1. - Franco Interlenghi, A Farewell To Arms, 1957. An immediate farewell to Hollywood! Discovered by Henry Wilson, the man who found and re-christened Rock Hudson, Tab Hunter and John Smith(!), Delon turned down a seven-year contract with Hollywood great David Selznick to debut in order to debut in Yves Allegret's Quand la femme s'en mele. "I want to have a success as an actor, not as a pretty boy - a great actor."
2. - Jacques Charrier, Les trickers, France, 1958. Delon tested but Charrier had caught Marcel Carné’s eye on stage in The Diary of Anne Frank. The veteran director of such classics as Quai des Brumes, Le Jour se leve, Les Visiteurs de sour, Les Enfants du paradis, also dropped Jean-Paul Belmondo from the co-lead! Old-timer or not, Carné’s film helped start la nouvelle vague… Ironic, considering that with his first short, some 29 years earlier, Carné had been called by critic Jean Mitry, “a kind of new wave.”
3. - Franco Interlenghi, En cas de malheur, France-Italy, 1958.
“I made some tests but I was not chosen. I was crushed! Imagine missing that cast... Jean Gabin. Brigitte Bardot. Edwige Feuillière.” Delon and BB had first met that year for a special photo session: The World’s Most Beautiful Kisses. A test in itself for her screen lover - but co-production with Italy meant an Italian in the film. And, obviously, not in the Gabin, BB, Feuillère roles. So Delon was out - and not in until ten years later and the first of his two sketch films with Bardot. Although never lovers, the two beautiful superstars (too beautiful for each other) remained close friends since ’68.
4. - Jacques Charrier, Les drageurs, France, 1959. Realisateur Jean-Pierre Mocky also considered Belmondo and Jean-Pierre Cassel for his first feature. So did everyone else.
5. - Maurice Ronet, Plein soleil/Purple Noon, France, 1959. Offered the role of the victim, Delon held out for the killer (already tagged for Jacques Charrier). He kept on at realisateur René Clément until there came a voice from the back of the room. "Rrrrené, cherie," said Madame Bela Clément, "le petit a rrrraison - the kid is right!" He made his name as Ripley on the boat, despite being "as sick as a dog." During his first Hollywood visit, Bette Davis praised his performance.
6. - Marcello Mastroianni, Il Bell’ Antonio, Italy-France, 1959. Maestro Mauro Bolognini’s first choice for the indolent - and impotent - Antonio Magnano. Delon passed while Mastroianni made almost a cottage industry out of mocking his Latin Lover image with such roles. Bolognini also failed to nab Delon for La viaccia, 1961, and the actor caught up with Bell’ Antonio’s Claudia Cardinale in Visconti’s film of another famous Sicilian novel, l gattopardo/The Leopard, in 1962.
7. - Jean-Paul Belmondo, Classe tous risques, France, 1960. Producers did not fancy the early Belmondo - pug-ugly! - and tried to pressure realisateur Claude Sautet into going for the New Wave leaders: Delon, Gérard Blain, Laurent Terzieff. Or even the rotund, sweaty, cha-cha-cha-mambo singer Dario Moreno!!! Everyone ,including the director's agent, said:"Big mistake!" The film opened one week after About de souffle... and "Bebel" was born!
8. - Horst Buchholz, Fanny, 1960. Not applauded by the French when a German Marius was the result of Ze French Lover refusing to be one of ze most famous French lovers.
9. - Jacques Toja, Les trois mousquetaires/The Three Musketeers, France, 1961. Two Paris companies had the same idea and refused to merge. The ritzier version - Delon, Charles Aznavour, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Sophia Loren - was dropped. Too pricey.
10 - Warren Beatty, The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone, 1961. The gigolo was supposed to be continental but Vivien Leigh would not have him. “He’s prettier than I am.”
11 - Anthony Perkins, Goodbye Again, France-USA, 1961. Françoise Sagan’s pretentious pages did not transfer well to the screen - or not in this Hollywoodised version for Ingrid Bergman, Yves Montand and a quite hysterical Perkins.
12 - Jean-Paul Belmondo, La viaccia, Italy-France, 1961. First he said yes, then no - and once director Mauro Bolognini approached Delon, it was yes again. The pudique Bebel must have guessed the US re-release title: The Lovemakers.
