John Malkovich

  1. James Woods, Once Upon a Time in America, 1982.   After his epic about the West, Sergio Leone planned another on the East – based on The Hoods, “an autobiographical account” of New York Jewish gangster Harry Goldberg. He wrote it in Sing Sing prison as Harry Grey. Leone thought he resembled Edward G Robinson.  Harry probably agreed. He certainly used “a repertoire of cinematic citations, of gestures and words seen and heard thousands of times on the big screen…” But then, so did Leone with a 400 page script packed with echoes of Angels with Dirty Faces, Bullets or Ballots, Dead End, High Sierra, Little Cesar andWhite Heat. In October 1975, he even fancied the elderly James Cagney and Jean Gabin as the older Noodles and Max – the younger being Gérard Depardieu and Richard Dreyfuss. The maestro claimed he interviewed “over 3,000 actors,” taping 500 auditions for the 110 speaking roles. Jack Nicholson and Al Pacino passed on Noodles. In 1980, Tom Berenger and Paul Newman were up for Noodles (young andold) with either John Belushi, Dustin Hoffman, William Hurt, Harvey Keitel, John Malkovich or Jon Voight as Max, then Joe Pesci (he became Frankie, instead) and James Woods was Max. And Scott Tiler and Rusty Jacobs were the young Noodles and Max in the three hours-49 minutes unfurled at the ’84 Cannes festival… instead of Leone’s aim: two three-hour movies.
  2. Randy Quaid, Fool For Love, 1985.      John told playwright Sam Shepherd he wanted to join his movie. “But then,” director Robert Altman told me in Paris, “he was not available. Or chose not to do it. Or something.”
  3. Ben Kingsley, Maurice, 1987.  Chicago’s Steppenwolf  Theatre troupe, Malkovich was meant to join the Merchant-Ivory rep company (membership included such pukka Brits as Helena Bonham Carter, Simon Callow, Denholm Elliott, Rupert Graves,  James Wilby, etc).  But when his pal, Julian Sands had to  quit the project, Malkovich lost all interest in being Lasker-Jones.
  4. William Hurt, The Accidental Tourist, 1988.     Although bought as a vehicle for himself, Malkovich simply co-produced.  He was pleased with Hurt’s work, but felt both women (Kathleen Turner, Geena  Davis) were “disastrous.”  He wuz right, despite the Geena’s inexplicable Oscar.
  5. Jeff Goldblum, The Fly, 1988.      A robot for Susan Seidelman was one thing, but a human-insect… “You may do a film that interests you fantastically as an actor, or as a character,” he explained in  2007, “but maybe it’s less interesting as a film. Meaning a kind of a character in search of a film. And I’ve done that also. “
  6. Jack Nicholson, Batman, 1988.
  7. Adam Baldwin, Next of Kin, 1989.     Malkovich, Alec Baldwin (no kin to Adam), Robert De Niro, Michael Keaton, Ray Liotta, Jack Nicholson, Sean Penn, Ron Perlman, Tim Robbins were seen for mobster Joey Rossellini in the hillbillies v the Mafia re-run of the same UK director John Irvin’s tons better Raw Deal, 1985.
  8. Dudley Moore, Crazy People, 1990.  Suffering a marital crisis, he was too melancholic for comedy.  “I’ve been flipping  out in a real incredible  depression.”  He  split for  Bertolucci’s Sheltering Sky. (No better). His co-star and lover, Michelle Pfeiffer, followed. Of all people, cuddly Dudley took over from the never cuddly Malkovich as the burnt out ad man. Tony Bill took over from the fired writer-director Mitch Markowitz after three weeks. (Bill was in Rumour Has It… when its director Ted Griffin was replaced in 2004 by Rob Reiner).  
  9. Timothy Dalton, The King’s Whore, France 1990.     Interested when French realisateur Daniel Vigne called about a film opposite Isabelle Adjani. He quit when she did.
  10. Jack Palance, City Slickers, 1990.   Facing 40, three Manhattan dudes book into a dude ranch and join a cattle drive and… a perfect comedy!  Billy Crystal stars and helped write it –  and immediately thought of Palance as Curly, the iron cowpuncher still in Shane mode. Even so it was also offered to Bronson who refused, said Billy, “in an unseemly way” – because Curly died. Next? Robert De Niro, Anthony Hopkins, Harvey Keitel. And Clint Eastwood (too pricey… but that would have been something!) and two of his future co-stars, Gene Hackman and John Malkovich. Palance stole the movie and Oscarnight – winning a support award 38 years after his only nomination (for the Shane gunman). He celebrated with one-arm push-ups on the Academy stage – and the 1993 sequel. Bronson must have been livid!
  11. Steven Hill, Billy Bathgate, 1991.     Still avoiding Dustin Hoffman after The Death of A Salesman.

