- Nicholas Hammond, The Sound of Music, 1965. Oldest testee, at 18, for Friedrich von Trapp. OK but... couldn’t dance! Same fault had him quiting The Producers musical on-stage in London... 40 years later.
- Dustin Hoffman, The Graduate, 1967. “I knew I was too young, but I tried out for the lead… and went through the three levels of casting. I learned [director Mike Nichols] was going to New York to meet an actor named Dustin Hoffman. I could feel the wind of inevitability go right up the back of my neck. But everyone who auditioned for the role that went to Dustin, Mike gave a part to.” Dreyfuss, for example, hadan uncredited bit.
- Leonard Frey, Fiddler on the Roof, 1970. Seen for Motel…
- Paul Michael Glaser, Fiddler on the Roof, 1970. And for Perchik.
- Ray Lovelock, Fiddler on the Roof, 1970. …and, indeed, for Fyedka during the January 1970 auditions.
- Michael Margotta, Drive, He Said, 1970. Producer Bert Schneider wanted Dreyfuss, who auditioned for the director – Jack Nicholson, no less. No go! Jack insisted on Margotta, something of a Jack clone - in attitude and belief in all things Rechian. Jack also suggested that co-star William Tepper would be the best actor of his generation. No. He made only four features before turning writer-producer-director., Margotta lasted much longer, before turning teacher at the Actors Studio.
- James Woods, Kojak, TV, 1973. Dreyfuss - and Martin Sheen - passed, so Jimmy won his fourth TV role, as a thug called Caz on the 13th episode, Death Is Not A Passing Grade, screened on January 30, 1974.
- Ron Howard, American Graffiti, 1973. George Lucas saw Dreyfuss (and the worst Cockney accent in stage history) in an LA production of Major Barbara and offered him Steve. No, he wanted Curt. “Because he’s filled with self-awareness. He’s aware that 20 years from now he will remember that night, he knows and cherishes that experience even as it is happening.” However, after seeing a work print he told Lucas: “You should cut me out - and I know how to do it.”
- James Caan, The Gambler, 1973. When Paramount cheesily announced a 2012 re-make without telling him, scenarist James Toback related the unexpurgated chronology of the original (“from erection to resurrection,” to quote Churchill), revealing how his UK helmer Karel Reisz interviewed Dreyfuss and Chris Sarandon among others and became the only director in the world to have threatened to resign rather than work with Robert De Niro! “As unresponsive to DeNiro as Karel had been,” said Toback, “he flipped wildly for Jimmy... who charmed me with great dispatch as well!”
- James Woods, Kojak, TV, 1974. Both Dreyfuss and Martin Sheen passed on punk (in the 13th episode: Death Is Not A Passing Grade) that Woods fed upon.
- Lenny Baker, Next Stop, Greenwich Village, 1975. He refused a fourth film with actor-turned-director Paul Mazursky. Why? “I was an asshole,” he admitted during a Mazursky memorial in September 2014. “When I was around Paul, I wanted to be Paul,” he said. “And I like being Richard. But I wanted to be Paul.” Just not in his autobiopic about his early acting days in New York. Richard could not even say he’d already played an actor, thank you very much - that was his next role (based, this time on Dustin Hoffman) in The Goodbye Girl, winning him an Oscar (and thereby bringing him even closer to Hoffman’s instant-famew tribulation!).
- Robert De Niro, Taxi Driver, 1975.
- David Carradine, Bound For Glory, 1976. Holding out for more money helped Carradine's dream come true. "I was too tall, too old and too fit, but I was the essence of Woody Guthrie. "
- Louise Fletcher, The Exorcist II: The Heretic, 1976.
- Jane Fonda, The China Syndrome, 1978. Producer Michael Douglas' package was: Jack Lemmon, himself and Dreyfuss as the hot-headed TV cameraman. "Hey," said Dreyfuss, "why don't I play the producer, because I've always played the hot-headed cameraman part." He then changed his mind "and basically asked for twice as much money," Douglas told me in Cap d’Antibes, France. "I'd already talked to Jane in London, knowing things were a little shakey with Richard." And Douglas played the cameraman.
- Dustin Hoffman, Kramer v Kramer, 1979. "Pacino was the first one they offered Kramer to," reported Roy Scheider, "and Dreyfuss was actually cast in All That Jazz. But Al turned down Kramer and Richard walked out of Jazz. Then, Bobby Benton asked me to do Kramer but producer Stanley Jaffe wanted Dustin. So, Dustin and I ended up with the best roles of the year... that both of us were absolutely perfect for. Dreyfuss got nothing. And Pacino got worse than nothing. He got Cruising."
