Mel Gibson


  1. Keith Carradine, Pretty Baby, 1977.  The plot sickens… A prostitute allows 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 17 guys for for the real life , misshapen, 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 Reeve (busy planning to make us believe a man could fly), Albert Brooks, James Caan, Robert De Niro, Clint Eastwood (he didn’t take up photography until The Bridges of Madison County, 1994),  Mel Gibson (his Aussie accent  got in the way),  Dustin Hoffman, Malcolm McDowell (the only Brit short-listed), Al Pacino, future director Rob Reiner, 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.
  2. Richard Gere, American Gigolo, 1979.       Gibson, Harrison Ford, even Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone – not forgetting Chevy Chase!!! – were the most  unlikely choices for the titular Julian Kaye, He was given to Gere, taken over by John Travolta, who then walked and Gere jumped back in. For a character he didn’t know very well. He’d never owned a suit, spokek languages or sold his body to rich women. “There’s kind of a gay thing that’s flirting through it and I didn’t know the gay community at all. I wanted to immerse myself in all of that. . So I just dove in.”
  3. Robert Powell, Harlequin, Australia, 1980.      Following his Tim and Mad Max breakthroughs, Gibson auditioned for the role of Gregory Wolfe, a  charismatic mystic based (loosely) on Rasputin….  eventually won by the Brit famous for playing another mystic. Jesus.  
  4. Michael Nouri, Flashdance, 1982.     Potential Nick Hurleys were: Gibson, Pierce Brosnan, Kevin Costner (runner-up to Nouri), Live Aid creator Bob Geldof, Richard Gere, Tom Hanks, Burt Reynolds, rocker Gene Simmons, John Travolta… plus such surprises as Robert De Niro, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci! At 36, Nouri was double the age of the flashdancing Jennifer Beals.
  5. Paul Le Mat, Strange Invaders, 1982.  Gibson, Powers Boothe and Michael Murphy were in the mix for Columbia U entomology prof Charles Bigelow,  who never figured that his wife was a disguised alien…  Paul Le Mat was amusing, unconventional. Murphy would have been better. Indeed, it had been written for him. Yet he was rejected by the UK suits who obviously had never seen a Robert Altman in their sorry lives.  Not, M*A*S*H, McCabe and Mrs Miller, Nashville, That Cold Day in the Park, etc…  Murphy was in all of  them! 
  6. Roger Moore, Octopussy, 1983.
  7. Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Terminator, 1983.     In all, 55 actresses (frm Bridget Fonda to Sigourney Weaver) were considered, seen, or tested for the robot assassin’s target, Sarah Connor – but a mere eight guys for the killer from the future, itself. Michael Biehn, Michael Douglas, Kevin Kline, Jürgen Prochnow, Randy Quaid, Tom Selleck, even OK Simpson. And, naturally, Gibson – as Mad Max was among director James Cameron’s main infuences for the T-franchise. Schwarzi had first been considered for Reese.
  8. Tom Hulce, Amadeus, 1984.      Mel as Mozart! Barely seems credible that Milos Forman could ponder on such an idea.
  9. Chuck Norris, Code of Silence, 1984.  When Clint Eastwood passed on  what was first called Dirty Harry IV: Code of Silence, the next rewrite  of George LaFountaine’s 1976 French book, Le Pétard recalcitrant, was  offered to Jeff Bridges Charles Bronson, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Gene Hackman, Tommy Lee Jones, Kris Kristofferson, Nick Nolte, Kurt Russell and Jon Voight. Coming so soon after Burt Reynolds’ Dirty Harryish Sharkey’s Machine, 1981, this one was put down as Dirty Chuckie.
  10. Harrison Ford, Witness, 1984.   Early runners for the John Book course were Gibson, Jack Nicholson, Sylvester StalloneNicholson wasn’t keen on any of the suggested directors (John Badham, David Cronenberg, etc). Sly placed  it among his worst decisions.  And “too rural,” said the suits.  Until Ford signed on for Amish country.  Australian Peter Weir directed when his Mosquito Coasthad budget problems  into money hassles. Ironcially, his star had been Nicholson – but Ford also made this one with Weir in 1986. 

