- Robbie Coltraine, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, 2001. A Hollywood director was bad enough, but Warner Bros seemed determined to ruin its hoped-for franchise by also considering a US cast: Liam Aiken as Harry, Rose O’Donnell as Ron Weasleyl’s mother and Williams as the 8ft. Rubeus Hagrid. They were keen, offering to work for free!) Wiser heads prevailed (mainly author JK Rowling’s) and, in fact, Coltrane was the first actor cast for the franchise.
- Robert Joy, Desperately Seeking Susan, 1985. After horsing around in tests with Madonna in three ear-rings, tattoos and chopped hair (and she didn't look any better),he decided to do some Moonlighting TV tests as well...
- Matthew Modine, Full Metal Jacket, 1987. “I got the call two daysbefore we were to start the first Moonlighting.I was crushed!I’d alwaysbeena student ofthe Vietnam war. As it turned out,it took them two years to complete the film and get it out. So, everything happens for a reason.”
- Mel Gibson, Lethal Weapon, 1987. Director Richard Donner thought of Bruce as an action manbefore he was offered Die Hard, 1988.
- Whoopi Goldberg, The Burglar, 1987. Whoopi had been set as his sidekick. “Bruce didn’t sign,” recalled Whoopi, “the studio cannedthe project.I called a week after:‘Ican dothis’ And they said: ‘Of course!'’My attitude isIcanplayanything.”
- Michael Douglas, Fatal Attraction, 1987.
- Charles Grodin, Midnight Run, 1988. Rejected by the studio meant he was free for Die Hard. Both films opened the same week.This will explainwhy so few people ever heard of Midnight Run.
- Michael Keaton, Clean and Sober, 1989. Keaton’s last four films had bellied-up. Warners wanted Willis. Hewas the top TV name - and his TV producer was turning director with this project. Executives could not fathom him rejecting Bruce - or Tom Hanks. Keaton wasn’t sure about playing the coke-snorting, alcoholic, promiscuous, thieving, lying scumbag until Bruce told him:“You're crazy if you don't.”
- Patrick Swayze, Ghost, 1990. “I simply could not see how a romance between a ghost and a living person would work. D’oh!”His wife, Demi Moore,was the co-star but he felt thought playing a ghost would be detrimental to his career. He learned his lesson.Hewas aghost in his best work, The Sixth Sense, 1999.
- Michael Madsen, Thelma & Louise, 1990.
- Jeff Bridges, The Fisher King, 1991.
“The thing that’s always impressed me about Bruce,” explains director Terry Gilliam, “is a scene in the first Die Hard, where he’s in the loo picking glass out of his feet, on the phone to his wife, and he’s crying.When I first met him, I mentioned that and he said: ‘Well, that was my idea, really, the crying bit.’ I thought: ‘Mmm, this is interesting. He’s got a lot more going on than he pretends.” Plus “one of the finest bald heads I’ve everseen,” he added on the set of their 12 Monkey, 1995, when he calmly gave Bruce a list of his acting clichés to avoid, including the “steely blue eyes look.”
- Michael Douglas, Basic Instinct, 1991.
- John Travolta, Pulp Fiction, 1993.
- Keanu Reeves, Speed, 1993. The studio wanted anyone other than Reeves as the hero of Bus 2525 - the one with a bomb aboard! For the hero Jack B Traven, the brthers Billy and Stephen Baldwin, Jeff Bridges, Geoprfge Clooeny, Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, Tom Hanks(!), Michael Keaton, even Arnold Schwarzenegger were run up the Fox flagpole. And, of course, Willis. Well, it was Die Hard On A Bus!
- David Thewlis, The Island Of Dr Moreau, 1995.
A real disaster movie… The original director Richard Stanley tells all. He had persuaded Marlon Brando to play the doc. “So then it was necessary to [find] a box office draw. We immediately went after Bruce Willis for the castaway. Bruce was looking for something different to do at that point in time - immediately pre-Sixth Sense. He really liked the script, and like everyone else, wanted to work with Brando.” But… Willis quit to deal with his divorce from Demi Moore. Val Kilmer wanted to leave “the crazy shoot” to deal with his divorce from Joanne Whalley. Brando’s daughter, Cheyenne, committed suicide. And new helmer John Frankenheimer never knew Stanley had joined the extras… Brando welcomed Thewlis by saying: “Go home, David. This is not a good film to work on. It is cursed.” Thewlis could say much more about the making of the farce - but feared such honesty would kill his career.
