedules interfered, happily, asFreeman was perfect as writer James Patterson’s Washington DC detective Dr Alex Cross.He was Cross again in Along Came A Spider, 2000.
- Djimon Hounsou, Amistad, 1997. Wise to pass. Steven Spielberg never got a real a lock on it.
- Wesley Snipes, Blade, 1997. Director David S Goyer couldn't see anyone other Snipes as Eric Brooks, aka Blade., the vampire slayer. The studio did and it was Denzel. Or Laurence Fishburne.
- Kevin Spacey, Play It Forward, 1999. The teacher was changed from a black Reuben St.Clair to a white Eugene Simonet when Washinghton was too busy No matter. Washington orSpacey, this was another movie owned byHayley Joel Osment, aged 12 during the shoot.
- Will Smith, Ali, 2001. While this film was in development through the 90s.. Director Oliver Stone's first choice for the life of Muhammad Ali except D was already committed to another boxer bio, The Hurricne, 1999. Stone switched to football in Any Given Sunday and Michael Mann made Ali.
- Forest Whitaker, Panic Room, 2001. His schedules cut D out of the piece. Whitaker filled in as Burnham – described as a slightly sympathetic criminal in David Fincher’s thriller.
- Jamie Foxx, Ray, 2003. US director Taylor Hackford won the rights to the Ray Charles story as far back as 1987. No studio would touch it. Well, if you can get Denzel… Couldn’t! D was not interested at all. Then along came Foxx, playing his own piano to Oscar glory on February 27, 2005.
- Bernie Mac, Mr 3000, 2004. Denzel, John Travolta and (thereby Richard Gere) were all asked to play a hated superstar who can never get into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
- Will Smith, I, Robot, 2004. OK, this was Isaac Asimov but Denzel had already had a bionic arm in Virtuosity, 1995.
- Don Cheadle, Hotel Rwanda, 2004. The Money Men clamoured for Mekhi Phifer, Will Smith, Wesley Snip[es or D. However, Irish director and co-scenarist Terry George kept the faith with Cheadle - who won his first Oscar nod as hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina, saving 1,200 Tutsis refugees from the Hutu militia in Rwanada in 1994.
- George Clooney, Michael Clayton, 2006. "The truth," screamed the poster, "can be adjusted…" So can the titular role. D passed on the fixer for Sydney Pollack’s powerful law firm, worried about the first-time director (the Bourne trilogy scenarist Tony Gilroy). Ironically, Clooney had the same doubts, before seeing the light … of his first Best Actor Oscar. Tilda Swinton won best support actress and the movie was Best Film!
- Chadwick Boseman, 42, 2012. Back in 1995, Spike Lee was thwarted in his efforts to make afilmabout the baseball icon Jackie Robinson, who broke Major League Baseball's color barrier in 1947 when joining the Brooklyn Dodgers. Obviously Spike’s Jackie was Denzel. Having won Harrison Ford for the integrationist manager Branch Rickey, director Brian Helgeland risked an unknown as the second baseman, stoically refusing to react to taunts and threats of racist fans and fellow ballplayers while opening the door for other black stars (Roy Campanella, Larry Doby, etc).Star of the 1950 pic, The Jackie Robinson Story, was #42 himself! George Clooney, Michael Clayton, 2006. "The truth," screamed the poster, "can be adjusted…" So can the titular role. D passed on the fixer for Sydney Pollack’s powerful law firm, worried about the first-time director (the Bourne trilogy scenarist Tony Gilroy). Ironically, Clooney had the same doubts, before seeing the light … of his first Best Actor Oscar. Tilda Swinton won best support actress and the movie was Best Film!
- Omar Sy, Candy Store, 2013. Enormous break for the star of the Frech Untouchables – taking over a role originally written for Washington. Sy’s co-stars included Robert De Niro.
- Idris Elba, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, 2013. Some wise guy once asked Harvey Weinstein if he “picked up Mandela because Mandela was dying?” Hah! The exec producer had been involved with the project since 1999. First with Denzel, then Morgan Freeman. Neither actor was suitable, even though Freeman played him in his pal Clint Eastwood’s Invictus, 2009. Elba was far better, particularly in shape, and above all, the voice.
- Kurt Russell, Furious 7, 2013. Kurt Russell, Furious 7, 2013. Universal suits wanted A Name to have a minor leading to something more important in the next sequel. Targets included two Oscar-winners: Washington and Halle Berry (now there’s a team!). Or Taylor Lautner (a name?). Russell played Mr Nobody as if his Tequila Surprise guy Nick Frescia had moved from LA cop to US agent.
- George Clooney, Gravity, 2013. Science fiction was not D’s thing, as proved by Virtuosity, 1994… When Robert Downey Jr ejected from the science fiction marvel (“technology and Robert are incompatible explained Alfonso Cuaron), the Mexican auteur talked “with a bunch of people” for astronaut Matt Kowalski - Kevin Costner, Daniel Craig, Russell Crowe, Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, John Travolta and Bruce Willis. Most backed off, annoyed that the woman astronaut, Sandra Bullock, had most of the film entirely to herself. “More like 2001 than an action film,” said a delighted Clooney.
- Chiwetel Ejiofor, Secret in Their Eyes, 2014. Soon as the Argentinian thriller, El secreto de sus ojos, won the 2010 Foreign Film Oscar, the Hunger Games/Captain Phillips scenarist Billy Ray started re-make plans. Despite the mighty Washington signing on, Warners dumped the project. It was three more years before Ray enticed Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts and Ejiofor aboard.