  11. Christophe(r) Lambert, HIghlander, 1985.   Once Sean Connery refused the lead (for the splashier role of the 2,000-year-old Ramirez), finding the titular and immortal Connor MacLeod was not easy.  Kurt Russell actually won the role but his lover, Goldie Hawn, insisted he stay home; he dealt with Big Trouble in Little China, instead. So you can imagine the anguish of the six producers when, after also being turned down by Kevin Costner, Michael Douglas, Mel Gibson, Scott Glenn, Ed Harris, Hulk Hogan, William Hurt, David Keith, Mickey Rourke, Sam Shepard, Sting (also asked for a song), Patrick Swayze and Peter Weller… that they discovered that Australian director Russell Mulcahy’s French choice of the new Tarzan, Christophe(r) Lambert, could hardly speak English.  He learned. In six weeks. 
  12. Mickey Rourke, A Prayer Before Dying, 1986.      Rourke was delighted, going to  Belfast to study the accent, getting tattooed with the IRA emblem, saying he’d never made a film with so much passion… And finishing with another flop.
  13. Martin Short, Innerspace, 1986.  The pitch ?  “Imagine if Dean Martin was  miniaturised and injected into Jerry Leweis’  butt….  Some 21 actresses  were seen for Dennis Quaid’s girl (he wed one, Meg Ryan), but just four guys for poor Jack Putter into whose posterior Quaid is shot: Short, Mel Gibson, Robin Williams… and Rick Moranis, who two years later, would scream: Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.  
  14. Eddie Murphy, The Golden Child, 1986.      Gibson’s loss (as a serious drama) was hardly Murphy lore as a semi-comedy.
  15. Jeff Goldblum, The Fly, 1986.   “Be afraid, be very afraid!” Gibson fled for Lethal Weapon.   Richard Dreyfuss and Michael Keaton also passed on Seth Brundle. The promise of five hours (and 5 lbs) of prosthetic make-up as the Brundlefly hardly delighted them. John Lithgow auditioned.
  16. Kevin Costner, The Untouchables, 1986     Refused Eliot Ness, realising that Sean Connery would steal the movie from even Robert De Niro’s  Al Capone.
  17. Kevin Costner, No Way Out, 1986.  For his excellent thriller – labyrinthine and ingenious, said Roger Ebert – the under-praised Aussie director Roger Donaldson caught Costner on the cusp of superstardom (betweern The Untouchables and Field of Dreams) after seeing if the hero’s US Navy uniform would suit… Alec Baldwin, Michael Biehn, Jeff Bridges, Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, William Hurt, Tommy Lee Jones, Michael Keaton, Michael Nouri, Bill Paxton,  Sean Penn, Dennis Quaid, Kurt Russell, Patrick Swayze, Bruce Willis. Even the French Christophe(r) Lambert  or… Robin Williams?!
  18. Timothy Dalton, The Living Daylights, 1986.
  19. Kevin Costner, Bull Durham, 1987. Ron Shelton had one helluva job trying to win backing for his directing debut. “Baseball? Get outa here. Ball movies don’t sell.”  But his producer Thom Mount was part-owner of the real Durham Bulls squad and recognised what Roger Ebert would call “a sports movie that knows what it is talking about – because it knows so much about baseball and so little about love.” Orion stumped up $9m, eight weeks, creative freedom – the cast cut their costs because of the script. For the minor-league veteran, Crash Davis, Shelton  looked at: Alec Baldwin, Tom Berenger, Jeff Bridges, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Don Johnson, Tommy Lee Jones (he was baseball icon Ty Cobb in Shelton’s Cobb, 1994), Michael Keaton, Stephen Lang, Nick Nolte (more into football), Bill Paxton, Ron Perlman, Dennis Quaid, Kurt Russell (who worked on the script with Shelton), Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis – and even three foreigners to the game: Aussie Mel Gibson, French Christophe(r) Lambert and Austrian Arnold Schwarzenegger. Result: more sports from Shelton (basketball, golf, boxing) and more baseball movies from Hollywood: A League of Their Own, Eight Men Out (with Sheen), Field of Dream (Costner), Major League (Berenger and Sheen).
  20. Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Running Man, 1987.     Four years earlier,  this was all his for one MGMillion.
  21. Jean-Marc Barr, Le grand bleu, France, 1988. With the film’s enormous success in France, Barr became something of a Gibson: “a Mickey  Mouse, a star, a prostitute being offered enormous sums of money to do anything.”  And turned to smaller, more daring  independent  material as soon as he could. 

  22. Bruce Willis, Die Hard, 1987.     
    There were 17 possible John McClanes… From Michael Madsen, Tom Berenger, and top TV heroes Don Johnson and Richard Dean Anderson to A-listers Charles Bronson, James Caan, Robert De Niro, Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, Nick Nolte, Al Pacino, Burt Reynolds, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone… and Frank Sinatra?  Yes, well, Roderick Thorpe’s book, Nothing Lasts Forever, sequelised  The Detective  – and  that 1967 film  starred Sinatra (as Joe Leland,  changed here to  McClane) and so Sinatra  had first dibs on any sequels. At age 73, old Rheumy Blue Eyes wisely passed. Otherwise it could have  been “Dooby-dooby-do”  in place of  “Yippee-ki-yay.”  In his 1980 move debut, The First Deadly Sin, Willis is seen leaving a bar as Sinatra walks in.   He was soon  taking roles from most of those on the McClane list.  So it flows…

