1. - Al Pacino, Panic In Needle Park, 1971. Jerry Schatzberg nearly refused his second film (“too topical, so much drugs were going on”) until hearing Pacino fancied it. The studio wanted somebody younger - Al was 30. “I told the producer: The only reason I'm doing this film is that I really want to work with Al. I’ll go through the charade of seeing other actors.” Among them was De Niro, the Mr Schlepper of auditions: monosyllabic, charmless, never talking to the director. “And he was wonderful! But I’d already made up my mind. Later, I was downtown, looking in the window of an Army and Navy store and somebody comes up behind me: ”Hey man - I really want to do that part.’ I turn around - De Niro! I told him the truth: ”You’re brilliant, but it would be unfair to myself and to Pacino’.” l had caught De Niro’s debut, The Wedding Party, ”and was very impressed by him.” Now it was time for Pacino’s debut.
2. - Al Pacino, The Godfather, 1971.
3. - James Caan,The Godfather, 1971.
4. - Gianni Russo, The Godfather, 1971.
5. - John Martino,The Godfather, 1971.
6. - James Caan, The Gambler, 1973.
When Paramount cheesily announced a 2012 re-make without telling him, scenarist James Toback realated the unexpurgated chronology of the original (“from erection to resurrection,” to quote Churchill), revealing how William Saroyan’s daughter, Lucy, said: “I know the actor you must use. I study with him. I’ve fooled around with him... He’s a genius. I’ve known Marlon since I was a little girl. I’ve fucked Marlon. I love Marlon. And this is the only guy on earth who is going to be as great as Marlon - Bobby DeNiro." They met and found an instant communion… “He read the script. He didn’t just learn it - he digested it. He became Axel Freed [aka Toback]. He even got a Caesar haircut from Carol at Vidal Sasoon where I had my hair cut... He had the character inside out, up and down, front and rear. The problem was that at that point no one except Lucy Saroyan was calling DeNiro a genius.” And his UK director, Karel Reisz, veteoed him. “I cannot use this boy… He has the wrong temperament. He’s too common.” The writer was stunned:
“He’s the guy! How can you not see that?”
“I’m sorry. “I won’t discuss it any further. I want to make the movie you want me to make but not with him.” The writer’s disbelief was matched by De Niro’s frustration - Reisz would not even let him read! “If you continue trying to persuade me, I’ll have to resign. We can talk about anything else. I will not talk about him.” Toback and De Niro remained friends, “but we’ve had nothing like the creative collaboration which might well have evolved from his playing Axel Freed… Caan became a great Axel,” added Toback in 2014, “although obviously different from the character De Niro would have created.” And Reisz? “My one-man film school.”
7 - Elliott Gould, California Split, 1974. Steven Spielberg had everything set for De Niro. When director Robert Altman and scenarist Joseph Walsh took over, they actually preferred Gould. Go figure.
8. - James Caan, Funny Lady, 1975. This time, Caan was a better choice for the Broadway showman Billy Rose. Barbra Streisand, however, wanted Robert Blake. And tested him at home.
9. - Bruce Dern, Family Plot, 1975. De Niro and Al Pacino apparently wanted too much money thereby letting Dern share Alfred Hitchcock’s final film. Dern had previously made Marnie and one of the Hitch TV shows and told Roger Ebert that Hitchcock looked him over and said: “Who would ever have believed after all these years that you would be my leading man?” Dern replied: “Hitch, you’re looking at living proof that if a guy hangs out long enough and the others flake out and lose their hair, sooner or later you’ve got to give it to old Dern. After all, a couple of years ago, I would be playing the kidnapper in this picture. You see how I’ve come up in the world?”
10 - David Carradine, Bound For Glory, 1976. “Bob was busy for the next eight years!” says screenwriter Robert Getchell. “Anyway, we wanted a short, wiry, 23-year-old.” Carradine chased the role over eight years with the same message: “But I am Woody Guthrie!” Despite being tall and 40!
* A producer called Robert Redford wanted a modest movie about the Washington Post reporters who broke the Watergate story. Before they helped topple President Richard Nixon, a ($2m) budget and unknown actors were planned. He chose the 1973 Bang The Drum Slowly: Robert De Niro to be Carl Bernstein and Michael Moriarty as Bob Woodward. Increased costs called for safeguards called Dustin Hoffman and Redford.
[Montage by Reg Oliver, 1976]
11 - Dustin Hoffman, All The President’s Men, 1976. Robert Redford snapped up the rights - for a little film for De Niro as Carl Bernstein, Michael Moriarty as Bob Woodward. This, in fact, is the very casting story that bred this fetish of mine...
12 - James Caan, A Bridge Too Far, 1976. UK director Richard Attenborough got most of the A List cameos he’d set his heart on for the WWII saga. From James Caan, Michael Caine, Sean Connery to Laurence Olivier, Ryan O’Neal, Robert Redford - but not Charles Bronson, Audrey Hepburn, Steve McQueen. Nor De Niro as Colonel Stout.
