- Ryan O’Neal, Love Story, 1970.
- Chris Mitchum, Big Jake, 1970. Old B-director George Sherman chose Bridges after what producer Michael Wayne reported as 55 interviews, 23 readings and three tests. When Jeff backed out, the junior Mitchum (from Chisum and Rio Lobo) saddled for the start of shooting on October 10, 1970. “The man was more of a mentor and a father to me in the business than my own father was,” declared Mitchum about co-star John Wayne. “He did nothing but give me support… took me from a two or three line rôle to co-starring with him. He basically made my career.” Unfortunately it ended acrimonously (politically). To Mitchum’s regret
- Richard Dreyfuss, Jaws, 1974. When Jon Voight refused (“I was too picky”), Steven Spielberg considered either of the two football heroes of the dying town of Anarene, Texas, in The Last Picture Show - Bridges and Timothy Bottoms.Dreyfuss was funnier. He was known as Spielberg’s Tracy… until they re-hashed a Tracy hit as Always, 1989, and then he sure wasn’t.
- Robert De Niro, Taxi Driver, 1976.
- Christopher Reeve, Superman, 1978.
- AlPacino, Cruising,1980. Director Paul Morrissey’s choice when preparing his first movie outside Andy Warhol’sFactory, 1972.
- James Keach, The Long Riders, 1980. The Keach brothers, James and Stacy, played Jesse and Frank James as the Bridges, Jeff and Beau, were booked onanother ride.
- Christopher Walken, Heaven’sGate,1980. Part of Michael Cimino’s 1974 debut, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, Jeff was always assured of a part (a short one as it turned out - and also called Bridges) when Walken took his role, after being switched from the lead to his rival.
- Harrison Ford, Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1981.
- Sylvester Stallone, First Blood (aka Rambo), 1982.
- John Laughlin, Crimes of Passion, 1984. Quit following a salary row. More likely that like Alec Baldwin, Patrick Swayze, Jeff had actually read the rubbish unashamedly submitted by UK director Ken Russell.
- William Petersen, Manhunter, 1985. The studio smart-asses wanted director Michael Mann reunited with his Miami Vice star, Don Johnson, as the FBI man inthe first Hannibal Lecter film.Mann preferred the guy from his 1980 movie, The Thief - after some thoughts about Bridges.
- Michael Douglas, Fatal Attraction, 1987. Nobody felt Douglas as average enoughto pass for an average husband caught with his pants down...
- Harrison Ford, Frantic, 1987. Wanted: For a Roman Polanski thriller… An open-faced, all-American boy, honest, trustworthy, fairly strong physically, someone who becomes what he isn’t – frantic - when his wife disappears from their Paris hotel suite - phffft! like that - while he’s in the shower. Polanksi considered Bridges, Kevin Costner, Dustin Hoffman, then had dinner in Paris with ET scenarist Melissa Mathison to discuss Steven Spielbegr’s Tintin project. And she brought hubby along…
- Tom Hanks, Big, 1988. Hanks was suddenly unavailable due to two other movies.De Niro was chased - too pricey - then Jeff also demurred. By which time Hanks was back for $2m - a third of theDe Niro fee.
- Michael Keaton, Batman, 1988.
- Mel Gibson, Tequila Sunrise, 1988. The LA buddies on either side of the law - dealer and cop - went from Jeff Bridges-Nick Nolte to Beatty-Scott Glenn to producer Thom Mount’s winning combo. Gibson-Kurt Russell. Except, as Chicago critic Roger Ebert pointed out about Towne scripts: “Nothing is as it seems. We learn more about the characters when they’re not on the screen.”
- 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 - Bridges, Alec Baldwin, Tom Berenger, 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 three 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.