13 - Omar Sharif, Lawrence of Arabia, 1962.
14 - Glenn Ford, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, l962. On vacation from MGMusicals, director Vincent Minnelli wanted Delon and had a Rome meet while the young Frenchman was making Rocco And His Brothers for Visconti. Metro insisted Delon was just a little Euro star - like, Minnelli’s fallback notion: Horst Buchholz.
15 - Robert Hossein, Le Repos du guerrier (UK: Warrior’s Rest; US: Love On A Pillow), France-Italy, 1962. Lost Bardot again. Well, Delon never worked with Roger Vadim... and this sociopathic would-be suicide abusing Brigitte Bardot was far more up Hossein’s allée.
16 - Jean-Paul Belmondo, L'Aine des Ferchaux, France, 1962. For his first film, stage producer Fernand Lumbroso offered the Simenon tale to Delon who had director approval. He suggested Jean Valere, with Michel Simon, Romy Schneider. But once Belmondo quit Antonioni's L'Eclipse, the French superstars swopped films.
17 - Jean-Claude Brialy, Chataeu en suède, France-Italy, 1963. Rejecting both Roger Vadim and Françoise Sagan for a second time. This is the forgotten Vadim movie. Well, instead of Bardot, all it had was a crazy US title: Nutty, Naughty Chateau.
18 - George Hamilton, Viva Maria, France, 1965. Another Bardot miss… "My career had just taken a nosedive for the umpteenth time and I'd gone water-ski-ing in Mexico," Hamilton told me in Spain. "My agent told me I'd been offered a film there - directed by Louis Malle. That didn't impress me much. Then, he told me the stars were Bardot and Moreau... I'll be right over!"
19 - Stephen Boyd, The Poppy Is Also A Flower, 1965. UNO planned six telefilms about its work by Kubrick, Preminger, etc. Only this one was made when Terence Young gave up a third Bond gig to work with 007 creator Ian Fleming on this star-studded (Yul Brynner, Angie Dickinson, Rita Hayworth, Omar Sharif) battle to stop heroin flowing into Europe. Fleming died before completing the script. Everyone else died on-screen.
20 - George Chakiris, On a volé la Joconde/The Mona Lisa Has Been Stolen, France-Italy, 1966. Delon rejected Jean-Pierre Melville’s initial offer because, said the best maker of films noir, “he was bucking for an international career.” Ironically, Michel Deville took it on... with a Hollywood star.
21 - Horst Buchholz, Marco The Magnificent, France, 1966. Delon was Marco Polo when veteran director Christian-Jacque started shooting when the movie ran out of money in 1962... Montgomery Clift was considered to rescue it. Producer Raoul Levy, who saw himself as Yossarin of Catch 22, did more than go broke. According to Orson Welles, an economics veteran, Levy "almost shut down the Yugoslavian film industry." In neither version did Levy have a script. Reported Welles: "We made it up as we went along." Exactly why Welles refused to direct. Buchholz was the first lover of Delon’s greatest amour, Romy Schneider.
Delon was Marco Polo in 1962 - until producer Raoul Levy ran out of money. Montgomery Clift was sought to rescue the film.. Finally, the German Delon, Horst Buchholz, became Marco The Magnificent, 1966.He took over Delon's next role, too: Cervantes, (1967).
[courtesy Daniel Bouteiller/Telé Ciné Documentation]
22 - Horst Buchholz, Cervantes, (US: Young Rebel), Italy-Spain-France, 1967. The German Delon subs again as Alain rejects total rubbish purporting to be the early life of Don Quxote author, Miguel de Cervantes.
23 - Marcello Mastroianni, Lo Stranieo/L'Etranger, Italy-France-Algeria, 1967. From 1962-64, the self-important Italian director Visconti (Count Don Luchino Visconti Di Modrone) wanted Delon for the Camus project. Of course, he did. The Count adored pretty boys and had already worked with Delon on stage and screen. He planned to "take Delon in one hand and the Camus book in the other and really film the book." Dino De Laurentiis wanted more drama, "accentuate the colours" and told Delon to choose: "Him or me." Delon chose home. And Dino said: “Why not Marcello?” Bingo!
