- James Stewart, The Spirit of St Louis, 1957. As per Hollywood tradition. Warner was scouring the earth, Malibu at least, for a new, young hotshot to enact Charles Lindbergh’s historic flight across the Atlantic in 1927. Eastwood was among the hordes. “I met [the director] Billy Wilder just the one time… just to shake hands, not even for an audition.” And the role went to a real pilot and one of Clint’s Western idols, despite Jimmy being far too old at 49. Clint was 27. Lindbergh was 25.
- Tab Hunter, Lafayette Escadrille (UK: Hell Bent For Glory),1958. "How tall are you?" asked William Wellman - director of Clint's all-time favourite, The Ox-Bow Incident, 1943. "How tall is the guy?" retorted Eastwood, having lost too many roles due to his height. No matter what “Wild Bill” wanted for his final film, Warner Bros would not sanction its fixture King as the hero. The suits preferred, er, Tab!
- David Janssen, Lafayette Escadrille (UK: Hell Bent For Glory),1958. Warner Bros blocked him and the secondary character of Duke Sinclair, as well. Poor Clint was lucky to be approved for George Moseley.
- Anthony Perkins, Tall Story, 1959. Waiting for Rawhide to be picked up as a series, Clint was offered the comedy about Jane Fonda and the Custer College basketball star. No films, said CBS, freeing him for a Maverick episode only... before greenlighting his Rowdy Yates. Clint has been "rollin', rollin', rollin'" ever since.
- Charles Bronson, C'era una volta il West (UK/US: Once Upon A Time in the West), Italy-USA, 1968. Sergio Leone asked his good-bad-uglies to be the pistolieri awaiting Charles Bronson in the opening rail station scene. Il brut to and il cattiro agreed. I buono wasn’t in favour, even though it would have allowed him to bury The Men With No Name - for good. Leone dropped his “ironic reference...”
- Jack Elam, C'era una volta il West (UK/US: Once Upon A Time in the West), Italy-USA, 1968. Next, Leone asked his good-bad-uglies to be the pistolieri awaiting Charles Bronson in the opening rail station scene. Il brutto and il cattiro agreed. I buono wasn’t in favour, even though it would have allowed him to bury The Men With No Name - for good. (The guy was called Snakey). Leone dropped his “ironic reference” - and Jack spent a day shooting the scene with the fly attracted to the honey spread on his stubble. Despite Clint offering Leone Hang ’Em High and Two Mules for Sister Sara (“after five pages, I knew she was a nun!”\, the spaghetti superstars never worked together again. “It was,” said Sergio, “necessary for us to separate… and go our different ways.”
George Lazenby, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, 1968.
Gregory Peck, McKenna's Gold, 1968.
"It was time to do some American films - the movie business was still thinking of me as a TV actor hiding out on the plains of Spain - or an Italian movie actor! My agency thought Carl Foreman's film was a real plum. a vast amount of well known people in it. I thought it just an extension of Rawhide and went off and did Hang 'Em High, which analysed the pros and cons of capital punishment. They thought I was absolutely nuts! Why do this little $1.5m movie as opposed to the $7m epic? I wasn't snubbing them, the subject matter didn't interest me. Hang 'Em High did." Plus being his own boss.
- Richard Widmark, Death of a Gunfighter, 1969. An over-the-hill sheriff stands up for his beliefs. John Wayne refused so Universal production chief Jennings Lang suggested making the sheriff younger for Clint. "Stupid," said director Don Siegel, "the whole premise would be lost." Director Robert Totten was taken off the film, Siegel completed it - ending in the first use of the official Directors Guild pseudonym: Allen Smithee.
- Charlton Heston, The Hawaiians, 1969. UA had refused the idea of turning James A Michener’s novel, Hawaii, into two films back in 1966. Now producer Walter Mirisch got his way with, basically, Part Two - and had to choose between Chuck and Clint for the hero, a certain Whip Hoxworth.
- James Coburn, Giù la testa (UK: A Fistful of Dynamite; US: Duck You Sucker), Italy, 1971. Coburn lost A Fistful of Dollars by asking too for too many fistfuls… Now, Clint was too expensive - "for repeats of what I'd been doing. Hang 'Em High had a little more character." Coburn (like Henry Fonda before him) was initially reluctant, until Fonda told him (like Eli Wallach had talked Fonda into Once Upon A Time in the West) that Leone was the greatest director he had ever worked with.
- Robert Redford, Jeremiah Johnson, 1972. Director John Milius wrote it for Clint as The Crow Killer. Redford's version was "considerably different to the script. A very important element was cut out. But I like it a great deal.. There’s a big difference between the two of them. It meant a lot to [Redford] because he’s an outdoorsman and does enjoy a lot of the things that are espoused in that movie.” Milius also had a hand, or a .45 Magnum, in the first two Dirty Harry scripts.