  12. Kevin Costner, JFK, 1991.
  13. Joe Pesci, JFK, 1991.

  14. Alan Rickman, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, 1991.     John would have made an evil Sheriff of Nottingham, but dammitall Alan is English!
  15. Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven, 1991.      In the early 80s, producer-director Francis Coppola owned it as The William Munny Killings, and had a long New York meeting with Malkovich.  “The offer was not very  serious – thank  God!  I say that for myself and the poor public.  And for Clint – absolutely!  I would have been a total,  total failure. Total!  Who would’ve wanted to see that? I wouldn’t!  I would’ve  just been acting-schmatching.  There are some things you can only have with a kind of mythic figure which Clint is.”  They worked together – extremely  well – In The Line of Fire, 1993, and Clint directed him in The Changeling, 2007.
  16. Kenneth Mars, We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story, 1992. Change of voice in the Amblin toon for Professor Screweyes, evil brother of time-travelling Captain Neweyes – Walter Cronkite, no less! 
  17. Jean-Pierre Mocky, Le mari de Léon  (Léon’s Husband),  France, 1992.   Eternal rivals Jean-Paul Belmondo and Alain Delon refused. Likewise stand-up Guy Bedos, Richard Bohringer, Bernard Giradeau and acteur-realisateur Robert Hossein. In fact, Malkovich was the only star to agree to film Frederic Dard’s best-seller, although he did not (then) speak French well enough. “Unthinkable with his accent,” said Mocky, who then played the role, himself. And not for the first time among his 82 directing credits.
  18. Anthony Hopkins, The Innocent, 1993.     Before director Brit John Schlesinger inherited the project from Jon Amiel. “The power has to be with the story.”f.
  19. Robert De Niro, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, 1994. Producer Francis Coppola passed the direction to Kenneth Branagh (also playing Frankenstein). The Creature went through various faces… From those of Gérard Depardieu, Andy Garcia (!) and Malkovich to a real monster. Don Corleone.
  20. Tom Cruise,, Interview With The Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles,  1994. 

  21. Jim Carrey,  Batman Forever, 1994.
  22. Anthony Hopkins, Nixon, 1994.  The JFK director Oliver Stone’s ideas for Tricky Dicky included Warren Beatty, Gene Hackman, Tom Hanks, Tommy Lee Jones, Jack Nicholson, Gary Oldman and Robin Williams.   Hopkins was cast while Malkovich was taking too much time pondering the offer. Next time around, Dan Heyda (Stone’s Trini Cordoza) was Nixon in Dick, 1998.
  23. Dennis Hopper, Waterworld, 1995.     Director Kevin Reynolds did not really want Kevin Costner as his hero –  until the two ex-pals made up. Then, neither could decide on the villain.
  24. William H Macey, Oleanna, 1995.     Playwright-turned-movie-maker David Mamet’s two-hander about sexual harressment – by her of him.
  25. David Thewlis, Total Eclipse, 1995.     “John ran out for reasons that are complicated,” said Polish director Agnieska Holland.  But understandable. Mainly the OD death of River Phoenix, due for Rimbaud opposite Malkovich’s Verlaine in Christopher Hampton’s script.
  26. Russell Crowe, Rough Magic, 1995.     For the detective following a politico’s runaway fiance to Mexico where she searches for a Mayan shaman to teach her ancient magic.
  27. Martin Donovan, The Portrait of a Lady, 1995.     For Jane Campion’s take on the Henry James classic, Malkovich (after  Daniel  Day Lewis, Ralph Fiennes) passed on being the  poor little heiress Nicole Kidman’s cousin Ralph Touchett – who hides his loves her as he’s dying of consumption. Malkovich elected to be the con-man  Gilbert Osmond. 
  28. James Woods, Killer: A Journal of Murder, 1995.   Ed Haris, William Hurt and John Malkovich were considered for Carl Panzram – “one of the most vicious, degenerate criminals of his time,” reported critic Roger Ebert inhis Chicago  Sun-Times review. So, of course, he was played by Jimmy Woods. In the same year, he was also  the killer of black civil rights worker Medgar Evers in Ghosts of Mississippi.
  29. Tony Curtis, Brittle Glory, 1996.    Unknown director Stewart Schill said he also chased after Anthony Hopkins and Havey Keitel for his Reptile Man. They all ran from the first title: The Continued Adventures of Reptile Man and His Faithful Sidekick Tadpole. True!
  30. Eric Roberts, Doctor Who (The Movie), TV, 1996. 