- Robert De Niro, Jacknife, 1989. A heavy, honest apres-Nam drama. Minus the usual revenge subplot.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger, Total Recall, 1989. After 42 drafts, no third act and one bankruptcy, Total Recall became another word for jinx in Hollywood… Italian cinemogul Dino De Laurentiis’ never-ending Martian thriller was nearly made by Dreyfuss in Italy, Patrick Swayze in Australia… and William Hurt for Canadian director David Cronenberg… Next up for the heroics were Bridges, Christopher Reeve, Tom Selleck before almost becoming a B-movie with little Matthew Broderick or Mark Harmon (cheapest on the list). Then, Dino went belly-up… enabling Arnold to take over (Dino had refused to audition him!) and move Mars to Mexico where everyone got the touristas except him - he had his food, water, B12 shots flown in from home after a rotten Mexperience during Predator, 1986.
- Kevin Costner, Revenge, 1989. After Clint Eastwood in the late 70s, an 80s plan was his Thunderbolt & Lightfoot cop-star Bridges directed by Walter Hill. When Costner arrived he wanted to direct, as well. Producer Ray Stark talked him out of it. Try your next one… He did so. Dances With Wolves. Seven Oscars - including Best Director and Best Film - on March 25, 1991..
- Kevin Costner, JFK, 1991.
- Kevin Costner, Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, 1991. “It’s not worth talking about what you’ve passed on because we’ve all done it.”
- Nick Nolte, The Prince of Tides, 1991. Director and star Barbara Streisand offered him the role of the unemployed, aimless and miserably married Tom Wingo.She got him five years later for The Mirror Has Two Faces.
- Michael Douglas, Basic Instinct, 1991.
- Kevin Kline, Chaplin1992. Turned down the (bit) role of Douglas Fairbanks Sr. “I really kind of have to be dragged to the party, as far as making movies, because it’s tough for me to decide what I’m going to order for lunch, let alone what movie I'm going to do.”
- Bruce Willis, Death Becomes Her, 1992. “Then, once I decide, there’s all kinds of other movies that I’m not going to be able to do, and I don’t even know what they are yet… ”In this case, Kevin Kline quit to take onJeff’srole inChaplin. So, obviously, director Robert Zemeckis asked Jeff to replace Kevin. No go!
- Andy Garcia, Hero, 1992. "So, I do kind of drag my feet until there's something about the movie that I can't resist that's going to pull me in. Well, you can't have your cake and eat it too, thing. You order the steak when you can't have the salmon... because you'll be too full.", sometimes...
- Brad Pitt, A River Runs Through It, 1992. Before Robert Redford got his director hands on Norman Maclean’s fly-fishing-as-life parable, the book had been due as a Bridges’ family reunion.For Lloyd as the ReverendMaclean andhis boys,Beau and Jeff, as the Maclean boys,
- Ed Harris, The Firm, 1993. Early Sydney Pollack casting. “It's hard for me to let one thing go, knowing that I’m not going to be able to do other things. My mother said it's The Boolya… somebody who suffers seriously.”
- Gabriel Byrne, A Dangerous Woman, 1993. Both Bridges and Jason Patric were discussed as the alcoholic and unprincipled lover -of a somewhat retarded Debra Winger. (And her aunty).
- Keanu Reeves, Speed, 1993. The original passengers for the Die Hard On A Bus were Bridges opposite a funny Ellen DeGeneres. Also in the frame for Jack the hero. Plus two Baldwin brothers (Stephen and William), George Clooney, Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, Tom Hanks, Michael Keaton, even Arnold Schwarzenegger. Plus Bruce Willis. Well, it was Die Hard On A Bus.
- Tim Robbins, The Shawshank Redemption, 1993. “There’s no way of knowing if the film you turn down would have been as big if you’d been it.” Also the frame (up) for Stephen King’s prisoner #37927, were: Nicolas Cage, Kevin Costner, Charlie Sheen. And both Toms. Cruise and Hanks
- Liam Neeson, Nell, 1994. “The other guy maybe brought something to the part that was just right; and you would’ve played it differently and it might not have taken.”