- Charles Bronson, Mr Majestyk, 1973. Clint got thriller writer Elmore Leonard to script it (after their 1971 Joe Kidd) because after the massive success of Dirty Harry, he wanted to do something he owned, himself. Then, High Plains Drifter came up and Mr Majestyk was sold to United Artists. (Leonard's Unknown Man #89 was the final book bought by Alfred Hitchcock - for Eastwood). Weakly made by veteran director Richard Fleischer, this was buried at the 1974 box-office by Bronson’s next gig…
- Charles Bronson, Death Wish, 1973. Inevitable. As the New York architect turned revenge killer was a kind of Dirty Civilian… Just as obviously, Clint passed. The perfect choice, he said, was Gregory Peck.
- Paul Newman, Towering Inferno, 1974. "Financially, it would have been a smart move. It made an awful lot of money. I could've played it. Just couldn't see the reason why. The effects, the tower, was the star!" (Newman and Clint were once both up for Lafayette Escadrille, 1958.
- John Wayne, Rooster Cogburn, 1974. The idea was fair - a sequel to True Grit. But if Wayne proved too ill, what would be the point of someone else in his titular Oscar-winning rôle? Marlon Brando topped producer Hal Wallis’ eye-patch list of Eastwood, Charles Bronson, Richard Burton, Gene Hackman, Burt Lancaster, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, George C Scott and some of Duke’s old co-stars: Kirk Douglas, Charlton Heston, Rock Hudson.
- Robert Mitchum, The Yakuza, 1975. Like John Milius before him, Paul Schrader saw Clint as the answer to his problems - of getting his (and, actually, his brother Leonard's) script made. Like some Hollywood satire, he set out to reach him via an actress they had both bedded. "What kind of a relationship can you have with someone," asked Beverly Walker, "when you fuck them and then you turn over and they're asking you to give a script to Clint Eastwood?"
- Gary Conway, The Farmer, 1976. Written for Clint, who passed, apparently agreeing with the future New York Times comment: “a viciously violent R-rated melodrama that apparently thinks it's preaching against violence while exploiting it. ” The producer replaced him with… himself. Film is best known for causing Martin Scorsese’s psychotic cameo in Taxi Driver, when his pal George Memmoli had to pass after being injured in a Farmer stunt.
- John Wayne, The Shootist, 1976. Duke’s finale… Eastwood, Charles Bronson, Gene Hackman and Paul Newman passed. George C Scott was signed but not sealed when Wayne showed interest in the dying gunfighter JB Brooks... and it was bye-bye George, baby! Despite Wayne - dead in three years - suffering heart, lung and prostate problems.
- Martin Sheen, Apocalypse Now,1976.
- Roy Scheider, Sorcerer, 1977. Losing Steve McQueen because there was no role for his then wife, Ali MacGraw, director William Friedkin found Clint and Jack Nicholson were disinterested in foreign travel. (Tim Burton tried to co-star them with The Hakline Monster in 1994). Friedkin said Scheider was his worst ever casting decision: "a good actor but a second or third banana, not a star." That sounds more like Friedkin.
- Christopher Reeve, Superman, 1978.
- Michael Caine, Beyond The Poseidon Adventure, 1978. More like beyond the pale… The Warner suits voted Clint - of course. Producer Irwin Allen wanted Burt Reynolds. And Allen was staggered by Duke’s interest. That would push the film - about a sunken, upside down cruise liner stuck on an underwater volcano - to a whole other level. Beyond what co-star Angela Cartwright: “a film about water, fire and stunts.” All the suggesed leads fled because… they read the script. So did Caine and Sally Field, but they admitted they made it for the money.
- James Coburn, Firepower, 1979. One of four scripts rejected by Eastwood as possible Dirty Harry sequels, it became a dumb Michael Winner thriller with the unlikely teaming of Sophia Loren, Coburn and... a certain OJ Simpson.
- Kris Kristofferson, Heaven’s Gate, 1980. Brash, not to say braggart director Michael Cimino obviously first sent his script to Clint - Eastwood had started the Cimino ball rolling by producer-starring his Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, 1974 . Not this time. Steve McQueen also passed on what became one of Hollywood’s Top Ten Financial Disasters. In the space of six years (and five Oscars for his Deer Hunter, 1978, including best Film and Director), Cimino’s career was flushed.