  31. Harrison Ford, Air Force One, 1996.   The action-man POTUS was written for Kevin Costner, too busy mailing The Postman. He suggested Ford and if he passed, a new list included Tom Hanks, Tommy Lee Jones (Bill Clinton’s Havard room-mate), Malkovich (a wannabe presidential assassin during In The Line of Fire, 1992), Dennis Quaid (brother Randy had played LBJ), Keanu Reeves (at 28?), and ex-California Governor Arnold Schwarzeneger. The current Prez, Bill Clinton, loved the movie; future POTUS Donald Trump was inspired by it – “Harrison Ford on the plane… He stood for America!” Quized on TV about this, Ford turned to the camera and wearily said: “Donald, it was just a movie. Things like this don’t happen in real life.”
  32. Jon Voight, Anaconda, 1996. “Alone among snakes, anacondas are unique. After eating their prey, they regurgitate in order to eat again.”   We learned a lot like this in this creature feature.  Sean Connery, Tommy Lee Jones, John Malkovich, even the French Jean Reno preferred refused tickets to the Amazon – and Voight tackled the riff on Robert Shaw.
  33. Julian Sands, Il fantasma dell’opera, Italy, 1998.     Dario Argento’s version of Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera was always intended for Malkovich. Sands was hardly a suitable substitute.
  34. Johnny Depp, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, 1997.  In the mix somewhere for Raoul Duke (aka gonzo jouro Hunter S Thompson) as directors switched from Martin Scorsese and Oliver Stone to Alex Cox and (the winner) Terry Gilliam. Idem for Dan Aykroyd and Jack Nicholson. All lucky to escape such an ugly movie.
  35. Anthony Hopkins, Hannibal, 2001.    First reserve in case Hopkins vetoed the sequel; Tim Roth was second. Either way it didn’t bother Malkovich. “I don’t know how passionate I ever was as an actor. Meaning it was something I did that I liked doing, and it’s remained that. But it’s not as if I ever spent a lot of time sitting around and thinking about acting. I just did it.”
  36. Willem Dafoe, Spider-Man, 2001.
  37. Jeremy Irons, And Now Ladies And Gentlemen, France, 2002.     The look-Ma-no-hands realisateur Claude Lelouch got out of his depth. He first signed Dustin Hoffman, then Malkovich, a French resident, better used to Euro ways. He quit, too, and so Irons supported the film debut of the divine French chanteuse Patricia Kaas. Divine was not the adjective for the film.
  38. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Aviator, 2004.     With production partner Russell Smith, Malkovich tried to launch a Howard Hughes biopic in 1993.
  39. Cillian Murphy,  Red Eye, 2004.     Horrorsmith Wes Craven first desired Malkovich, Ray Liotta and John Travolta for Jackson Rippner  –  then opted for younger leads: Kevin Bacon, Nicolas Cage, Willem Dafoe, Edward Norton, Michael Pitt.
  40. Laurence Fishburne, CSI, TV, 2008-2009.     Malkovich and Kurt Russell were in the frame, before Laurence Fishburne became William Petersen’s replacement.
  41. Micheal Keaton, Spider-Man: Homecoming, 2016. 
  42. James Cromwell, Big Hero 6, 2014.    Six super heroes. So they naturally require one super-nemesis. Who better than (the masked) Robert Callaghan, head of a robotics at San Fransokyo Institute of Technology. The voicing gig for Disney’s first Marvel subject –  after The Big Buy-Out but before Kevin Feige created the  Marvelverse, and  winning the best animation Oscar – was aimed at Jason Alexander, Alec Baldwin, Jeff Bridges, Jim Carrey, Danny De Vito, John Goodman, Dustin Hoffman, Bob Hoskins, Michael Keaton, John Malkovich, Eddie Murphy, Jack  Nicholson, Gary Oldman, Joe Pesci, JK Simmons, Jeffrey Tambor….plus the great Gilbert Gottfried, putting the rest to shame by scoring 179 screen roles in 41 years!   They all made way for Cromwell. Ten years earlier, he had created the I, Robot called Sonny, played by Alan Tudyk… here playing Cromwell’s enemy. 

  43. Alan Tudyk, Big Hero 6, 2014.   Now it was Baldwin, Goodman, Malkovich    and Oldman again, plus Peter Dinklage, Paul Giamatti, John Lithgow, Christopher Lloyd, Alfred Malina, Mandy Pantinkin,  Hugo Weaving and UK comics John Cleese and Eddie Izzard  bowing to Tudyk…  as the above Cromwell’s arch rival, Alistair Krej.   Ten years earlier, Cromwell created the  I, Robot  called Sonny, played by…  Tudyk!



 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  43