Matt Damon ( -?)
- Chris O’Donnell, Scent of a Woman, 1992. Damon, the new James McArthur (with better roles), described his early years as “fighting for table scraps” with Ben Affleck, Brendan Fraser, Edward Norton, Chris O'Donnell. “You'd go in and fight each other. And if you got hold of a role, you’d have to make enough of an impression to get another job.” Such as trying to be blind Al Pacino's eyes in the film that finally won Al his Oscar. Whoo-ah!
- Chris O’Donnell, Batman Forever, 1994.
- Joaquin Phoenix, To Die For, 1995. “I lost nearly 20 lbs to audition for [director] Gus Van Sant but ‘Wock’ got it.” Which is how director Gus Van Sant knew him (and Ben Affleck visiting brother Casey on the set) and could reach them when he got hold of their Good Will Hunting script. “I’m in! I want to do this right away.” Damon and Affleck won Oscars for writing it.
- Leonardo DiCaprio, The Quick and The Dead, 1995. “Yeah, I turned it down. Clearly [laugh], it really derailed Leonardo's career.” Leo cost more than the budget allowed, so Sharon Stone paid him, herself.
- Edward Norton, Primal Fear, 1996. A total of 2,100 actors auditioned for Aaron Stampler. “We all knew there was an instant career changer for whoever got it.” Norton, alone, thought he should stutter. “It more or less came down to him and me,” recalls Matt, “and he pretty much put a smokin’ on me.”
- Brendan Fraser, The Mummy, 1998. Hero Rick O’Connell was up between Damon, Ben Affleck, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConnaughey, Chris O’Donnell and Sylvester Stallone - as helmers switched from Clive Barker and Joe Dante to Stephen Sommers.
- Skeet Ulrich, Ride With The Devil, 1999. Damon, himsedf, was now smokin' - in films for Francis Coppola, Steven Spielberg, Gus Van Sant. And on fire enough to quit this one to be UK director Anthony Minghella's Talented Mr. Ripley.
- Edward Norton, Fight Club, 1999. Both Damon and Sean Penn were up for The Narrator. Damon quickly picked up The Talented Mr Ripely when Norton dropped itin order to make what Chicago critic Roger Ebert called “a thrill ride masquerading as philosophy - the kind of ride where some people puke and others can't wait to get on again.” Fox Daddy Rupert Murdoch, the great movie know-all, hated it and his studio chief Bill Mechanic was rapidly dumped.
- Mark Wahlberg, Three Kings, 1999. Bullying director David O Russell (George Clooney taught him a lesson in a fist fight) had eight possibilities for hero Archie Gates. Just three for Troy Barlow - Damon, Matthew McConnaughey. And Wahlberg who, allegedly, did his electric shock torture scene for real. The rumble had been over Russell’s treatment of an extra, throwing him to the ground. And then foolishly taunting Clooney: “Hit me!” So, he did
- Mark Wahlberg, Planet Of The Apes, 2000. The re-hash from Hell. “My choices are based on how good the scripts were and who was directing them. That's pretty much all the control you can assert over your career: the choices you make and the jobs you take.”
- Ethan Hawke, Training Day, 2000. Due for the version with Sam Jackson (not Denzel Washington) as the corrupt cop. “Having been on the sidelines out here in LA and watching the ebb and flow of other careers, I was not unaware of the implications of being in a few flops in a row. It was around that time that things really started drying up. Roles I thought I had in movies, suddenly disappeared... For some reason, I was kind of detached about it and didn't take it personally.”
- Colin Farrell, Minority Report, 2001.