  23. Roddy Piper, They Live, 1987The pitch was fine:Drifter finds some sunglasses that let him to see that aliens have taken over the Earth. And, appartently, the film. Lousy! Which is probably why 18 other big guns, said nadato being Nada: Gibson, Alec Baldwin, Michael Biehn, Jeff Bridges, Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones, Michael Keaton, Christophe(r) Lambert, Dolph Lundgren, Bill Paxton, Ron Perlman, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Patrick Swayze, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis (plus three mere pistols: Brian Bosworth, Bruce Campbell, Stephen Lang).  And the less said about Russell’s wrestler replacement, the better.“Just John Carpenter as usual,” said the Washington Post, “trying to dig deep with a toy shovel.”
  24. Robert De Niro, Midnight Run, 1987.   There were 23 possibilites for the lean, mean  skip-tracer (tracing felons who skipped bail) – on the run from the  FBI and the Mob after capturing Vegas embezzler Charles Grodin. Who knew De Niro could be more subtle at comedy than… Gibson, Jeff Bridges, Charles Bronson, Michael Douglas, Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Don Johnson, Tommy Lee Jones, Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, O’Neal (!), Al Pacino, Burt Reynolds, Mickey Rourke, Kurt Russell, John Travolta, Jon Voight and even the musclebound Arnie and Sly – Schwarzenegger and Stallone. Director Martin Brest, that’s who.
  25. Michael Douglas, Fatal Attraction, 1987.
  26. Mark Harmon, The Presido, 1987.  The usual old cop-young cop routine but set to a dull military beat in San Francisco’s Presidio Army Base. Due for Lee Marvin-Jeff Bridges, but Lee fell ill and died.  Gene Hackman-Bridges were not as hot as Sean Connery-Don Johnson – except Don was hog-tied to Miami Vice.  OK, Sean-Kevin Costner – he quit so no Untouchables reunion as the pair finally became Sean-Mark Harmon.  Also up  for the young upstart were 15 others:  Alec Baldwin Michael Biehn, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, Michael Keaton, Bill Pullman, Dennis Quaid, Kurt Russell, Sylvestre Stallone, Patrick Swayze, Bruce Willis, even Europeans Dolph Lundgren, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jean-Claude Van Damme None could have saved what Chicago critic Roger Ebert called “a clone, of a film assembled out of spare parts from… the cinematic junkyard.”
  27. Bill Pullman, The Serpent and the Rainbow, 1988.         Author Wade Davis made it clear when selling his bok that he wanted Peter Weir directing Mel Gibson. Ah! The film had Wes Craven directing Pullman. So it blows.
  28. Willem Dafoe, The Last Temptation of Christ, 1988.      From, his 20s onwards, Gibson vowed: “Two things I wouldn’t do on film – I will never play myself if it ever comes to that and I will never play Jesus.” Instead, he directed Jim Caviezel in Christ’s last 12 hours in The Passion of the Christ – shot in Latin and Aramaic in 2003. “They think I’m insane, maybe I am. Hopefully I’ll be able to transcend language barriers with filmic storytelling.  Many people have told the story but… I mean, Jesus either suffers from bad hair or it’s inaccurate or you don’t believe it.”
  29. Michael Keaton, Batman, 1988.
  30. Robin Williams, Dead Poets Society, 1988.   “Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.” As directors changed from  Jeff Kanew to Peter Weir  – Gibson, Alec Baldwin,  Dustin Hoffman, Bill Murray, Liam Neeson, Robin’s pal Christopher Reeve and Mickey Rourke backed off from the teacher John Keating.   Williams dithered and finally agreed. His  co-star, Ethan Hawke, called the film: One Flew Over the Robin’s Nest… with Williams as Jack Nicholson, Norman Lloyd as Nurse Ratched and Robert Sean Leonard as Brad Dourif!  

  31. Dustin Hoffman, Rain Man, 1988.  “No sex, no car chases and  no third act,” said super-agent Michael Ovitz, Yet it was #1 film of the year.  De Niro, Mel Gibson and Jack Nicholson all passed on Raymond Babbit.  Hoffman made it his own by changing Ray from mentally handicapped to an autistic savant. “Uh ho!”
  32. Ed Harris, The Abyss, 1989.       Just what the water-logged chiller required.
  33. Richard Gere, Internal Affairs, 1989.      ’Tis the season to be cops… in three different offers…   UK director Mike Figgis said Paramount wanted Gibson or Kurt Russell (big hits in ’88’s Tequila Sunrise) as the rogue cop-cum-hit man. “If we’d hired a movie star to play Peck,” noted producer Frank Mancuso Jr, “we might not have been able to so successfully explore the darkness of the character.” Some 19 other stars – Alec Baldwin, Tom Berenger, Jeff Bridges, Pierce Brosnan, Kevin Costner, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Ed Harris, William Hurt, Don Johnson, Tommy Lee Jones, Michael Keaton, Nick Nolte, Al Pacino, Christopher Reeve, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, John Travolta… and four outsiders Richard Dean Anderson, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Ron Silver – all passed Peck to Gere for a double whammy comeback with Pretty Woman. “I’ve never been away,” snapped Gere. Oh, but he had. Almost to Palookaville. Where Gibson would be next to spend some time… following his rabid, anti-Jewish rant on 28 July 2006.
  34. Kurt Russell, Tango & Cash, 1989.    Next… ? Sylvester Stallone was Raymond Tango – without  question. But who would he accept as his cop pardner, Gabriel Cash?  After Patrick Swayze ran (to solo billing in Road House), the list was long… Gibson, Michael Biehn, Pierce Brosnan, Kevin Costner, Richard Gere, Don Johnson, Michael Keaton, Ray Liotta, Liam Neeson, Michael Nouri, Gary Oldman, Robert Patrick, Bill Paxton, Ron Perlman,  Dennis Quaid, Gary Sinise. Plus three future Sly co-stars: Harrison Ford,  Bruce Willis and James Woods. They all  lost out on the debatable pleasure of four directors! From the Russian Andrei Konchalovsky to, secretly, Stallone.
  35. Robin Williams, Dead Poets Society, 1989.   “Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”  As directors changed from Jeff Kanew to Peter Weir – Gibson, Alec Baldwin, Dustin Hoffman, Bill Murray and Mickey Rourke backed off from the teacher John Keating Williams’ co-star, Ethan Hawke, called the film: One Flew Over the Robin’s Nest… with Williams as Jack Nicholson, Norman Lloyd as Nurse Ratched and Robert Sean Leonard as Brad Dourif!  
  36. Patrick Swayze, Next of Kin, 1989.   Finally… country bumpkins v the Mafia. Again. For the hero of his respun Raw Deal, 1985, UK director John Irvin went from The Obvious Aces: Gibson, Kevin Costner, Tom Cruise, Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, , Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis… to the Tango and Cash possibles: Michael Biehn, Jeff Bridges, Pierce Brosnan, Kurt Rusell… plus The Also-Rans: Tommy Lee Jones, Kris Kristofferson, Dennis Quaid. And even French Christopher Lambert, Swedish Dolph Lundgren and Belgian Jean Claude Van Damme… for a Chicago cop!
  37. Warren Beatty, Dick Tracy, 1989.  Sonny Bono with the missus, Cher, as Tess, were set for a 70s’ musical version that never flew.  Next came Ryan O’Neal in the early 80s. Then, Gibson, Bruce Campbell, Robert De Niro, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, Robert Redford and even such total opposites as George C Scott and Tom Selleck were seen in ’89.    James Caan settled for a cameo as Splandoni.  Beatty agreed to direct if he could play Tracy, his boyhood idol. Disney suits spoiled the whole caper by making him slash his 135 minute cut by a half-hour!