13 - Richard Dreyfuss, The Goodbye Girl, 1977. Written as Gable Slept Here, it started shooting in 1974 as Bogart Slept Here and De Niro is no Bogie fan. In comedy too soon after Taxi Driver angst, he walked away after two weeks. “It never worked. Then, they tried not to pay me. They didn’t succeed.” Mike Nichols tested a few replacements, then threw in the towel - “It would be wrong to continue” - and quit movies for five years, including his next project, The Last Tycoon, with... De Niro. Neil Simon, who re-wrote script to suit the girl’s angle for his second wife, Marsha Mason, commented: “De Niro’s a very intense actor. He doesn't play joy very well.” Dreyfuss said: “I think I’m wonderful.” Oscar agreed.
14 - James Caan, A Bridge Too Far, 1977. Money was never the issue - he was happy with $500,000 per day! But UK actor-director Richard Attenborough could never find time to meet and analyse the role of Colonel Stout with him.13 - Harvey Keitel, Fingers, 1977. Having failed to get De Nioro - or the director’s chair - for The Gambler, James Toback was determined to direct his second – and with De Niro. However… “After a month of indecision I proposed - separately to each of them - that I go with Bob’s best friend. Harvey agreed to play Jimmy and quickly began to astonish me by taking the character into dimensions of darkness well beyond my original imagining.”
15 - Harvey Keitel, Fingers, 1977. Having failed to get De Nioro - or the director’s chair - for The Gambler, James Toback was determined to direct his second - and with De Niro. However… “After a month of indecision I proposed - separately to each of them - that I go with Bob’s best friend. Harvey agreed to play Jimmy and quickly began to astonish me by taking the character into dimensions of darkness well beyond my original imagining.”
16 - Keith Carradine, Pretty Baby, 1977. The subject was horrendous - a prostitute mother 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 De Niro, Albert Brooks, James Caan, 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) and even Christopher Walken.
17 - Anthony Hopkins, Magic, 1978. Before Richard Attenborough set it up with Hopkins (one of the Bridge Too Far stars), De Niro had shown interest in the psycho-ventriloquist and set about replacing Steven Spielberg with Roman Polanski - in jail for raping an underage girl. So De Niro became The Deer Hunter.
18 - Sylvester Stallone, FIST, 1978.
De Niro dawdled for months about the truckers’ union drama, so Norman Jewison snapped up the Time and Newsweek cover boy. Rocky! “Nobody really knew whether Stallone could act,” commented scenarist Joe Eszterhas. Next day, the De Niro camp called, Bob was in! Too late. There was a verbal agreement with Sly - soon re-writing the script. Eszterhas called Sly a thief and Stallone had him banned from the set. Ain’t stardom great!
19 - Tom McKitterick, The Warriors, 1979. Walter Hill asked De Niro - and then chose an unknown for Cowboy. He’s remains unknown.
20 - Harvey Keitel, La mort en direct (UK/US: Death Watch), France-West Germany-UK, 1979. Lyons realisateur Bertrand Tavernier unwisely insisted on “unbankable” Keitel (just sacked from Coppola’s Apocalypse Now) and Romy Schneider. His producers wanted bigger names. De Niro or Richard Gere, Jane Fonda or Diane Keaton.
21 - Jack Nicholson, The Shining, 1979.
Judging them solely on Taxi Driver and Mork & Mindy, Stanley Kubrick said Robert De Niro was not psychotic enough while Robin Williams was too much so! Although Kubrick’s only choice was Nicholson, Warner Bros also suggested Harrison Ford, Christopher Reeve. Plus Martin Sheen (who’d already made it… as Apocalypse Now!). (He’d also made Stephen King’s Dead Zone in 1983). Author King said “normal looking” Michael Moriarty or Jon Voight going mad would work better than Jack. Even the funny Chase and Leslie Nielsen (what were they thinking?) Didn’t matter who was Jack Torrance as Kubrick, usually so blissfully right about everything, had clearly lost it. He insisted on up to 70 takes for some scenes (three days and 60 doors for “Here’s Johnny!”), reducing Shelley Duvall and grown men, like Scatman Crothers at 69, to tears. “Just what is it that you want, Mr Kubrick?” He didn’t know. He was, quite suddenly, a director without direction. Result: a major disappointment. Not only for Stephen King but the rest of us. Harry Dean Stanton escaped being Lloyd, the bartender, by making a real horror film. Alien.
22 - Al Pacino, Cruising, 1980. Isn’t this where we came in...? A quick refusal - same from Roy Scheider, who lost Deer Hunter to De Niro.