24 - Jean-Paul Belmondo, La Sirene du Mississippi, France, 1968. Despite not having the rights to the William Irish book, the Hakim brothers talked deals with realisateur François Truffaut to make the film with Deneuve and Alan Bates or Delon. "But," admitted Truffaut, "I had a crush on Belmondo" since trying to interest him in Fahrenheit 451 in 1962.
25 - Bruno Cremer, Bye Bye Barbara, France, 1968. Refused realisateur Michel Deville’s vapid tale of... journalist meets girl, journalist loses girl...
26 - Lino Ventura, L’Armée des Ombres, France, 1969, Delon would make two cult films with the superlative director Jean-Pierre Melville - yet he refused Melville’s French Resistance masterpiece. ”We have an extraordinary complicity during shooting,” said Melville. “This is offset... by the extraordinary complexity of his character... he is subject to fits of depression.”
27 - Bekim Fehmiu,The Adventurers, 1970.
“We don’t need Delon. Stars are out of date and... cost too much.” So said Paramount chief Charlie Bludhorn, neon-lighting his ignorance. “And so, UK director Lewis Gilbert found an unknown (huge in Sarajevo) to play the priapic hero based by writer Harold Robbins on Porfirio Rubirosa. the Dominican diplomat-playboy with the massive penis. (It is the reason Paris waiters called their huge pepper-grinders, Rubirosas). Fehmiu stayed in films until the 90s.
28 - Jean-Pierre Cassel, L'ours et la poupée, France, 1970. A fifth BB vehicle left to Bardot… Belmondo and Delon were furious on discovering, during a chance bistro meeting, that auteur Michel Deville had sent them both the same script and promise: "I wrote it just for you." They both left it alone. As did Catherine Deneuve. Bardot picked it up. Gleefully. And so, Cassel, who had lost D’Artagnan to Belmondo in the 1959 TV production, was finally rewarded for bringing Une ravissante idiote to BB’s attention in 1963. (Well, she liked it!). This one did better. Everywhere but France where critics moaned they weren’t Kate Hepburn/Cary Grant - while Italian producers kept chasing them for more of the same.
29 - Terence Stamp, Une saison en enfer, France-Italy, 1970. Jean-Pierre Melville had the “fanatstic idea” first - Delon as Rimbaud, Jean-Claude Brialy as Verlaine. Brialy remained Verlaine, but opposite Stamp,.
30 - Maurice Ronet, Raphaël ou le débauché, France, 1971. Michel Deville called again... Delon agreed, then changed his mind about being the debauched cynic, full of booze, death, dispair, women,, and a general disgust for life and love. Far too close to his tabloid image.
31 - Michel Piccoli, Max et les ferrailleurs, France, 1971. Realisateur Claude Sautet tried Delon - well, it was a flic! - and then Yves Montand, before the man who knew all about Les choses de la vie.
32 - Al Pacino, The Godfather, 1971.
33 - Marlon Brando, Ultimo tango a Parigi/Last Tango In Paris, France-Italy, 1972.
Losing his ideal couple, Conformistes Jean-Louis Trintignant and Dominique Sanda (pregnant by Jean-Louis’ brother-in-law, Christian Marquand), Italian maestro Bernardo Bertolucci startled Jean-Paul Belmondo, who retorted: “I don’t do porno!” OK then, how about Delon? “Sure but I have to produce it!” Bye-bye, Delon! “Hi Marlon, it’s Bernardo…”
34 - Dustin Hoffman, Papillon, 1973. When asked to direct, Richard Brooks said, sure - with Belmondo and Delon. Too pricey! (Hardly more so than McQueen and Hoffman!)
35 - André Dussollier, Tout une vie, France, 1974. While driving leading lady Marthe Keller around Aix-en-Provence, flashy realisateur Claude Lelouch said he was thinking of Delon as her co-star. Fifteen minutes later, he pulled up at an accident between a car and a motor-cyclist who proved to be... Alain Delon! "This is a sign from the gods," said the actor on hearing about the film as Lelouch drove him home, "that we must work together." They never did! (Nor did Barbra Streisand ever make the Hollywood version she had bought the rights for).
36 - Lino Ventura, La Gifle, 1974. Ego got in the way of a friendship with director Claude Pinoteau. At age 39, Delon was just not interested in playing the fatherof a teenage girl. (At the time, his own son, Anthony, was ten.)