  38. 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.” “Leading men hate to be passive; hate to be eunuchised by their female co-stars,” said top scenarist William Goldman on why 22 actors avoided the prospect of being beaten up and beaten to an Oscar by Kathy Bates as the mad fan of writer Paul Sheldon. Warren Beatty prevaricated but never actually said no (nor yes).  Richard Dreyfuss regretted disappointing director Rob Reiner again after refusing When Harry Met Sally, 1988 (they had earlier made a classic of   King’s novella, The Body, as Stand By Me, 1985).   William Hurt refused – twice. Jack Nicholson didn’t want another King guy so soon after The Shining.  While Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino being up  for the same role was nothing new  – but Robert Redford and Morgan Freeman was  Also fleeing the  32nd of Stephen King’s staggering 313 screen credits were Tim Allen, Jeff Daniels, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, close pals Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman, Ed Harris, John Heard, Robert Klein, Bill Murray, Ed O’Neill,  John Ritter, Denzel Washington, Robin Williams and Bruce Willis… who went on to be Sheldon in Goldman’s  2015 Broadway version.

  39. Patrick Bergin, Mountains of the Moon, 1990.      Bob Rafelson’s first choice for the 19th Century River Nile explorers, Burton and  Speke:  Gibson and Bowie.  A reduced budget meant unknowns. Bergin also replaced Gibson during Hollywood’s  Sherwood Forest battle…
  40. John Heard, Home Alone, 1990.    For the zero roles of Macauley Culkin’s forgetful parents (in a film written for and duly stolen by him), an astonishing 66 stars were considered – including 32 later seen for the hot lovers in Basic Instinct:Kim Basinger, Stockard Channing, Glenn Close, Kevin Costner, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Douglas, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Linda Hamilton, Daryl Hannah, Marilu Henner, Anjelica Huston, Helen Hunt, Holly Hunter, Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange, Christopher Lloyd, Jack Nicholson, Sean Penn, Michelle Pfeiffer, Annie Potts, Kelly Preston, Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan, Martin Sheen, Sylvester Stallone, Sharon Stone, John Travolta.   Other potential Pops were Dan Aykroyd, Jim Belushi, Chevy Chase, Jeff Daniels, Tony Danza, John Goodman, Charles Grodin, Tom Hanks, Robert Hays, Steve Martin, Rick Moranis, Bill Murray, Ed O’Neill, John Ritter, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Skerritt, Robin Williams… and the inevitable unknowns: Broadway’s Mark Linn-Baker, Canadian musicians-comics Alan Thicke (“the affordable William Shatner”)and Dave Thomas.

  41. Jim Belushi, Curly Sue, 1990.   Another kiddyrama…  “What I thought would be this cute, sweet little movie experience ended up going on for something like five months,” reported Kelly Lynch. “So much money was spent. It was insane! It was going to be me, Alec Baldwin and Kevin Spacey –  a whole different situation.  [They left for stage dates].  Those were two guys I knew really well, but I’d never met Jimmy [Belushi] before, and then he and [director John Hughes making his final film] didn’t get along. I kinda felt like a mom dealing with two 12-year-old boys.“  Also in the Bill Dancer mix were Jeff Bridges, Richard Dreyfuss, Mel Gibson, Jeff Goldblum, Steve Guttenberg, Ray Liotta, Bill Murray (off shooting What About Bob?), Kurt Russell, Tom Selleck, Sylvester Stallone, John Travolta, Bruce Willis. [Quotes va IMDb; no other source credited].
  42. Kevin Costner, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, 1990. Gibson revealed on UK TV that he has been asked to play the Sherwood herto. But he’d just finished Hamlet and didn’t want another costume number. Or not until directing himself in Braveheart four years later – his French co-star, Sophie Marceau, had been on the Maid Marian short-list.
  43. Patrick Bergin, Robin Hood, TV, 1991.     “Bring in Division Two,” commented Bergin. “Or, the bottom of Division One.”  When Kevin Costner went to the rival project,  Fox tried for Gibson, before scaling down its $36m  project to a tele-movie – released in overseas cinemas to scanty audiences as the world awaited Costner’s Dances With Sherwood.
  44. Kevin Costner, JFK, 1991.
  45. Campbell Scott, Dying Young, 1991.     The stars queued  – to refuse.
  46. Damon Wayans, The Last Boy Scout, 1991.    Gibson and Jack Nicholson (how can one say that in the same breathj?)  were wanted for another of wirier Shane Black’s buddy movies. (Gibson was already one of the Lethal Weapon buddies).  The shamus and the ex-football player became Bruce Willis and Daman Wayans.  They did not get on. Nor did the movie. The only consistent theme of which,  said Chicago critic Roger Ebert, was  its hatred of women.
  47. Val Kilmer, Thunderheart, 1991.  UK director Michael Apted’s first  thriller was inspired by 57 unsolved murders on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the 1970s as The Traditionals fought Tribal government goons…  making Pine Ridge (pop: 1100) the Murder Capitol of the Nation. The only cliche in sight is the usual pairing of old cop-young cop (or FBI agents here), the rest was the usual Apted brilliance.  He shuffled a  13 choices for the younger agent, Ray Levoi: Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Mel, Gibson, Tommy Lee Jons, Michael Keaton, Dennis Quaid, Kurt Russell, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvster Stallone, Patrick Swayze, Bruce Willis Levoi was 1/4th Sioux. Kilmer ( “the most unsung leading man of his generation,” for Chicago critic  Roger Ebrt) is 1/8th Cherokee.
  48. Michael Douglas, Basic Instinct, 1992.
  49. Sam Neill, Jurassic Park, 1992.
  50. Michael Douglas, Falling Down, 1992.  I lost my job. Well, actually I didn’t lose it, it lost me. I am over-educated, under-skilled. Maybe it’s the other way around, I forget. But I’m obsolete. I’m not economically viable.” The guy known only by his car number-plate, D-FENS, is suffering from society and melting down. Dangerously. Perfect, therefore, for Alec Baldwin, Jeff Bridges, Robert De Niro, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Ed Harris, Dustin Hoffman, Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Nick Nolte, Al Pacino, Robin Williams – and, indeed, director Joel Schumacher’s choice of his pal, Douglas, in a Spartacus buzz-cut, glasses and, finally, his very own Cuckoo’s Nest.