- Malcolm McDowell, Time After Time, 1979. Being a big fan of Lindsay Anderson's films, Nicholas Meyer wanted McDowell - the UK director’s most recent star - and only McDowell.
- Roy Scheider, All That Jazz, 1980. “Soon as we got together,” said Bob Fosse, “you could smell disaster. He was afraid of the dancing and used to directors giving him more freedom than I would.” Also in the loop: Alan Alda, Alan Bates (“too British,” said Fosse), Robert Blake, Elliott Gould, Gene Hackman, Jack Lemmon (“too old”), Paul Newman, (“Dumb of me… a terrible oversight”), Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, George Segal, Jon Voight. Scheider just grabbed the “outrageous, assaulting, melodramatic, very funny, stupid, silly, simplistic, vulgar… wonderful movie!” Exactly.
- John Belushi, Continental Divide, 1981. Steven Spielberg adored the Tracy/Hepburn unlikely romcoms. Now he’d found his own. Except he chickened out when he 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 perfect for… Robert De Niro, Peter Falk, Dustin Hoffman, George Segal. Plus 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 on poor UK director Michael Apted. Major error!
- Dudley More, Arthur, 1982. "He said he couldn't do it," said producer Charles Joffe about the alcoholic comedy, "because it was his life. Now he's totally clean and says: If you ever give me a script again, I won't even read it, I'll say yes."
- James Woods, Once Upon A Time in America, Italy-US, 1984. “Noodles,” said Sergio Leope about his gangster, “wasn’t Doc Schultz, Peter Lorre, Alan Ladd, Lucky Luciano, Al Capone or Humphrey Bogart - just a small Jew from the ghetto.” The maestro first thought of Dreyfuss - “remarkable in Jaws and The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz.” Yet he was also impressed by Woods on-stage. “His text wasn’t convincing but I was attracted by the nervousness behind that strange face. Co--star Robert De Niro wanted one of his mates - Joe Pesci. Leone got around that by giving another De Niro pal a good role - Tuesday Weld.
- Nick Nolte, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, 1986. Auteur Paul Mazursky said he was casting out of the Betty Ford Clinic... So he was shocked when Dreyfuss refused to be Jerry the hobo - in the LA version of the 1932 French classic Boudou sauvé des eaux/Boudou Saved From Drowning. “Nick was perfect and I couldn’t do that. I preferred Dave.”
- Christopher Reeve, Street Smart, 1986. Reeve was so keen to make it (for Cannon) that he agreed to make them a fourth Superman. (Not unsurprisingly, the worst!)
- Jeff Goldblum, The Fly, 1986. Not, as they say, a prestige project. Even with Canadian director David Cronenberg in charge.
- Ed Harris, To Kill A Priest, 1988. Dreyfuss met exiled Polish director Agnieszka Holland in LA, agreed to the project, but was tied up when shooting began.
- Harvey Fierstein, Torch Song Trilogy, 1988. Impossible to make such a gay tale minus a name. And Fierstein, the queen of Broadway, was no movie star. Dreyfuss (and Hoffman) refused to steal his role. Matthew Broderick saved the day by signing on as the project's star appeal - young at that.
- Michael Caine, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, 1988. Or King of the Mountain Dirty and Rotten Criminals when Dreyfuss refuses, changes his mind, fails to get a grip on and stlll returns to in the mix with Steve Martin in the con-men roles created (badly) by Marlon Brando-David Niven in 1963 and originally revamped for David Bowie-Mick Jagger.
- Billy Crystal, When Harry Met Sally... 1989. No one met Richard!
- Arnold Schwarzenegger, Total Recall, 1989. After 42 drafts, no third act and one bankruptcy, Total Recall became another word for jinx in Hollywood… Italian producer Dino De Laurentiis’ never-ending Martian thriller was nearly made by Dreyfuss in Italy, Patrick Swayze in Australia… and William Hurt for Canadian director David Cronenberg… Next up for the heroics were Jeff Bridges, Christopher Reeve, Tom Selleck before almost becoming a B-movie with little Matthew Broderick (!) or Harmon (cheapest on the list). Then, Dino went belly-up… enabling Arnold to take over (Dino had refused to audition him!) and move Mars to Mexico where everyone got the touristas except him - he had his food, water, B12 shots flown in from home after a rotten Mexperience during Predator, 1986.