Clashing schedules (due to impending Film City strikes) forced Private Ryan out of his second Steven Spielberg assignment - another big break in the inexplicable rise and rise of the Irish Farrell, unknown until Joel Schumacher's Tigerland. 2000. “Getting a call from Steven Spielberg,” recalled Farrell, “that was huge, no matter how foggy I was. Wow!” His first cinema memory - turning him to tears - was ET. He was invited to the AI set, put into Steven Spielberg’s trailer - “there’s a lunch break in ten minuets and he’ll be here.” “He arrived…. Steven Spielberg... with a sardine sandwich on a plate. I love sardines! Hadn’t had a sardine in years. So we shared a sardine sandwich and talked for a half-hour. Smart casting… I was supposed to be nipping at Tom’s heels. And I was, of course, being the new young kid.”
- Jim Carrey, The Majestic, 2001. Would have worked better with Damon. Carrey fans were anticipating more talking butts, not Martin Guerre Meets Frank Capra. However, Damon did voice the real Luke Trimbell, or if you prefer Martin Guerre).
- Josh Harnett, Pearl Harbor, 2001. The dream scheme was: Ben Affleck, Damon, Gwyneth Paltrowfor the three pretty leads. Affleck, alone, was available. “I've never taken a job for money,” Damon said in 2013. “I’ve passed on a lot of huge-money jobs. Money doesn't enter into the decision-making. If I do a big blockbuster, it’s about how big an audience you’ll get, and where you can take them.” (Damon found time for a machine gunner cameo).
- Ben Affleck, Daredevil, 2002. That was the #1 comic for Damon and Ben Affleck as kids. When the movie came along, Damon admitted he chickened out. “I hadn’t seen the director’s work and I didn’t know. So I just said: No. Ben was like: I gotta do it! And the movie ended up doing very well, even though I don’t think Ben was ultimately very proud of it,” (Affleck later told Playboy magazine that it was the only movie he regretted. “It just kills me. I love that story, that character. And the fact that it got fucked up the way it did stays with me. Maybe that’s part of the motivation to do Batman.”) Their pal, New Jersey auteur Kevin Smith (a one-time Daredevil comicbook writer), recommended Affleck – instead of Edward Norton and Guy Pearce as the blind hero. Affleck proved more dumb than blind. Damon was a far superior action hero in the Bourne franchise. “If Chris Nolan came up to me and said, ‘I want to do Daredevil,’ I would be in.”
- Giovanni Risibi, Cold Mountain, 2002. His dance card was too full to find room for his Ripley maker Anthony Minghella.
- Ben Affleck, Paycheck, 2003. Left it to Ben as it was too close to his Jason Bourne hero. Or then again - not. After The Bourne Identity’sopening weekend, Matt “had something like 20 film offers, having not had a single one in months. That’s when I got it. It doesn’t matter if you’re a nice guy or you’re a prick. If your movies do well, there’s a job waiting for you in Hollywood. It’s not any more complicated than that.”
- Heath Ledger, The Brothers Grimm, 2004. The brothers Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm swopped roles and also - for the great US public - became Wil and Jake. Like the next LA Hamlet will, be Ham.
- Mark Wahlberg, Four Brothers, 2004. More brothers... But Jason Bourne thought it too violent!!! Ben Affleck also had concerns about the “ultra-violence.” Well, the brothers (two black, two white) were wreaking vengeance for their mother’s death… just like John Wayne, Dean Martin, etc., in the original (Western) version, The Sons of Katie Elder in 1964.
- Josh Zuckerman, Feast, 2004. "“They're Hungry. You're Dinner.” As the script was developed by Affleck and Matt Damon’s Project Greenlight TV show, there was moment when the two pals were going to be brothers Hot Wheels and Bozo against the aliens in the blood-soaked horror film. That would have wound their clock back…
- Russell Crowe, Cinderella Man, 2005. As corner-men changed from Lasse Hellstrom to Billy Bob Thornton to Ron Howard, it was obvious who’d be Jimmy Braddock, the boxer returning to the ring to feed his Depression age family.
- Jason Lee, Clerks II, 2006. Good to have star pals... When Damon could not play Lance Dowds, due to the shooting of The Good Shepherd, Lee turned up during a day off his hit series, My Name Is Earl, 2005-2009.
- Aaron Eckhart, The Dark Knight, 2007.