  51. Liam Neeson, Schindler’s List, 1993.      “Oskar Schindler is the most romantic character I’ve ever worked with. He romances the entire city of Krakow, he romances the Nazis, he romances the politicians, the police chiefs,the women. He was a grand seducer.” Steven Spielberg spent ten years growing up before making the Holocaust film and not just because he couldn’t find his Oskar Schindler. Among those offering to play the Nazi businessman who saved the lives of more than 1,100 Jews were Kevin Costner… and Gibson, 13 years before his rabid, anti-Jewish rant on July 28,  July 2006. After four previous nominations, this is the film that finally won Spielberg his first Oscar on March 21, 1994.
  52. Jeff Bridges, Fearless, 1993.       Gibson  turned down Australian director  Peter Weir to direct himself as The Man Without A Face.
  53. Harrison Ford, The Fugitive, 1993.  Paging Dr Kimble…  There was a queue answering the call for the film of David Janssen’s 1963-1967 series.  Alec Baldwin, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Costner (directing as well), Michael Douglas, Andy Garcia, Richard Gere, Michael Keaton, Nick Nolte(director Walter Hill’s choice, but Andrew Davis made the movie – the fourth in his home town, Chicago),  Al Pacino, Christopher Reeve. “The minute Harrison Ford shows up, they drop everything and sign up Harrison Ford,” Baldwiin complained. (It’s called being a star, Alec). Mel Gibson was up for either Kimble or…
  54. Tommy Lee Jones, The Fugitive, 1993. … or his Javert-like hunter, Lieutenant Gerard – an Oscared gig for TLJ.  Gene Hackman, Mel Gibson and Jon Voight had also been in the mix for varying directors, from Walter Hill and Stephen  Frears to Andrew Davis.
  55. Woody Harrelson, Natural Born Killers, 1993.     Warners pushed for Gibson or  Kevin Costner, no matter how inappropriate. Oliver Stone was musing between Harrelson and Michael Madsen.
  56. Michael Keaton, The Paper, 1993.    For another of his tepid movies, director Ron  Howard mused over Gibson, Alec Baldwin, Kevin Costner, Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kurt Russell, John Travolta and Robin Williams for Henry Hackett, the New York Sun‘s metro editor…   who tells his editor-in-chief (a superb Robert Duvall – is there any other kind?): “Every day I’m behind from the minute I get up.”
  57. Denzel Washington, Philadelphia, 1993.   Originally, the lawyer helping another lawyer suing for loss of job because he had AIDS was Italian-American Joe Martino,. That changed to Joe Miller when it was offered to Gibson, Bill Murray and Robin Williams before Denzel showed interest and director Jonathan Demme had longed to work with  him – and did so again ten years later in The Manchurian Candidate re-make. 
  58. Richard Gere, First Knight, 1994.  A bad day’s knight. Gibson preferred directing himself – magnificently – in Braveheart, making Gere the most unsuitable  Lancelot of ’em all.  Terence Young died that year. He had been due to direct Sean Connery for the first time since Thunderball, 1964 – as the same King Arthur offered to Gibson in 2003.
  59. Tommy Lee Jones, Batman Forever, 1994.
  60. Jean Reno, Léon (US: Leon: The Professional), France, 1994.     The word spread about auteur Luc Besson’s new projects. Gibson (and Keanu Reeves) made it known they expected to be the hit-man. Besson, however, kept the faith with his pal Reno – who had been five of the previous six Besson movies.

