- Sean Garrison, Moment To Moment, 1966. Not pleased with his look ("Always wear your hair like that?") Mervyn LeRoy asked Caan about the best thing he'd ever done. Caan, said: "Well, I once ran 90 yards for a touchdown."
- Elliott Gould, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, 1969. Ted.
- Donald Sutherland, M*A*S*H, 1970. Bad one to lose.
- Gene Hackman, The French Connection, 1971. Nope said the dope. Hackman won an Oscar.
- Robert Duvall, The Godfather, 1971.
- Jack Nicholson, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, 1974.
- Robert De Niro, Taxi Driver, 1975.
- Sylvester Stallone, Rocky, 1976.
- Harrison Ford, Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, 1976.
- Martin Sheen, Apocalypse Now, 1976.
- Richard Dreyfuss, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 1976. For once, Spielberg felt he needed an A star: Hackman, Hoffman or McQueen. Julia Phillips (one of the eleven producers!) also sent scripts to Nicholson and Pacino. They all passed - Nicholson feeling any actor would be buried by the SFX.Next call was to Caan. Julia never liked him nor his agent - demanding $1m and 10% of the gross just for Caan to read the script! And so it was Dreyfuss - as it always had been since Spielberg told him the story while making Jaws.
Richard Dreyfuss, The Goodbye Girl, 1977. Jimmy was considered to substitute Robert De Niro - fired by Mike Nichols from the first version, Bogart Slept Here. Caan went on to be Simon in Chapter Two, 1979, the second time Marsha Mason played. more-or-less, herself.
- Keith Carradine, Pretty Baby, 1977. The subject was horrendous - a prostitute allowing her 12-year-old daughter’s virginity to be auctioned off in a brothel in the red-light district of New Orleans, circa 1917. French director Louis Malle saw 28 hopefuls and/or instant (parental) refusals for little Violet… 15 actresses for her mother… and 15 guys for the really mis-shapen, hydrocephallic photographer Ernest J. Bellocq, whose Storyville work of the epoch influenced the style of the surprisingly elegant film. Robert Redford was first choice, Jack Nicholson second. Before falling for Carradine, Malle saw Caan, Albert Brooks, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Malcolm McDowell (the only Brit short-listed), Al Pacino, Christopher Reeve (planning to make us believe a man could fly), John Travolta (more into Grease)… plus such flat out surprises as Joe Pesci, Burt Reynolds, Sylvester Stallone (prepping FIST), even Christopher Walken.
- Christopher Reeve, Superman, 1978,
- Dustin Hoffman, Kramer v Kramer, 1979. "I was first, Dustin was last on the list of five. But I said: "This is middle-class, bourgeois horseshit!" I mean, 'CUT to kid, crying.' Oh please..."
- Mickey Rourke, The Pope of Greenwich Village, 1984. Producer Howard Koch bought Vincent Patrick's novel for Godsons Pacino and Caan. Coppola showed interest in '82 with Pacino and Rourke. Ron Maxwell shot it with Rourke and Eric Roberts.
- Eddie Murphy, Beverly Hills Cop, 1984. If Sylvester Stallone was the first embodiment of Axel Foley, the next included Caan, Al Pacino, Mickey Rourke.
- Michael Caine, The Holcroft Covenant, 1984. "Jimmy just didn't show up," says John Frankenheimer, "I don't know why. Horrible! Because we were all ready to go." With the power of positive thinking, Caan became... Caine. "I will be forever grateful to him, because he gave me the greatest gift that anyone has ever given me which is Michael Caine - the best actor that I have ever worked with." Like he was there... by day nine. "I did it so quickly I wore my own clothes," said Caine. "As it was British Film Year, I thought someone ought to make a British film."
- Ted Danson, Dad, 1989. Few can claim to have refused Steven Spielberg twice.
- Timothy Dalton, The King's Whore, UK-France-Italy-Austria, 1990. Bizarre casting by French realisateur Daniel Vigne - Caan as the 17th Century King of Piedmont - was corrected by Austrian film-maker Axel Corti.
- Martin Sheen, Cadence, 1990. Started but did not work out and although wholly unsuitable, director Sheen took over as the racist Army prison warden with son Charlie in the stockade.
Colin Friels, Darkman, 1990. Jimmy is not dumb. With a comicbook movie, if you're not the hero, villain, sidekick or girlfriend, nobody's watching ya!
- Bob Hoskins, Mermaids, 1990. A Caan comeback plan imploded as Orion switched directors in midstream - rom LasseHallstrom to Frank Oz.“We got caught in the ripples,” said Caan's agent, Arnold Rifkin. “Jim was in the house with Lasse when the call came from the studio about a difference in creative visions and all that.Tough luck for Jim.”
- Clint Eastwood, In The Line of Fire, 1993. Producer Rob Reiner stuck to Mr Misery. Columbia's Mark Canton went for broke - and won.
- Jeremy Irons, The Lion King, 1993. In the frame to voice the villainous Scar in the 32nd Disney toon - Bambi meets Hamlet in Africa!- were top Brits, Sean Connery, Tim Curry, Malcolm McDowell. And assorted Hollywood-mafiosi Caan, Robert Duvall, Ray Liotta.
- Dennis Hopper, Waterworld, 1994. Refused the villainy of the most expensive US movie - until Titanic. Also in the mix: Gary Busey, Laurence Fishburne, Gene Hackman, Samuel L Jackson, Gary Oldman… and even Kevin Costner. Yes, he wanted to be the nasty Deacon, as well as the hero!
- Willem Dafoe, Manderlay, Denmark-Sweden-Holland-France-Germany-UK, 2005. When Nicole Kidman pulled out of the second film in Lars Von Trier's career-ruining trilogy (USA - Land of Opportunities), Daddy quit too. Because, said Caan, Von Trier “is very anti-American, so screw him.”Dafoe also made Von Trier’s next film, Antichrist, 2008).
- James Brolin, Accidental Love (ex-Nailed), 2008. No we caan’t…! Booked for two days, Caan quit on the first after a blazing row with controversial director David O Russell. The problem? How a USenator should choke on a qookie. Russell wanted simultaneous coughing and choking. Caan’t be done, said Jim - in “part of an ongoing creative conversation,” according to producer Douglas Wick. Russell had a famous fist fight with George Clooney during Three Kings, 1999, and was captured on tape berating Lily Tomlin during I Heart Huckabees, 2004. Actors and crew later boycotted the film when the budget ran dry. Somehow, shooting wrapped in November and was shelved until a February 2015 release when Russell’s credit had turned into Stephen Greene.
- Richard Dreyfuss, The Lightkeepers, 2009. Signing on in June 2008, Caan rapidly filed a $5m million suit for breach for contract and fraud. On returning to gangsters in TV’s Magic City in 2013.Caan said: “I’m not Anthony Quinn just yet. The truth is that I care very much about what I do, I try to maintain a little bit of integrity.”