- John Savage, Salvador, 1985. He first met director Oliver Stone during early attempts to get Platoon rolling. Stone made him the standby in case Savage wouldn't agree a deal and eventually called him back for...
- Dennis Hopper, Blue Velvet, 1985. “You can’t work with Dennis. It’ll be a disaster.” Except director David Lynch knew that Hopper was finally sober. OK, for just a month but… Meanwhile, Dennis’ manager was badmouthing the Frank Booth role as “a career-stopper.” No redeeming qualities! Exactly why Dafoe and Robert Loggia passed. Hurriedly. Hopper told Lynch - who cast him without meeting him - “You did the right thing because I am Frank Booth… Not literally. But I’d known a lot of guys like Frank and understood… his sexual obsession. You can call [him] a deviant, a pervert, a madman, whatever. But I saw him as a man who would to go any lengths to keep his lady… It’s essentially a love story.” On really!
- Tom Berenger, Platoon, 1986. But for which role? Olivetr Stone talked about Barnes, then Rhah, thenElias.
- Francesco Quinn, Platoon, 1986. Once he caught the To Live And Die in LA trailer - "I wason for just a few seconds" - Olivert Stone decided Dafoe was Elias, "written very much as an Indian. Jet black hair and all."
- Dennis Hopper, Blue Velvet, 1986. "Well, they see me as this eccentric boy-next-door type. If next door was a mausoleum." Hopper agreed with director David Lynch: “After Dune I was down so far that anything was up! So it was just an euphoria. And when you work with that kind of feeling, you can take chances. You can experiment.”
- Jack Nicholson, Batman, 1988.
- Fred Ward, Henry and June, 1989. And so he lost out on Henry Miller - Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol.
- 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 - Alec Baldwin, Tom Berenger, Jeff Bridges, Pierce Brosnan, Kevin Costner, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Ed Harris, William Hurt, Don Johnson, Tommy Lee Jones, Michael Keaton, Nick Nolte, Al Pacino, Christopher Reeve, Kurt Russell, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, John Travolta and four outsiders Dafoe, Richard Dean Anderson, 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.
- Stephen Tobolowsky, Thelma & Louise, 1990.
- Kevin Costner, JFK, 1991.
- Joe Pesci, JFK, 1991.
- William Hurt, Until The End of the World, 1991. Bailed out of Wim Wenders' world tour - l7 countries on five continents in search of a story. Dafoe played Time in Wenders' next, Far Away, So Close, 1993.
- Patrick Bergin, The Map of the Human Heart, 1992. For his first up from down-under film, Kiwi director Vincent Ward also saw Dennis Quaid.
- George Corraface, Christopher Columbus: The Discovery, 1992. Considered when Timothy Dalton quit one of two films timed to celebrate the 500th anniversary of discovering America.
- Anthony Hopkins, The Innocent, 1992. Change of CIAgent once John Schlesinger replaced original director Jon Amiel.
- Val Kilmer, Tombstone, 1992. First choice for Doc Holliday, reported Kurt Russell, when admitting he was second choice for Wyatt Earp. ’Twas all politics, schmolitics. Disney would not distribute the Western if Dafoe was Doc Holliday - due to him having played Jesus in Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, 1987.
- Gabriel Byrne, Cool World, 1992. Might have been cooler if Dafoe had played the cartoonist and Byrne the cop in Ralph Bakshi’s response to Who Framed Roger Rabbit. (Kim Basinger was Jessica Rabbit reframed as Holly Would). My favourite critic Roger Ebert nailed the film’s coffin tight: “surprisingly incompetent.”
- Kenneth Branagh, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, 1994. When director Roman Polanski turned down producer Francis Coppola's invitation, the project went to Branagh as star and director.
- Jamey Sheridan, The Stand, TV, 1994. “Pleased to meet you, Lloyd,” says Randall Flagg in the Stephen King mini-series. “Hope you guess my name." Difficult... as it changed from Dafoe to Miguel Ferrer to Jeff Goldblum to Christopher Walken to James Woods to…“ a lesser known face.” Oh really! The Broadway award winner had only been Vincent D’Onofrio’s boss, Captain Deakins, for five years of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, from2001. Sheridan occupying the Las Vegas penthouse.
- Patrick Swayze, To Wong Fu, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar, 1995. Boys will be gals! Among those testing, all gussied up in drag as Vida Bohem. Title stems from an autographed Newmar photo seen by scenarist Douglas Carter Beane on the wall of a Times Square Chinese restaurant in the mid 1980s.
- Peter Weller, Al di la delle nuvoli (US: Beyond The Clouds), France-Italy-Germany, 1995. The return of Italian maestro Michelangelo Antonioni with the help of Wim Wenders.
- James Woods, Hercules, 1996. Many were called - Dafoe, David Bowie, Jack Nicholson. Then, John Lithgow got the Disney gig and recorded it all. Next thing he knew, Jimmy Woods had ad-libbed the voice of Hades to glory with Robin Williams/Aladdin bravura. And made it a growth industry with various video games.
- Miguel Angel Sola, Corazon Iluminado/Foolish Heart, Brazil, 1998. The first time an original cast was listed in the credits - being thanked by director Hector Babenco for understanding how he decided, at the eleventh hour, to go with Brazilian actors.
- Daniel Day-Lewis, Gangs of New York, 2002. Some time after his zonked-out nonsense about using The Blues Brothers in 1978, directing ikon Martin Scorsese prepped anew with Dafoe as the fearsome Bill “The Butcher” Cutting and Mel Gibson as young Amsterdam Vallon. It was no better without them.
- Val Kilmer, Wonderland, 2003. The role? Prodigious porno stud John Holmes. And his part in the Wonderland Avenue murders in 1981.
- Vincent Cassel, Blueberry, France, 2004. The self-indulgent realisateur Jan Kounen wanted Dafoe to be the French comic-book cowboy hero, “but no one else wanted him.” The apalling result was about 0.1% connected with its source.
- Cillian Murphy, Red Eye, 2004. Horrorsmith Wes Craven also saw Kevin Bacon, Nicolas Cage, Ray Liotta, John Malkovich, Edward Norton, Sean Penn, Michael Pitt and John Travolta. Craven said Murphy’s eyes won him the creepy.... Jackson Rippner. (Geddit?)
- Power Boothe, Sin City, 2004. Director Robert Rodriguez juggled Boothe, Dafoe and Christopher Walken for Senator Roarke, father of The Yellow Bastard!
- Guy Pearce, The Hurt Locker, 2007. Lost out on duty with Bravo Company's Explosive Ordnance Disposal team in the Iraq War II for what Chicago critic Roger Ebert hailed as “a great film, an intelligent film, a film shot clearly so that we know exactly who everybody is and where they are and what they're doing and why.” Not to mention wining the first Oscar for a woman director, Kathryn Bigelow on March 7, 2010. It had only taken 81 years!
- Gus Van Sant, The Canyons, 2012. It was, as they say, a small but pivotal role - a shrink. Auteur Paul Scrader called Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Jason Sudeikis. No go. “Any ideas?” he asked Lindsay Lohan, his star (and, doubtless, the reason those guys passed). “How about Jared?” “Jared Harris?” asked Schrader. “No, Jared Leto.” Schrader phoned a fellow auteur.