  61. Tim Allen, The Santa Clause, 1994.  The guy who accidentally kills Santa (it was shootinghim, but Disney wasn’t having that) and take over his duties was penned for for Bill Murray. “Not my kind of humour,” he retorted.  Next in line:Rowan Atkinson, Jim Carrey, Michael J Fox, Richard Gere, Steve Guttenberg, Tom Hanks, Robin Williams.  Plus eight  Batman candidates: Gibson, Alec Baldwin, Jeff Bridges, Pierce Brosnan, Michael J Fox, Kurt Russell, Patrick Swayze and the winning Michael  Keaton..TV comic Tim Allen won his film debut. He had a record (28 months for attempted dealing) but Disney reluctantly broke its no-ex-cons policy. He’d been punished – and now more so. Stifling in his fat suit and facial prosthetics during the Summer shoot, he needed cooling-off breaks. They didn’t prevent a neck rash from the Santa suit. Come the Toy Storyseres, he could voice Buzz Lightyear in his pjs.
  62. Patrick Swayze, To Wong Fu, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar, 1995.     Mad Max in drag!  Well, he flirted with the notion for a (short) while.  Until – legend insists –  Mel heard that Vida was Jewish.
  63. Sylvester Stallone, Assassins, 1995.     After Arnold Schwarzenegger passed a year earlier, Warners asked Gibson to star and direct in what was then Day of Reckoning.  Finally, director Richard Donner took it on.
  64. Dennis Quaid, Dragonheart, 1995.     Not interested in being second banana  to  a computerised dragon…  with Sean Connery’s voice!  Liam Neeson Patrick Swayze, Robin Williams were also on the short-list for Bowen.  
  65. Tom Cruise, Mission: Impossible, 1995.   Before Tom Cruise and JJ Abrams took it on – for 20-plus years! –  Paramount had offered the (expected) franchise to Gibson, Nicholas Cage, George Clooney, John Travota, Bruce Wills. And, inexplicably, Ralph Fiennes… who made a right dog’s breakfast out of another TV cult hero, John Steed, in The Avengers –  when Gibson rejected the role three years later.
  66. Steven Seagal, Fire Down Below, 1996. Batman producrs Peter Guber and Jon Peters bought it for Mel – or, again, Harrison Ford – as a EPAgent fighting environment polluters.
  67. Val Kilmer, The Ghost and The Darkness, 1996.     Gibson was on Paramount’s short must-have-or-no-film list – but was never even contacted during a six month wait for Cruise to decline what Costner had agreed to.
  68. Val Kilmer, The Saint, 1997.     Roger Moore played Simon Templar for 118 tele-chapters, stayed with the company making Return of the Saint with Ian Ogilvy and was due for sainthood again as 80s and 90s plans had Moore set to produce a St Pierce Brosnan (!) or be the ageing hero, finding his illegitimate Saint son – nearly Ralph Fiennes for director Sydney Pollack. Final director was Philip Noyce and Moore was out – “first time I was paid not to act in a film” – and junior Saints were in. Gibson, George Clooney, Kevin Costner, Johnny Depp, Hugh Grant, even Arnold Schwarzenegger.   Plus a certain James Healey, the Irish-born Aussie who actually rejected Mad Max for its sparse dialogue (!) in 1978, leaving the superstar route clear for Gibson. And finally, horrendously, ego-trippingly, Kilmer. He later admitted to Moore: “We really screwed that up, didn’t we?”
  69. Ralph Fiennes, The Avengers, 1998.      To be bowler-hatted for Tim Burton’s 1990 version. The big-screen John Steed sure needed some charisma. The UK Daily Telegraph’s anonymous columnist, Peterborough, felt the not-so-Fiennes Steed “appeared to be inspired by an old ironing board.”
  70. John Travolta, Primary Colors, 1998.      Even with Mike Nichols directing, Tom Hanks also passed on  being the tres Clintonesque Governor Jack Stanton running for The White House.

