- Christopher Atkins, The Blue Lagoon, 1980. Wisely backed away from the re-make of the 50s’ UK hit (un)covering two teenagers stranded on a desert isle.
- Keith Gordon, Dressed To Kill, 1980. Brian De Palma’s original plan was Liv Ullmann, Sean Connery, Dillon and Paul Mazursky in the roles played by Angie Dickinson, Michael Caine, Gordon, Dennis Franz.
- Richard Gere, The Cotton Club, 1984. Getting desperate after refusals from Al Pacino and Sylvster Stallone, Francis Coppola ran to his young Outsiders and Rumble Fish star to help save the day. He didn’t. Nor did Gere. The film simply s(t)ank.
- John Turturro, Do The Right Thing, 1989. Spike Lee’s first choice for Pino proved unavailable.
- Adam Pasdar, Streets of Gold, 1990. Klaus Maria Brandauer coaches amateur boxers.
- Andrew McCarthy, Quiet Days At Clichy, France-Italy, 1990. The Italian co-producer insisted on Dillon. “I didn’t see him playing an intellectual,” said realisateur Claude Chabrol, quite content with Andrew. “Why talk about the role?” Chabrol told the ex-Brat Packer. “You are Henry Miller!” Not even close.
- William Baldwin, Backdraft, 1991. After Tom Cruise withdrew, director Ron Howard settled on Billy Baldwin. “I think Ronny said: ‘This is the guy.’ And the studio said: ‘This ain't the guy!’ And they offered it to Matt. That didn’t work out and he came back to me and told the studio: ‘I’m telling you, this is the guy!’ They were a little concerned until they got De Niro and Sutherland and then breathed a sigh of relief in terms of box-offfce and stuff.”
- Andy Garcia, The Godfather: Part III, 1991.
- Christian Slater, Mobsters, 1991. Wanted too much money and time to prepare to be Lucky Luciano in this Young Buns With Guns. Film had a cameo from Anthony Quinn - Luciano’s own choice for Charley Lucky, the movie he was trying set up when, at Naples airport on January 26, 1962, he died in the arms of the producer Martin A Gosch, a one-time Abbott & Costello screenwriter.
- Kevin Bacon, JFK, 1991.
- Bruce Willis, Pulp Fiction, 1993.
- John Leguizamo, To Wong Fu, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar, 1995. As a girl, said the drag-film’s scenarist Douglas Carter Beane, “Matt was breathtaking.”
- Eric Roberts, Doctor Who (The Movie), TV, 1996. Hollywood goes Who. Why? For the pilot of a USeries to exhume the BBC science-fiction cult, buried since it ran out of puff after 26 seasons in 1989. As if to prove this was big deal LA in action (!), some 63 actors were listed for Doc8 and a further 71(well, some were on both lists) for his foe, The Master. Such as… James Bond, Caligula, Dracula, Gandhi, Freddy Krueger, Magnum, Jean-Luc Picard, Han Solo, Spock and - hey, they’re doctors! - Emmett Brown and Frank-N-Furter. Aka… Timothy Dalton, Malcolm McDowell, Christopher Lee, Ben Kingsley, Robert Englund, Tom Selleck, Patrick Stewart, Harrison Ford, Leonard Nimoy, Christopher Lloyd. Tim Curry. And Coppola’s Rusty James…
- David Arquette, RPM, 1997. Tarantino compadre Roger Avary wrote the script - for Dillon, Daniel Auteuil, Yun-Fat Chow, Tcheky Karyo, Nastassja Kinski, Dolph Lundgren, Vanessa Paradis, Tom Savini, Terence Stamp - and Avary’s Killing Zoe stars: Jean-Hugues Anglade and Eric Stoltz. He then decided against directing. The producer hired Ian Sharp “and the two guys who did Grumpier Old Men [!?!] to rewrite my script.” Actually, Donald Cammell (using the pseudonym Franklin Brauner), helped out just before his death. Avary removed his name from the ensuing mess.
- Benjamin Bratt, Miss Congeniality, 2000. Julia Roberts’ then lover took over from Dillon a few weeks before shooting began. “You need,” said the star and producer Sandra Bullock, “people who want to make the same movie that everyone else does.” She knew Bratt from Demolition Man. They gave good chemistry.
- Val Kilmer, Wonderland, 2003. Quit to direct his first movie, City of Ghosts, 2002. “I didn’t want to be associated with the guy,” said Kilmer about the tale of how porno stud John Holmes got involved in four 1981 murders. “Then I found out he was really dedicated to his wife and girlfriend.”
- Ray Liotta,Control, 2003. Change of the man who died for two minutes... and now has no memory for the past two years... One dumb movie.
- Mark Wahlberg, Four Brothers, 2004. Matt was not alone in turning down Bobby. Ben Affleck concurred about the “ultra-violent” script. Well, the brothers 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.
- Vincent Gallo, Tetro, 2008. “Maybe Tetro is kind of the sibling to Rumble Fish,” said director Francis Coppola, at 70, “and I had Matt Dillon in mind to play the older brother” in what is Coppola’s most autobiographical film. “Nothing in it happened, but it’s all true.”
- John C Reilly, Carnage, 2010. Roman Polanski’s first choice for Jodie Foster’s husband in the film of Yasmina Reza’s stage success.
- Adrien Brody, Cadillac Records, 2008. Other actors played Mick Jagger, Keith Richard and dee-jay Alan Freed in the history of Chess Records. Dillon wasn’t free to be the boss so Brody was Leonard Chess – as his brother and partner, Philip, was all but left out, hung out to dry.
- François Arnaud, The Borgias, TV, 2010. The Italian Caligula director Tinto Brass told me he offered Cesare Borgia to Dillon... long before Irish director Neil Jordan got his film off the ground - as a TV series.
- Billy Burke, Freaky Deaky, 2011. All four original stars - Macy, Matt Dillon, Brendan Fraser, Craig Robinson - suddenly quit and were replaced in the film of Elmore Leonard’s favourite novel by Glover, Billy Burke, Michael Ja White, Christian Slater.