23 - John Belushi, Continental Divide, 1981. Steven Spielberg adored the Tracy/Hepburn unlikely romcoms. Now he’d found his own. Except he chickened out whenhe couldn’t unearth a new Spence/Kate. He remained producer and thought the no-nonsense journo hero (based on Chicago Sun Times columnist Mike Royko) was perfectfor… De Niro, Peter Falk, Dustin Hoffman, George Segal – plus Richard Dreyfuss,who would re-hash Tracy’s role in 1943’s A Guy Named Joe in Spielberg’s clunky 1989 version, Always. Then, Belushi, the overblown ruination of Spielberg’s 1941, decided he could go straight. Steven believed him.And stuck him onpoor UK director Michael Apted. Big mistake!
24 - Frederic Forrest, Hammett, 1981. German director Wim Wenders wanted him but his producer - a guy called Coppola - wanted to use his own contract players. Wenders was 33 at the start of the “long, amazing experience - too good to be true” and 38 at the end, and no longer wed to his new wife and star Ronee Blakely. After some 40 drafts of the script, Coppola then re-shot the whole damn thing. Neither version was worth a nickel. In all, the shoot lasted long enough for co-stars Frederic Forest and Marliu Henner to fall in love, marry and divorce!
25 - Gérard Depardieu, Le Retour de Martin Guerre, France, 1982. One of The Incredible Bulk's classics. His 1900 co-star was hunting up French locations with Martin Scorsese to make it with Meryl Streep and Paul Scofield, when hearing of the French version. De Niro's producer, Arnon Milchan, eventually made the 1992 Hollywood re-make, Sommersby, with Richard Gere. Far from the same league as Depardieu.
26 - Sylvester Stallone, First Blood (aka Rambo),1982.
27 - Al Pacino, Scarface, 1982. Both De Niro and Edward James Olmos refused to be Cuban gangster Tony Montana - Pacino called it among his most favorite roles.
28 - Richard Gere, Breathless, 1983. Jim McBride’s first choice took too long to say pay or nay.
29 - Nick Apollo Forte, Broadway Danny Rose, 1983. Sorry Woody, but he didn’t want to pile on the Raging Bull kilos again. Once was enough. Forte took over egocentric Frankie-cum-Dino Italian crooner Lou Canova, singing two of his ownsongs inthe comedy,“Agita” and “My Bambina.” (The 1987 porno version was, inevitably: Broadway Fanny Rose).
30 - Michael Palin, Brazil, 1985. “He needed the work,” joked Terry Gilliam. “He chose Palin’s part (the torturer) because it was more complicated. Bobby’s instincts go for complex, confused characters. But I wanted him to play a hero. [Superplumber Harry Tuttle].He’ssimple,honest, honourable, so I said:‘You’re our hero, just be yourself.’ This was terrifying for him. He actually tried to make it more complicated... until we all wanted to kill him!”
31- Robert Duvall, Let’s Get Harry, 1985. De Niro would have been the biggest star-capture by Hollywood’s most notorious director, Allen Smithee - official pseudonym forDirectors Guild members taking their names off films (Stuart Rosenberg in this case).
32 - Walter Matthau, Pirates, 1986. When Nicholson jumped ship, Polanksi contacted De Niro. He was making almost any-and-everything at the time (he had a company to finance), but there were limits... “I had to decide early on whether I was to be an actor or a personality.”
33 - Christopher Walken, At Close Range, 1986. De Niro felt the role of Sean Penn’s father was “too dark.” Hearing that, Taxi Driverco-producer Julia Phillips scoffed: “Must be as black as darkest Africa for De Niro to say that.”
34 - - Sean Connery, Der Name der Rose/The Name of the Rose, France-Italy-West Germany, 1986. Réalisateur Jean-Jacques Annaud was not keen on 007 as Umberto Eco’s medieval monk turned detective. Columia Pictures even refused financing if Connery was involved as his post-Bond star was imploding. Naturally, Brando topped Annaud’s further 14 ideas. Six Americans: De Niro (dropped because he wanted a duel scene… with real swords), Marlon Brando, Frederic Forrest, Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, Roy Scheider; four Brits: Michael Caine, Albert Finney, Ian McKellen, Terence Stamp; plus Canadian Donald Sutherland, French Yves Montand, Irish Richard Harris, Italian Vittorio Gassman and Swedish Max von Sydow. Connery’s reading was the best and his career exploded anew. Two years later, he won his support Oscar for The Untouchables.
35 - Robert Downey Jr, The Pick Up Artist, 1986. De Niro & Toback - Part Three… Suddenly, Warren Beatty turned shy, reluctant, said auteur James Toback, “to portray a character whose erotic compulsions propelled the narrative.” (He’d been there, done that and got the Shampoo tee-shirt in 1974!). He suggested De Niro and Martin Scorsese attended their reading at the actor’s loft, laughing “hysterically in all the right places.” Next day, Beatty called: Jack Jericho should be 20, not 45. “You’re going to have to make the call.” De Niro called first, as Toback reported in Vanity Fair in 2014. “Listen, Jim. I’ll still do the movie if you want me to, but to be honest about it, this character should be much younger. Like 20.” Toback said: “You’re not going to believe this… Mutual enthusiasm had melted into mutual relief.”