- John Travolta, Get Shorty, 1995. Nobody wanted to be Chili Palmer, themobster going to Hollywood: Robert De Niro, Danny De Vito, Michael Keaton, or Bruce. Nor even Dustin Hoffman. Elmore Leonard said Shorty (De Vito asmovie star Martin Weir) was based on his 1986 dealings with Hoffman about the never made La Bravo.
- Tom Cruise, Mission: Impossible, 1995. Before Tom Cruise and JJ Abrams took it on - for 20-plus years! - Paramount had offered the (expected) franchise to Willis, Nicolas Cage, George Clooney, Mel Gibson, John Travota. And, inexplicably, Ralph Fiennnes… who made a right dog’s breakfast out of another TV cult hero, John Steed, in The Avengers three years later.
- Wesley Snipes, Murder At 1600, 1997. Er, Die Hard AtThe White House...
- Steven Seagal, Fire Down Below, 1997. Die Hard InAppalachia... Bruce had outlived such trash as a guitar-strumming, singing environmental protectionagent.
- Jackie Chan, An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn, 1997. For what started as Amok, scenarist Joe Eszterhas wanted all three supertoughs to play themselves: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Brucie. Sending up Hollywood was one thing, but Willis did not go for sending himself up. Again. (He’d done that for Robert Altman in The Player, 1992). So, Brucepassed. So did his body-double.
- John Travolta, The General's Daughter, 1998. Die Hard On An Army Camp.
- BD Wong & Donny Osmond, Mulan, 1998. Willis could have managed both chores. But Disney preferred that Wong (Dr Henry Wu in Jurassic Park) should talk as Shang - with Osmond singing his songs. (For China, Chang was dubbed by Jackie Chan).
- Kevin Spacey, American Beauty, 1998. Chevy Chase, Kevin Costner, Jeff Daniels, Tom Hanks, Woody Harrels (!) and John Travolta were also in the mix for the miserable spouse/father, Lester Burnham. UK stage director Sam Mendes fought hard for Spacey. “There’s one thing better than having a really good actor, and that’s having a really good actor who has never done this kind of role before.” Spacey won his second Oscar despite masturbating in the shower - the high point of Lester’s day: “it's all downhill from here.”
- Al Pacino, Any Given Sunday, 1999. So, writer-director Oliver Stone turned to Pacino. “Hair loss is God's way of telling me I'm human.”
- Denzel Washington, Training Day, 2000. Denzel got an Oscar. Well, he’s a better adlibber than Willis. (Or Gary Sinise and Tom Sizemore).
- Billy Bob Thornton, Bandits, 2001. Quentin Tarantino snapped up the best Elmore Leonard books, leaving the bad to Bruce, et al. Finally, this script had nothing to do with the book and Willis passed his lowly role to Billy Boband took over the lead once Val Kilmer flew the coop.
- George Clooney, Ocean’s Eleven, 2001. First signed as Danny Ocean, the over-scheduled Willis later agreed to be Terry Benedict - who kicked Danny off the Vegas Strip and wed his gal, Julia Roberts.
- Andy Garcia, Ocean’s Eleven, 2001. But... “I’m a big fan of Clooney but I kinda wanna save it up for when it’s just me and him... Another bad choice! Andy did a great job with it, and the rest is history.” Bruce turned up for the sequel, Ocean’s Twelve, 2004, as... Bruce Willis.
- Johnny Depp, Once Upon A Time In Mexico, 2003. Enjoying the film so much when he finished playing Sands (set for Clooney, offered to Nicolas Cage, Sean Penn, Kurt Russell and Bruce), Depp asked for another part and had even more fun channeling Brando as a priest in a scene with Banderas.
- Denzel Washington, Man on Fire, 2004. Three of his previous starts - Bruce, Robert De Niro, Will Smith were offered the lead of UK director Tony Scott’s re-make of the thriller he was supposed to have made in 1987. None had Denzel’s vulnerability.