37 - Yves Montand, Le sauvage, France-Italy, 1975. Auteur Jean-Paul Rappenau wanted Elliot Gould until producer Raymond Danon said such an important French production must have French stars. Alain Delon scoffed about one scene: “Can you see me cooking fish?” Jean-Paul Belmondo also passed… Montand loved the title but not playing second fiddle to Catherine Deneuve. He insisted on having a Big Finish scene, “taking revenge on The System.” This was shot, expensively, in New York and then axed for sticking out like a sore Costa-Gavras thumb.
38 - Robert De Niro, Taxi Driver, 1975.
39 - Giancarlo Giannini, The Innocent, Italy, 1976. An aged and infirm Luchino Visconti, who had directed Delon and Romy Schneider on the Paris stage in 1961, wanted to reunite the ex-lovers, as Tullio and Giuliana "I didn't want to see Visconti diminished - in a wheelchair," said Delon. "I loved and respected him too much for that."
40 - Jacques Perrin, Le Crabe-Tambour, France, 1977. "I've a horror of water. Always have - despite Plein Soleil and La Piscine." He regretted his decision.
41 - Patrick Dewaere, Adieu, poulet, France, 1978. Oh non, non, non... This won’t do at all! Ventura has far more to do - and say -than his partner.Big break for Dewaere although he hated playing a cop.Or thought his friends would.
42 - Vadim Glowna, La mort en direct (UK/US: Death Watch), France-West Germany-UK, 1979. Bad health prevented Bertrand Tavernier regular Philippe Noiret from playing Romy Schneider’s husband. The Lyons realisateur turned to Delon. Yes, well, for obvious reasons. But he was not interested. For much the same obvious reasons. And, anyway his scenes with ex-lover Romy were “trop breves.” Too brief. Besides their love story history would send the wrong message to the public. Enter: the German veteran who debuted in Immensee in 1942. At at eight months!
43 - Christopher Connolly, Martin Eden, TV, 1979. Delon read it and tried for it (before it spun into a TV mini). Edith Piaf had given him the book: "It's you! Only you should do it!"
44 - Gérard Depardieu, Le grand frere, France, 1982. Objected to the politics (racism) and violence (to children). Depardieu felt it could match Night of the Hunter, the favourite US movie of almost every French screen star (probably because an actor directed it. Charles Laughton).
45 - Nicolas Silberg, Mesrine, France, 1983. Delon was beaten to the rights of L'Instinct de mort by Belmondo - his agent had published the autobiography of Jacques Mesrine, French Public Enemy #1. Among possible directors, Jean-Luc Godard alone was keen - but on making it with Delon, if Belmondo would sell the rights. Delon refused. Maybe he'd heard what Godard told Belmondo: "Mesrine killed many people. I'd like to do the same but I don't have the courage."
46 - Jeremy Irons, Un amour de Swann/Swann In Love, France, 1984. Luchino Visconti planned the full A la recherche du temps perdu plus Du coté chez Swann with Marlon Brando as gay Baron Charlus. Delon was also booked as Swann for the next (Joseph Losey-Harold Pinter) project - and joined Volker Schlondorff's version, taking on the gay batron "in hommage to Visconti."
47 - Sting, Dune, 1984.
48 - Joe Dellesandro, The Cotton Club, 1984. Hoping for more of The Godfather magic, producer Robert Evans had Mario Puzo writing and Francis Coppola directing a gangster/jazz… flop. He even wanted his Paris pal Delpn (once up for Michael Corleone!) to play a small cameo as Lucky Luciano. No way!
49 - Bernard Giraudeau, Bras de fer, France, 1985. Or, Coup fourre as Gérard Vergez first called it.
50 - Burt Reynolds, Malone, 1987.
Christoper Frank bought William P Wingate’s book, for a hesitant Delon. He found it "baroque, symbolic, interesting but not necessarily commercial," renewed his option until selling the rights to producer Alain Terzian who aimed for Gérard Depardieu, then Christophe(r) Lambert before Hollywood raided the dustbin. To no great avail.
51 Guy Marchand, Charlie Dingo, France, 1987. Wise move.
52 - Bernard Giraudeau, L'homme voile, France. 1987. Subbed again by "the new Delon" - although he had yet to prove it.