36 - Nick Nolte, Weeds, 1987. “Once in a generation a gifted actor makes a role his own...”screamed the hype. But which gifted actor…? In 1980, the life of ex-con-playwright Rick Cluchey was set for De Niro, the Raging Bull producers and his his Bang The Drum Slowly maker John Hancock. It resurfaced in l982 at EMI, still with DeNiro. By l984, Nick Nolte took over. Three more years before it was made - and instantly forgotten.
37 - Scott Glenn, Man On Fire, 1987. Producer Arnon Milchan's Once Upon A Time In America team of director Sergio Leone and De Niro passed. Milchan tried Marlon Brando - who only worked on script of French director Eli Chouraqui's first/last US film.
38 - Mickey Rourke, Angel Heart, 1987. “Which role are you offering?” said De Niro. “Either,” said Alan Parker. De Niro took so long deciding that Rourke was handed the private eye. Parker recalled a three hour meeting where De Niro “questioned every dot and comma of the script,” and two weeks before shooting, he quit agonising and played Lou Cyphere. (Say it!)
39 - Jack Nicholson, Ironweed, 1987. Dropped when he avoided carrying films and preferred cameos - like Al Capone in The Untouchables.“People treat me with a bit too much reverence.”
40 - Michael Douglas, Fatal Attraction, 1987.
41 - Tom Hanks, Big, 1988. 1987.
“I wish I was big.” A kid drops a quarter in a wish-machine, makes his wish, and next morning he wakes up an adult Hanks - still behaving, of course, like a kid. Steven Spielberg’s sister, Anne, wrote the script. And Brooks rejected it. But then, so did Harrison Ford - while Fox rejected Gary Busey and… John (Box Office Poison) Travolta. Warren Beatty wasn’t tempted until De Niro was keen. "I’ve known Bobby for years,” said director Penny Marshall. “He has a different sense of humor but he has a sense of humor. It was just that every actor at that point had said: No! So I said, ‘Well I’ll go with a man-man then. I think that [audiences] would’ve paid to see him in that comedy. He’s really great with telling directors: Watch all my films. Tell me what you don’t want to see.” However, De Niro wanted $6m - and kept his childlike self for Marshall’s next film, Awakenings, 1990. Hanks agreed to $2m but had to finish Dragnet and Punchline before he could head up Anne’s third and last filmed script, ninth and last producing gig. She’d also acted - in Escape To Nowhere in 1961, when her brother directed. At 13.
42 - Bruce Willis, Die Hard, 1987. Vengeance is mine…! There were 16 possible John McClanes… This once, the prerequisite Great Outsider won - when De Niro declined… just after Willis was rejected as De Niro’s co-star in Midnight Run! The movies opened the same weekend (bad news for De Niro). Frank Sinatra had to be contractually offered the hero. In his 1980 move debut, The First Deadly Sin, Willis is seen leaving a bar as Sinatra walks in. So it flows…
43 - Willem Dafoe, The Last Temptation of Christ, 1988.
Scorsese’s first choice since 1971. “There are subjects Marty wants to do that I'm not particularly interested in,” De Niro told me in Deauville. “And this was one of them... To play Jesus is like playing Hamlet - everybody’s done it. Even though Marty wanted to do it more connected to reality. But I did say: ‘As a friend, I’d do it if you needed to get it going. But I don’t think you’d want me to do it under those conditions.’ I’m happy he did it. It’s a work of love, a chef d’ouvre. I don’t know what the scandal is about. What scared them is that Marty really cared.” Scorsese fell for Dafoe in To Live And Die In LA, and Platoon, 1985-6. “Physically, an extraordinary actor. Particularly in the Crucifixion - when he did everything but the nails.”
44 - Dennis Quaid, Everybody's All American (UK: When I Fall In Love), 1988. One of the many due to be ex-football star Gavin Grey during six years of more Development Purgatory than Hell.
45 - Danny Ailleo, Do The Right Thing, 1988. Director Spike Lee wrote Sal, the pizzeria racist, for him. “He suggested Danny,” Spike told me.“I had thought of Danny. But I wanted De Niro. But when you think of it, De Niro probably wouldn’t have been right for this. It would’ve like thrown everything out of whack. To have a star of that magnitude in a film like this. But we had him on the Wall of Fame in Sal’s Famous Pizzeria.” On and off stuntman Ailleohad taught De Niro the art of baseball for his breakthrough movie, Bang The Drum Slowly,1973.