- Sylvester Stallone, Escape To Victory (US: Victory), 1980. It is to be hoped - he’s never spoken about it (unless you know different?) - that Clint rejected this for being such absolutely preposterous tosh! John Huston must have been extremely low on funds to agree to such garbage. Brazilian soccr superstar Pele in a German POW camp in the ’40s, I mean… But what a goalie Clintus would’ve made: Feel lucky, penalty punk?
- Harrison Ford, Blade Runner, 1981. UK wiz Ridley Scott spent a long time sniffing out the perfect Deckard. From top notchers Eastwood, Sean Connery, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman (keen… on making it a totally different character, of course), Robert Mitchum, Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino… to such excellent journeymen as William Devane, Robert Duvall, Peter Falk, Frederic Forrest, Scott Glenn, Tommy Lee Jones, Raul Julia, Nick Nolte, Christopher Walken. Then, in sheer desperation, choices lowered to Cliff Gorman, Judd Hirsch. Even the Virginian Morgan Paull stood a chance, having played Deckard in Scott’s tests of potential Rachaels. (He was given Holden for his pains). Plus Arnold Schwarzenegger, not yet seen as Conan, much less Terminator. And for probably the last time in such an illustrious list, the fading star of Burt Reynolds.
- Armand Assante, I, The Jury, 1981. "Why be Mike Hammer when he didn't want any more Dirty Harry," said writer-helmer Larry Cohen. In 1972, Malpaso optioned Cohen's The Hostiles for the boss and John Wayne. Duke said: Nope! Cohen respun it, asked Michael Wayne to show it his father on his boat. "Not that damned script again," said The Duke - and threw it overboard.
Eddie Murphy, 48 Hrs, 1981.
There had been many drafts when Walter Hill was asked re-spin it for Clint. “He liked the project, but felt he’d already done that kind of cop character. He wanted to play the criminal. I began tailoring it when Eastwood decided to do Don Siegel’s Escape From Alcatraz, 1979, and since he played a prisoner in that one, that was really the end of his interest in our project.” Hill had always said, “The best idea would be to make Richard Pryor the criminal and have someone like Eastwood play the cop. But in l978/9, no one seemed to think that was such a good idea."
- Sylvester Stallone, First Blood (aka Rambo),1982.
- Chuck Norris, Code of Silence, 1984. By Michael Butler and Dennis Shryack, scripters of The Gauntlet, Pale Rider. Who else they gonna call?
- Robert De Niro, Once Upon A Time In America, 1984. Italian maestro Sergio Leone never gave up. "He started thinking about that back when we did The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, long before The Godfather and all these things came out. 'What about Irish gangsters? You could play an Irish gangster.' But he never developed it. As time went on, it Iwas always just hanging there.
- Michael Douglas, Romancing The Stone, 1984. Learning nothing from rejecting ET, Columbia looked over Douglas' project - written by Diane Thomas, an Alice's Restaurant waitress in Malibu - and wanted an A List package. Like Eastwood. Like Burt Reynolds. Like...
- Sam Waterston, The Killing Fields, 1984. Terrible casting idea, he told Warners. "There have been things that people talked to me about that have done well. But I'm not one for looking back."
- Kurt Russell, Big Trouble In Little China, 1985. The suits wanted Clint - well, it was a re-spun Western. Or Jack Nicholson. Auteur John Carpenter kept the faith with his choice, despite Russell’s recent string of flops. Result: Carpenter’s biggest turkey
- Bruce Willis, Die Hard, 1988. Hey, c’mon, he had refused the original… Towering Inferno! There were 16 possible John McClanes. From top TV heroes Richard Dean Anderson and Don Johnson to A-listers: Eastwood, Tom Berenger, Charles Bronson, Robert De Niro, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, Michael Madsen, Nick Nolte, Al Pacino, Burt Reynolds, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone… 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….
- Kevin Costner, Revenge, 1989. Swopped it with producer Ray Stark to attain his rights to Bird... When heading Columbia, UK producer David Puttnam preferred the novella to early scripts by directors Walter Hill and John Huston. "A dead project until I wanted to make it," said Costner. "I'd written, with Michael Blake, a script I'd be comfortable with - 108 pages. The script we ended up making was 135 pages. Movies as delicate as Revenge cannot suffer those mistakes. It was the most... complicated movie that I've been a part of... really, kinda the first time I made a mistake." His next script with Blake lasted three (originally, four) hours. Dances With Wolves. Winning seven Oscars - including Best Director and Best Film - on March 25, 1991.
- Warren Beatty, Dick Tracy, 1989. Wrong studio! (Disney). Directors changed from Bob Fosse to Martin Scorsese to John Landis (who wanted Clint in 1982) until Warren directed himself and friends in his biggest money-maker. And his biggest bore.