53 - Gerard Lanvin, Saxo, France 1988. "New" Delons were everywhere!
54 - Murray Head, La barbare, France, 1989. Their mythic love story was long over when Mireille Darc started a directing debut - and could think of one star only. Her producer, Norbet Saada, went to see Delon. “Almost before I got out of the lift, he opened his front door and said: I won’t do it!”
55 - Peter Coyote, Lune de fiel/Bitter Moon, France, 1992. Director Roman Polanski made it in English. In 1985, André Techine planned Delon-Isabelle Adjani. Like everyone else - including Polanski for his following project, the never made Lust.
56 - Olivier Martinez, Le Hussard sur le toit, France, 1995. The Jean Giono classic was nearly made oh-so-many times with the heroic Angelo passing from Gérard Philippe and Marlon Brando to Anthony Perkins and Delon
57 - Harvey Keitel, To Vlemma tou Odyssea/Uylsses' Gaze, Greece, 1995. Director Theo Angelopoulos's third choice proved as unavailable as Al Pacino and Daniel Day-Lewis. However, Keitel was not so averse to locations in war-torn Bosnia.
58 - Anthony Hopkins, The Mask of Zorro, 1998. No to Steven Spielberg...! When Hopkins first refused the role of the old, retiring Zorro who trains a young successor, in the Amblin project, Bondsmith Martin Campbell sent the script to Delon - because he was "the right age and talent" and not because he'd seen his 1975 Zorro; - which he thought terrible except for Delon's "impeccable look." Delon was making his stage comeback at the time. "I made the Italian Zorro for my son," he explained on French TV. "He called me Zorro after that. Now, I’ve a new young son, and he calls me Zorro, too." Just not Zorro II!
59 - Richard Berry Corto Maltese, France, 2002. Long before Christophe(r) Lambert sprung the comicbook rights, Delon had tried to make the film. He was rejected by creator Hugo Pratt, who felt David Bowie made a s better sailor hero. The final, animation version was voiced by Berry.
60 - Rip Torn, Marie-Antoinette, 2005. Director Sofia Coppola was reported “furious” with how Delon used her offer to play Louis XV for his own publicity. He had photographers on tap when she visited him in his theatre dressingroom and when he took her to dinner. And then, he refused her! He could not be in a movie where he had to wear a wig, but that he would do any contemporary role she offered.
61 - Gérard Depardieu, L'instinct de mort, France, 2008. Angry with the producer Thomas Langmann - also behind Delon’s Julius Caesar cameo in Astérix aux jeux olympiques - he withdrew from the new biopic about the French Dillinger, Jacques Mesrine. Thirty years before he had been beaten to the rights by his arch rival Jean-Paul Belmondo - who had his script approved by Mesrine himself. With a single rider. “Don’t put Fin. It’s not over yet.” Then he escaped from jail...
62 - Johnny Hallyday, Vengeance, Hong Kong-France, 2009. French rock idol Johnny Hallyday (65) meets Johnnie To - and loves it. “Delon refused,” said Johnny, “because the character had Alzhemier’s… Didn’t bother me and Johnnie changed it, anyway He preferred that Costello’s memory was caused by a bulet lodged in his brain.” Costello was Delon’s name in the Hong Kong director’s favourite movie, Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le samouraï, France, 1967. To later tried to re-vamp Melville’s penultimate film - as Red Circle with Liam Neeson, Chow Yun Fat and… Delon.
63 - Johnny Hallyday, Salaud, on t’aime, France, 2013. Claude Lelouch (still making films?) was thinking of Delon or Jacques Dutronc, when the veteran rocker called out of the blue. “So when we do we start our film?” In 2014, Dutronc joined Hallyday and his eventual co-star, the singer-cum-actor Eddy Mitchell, in Sinatra Clan style concerts in France.
64 - Gérard Lanvin, Les Lyonnais, France-Belgium, 2011. Ex-cop turned excellent autuer of cop thrillers, Olivier Marchal had an ambition of creating a (last?) great role for the French movie legend, with nods to his glorious chef d’oeuvres. Result: the gypsy-raised gangster Mamon was tailor-made for Delon. Marchal asked #1 TV host Michel Drucker to help introduce them. And after “a few whacky meetings,” the dream was over.