46 - Stephen Lang, Last Exit To Brooklyn, Germany, 1988. Various US film-makers attempted to crack Hubert Selby Jr’s controversial jigsaw of a book: Ralph Bakshi,Steve Kranz, Stanley Kubrick… Brian De Palma was working on it for De Niro until stopped by the US anti-porno forces. Germany finally made it - with most of their US cast doing their best to sound like De Niro.
47 - Mickey Rourke, Johnny Handsome, 1989 . Bobby was juggling Johnny, Ironweed, Big... instead, he chose...
48 - Joe Pesci, Home Alone, 1989. De Niro and Macauley Culkin!!! Never. De Niro passed Harry Lime (!) to pal Joe Pesci. Tough of the kid as when Pesci had to bite his finger, he actually bit his finger!
49 - Warren Beatty, Dick Tracy, 1989. As potential helmers switchbacked from Tim Burton, to John Landis.
50 - Robin Williams, Awakenings, 1990. Director Penny Marshall offered him Leonard, the Rip Van Winkle patient - and then, Dr Sayer. “He's the glue of the movie,”said Marshall:“Let someone else be the glue,” he said. “I want the glitter.” And a sixth Oscar nomination.
51 - Robin Williams, Awakenings, 1990. Director Penny Marshall offered him Leonard, the Rip Van Winkle patient - and then, Dr Sayer. “He's the glue of the movie,” said Marshall: “Let someone else be the glue,” he said. “I want the glitter.” And a sixth Oscar nomination.
52 - Ray Liotta, Goodfellas, 1990. “At first, I wanted to play Henry Hill.I loved this character but wondered if I could look young enough... Discussing the characters with Marty [Scorsese], I said: Why don't I play Jimmy Conway? There's some good scenesfor me.”
53 - Warren Beatty, Bugsy, 1990. Twenty years earlier, Jean-Luc Godard wrote his own Bugsy Siegel story. Called just that - The Story. For De Niro and Diane Keaton.When she changed her mind about being Virginia Hill, Godard went back to France. Beatty’s writer James Toback heard about the nouvelle vague icon “pastiche-like” treatment… and took so many years writing his version that Beatty complained: “I want to play this part while I can still walk!”
54 - Harvey Keitel, Thelma & Louise, 1990.
55 - James Caan, Misery, 1990. "Beatty, Douglas, Dreyfuss… sure, I approached all those people," said director Rob Reiner. "Every single one of those bastards turned me down... As much as I tried to convince them that I'd try to elevate the genre - which I feel we did - they saw it as a Stephen King, blood and guts kinda film." The refusniks also included Warren Beatty, Jeff Daniels, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Gene Hackman, Ed Harris, John Heard, Dustin Hoffman, William Hurt, Robert Klein, Kevin Kline, Ed O’Neill, Al Pacino, Robert Redford, John Ritter, Denzel Washington. Why Caan then? "I think he wanted the work."
56 - David Morse, The Indian Runner, 1991. “Relentlessly” inspired to make a movie from a favorite Bruce Springsteen song, “Highway Patrolman,” Sean Penn talked to De Niro (they discovered they shared the same birthday during We're No Angels) about playing his older brother. De Niro's tight schedule meant a movie break for the St.Elsewhere TV star - and Penn satisfied himself by directing only.
57 - Kevin Costner, JFK,1991.
58 - Jack Nicholson, Man Trouble, 1991. Lawrence Kasdan had almost made it with De Niro-Jessica Lange. “We could never agree on where the script should go.” Nicholson was paid $8m - and in three US weeks, the film earned... $3.9m!
59 - Michael Douglas, Basic Instinct, 1991.
60 - Armand Assante, The Mambo Kings, 1992. De Niro, Jeremy Irons, Kevin Kline were the names considered, but Bobby had done the randy bandleader bit before in New York, New York, 1977.
61 - Jack Lemmon, Glengarry Glen Ross, 1992. Scenarist David Mamet always wanted him.He had, after all, written the original stage play for him.
62 - Joe Pesci, My Cousin Vinny, 1992 .Lissen, ya know who ya should get...
63 - Jack Nicholson, A Few Good Men, 1992. Bob saw the Aaron Sorkin play and wanted the hard-nosed, scene-stealing Marine Colonel Nathan Jessup: “You can’t handle the truth!” (That might have been director Rob Reiner talking when turning him down...)
64 - Jack Nicholson, Hoffa, 1992. Over its seven year gestation,producer Edward Pressman had also seen De Niro and Al Pacino forthe veritable King Lear of trade union leaders. Jack was paid $9m. And then some.
65 - John Malkovich, In The Line Of Fire, 1992. First choice for th ewould-be assassin of a US President – thwarted by Secret Service man Clint Eastwood who lost JFK in Dallas - was too busy with his actor-directing debut, A Bronx Tale. This is one of Clint’s finest films.