- Will Smith, Hancock, 2007. Collecting dust on Hollywood shelves for a decade as Tonight, He Comes, Vincent Ngo’s script (much darker, with Hancock unable to to have sex without killing his lovers) had the finger smudges of Damon and pal Ben Affleck, George Clooney, Leonardo Di Caprio.
- Josh Brolin, Milk, 2007. Matt agreed toy play real-life assassin Dan White for Gus Van Sant (his Good Will Hunting director in 1997) until over-scheduled with Green Zone. White assassinated San Francisco’s first openly gay public official, Harvey Milk - and Mayor George Moscone - in 1978.
- Leonardo DiCaprio, Revolutionary Road, 2007. Damon’s schedule conflict led to a Titantic reunion of Leo and Kate Winslett.
- Sam Worthington, Avatar, 2008. “My worst audition ever,” recalled Chris Pine, when Fox wanted a star - him, Damon or Jake Gyllenhaal - for hero Jake Sully. As if director James Cameron wasn’t The Star! Poor Worthington was reduced to living in his car at the time…
- Chris Pine, Star Trek, 2008. Matt was the hot favourite for the re-booted James T Kirk. Matt also heard the rumours. So, he called producer-director JJ Abrams, who told him the (bitter) truth. No way - you’re too old. At 39, Matt was a decade older than Pine.
- Christian Bale, The Fighter. 2009. Wanting to make a credible boxing film, Mark Wahlberg chose the story of his pal, Boston’s Irish Mickey Ward, being trained to world glory by his ex-boxer/ex-crackhead half-brother - and stuck with it, sparring every morning for five years, as directors refused (Scorsese) or quit (Aronofsky) as the $50m studio project became a $20m indie. Wahlberg refused any salary and never thought of playing the brother. “There was always one role for me to play, and that was the champ. I wasn’t giving up the belt. Dicky was a flashier role, but it wasn’t about that... but being believable as a guy who could win the welterweight title, and not look like an actor who could maybe box a little.” Damon quit (twice) as Dickie Eklund. “I look at Christian’s performance and go: My God, the right actor got the part.” And the self-emaciated Bale won an Oscar.
- Henry Cavill, The Man From UNCLE, 2013. Superman Cavill goes Solo. Napoleon Solo... After securing the 60s’ TV series rights in 1993, producer John Davis went through 20 years, 14 scripts, four directors (letting slip Soderbergh and Tarantino!), plus 19 Napoleon Solos. From George Clooney in 2010 to Tom Cruise three years later. By way of the early-21st century suspects: Damon, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Leonardo DiCaprio, Joel Edgerton, Michael Fassbender, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ryan Gosling, Jon Hamm, Joel Kinnaman, Ewan McGregor, Robert Pattinson, Chris Pine, Ryan Reynolds, Alexander Skarsgård (he switched to Tarzan), Channing Tatum. Even Russell Crowe, surely a better bet at 50 for old Waverly, the UNCLE boss. Poor Davis never got it right!
- Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs, 2015. Christian Bale was in, then out (like Sony Pictures!). Other potential Jobses included Damon, Bradley Cooper, Leonardo DiCaprio. Christian baled for The Accountant andLeo took over another Bale reject, The Revenant… before“a lengthy break from acting.”
- Chris Pratt, The Magnificent Seven, 2016. Damon was first thought for the old Steve McQueen role, before Pratt hit big in Guardians of the Galaxy - which many see as a comic-cuts Seven Samurai, itself. Toting diversity as well a six-guns, director Antoine Fuqua’s guys were no match for the celebrated originals they were desecrating. No wonder Christian Bale, Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Wagner Moura also passed on the re-hash. Two more flew to Marvel: Benedict Cumberbatch for Doctor Strange, Jason Momoa as...
- Jason Momoa, Aquaman, 2017. Damon, Simon Baker, Matt Damon, even Leo Di Caprio were in the swim over the years before Momoa was announced on October 15, 2014… for 2018 summer release.