- Richard Attenborough, Jurassic Park, 1992.
- Morgan Freeman, The Shawshank Redemption, 1993. Also up for Stephen King’s veteran convict Ellis Boyd ‘Red’ Redding: Harrison Ford, Paul Newman, Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier, Robert Redford. Eastwood, Newman and Redford had already done jail time in Escape From Alcatraz, 1978, Cool Hand Luke, 1967, and Brubaker, 1979, respectively. Clint and Newman won. Redford lost. Clint and Morgan co-starred in both of Eastwood's Best picture Oscar-winners, Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby.
- Paul Newman, The Hudsucker Proxy, 1993. Before the Coen brothers landed Newman as the scheming head of the giant Hudsucker Corporation, they attempted to coach Eastwood into being the Sidney J Mussburger…
- Tommy Lee Jones, Men in Black, 1996. No OK for K. He’d done his sfx film, Firefox, 1982. Even John Landis (“It’s The Blue Brothers with aliens!”), Steven Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino said no - to directing it. Spielberg produced after persuading Will Smith and Jones to be J and K.
- William Hurt, The Big Brass Ring, 1998. Orson Welles’ last stand… Potential investors said he must sign Clint, Jack Nicholson, Robert Redford or Burt Reynolds… for the gay Texas senator and Presidential hopeful. They all passed. (So did investors). Clint found the script ran contrary to his right wing values. Some 13 years after Orson’s death, Missouri auteur George Hickenlooper adapted the 1982-1987 Welles-Oja Kodar scenarios, with Hurt running for governor of Missouri (hah!) and colliding into his past… his aged political mentor, the role Welles meant for himself. Criticised for adapting Welles, Hickenlooper said: “Welles in many respects was the Shakespeare of the American cinema. So, if Welles adapted Shakespeare, why not adapt Welles?”
- Al Pacino, Any Given Sunday, 1999. Director Oliver Stone wanted Robert De Niro or Al Pacino; his studio, Warners, wanted its top dog. But he wanted to direct as well.
- George Clooney, Three Kings, 1999. Gulf War vets hunt gold buried in the Iraqui desert... Been there, said Clint, done that, got the Kelly's Heroes tee-shirt to prove it. Next to nix it: Nicolas Cage, Mel Gibson, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson, Nick Nolte. Although respecting his work, Clooney said he’d never work with director David O Russell again. Their famous fist fight had been over Russell’s treatment of an extra, throwing him to the ground. And then foolishly taunting Clooney: “Hit me!” So, he did. Clint would have buried him.
- Peter Fonda, Ocean’s Twelve, 2004. Director Steven Soderbergh (and Matt Damon) hoped to net Clint for a cameo as Linus - Damon’s father. Peter Fonda played it but time restraints left it on the editing suite floor.
- Mel Gibson, Signs, 2002. The Reverend Graham Hess was first scripted as an older guy. This explains why sliding director M Night Shyamalan offered the dog-collar to Eastwood and Paul Newman. But Johnny Depp…? Aw c’mon, Johnny can play any age – anything! – you want. - Mr Zen Director, as Kevin Spacey called Clint - was busy enough, thank you, finishing one film and prepping another... for two more Oscars!
- R Lee Emery, House MD, TV,2004-2012. “Thank you, but I’m starting a film,” was Eastwood’s polite reply to a fan wanting him to play his (abusive) father. Hugh Laurie had to settle for another on-screen (and off) Marine, the unforgettable Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Stanley Kubrick’s Full; Meal Jacket, 1966.
- Mark Wahlberg, Shooter, 2006. According to William Goldman, the film’s script doctor, Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Robert Redford refused the betrayed hero tricked into being another Lee Harvey Oswald. So director Antoine Fuqua went younger, changing Bob Lee Swagger’s betrayal from 70s’ Vietnam to 90s’ Ethiopia. And Keanu Reeves was the first choice.
- Tommy Lee Jones, In The Valley of Elah, 2007. Warners always saw Jones as an Eastwood successor, except Clint never went away... However, he passed on this script by Paul Haggis, scenarist of Million Dollar Baby and Flags of Our Fathers, allowing Jones to be the Army careerist officer looking for his soldier boy son, AWOL since getting home from Iraq.
- Grant Bowler, Atlas Shrugged: Part 1, 2010.
- Harrison Ford, The Expendables 3, 2013. Invited to manage Sylvester Stallone’s testosterone take on Dad’s Army when Bruce Willis was dropped for asking for $1m a day for a four day role instead of an offered $3m. Stallone famously called Willis “greedy and lazy” - “a sure formula for career failure.” Clint passed (far too busy) and Ford came in as Church re-written as Drummer.