  71. Nicolas Cage, Snake Eyes, 1998.      Also rejected by Kevin Costner, Tom Cruise, Brian De Palma began directing without his star  – when Cage was still shooting City of Angels and due to fly into Superman Reborn. De Palma got lucky, Superman got aborted.
  72. Tom Hanks, Saving Private Ryan, 1998.     This once, Spielberg needed an A-name to support and encourage all the necessarily young actors. He thought  of Harrison Ford (bien sur) plus Gibson, before making  his friend, Hanks, into Captain John Miller – first of three films together.
  73. Michael Keaton Jack Frost, 1998. A jazz musician dies and comes back  – as Frosty The Snowman – to help out his  sad son. Gibson preferred Richard Donner’s  Conspiracy Theory with Julia Roberts. Tim Allen, George Clooney, Kevin Costner, Dennis Quaid, Kurt Russell and Billy Bob Thornton (the 2002  Bad Santa)  also passed. They’d seen the Jim Henson/ILM designs for the snow-er-creature. “The most repulsive single creature in the history of special effects,” said Chicago critic Roger Ebert, “and I am not forgetting the Chucky doll or the desert intestine from Star Wars.
  74. George Clooney, Three Kings, 1998.   Or two, anyway. Bullying director David O Russell and his star, Clooney.  Well, not his star. He’d wanted Gibson, Jeff Bridges (but his Big Lebowski had flopped),  Clint Eastwood, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson or Nick Nolte (the only one to admit he was too old for Major Gates). Or even Nicolas Cage, but he was BringingOut The Dead. So as far as Russell was concered, he was stuck with Clooney – working three days a week on ER in LA, and four for Russell. No wonder their relationshjp was fractious: rows, punch-ups. “I would not stand for him humiliating and yelling and screaming at crew members [and extras]  who weren’t allowed to defend themselves… So my job was then to humiliate the people who were doing the humiliating.”  Like when Russell foolishly said: “Hit me.”  So Clooney obliged him.
  75. George Clooney, The Perfect Storm, 1999.   Gibson and Harrison Ford were also on the manifest for the perfect skipper – Captain Billy Tyne – in the reconstructionn of the fishing ship, Andrea Gail, caught in  “the middle of the monster” when three great storm systems collided in the Atlantic in 1991.
  76. Richard Gere, Runaway Bride, 1999.     Across a decade, the reporters changed – Ben Affleck,  Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford. So did their story: from Sandra Bullock to  Demi Moore.
  77. Will Smith, The Wild, Wild West, 1999.     Seven years before, Richard Donner (one of the TV series directors) and his Lethal Weapon tried to cut a deal – before switching to the eminently more polished Maverick. Tom Cruise simply bolted… Everybody making – or wasting good money to watch – the lame-brained Western, hated it. Smith gave up The Matrix to succeed Conrad as Captain James West, as he was a huge fan of the show. Hah! ah ! Some years later, “when older and more experienced,” he found the grace to publicly apologise to Conrad for such a diabolical mish-mash.
  78. Russell Crowe, Gladiator, 1999.  Ridley Scott had three major problems with his Roman empire epic. First: who could be his (fictional) Maximus Decimus Meridius.  Candidates included Antonio Banderas, Mel Gibson (“I’m too old.”), Hugh Jackman and Tom Sizemore (from Scott’s Black Hawk Down, 2000. Second: He looked at the real Colisseum in Rome and said: “Too small”!  Third: Crowe kept rewriting the script. “Your lines are garbage, but I’m the greatest actor in the world, and I can make even garbage sound good.”
  79. Hugh Jackman, X-Men  quartet, 1999-2013.  “Hey, bub, I’m not finished with you yet…” Jackie Earle Haley, Gary Sinise and Kiefer Sutherland were in the Wolverine/Logan frame, circa 1989.  Next, of all people, producer James Cameron and his then wife, director Kathryn Bigelow, chose chubby Bob Hoskins in the early 90s. The fans voted for Jack Nicholson… well, he’d been a decent Wolf in 1994. Fox could not think beyond Keanu Reeves. Russell Crowe felt Logan was too similar to his 1999 Gladiator… and just a toon, anyway. Director Bryan Singer searched on through… Gibson, Aaron Eckhart, singer-songwriter Glenn Danzig (at 50..?!), Viggo Mortensen  (a great idea but he was not yet finished with Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings), Edward Norton (also considered for Cyclops/Scott Summers) and – oh no! – Jean-Claude Van Damme.  Finally, Singer chose Dougray Soitt –  but he was stuck on Mission: Impossible II in Australia which is where Jackman came from (on Crowe’s reccommendation) to save the day. And the franchise. At last count Jackman has been Wolverine in ten movies (Deadpool 2 included) across 19 years.
  80. Leonardo DiCaprio, Gangs of New York, 2000.  For Martin Scorsese, casting was easy. In 1978, Dan Aykroyd-John Belushi were Amsterdam and The Butcher.  (What?!) Or, Mel Gibson-Willem Dafoe. By 1984, Malcolm McDowell-Robert De Niro. Finally, Leonardo DiCaprio-Daniel Day Lewis 
  81. Russell Crowe, Proof of Life, 2000.    Mel was the producers’ first choice.Taylor Hackford fought harder for the younger Aussie – whose on-screen affair with Meg Ryan never stopped off-screen. And ruined her image – and career. 
  82. Chris Klein, Rollerball, 2001.     Gibson  wanted  a rest.

  83. Colin Farrell, Phone Booth, 2001.  
    After about 30 years of B-pix, directing 18 of them, Larry Cohen moved from B to A List scripter at 58. “I wrote the character of a small-time hustling publicist and patterned him on Tony Curtis in Sweet Smell of Success and even had Tony ready to star but…” It took 40 years to get his suspenser made. Alfred Hitchcock wanted it in the ’60s, but neither man could work out why the hero stayed trapped in the titular box. By the ’90s, Cohen found the (all-American) idea of a sniper – threatening to shoot the hero if he left the booth. Director Joel Schumacher talked to Jim Carrey when they made Batman Forever, 1994, then Gibson, Will Smith, Mark Wahlberg and, finally, the young Irish lad he’d made into a sudden star with Tigerland, 1999. And Schumacher shot it all in nine days! “It was a blast,” said Farrell, “the most intense experience of my life.” But young fans with their cell phones, didn’t know from … whaddyer call ’em again… phone booths? Cohen heard them and brought his tale up to date as Cellular for Kim Basinger and Chris Evans in 2003.