- Willem Dafoe, Flight of the Intruder, 1990. Top Gun, John Milius style… ie darker. A wooden Brad Johnson plans a forbidden US missile attack on Hanoi, circa a 1972. Richards Dreyfuss and Gere were also seen for the cowboyish Lieutenant Commander Virgil ‘Tiger’ Cole.
- James Caan, Misery, 1990. Apart from being anti-Stephen King books and anti-playing victims, director Rob Reiner felt the big names, like Dreyfuss, "saw the woman's role as being the most flashy." It was. It won Kathy Bates her Oscar. The refusniks also included Warren Beatty, Jeff Daniels, Robert De Niro, 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 did Caan agree? "I think he wanted the work."
- Colin Friels, Darkman, 1990. Nothing to play... Then again, his substance abuse and bipolar disorder led to odd decisions. “If someone psychoanalysed me, there’d be a good chance they’d say I set it up so that I could have it, lose it, have to regain it, have, lose, regain it.”
- Bob Hoskins, Hook, 1990. Dreyfuss was (almost inevitably) Steven Spielberg’s first notion for Smee. Yet he fretted about the potential and power battles between Dreyfuss and the titular Dustin Hoffman. (Hoskins was Smee again in the UK TV series, Neverland, 2011).
- Gene Hackman, Company Business, 1991. Post-cold-war spy stuff started life as Dinsoaurs, opposite Elliott Gould and "creative disgareements" in 1989. Nicholas Meyer made it with Hackman and Mikhail Baryshnikov. The Russian hated it, so did Meyer, reviving the basic plot (without studio tampering, this time) in his next assignment, Star Trek VI, 1991.
- Al Pacino, Frankie and Johnny, 1991. After Pretty Woman, Garry Marshall decided on a prettier couple than stage-screen director Mike Nichols' plan of Dreyfuss and Dianne Wiest.
- Steve Martin, Father of the Bride, 1991. Dreyfuss had played an old Spencer Tracy role in Always without much success. So he passed this time, to another white-haired star for the Tracy re-tread. “I wasn’t built to be a movie star. I was built to become a movie star. I felt very comfortable with that.”
- Jack Nicholson, A Few Good Men, 1992. He 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, when turning him down... for Jack).
- Sam Neil, Jurassic Park, 1992.
- Joe Mantegna, Searching For Bobby Fischer, 1993. Considered when Robert De Niro had no time to play the father of the child-prodigy chess player.
- Ralph Fiennes, Quiz Show, 1993. “They gave me the answers...” Plan A was Harold Becker directing Dreyfuss as Charles Van Doren. Plan B was Steven Soderbergh directing Tim Robbins. Finally, Plan C had Robert Redford directing a Brit in the drama of “America’s loss of innocence” - due to the fixing of TV quiz games in the 50s.
- Robin Williams, Jumanji, 1995. Two kids find a jungle board game with magic powers unleashing grotesque animalia and some poor sap trapped inside the game since playing it as a tot. Williams lapped it up after Dreyfuss, Dan Aykroyd, Sean Connery, Rupert Everett, Harrison Ford, Tom Hanks, Michael Keaton, Kevin Kline, Bill Paxton, Kurt Russell, Arnold Schwarzenegger fled the incoherent script. Jumanji, incidentally, is Zulu for “many effects.” And how.
- Willem Dafoe, The English Patient, 1996. When Fox was interested in Anthony Minghella’s movie, it was less so keen on Dafoe - and suggested Dreyfuss, Danny DeVito, or John Goodman as David Caravaggio. Minghella refused. Fox quit. Miramax took over - and scored nine Oscars, including Best Film and Best Director.
- 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 a certain Roy Neary from CE3K.
- Woody Allen, Deconstructing Harry, 1997. Woody said the only reason he played the awful Harry ("it's not me, it's not me!") is that heavyweights De Niro, Hoffman and Dreyfuss would not.
- Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, 2006. During 28 years in Development Hell, the titular casting also included Russell Crowe, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, 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!
- Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables, 2011. Oh, Hollywood… Since the musical’s 1985 London opening, suggestions for Jean Valjean went from the logical - Dreyfuss, Robert De Niro, 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.