- Kevin Spacey, Beyond The Sea, 2004. Six writers, 17 years, 20 producers asthe biopic of singer Bobby Darin traversed Brucie (in 1987), plus Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, Barry Levinson, Paul Schrader...Spacey did it right by his idol- as actor, auteur, singer - on the cheap in Germany.
- Vin Diesel, The Pacifier, 2004. Actor Thomas Lennon is a Jackie Chan fan. Imagine his disappointment when having co-written this tough-guy turns baby-sitter comedy exclusively for Chan, the Hong Kong superstar turned it down. Willis and Dwayne Johnson also passed. No matter, Lennon’s cut of the Diesel version doubtless made up for it.
- Will Smith, Jersey Girl, 2004. Bruce was unavailable, sopoor Will was the guesting movie icon trashed by Ben Affleck’s Ollie.By the time writer-director Kevin Smith’s movieopened, it and Affleck were trashedby thepublic after all the unabated tabloid furore on his affair with co-star Jennifer Lopez.
- Michael Chiklis, Fantastic Four, 2004. A totally stupid - choice for Ben Grimm, aka The Thing... after a daily three hours of make-up. The great James Gadfolfini was also also lucky to lose this mess, the second of four flop versions of the comic. One day, Marvel will doubtless regain all rights and fit the Four into its triumphant Cinematic Universe.
- Karl Urban, Black Water Transit, 2007. When Willis tried make the non-thrilling thriller in 2006, he called his Die Hard 4 mate to join him - as Jack. When Willis split, Sam was offered Bruce’s role of Earl Pike… finally cranked out by Urban. Never seen in any cinema since its market screening (ie looking for buyers) at the 2009 Cannes festival. Transit transferred direct to video.
- Brad Pitt, Inglourious Basterds, 2008. Quentin Tarantino had the title since 1998 - the US title but not the story of Enzo G Casterllari’s 1978 spaghetti war saga, Quel maledetto trena blindato.The first casting (Michael Madsen, Eddie Murphy, TimRoth, Adam Sandler) was sideswiped by first making Kill Bills, 2003/4. Next, QT (aka Cute) failed to achieve his dream of having Arnie, Bruce and Sly in the same movie - a feat achieved by direactor Stallone in The Expendables, 2009).
- Liam Neeson, The A Team, 2009. Rather obvious early idea for the role of Captain John “Hannibal” Smith.
- James Gandolfini, Violet & Daisy, 2011. Willis was consided as the literal target of the black comedy’s teenage assassins. Instead, said Saoirse Ronan (Daisy): “We’re sent to kill Tony Soprano - which is mad.”
- Sylvester Stallone, Escape Plan, 2012. In what was going to be a new occupation for him, Willis was first attached to thisa thriller about... wait for it... a structural security expert. He’s jailed in a master prison he designed. Now all he, well Sly, has to do is... escape. Oh and find who framed him.
- Harrison Ford, The Expendables III, 2013.
When he is asked where Church is, Ford’s character replied: "He's out of the picture." Literally! Furthermore, the franchise’s shocked star and creator Sylvester Stallone famously called Willis “greedy and lazy” - “A sure formula for career failure” - for demanding $1m per day for his four days in Bulgaria - not the $3m offered. Sly then staggered Willis with his next Tweet: WILLIS OUT… HARRISON FORD IN!!!! GREAT NEWS!!!!! Been waiting years for this.”
- Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Solace, 2013. Once upon a prime, this was supposed to be a Se7en sequel - called Ei8ht, what else? - with Brucie as the top cop hunting a (all together now) serial killer. The awful result was shelved for close on two years before being dumped in the DVD bin!
- George Clooney, Gravity, 2013. He’d done the space thing with Armageddon, 1997… 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 - Willis, Kevin Costner, Daniel Craig, Russell Crowe, Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, John Travolta, Denzel Washington. Most backed off, annoyed that the woman astronaut, Sandra Bullock, had most of the film entirely to herself.
- Steve Carell, Café Society, 2015. A LA story, Willis was fired when auteur Woody Allen and his cast had enough of Willis’ bad behavior and forgetting his lines. Woody, himself, was more diplomatic. “I shot a few scenes in California with Bruce Willis, and Bruce was going to do something on Broadway [Misery] and it was just too much for him. So we replaced him with Steve Carell” - his second Woody, after Melinda and Melinda, 2003. This was Allen’s 52nd script and his third to open the Cannes festival.