66 - Bob Hoskins, The Super MarioBrothers, 1993.America’s finest screen actor in a film about \video-gamecharacters - get out! Yet it was on- for a brief while. His Tribeca Film Center always needed funds.5
67 - Bill Murray, Mad Dog and Glory, 1993. When Kevin Costner rejected Mad Dog, a timid police photographer, De Niro swopped roles and gave Murray, the gangster giving the cop a hooker called Glory for a week.
68 - Joe Mantegna, Searching For Bobby Fischer, 1993. Directing debut of the Awakenings scenarist Steven Zaillian, based on the life of Fred Waitzkin and his chess-prodigy son, Josh.
69 - Bruce Willis, Striking Distance, 1993. Nine years later, Willis apologised on TV to the people who bought tickets: "It sucked."Why do you think, Brucie, that De Niro, and before him,Ed Harris, passed on the tired actioner?
70 - Dennis Hopper, Speed, 1993. Die Hard On A Bus! Wanted: a villain (De Niro, Jack Nicholson or…?) putting a bomb on Bus 2525… and telling Keanu Reeves to keep driving at 50mph or… boom! Sorry lads, has to be Hopper.
71 - Christopher Walken, Pulp Fiction, 1993.
72 - Jean Reno, Léon, France, 1994. French auteur Luc Besson must have finished the movie before De Niro made his mind up!
73 - Forest Whitaker, Prêt- à-porter, 1994. For down-to-earth fashion designer Cy Bianco De Niro probably wouldn’t have enjoyed improvising around real Paris fashion show events in a style that Chicago critic Roger Ebert called “a mix of a comedy crossed with a home movie.”
74 - Chazz Palminteri, The Usual Suspects, 1994. US Customs man Dave Kujan had always been written for Chazz but when he wasn’t free, director Bryan Singer offered it to De Niro, Clark Gregg, Al Pacino, Christopher Walken. When Chazz heard that, he suddenly proved was available after all.
75 - John Travolta, Get Shorty, 1995. Warren Beatty, Michael Keaton, Al Pacino, they all steered clear of Elmore Leonard’s creation of Chili Palmer, a mafioso wanting to make movies in LA.De Nirohad already delivered a great take on behind Hollywood scenes in Mistress, 1992.
76 - Harvey Keitel, Clockers, 1995 .Due for Detective Rocco Klein when Martin Scorsese was planning to direct. He passed the tale - quite rightly - to Spike Lee, who wanted John Turturro. Universal did not. Scorsese, producing, suggested Keitel. Then Marty and Bobby went off to their 100-day shoot of Casino.
77 - Nick Nolte, Mother Night, 1995. “Are you out of your mind?” said the suits when actor-turned-director Keith Gordon tried to make the Kurt Vonnegut book about a nice Nazi who hangs himself. “We’ll need a major star,” said Fine Line. Robert De Niro was busy, Daniel Day-Lewis backpacking across Europe and Nolte’s people said, what else but… ”Are you out of your mind?” Gordon reached him by accepting a tiny role in a film Nolte was making, giving him the script, saying: “Listen, this is the reason I took this part. You can have me thrown off the set if you want.” Nolte was not only gracious, but a big fan of Vonnegut.
78 - Arnold Schwarzenegger, Eraser, 1996 .An early draft from Tony Puryear drew US Marshal John (The Eraser) Kruger as a De Niro action hero.
79 - Alec Baldwin, The Edge, 1997. Good guy targetted for extinction outwits his rival. Also announced with George Clooney, Dustin Hoffman orJohn Travolta.
80 - Robert Forster, Jackie Brown, 1997. Somehow a script reached De Niro. He liked it and asked to play Max Cherry, the sad-sack bail bondsman. No, said, Quentin Tarantino, I wrote that for another Bob. Why not play the ex-con Louis (the role Stallonehad somehow read and pushed for). OK by me!
81 - Bernard Hill, Titanic, 1997.
82 - Woody Allen, Deconstructing Harry, 1997. With De Niro and Dustin Hoffman busy on other assignmentss, Woody gave up looking and became Harry with two weeks to go. “But you know,” he kept insisting, “he’s not me!” Of course not!
83 - Geoffrey Rush, Les Miserables, 1997. Magwich in Great Expectationswas one classic enough that year.
84 - Kevin Spacey, A Bug’s Life, 1997. Co-director John Lasseter would have begged, borrowed and stolen to get De Niro voicing Hopper, the grasshopper leader - all swagger and talking with (four) hands. De Niro kept saying no until Lassiter had to believe him. He looked elsewhere. Same reaction. “But isn’t DreamWorks doing Antz?” Finally, Lasseter ran into Spacey at 1996 Oscar night and tentatively posed The Question - and Spacey practically signed on, then and there. What was the difference in De Niro refusing Hopper and accepting the similar ruthless mobster Don Lino in DreamWorks’ Shark Tale in 2003? Just that. Six years - and more bills to pay. Oh and he shared scenes with Martin Scorsese voicing Sykes - a puffer fish with Marty’s eyebrows!