  84. Patrick Bauchau,  Panic Room, 2001.   Having given up being  the Cannes festival jury chief to rescue this thriller after Nicole Kidman’s knee injury, Foster almost insisted that her best mate play her ex-husband.  This once, she didn’t get her own way. …  Bauchau is Brigitte Bardot’s brother-in-law. 
  85. Russell Crowe, A Brilliant Mind, 2001.   The choice of the right actor to  portray the schizophrenic Noble Prize-winning mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr was vital.  Which had me wondering why  Keanu Reeves, Charlie Sheen, John Travolta and  Bruce Willis   were on the short-list!    Then again they might have proved as surprising as Crowe. Director Ron Howard’s other candidates included  Alec Baldwin, Matthew Broderick, Nicolas Cage, Kevin Costner, Tom Cruise, John Cusack, Johnny Depp, Robert Downey Jr, Ralph Fiennes, Mel Gibson,  Jared Leto, Gary Oldman, Guy Pearce, Sean Penn, Brad Pitt. Nash liked the six-Oscar-winner. “But it wasn’t me.”
  86. Steve Martin, Cheaper By The Dozen, 2002.    When Gibson bowed  out of the the dom-com, it became yet another Martin re-tread. Mainly because the character was called Tom Baker – and Martin was a major  fan of Doctor Who. Let me explain:   UK actor Tom Baker was Doc4 during 1974-1981.
  87. Keanu Reeves, Constantine, 2003.   If ever a movie deserved to fail… Fascinated by Alan Moore’s DC/Vertigo comic book hero, Hellblazer, Hollywood changed the title in case anyone was dumb enough to muddle it with Hellraiser (impossible with the target geek audience), and changed the Liverpudlian supernatural detectiveinto just another LA cop chasing demons down mean streets. Gibson, Nic Cage, Kevin Spacey fled and Moore took his name off it.
  88. Clive Owen, King Arthur, 2003.   Three Aussies, Gibson Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman, refused the head seat at the Round Table during the five years director Michael Bay spent prepping his take. Antoine Fuqua took over. He wanted Daniel Craig. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer insisted on Owen – “he’s going to be the new James Bond” and that would add extra life to the royal DVD.  Except, the next 007 was… Craig.
  89. Aaron Eckhart, Thank You For Smoking, 2004.     “The message Hollywood needs to send out is:  Smoking Is Cool!” When Christopher Buckley sold rights to his novel in the ’90s, Gibson was due to be Nick Naylor – tobacco industry lobbyist.
  90. Julian McMahon, Fantastic Four, 2004.    Gibson, Tim Robbins – and Cliff Curtis, the Maori actor from The Piano and Blow – were lucky to lose Victor Von Doom in this mess, the second of four flop versions of the comic. One day, Marvel will doubtless regain all rights and fit the Four into its triumphant Cinematic Universe.

  91. Denzel Washington, Man on Fire, 2004.  
    Tony Scott backed out of directing the first version in 1986, but helped  Denzel Washington retrieve his lost taste for acting in this re-make.  Sergio Leone chose  Robert De Niro  and Marlon Brando nearly played A J Quinnell’s ex-CIA hero turned mercenary (certainly helped re-write  him) but Scott Glenn won the  role. Tony Scott  had wanted Robert Duvall. The new scriptwriter, Brian Helgeland,  recalled going  into the LA Video Archives store  in the 80s and asking the clerk: “What’s good?” The clerk said:  Man on Fire. The clerk was Quentin Tarantino.  In both films Creasy  is trying to rescue a kidnapped girl, almost a daughter to him, that  he’s bodyguarding.  Yeah, rather like a matrix for Liam Neeson’s Takens. So no surprise to find Liam among some 25 actors up for Creasy. Alec Baldwin, Sean Bean (a nearly 007),  Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe, Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, Andy Garcia, Mel Gibson, Ed Harris, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, Viggo Mortensen,  Gary Oldman, Dennis Quaid, Keanu Reeves, Alan Rickman, Kurt Russell,  Arnold Schwarzenegger, Will Smith, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis… even our dear old  Bob Hoskins.  Creasy was later  Bollywooded by the inimitable  Amitabh Bachchan (at age  63!). There were three songs, of course!

  92. Rick Kuhlman, Family Guy #50: North by North Quahog, TV, 2005.     Creator and busy voicer Serth MacFarland asked Gibson to play himself in the tale. As he admitted on seeing the episode, he was sorry he didn’t.
  93. Jack Nicholson, The Departed, 2006.     Mel passed on Scorsese’s offer – too busy creating his own violence in Apocalypto.
  94. Nicolas Cage, World Trade Center, 2006.     Gibson liked the script and the lead role of Port Authority police sergeant John McLoughlin   – but was committed to directing his  second movie, Apocalypto, 2006.
  95. Will Smith, I Am Legend, 2007.   During the 30-year history of Warners and the Richard Matheson sf novel (two films – one Italian – ten directors), potentials for the last man on earth also included Nicolas Cage, Tom Cruise, Daniel Day-Lewis, Ted Levine, Kurt Russell, even Arnold Schwarzenegger. And, ultimately, Smith, who had first considered making it with director Michael Bay in 2002. (They gave it up for… Bad Boys II).
  96. George Clooney, Leatherheads, 2008.     “The problem with the movie [that took 17 years to get  made] is that we wrote it for Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell,”  confessed scenarists Duncan Brantley and Rick Reilly. “In 1990, the closest to that was Mel Gibson and there really wasn’t anything again until the  modern-day George Clooney.” He chose it for this third outing as a director  (and  star) was a  shock flop.
  97. Stephen McHattie, Watchmen, 2008.   Not so much “Who watches the watchmen?” as Juvenal asked, but who playeth them?  And in the 20 years it took for Alan Moore’s  DComic-book to be filmed,  directors came and went – Darren Aronofsky, Michael Bay, Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam and Paul  Greengrass to, ultimately, the lesser  Zack Snyder.   So did their choices for Dan Dreiberg aka Nite Owl:  Gere, Kevin Costner, John Cusack, Nathan Fillon, Joaquin Phoenix. (Fillion was also shortlisted for Edward Morgan Blake aka The Comedian).
  98. Sean Penn, Tree of Life,  2008.  Terrence Malick’s first casting  plan was  his 2005 New World star Coin Farrell was Mr O’Brien. That’s how parents were called back in the Texas day, Father, Mother, Mr, Mrs,,never Tom, Dick or Mary. And Gibson for Pitt’s son (!), reaching middle-age and becoming hs own Mr. O’Brien. Chicago critic R Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  114