- Matthew Modine, Cutthroat Island, 1995. Most plausibles (Michael Douglas, Daniel Day-Lewis) became overly cautious of a pirate project prepared by Renny Harlinfor his wife, Geena Davis. No survivors when this baby sank.
- Brad Pitt, 12 Monkeys, 1995. Terry Gilliam’s original desire: Jeff, aka Gilliam’s Fisher King.
- Liam Neeson, Before And After, 1996. Columbia’s Mark Canton kept Barbert Schroeder waiting five months- and then some - for a Go on the heavy family drama, mainly because Canton preferred the Bridges of LA county as Meryl Streep’s husband.
- Sean Penn, The Game, 1996. Jodie Foster has this fetish about changing scripts. David Fincher cast her as Michael Douglas’ sister. No, she said, she wanted to be his daughter. Just 17 years older, Douglas had already played her father in the 70s. Both men turned the sister into a brother… first offered to Bridges.
- Dylan Baker, Happiness, 1998. All singing from the same hymn sheet - “compelling and interesting materialbut... I’m. a father first and an actor second” - a dozen starsfled the therapist who is a pedophilein thebleak script by young New Jersey auteur Todd Solondz.
- George Clooney, Three Kings, 1999. Bullying director David O Russell never wanted Clooney as Archie Gates. And only agreed (and then got into a fist fight with him) when Hoffman, Nicolas Cage, Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson never wanted his script! Bridges’ previous film, The Bjg Lebowski, had tanked and Nick Nolte said he was too old. And, apparently, idem for Nicholson. Although respecting his work, Clooney said he’d never work with Russell again. Their fight had been over Russell’s treatment of an extra, throwing him to the ground> He then taunted Clooney. “Hit me!” So, he did.
- Liam Neeson, Kinsey, 2003. Writer-director Bill Condon also looked at Ceorge Clooney and Michael Douglas (!) to play sexologist Dr. Alfred Kinsey.
- Tom Skerritt, Brothers & Sisters, TV, 2006-2009. Bridges rejected an offer to play the husband of Netty Buckley (in the pilot; Sally Field in the series), the sons and daughter’s father - dead in the opening episode, but still popping up here and again.(Skerritt had substituted Jeff’s father, Lloyd Bridges, in A River Runs Through It, 1992).
- Kevin Spacey, Horrible Bosses, 2010. Bridges, Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman were approached for the supercilious sadist Dave Harken - one of three bosses from hell, targets of a hit man hired by disgruntled employees in this masculine take on Nine To Five.
- Steve Carell, Great Hope Springs, 2011. The guy who co-starred with so many debutantes (Joan Allen, Karen Allen, Rosanna Arquette, Elizabeth Ashley, Belinda Bauer, Lisa Eichorn, Farrah Fawcett, Bianca Jagger, Alice Krige, Jessica Lange, Valerie Perrine, Nancy Travis, Susan Tyrell, Rachel Ward, etc) turned down the chance to co-star with... Meryl Streep!
- Tommy Lee Jones, Hope Springs, 2011. Turning down Meryl?!Yes, Bridges pulled away from playing Streep’s husband - much happier with their 30-year-old marriage than she is.
- Bradley Cooper, Jane Got a Gun, 2013. Natalie Portman’s fifth outing as a producer ran into all kinds of trouble. Michael Fassbender quit(replaced by Joel Edgerton) after clashes with Scots director Lynne Ramsay. Then, she quit. Then, Jude Law quit Edgerton’s original role- Lynne being the only reason why Law agreed to make the Western in Santa Fe. Bridges was the (way) oldest of Law’s potential successors: Joel Edgerton, Jane Gyllenhaal, Tobey Maguire.
- Woody Harrelson, Triple Nine, 2013. In the mix (with Chris Pine) for the corrupt cops blackmailed into an “impossible” heist… including killing one of their own.