85 - Willem Dafoe, The Boondock Saints, 1999. Bobby knew where this lamebrain thriller was aimed - directly into the DVD bin.
86 - Al Pacino, Any Given Sunday, 1999. Director Oliver Stone had two ideas only - and Pacino said yes first.
87 - Emilio Estevez, Rated X, TV, 1999. Before the Estevez brothers made their Showtime version, Sean Penn was due to direct an adaptation of David McCumber’s book about the Mitchell Brothers porno film-makers - starring De Niro and Jack Nicholson as Jim and Artie respectively. Sheen agreed to play Artie as long as his brother, Emilio Estevez, directed and played Jim.
88 - James Gandolfini, The Sopranos, TV, 1999-2007.
"For movie version, I thought of De Niro,” revealed creator David Chase. “For TV, it was an audition after audition after audition. And when Jim walked in, that was it.” Chase never knew that, coincidentally, De Niro was already playing a mobster seeing a shrink in Analyse This, 1998.
89 - Willem Dafoe, The Boondock Saints, 1999. Bothered, perhaps, by a scene where he’s considered beautiful in drag(!), De Niro (and Kevin Spacey) passed on the Fed admiring more than hunting two Irish brothers knocking off Boston Mafiosi. The film was writer-directedby Troy Duffy, mistakenly touted by Harvey Weinstein as the new Tarantino - well, the F Word was used 246 times (versus 272 in Reservoir Dogs, 265 in Pulp Fiction). The initial release was cut after 1999 Columbine Massacre, but Duffy’s violence lived anew on DVD, leading to a 2009 sequel which did not.
90 - James Caan, The Yards, 2000. De Niro agreed to a read-through (with Sean Penn) of James Gray’s second movie. Ultimately, the cut-price Godfather of the New York subway system was tackled by one of his boys - the sons of Don Corleone.
91 - Ed Harris, Pollock, 2000. Harris prepared to play the alcoholic, manic-depressive painter Jackson Pollock for 15 years - and pounced as soon as co-stars De Niro and Barbra Stresisand let it go.
92 - Leonardo Di Caprio, Gangs of New York, 2001. If director Martin Scorsese had found backers, the 1978 version would have starred De Niro as the young hero..
93 - Daniel Day-Lewis, Gangs of New York, 2001. Instead…two decades later, he was first choice for the villain, Bill “The Butcher” Cutting. By the time Hollywood(or Miramax) showed any interest, De Niro could no longer be absent from New York due to a custody battle over some of his children. Daniel was coaxed out of retirement to lead the pack at Cinecitta.
94 - Billy Bob Thornton, Monster's Ball, 2001. Six years earlier, the line-up was De Niro and Sean Penn as his son (and also directing) and Queen Latifah as the female lead. “Bobby only exists when he’s in somebody else’s skin,” said LA auteur Paul Schrader. He didn’t want this skin. He talked, then walked.
95 - Jon Seda, Double Bang, 2001. A (terrible) vigilante-cop number announced in 1992 for a villainous De Niro - before he read it.
96 - Willem Dafoe, Spider-Man, 2001.
97 - Alfred Molina, Frida,2002. First, Jackson Pollock, now Diego Rivera… Madonna’s hope to film the the love story of Mexican painters Frida Kahlo and Rivera was quashed by Salma Hayek’s excellent production.
98 - Alfred Molina, Spider-Man 2, 2003.
99 - Denzel Washington, Man on Fire, 2004. UK director Tony Scott finally got to (re)make the movie he was axedfrom in 1987. He invited chums to the party: De Niro, Will Smith, Bruce Willis. None accepted.
100 - Johnny Depp, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, 2004.
Second time he was thought of for the same role as... Michael Palin! For Willy Wonka in the last Plan B production before the divorce of the bosses: Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston. Director Tim Burton’s 21 other fancies were one ole Beetlejuice Michael Keaton and three Monty Pythons: Palin, John Cleese, Eric Idle. Plus De Niro, Rowan Atkinson, Nicolas Cage, Jim Carrey, Dustin Hoffman, Michael Jackson, Dwayne Johnson, Steve Martin, Bill Murray, Mike Myers, Leslie Nielsen, Brad Pitt, Adam Sandler, Will Smith, Patrick Stewart, Ben Stiller, Christopher Walken, Robin Williams. Depp said his Willy, as it were, was “part Howard Hughes-reclusive, part 1970s glamorous rock star.” No wonder Marilyn Manson wanted it.
101 - Jack Black, King Kong, 2005. New Zealand’s most magic director Peter Jackson first aimed for De Niro - then George Clooney - as the film-maker Carl Denham.
102 - Martin Sheen, The Departed, 2005. De Niro had to quit being police chief Oliver Queenan in the project that finally won his pal Martin Scorsese’s Best Director/Film Oscars - due todirecting The Good Shepherd. Matt Damon starred inboth films.
103 - Matt Damon, The Good Shepherd, 2005. When the project treached MGM and John Frankenheimer - after previous attempts by directors Wayne Wang an dPhilip Kaufman never ignited - De Niro was supposed to play the titular spy, Edward Wilson, partly based upon the founder of the CIA’s counterintelligence operations, James Jesus Angelton. Bobby got too old and Frankenheimer died in 2002. Di Caprio quit, Damon took over as De Niro directed and played a most Scorsese-looking cameo as General Bill Sullivan, partly based on General William “Wild Bill” Donovan, head of OSS, the Office of Strategic Services during WWII. Despite De Niro’s elegant direction, this is the slowest, dullest espionage movie ever made - odd as Wilson is clearly based less on Angelton than Michael Corleone in Godfather II. And indeed,. Francis Coppola was among the producers and had intended to direct - but surely not this long-winded scenario.
104 - Andy Serkis, Flushed Away, 2006. The Man Who Was Peter Jackson’s King Kong beat De Niro and William Shatner to voicing Spike... giving De Niro time to voice the old king in the US cut of French mogul Luc Besson’s Arthur and The Invisibles, 2006.
105 - Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, 2006. During 25 years in Development Hell, the titular casting also included Russell Crowe, Michael Douglas, Richard Dreyfuss, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Steve Martin, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino. Tim Curry was the sole Brit considered and the most lunatic notions were... Warren Beatty, Harrison Ford and… Robert Redford!
106 - Richard Jenkins, The Kingdom, 2006. Pursued for the role of FBI Director Grace when Michael Mann was due to direct.
107 - Mickey Rourke, Kill Shot, 2008. The old Quentin Tarantino project was almost greenlit in 2002 for UK director Tony Scott, De Niro and… Tarantino as Richie Nix. And nix it was.
108 - Ray Winstone, Edge of Darkness, 2008. Quit Mel Gibson’s acting comeback after less than a week. “Sometimes things don't work out,” said De Niro’s spokesman. “It’s called creative differences.” Gritty Brit Winstone was a surprise replacement. Ironically, hisCIA man Darius Jedburgh had been the sole American in the original TV serial - played by Joe Don Baker. 007’s Martin Campbell directed both the BBC and Warner Brosversions.
109 - Val Kilmer, Streets of Blood, 2008. Kilmer and Michael Biehn continued being sworn enemies (as in Tombstone, 1992) when succeeding McDermott and De Niro (as New Orleans cop and nasty FBI agent). Result: straight to video. Directed by Charles Winkler, son of the often De Niro producer, Irwin.
110 - Eric Roberts, The Expendables, 2009. Passed on the Sylvester Stallone gang’s Target #1 - an evil, ex-CIAgent running a South American drug cabal (and almost the country)… from behind wrestler Steve Austin as his man-mountain bodyguard, well-named Paine.
111 - Al Pacino, Son of No One, 2010. One Godpop for another in New York auteur Dito Montiel’s third moviein four years with Channing Tatum. No longer as discriminatory about accepting offers as in his hey day, De Niro actually made 13 movies between 2010-2013. Hardly any being worthy of his talent.
112 - Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables, 2011. Oh, Hollywood… Since the musical’s 1985 London opening, suggestions for Jean Valjean went from the logical - De Niro, Richard Dreyfuss, Gene Hackman, William Hurt, Kevin Kline - to the absurd: Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks, Robert Redford, Christopher Walken. Plus close pals, rarely rivals, Beatty and Jack Nicholson. However, Tom Cruise, Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino were far too short for the hefty hero who, in a signature scene, has to carry Cosette’s lover, away from the battle of the barricades. Put it another way, Hollywood’s last Valjean had been Liam Neeson - 6ft. 4in.
113 - Tim Roth, Selma, 2014. De Niro passed Alabama’s 45th governor George Wallace to the young Brit. He remembered seeing the racist politico on TV news. “He was a monster. I was amazed at what was coming out of his mouth.” Brits also played Dr Martin Luther King and President Lyndon Johnson: David Oyelowo and Tom Wilkinson.
114 - John Turturo, The Night Of, TV, 2016. Considering how De Niro in Mean Streets turned Gandolfini on to acting - and had been the the #1 target for Tony Soprano - it was only fitting that HBO should ask De Niro to inherit Jim’s pet project following his shock Rome death in 2013, a month after completing The Drop. When De Niro’s schedules intervened, Turturro took over the seedy lawyer Jack Stone…played by Jim in the never seen 2013 US pilot and by Con O’Neill, totally stealing Peter Moffat's original BBC drama, Criminal Justice in 2008.