Robert De Niro

1. – Al Pacino, Panic In Needle Park, 1971.    Jim Morrison was seen but , directorJerry Schatzberg nearly refused his second film (“too topical, so much drugs were going on”) until hearing Pacino fancied it. The studio wanted  somebody  younger    Al was 30.  “I  told the producer: The only reason I’m doing this film is that I really want to work with Al.  I’ll go through the charade of seeing other actors.”  Among them was De Niro, the Mr  Schlepper of  auditions:  monosyllabic, charmless, never talking to the director.   “And he was wonderful!  But I’d already made up my mind.  Later, I was downtown,  looking in the window of an Army and Navy store and somebody comes up behind me:  ‘Hey man – I really want to do that part.’  I turn around –  De Niro!  I told him  the truth: ‘You’re brilliant,  but it would be  unfair to myself and to Pacino’.” Al had caught De Niro’s debut, The Wedding Party, ”and was very impressed by him.”  Now it was time for Pacino’s debut.  Leading directly to The Godfather.

2. –  Al Pacino,  The Godfather,  1971.

3. – James Caan, The Godfather,  1971.

4 -, Gianni Russo, The Godfather, 1971.

5. – John Martino, The Godfather,  1971.


6. – 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 William Saroyan’s daughter,  Lucy, said: “I know the actor you must use. I study with him. I’ve fooled around with him… He’s a genius. I’ve known Marlon since I was a little girl. I’ve fucked Marlon. I love Marlon. And this is the only guy on earth who is going to be as great as Marlon – Bobby DeNiro.” They met and found an instant communion. “He read the script.   He didn’t just learn it – he digested it.    He became Axel Freed [aka Toback]. He even got a Caesar haircut from Carol at Vidal Sasoon where I had my hair cut… He had the character inside out, up and down, front and rear. The problem was that at that point no one except Lucy Saroyan was calling De Niro a genius.”  And his UK director, Karel Reisz, veteoed him. “I cannot use this boy…  He has the wrong temperament. He’s too common.” The writer was stunned: “He’s the guy! How can you not see that?”   “I’m sorry. I want to make the movie you want me to make but not with him.” The writer’s disbelief was matched by De Niro’s frustration – Reisz would not even let him read!  “If you continue trying to persuade me, I’ll have to resign. We can talk about anything else. I will not talk about him.” Toback and De Niro remained friends, “but we’ve had nothing like the creative collaboration which might well have evolved from his playing Axel Freed… Caan became a great Axel,” added Toback in 2014, “although obviously different from the character De Niro would have created.” And Reisz? “My one-man film school.”  


7. – Elliott Gould, California Split, 1974.  How many Spielberg films did Robert Altman direct?  Just this one. Slide, when Steven Spielberg and his pal, Joseph Walsh (compulsive gambler, ex-child actor, washed up  at 18), spent nine months naturalising their script. They had Steve McQueen and a deal which  MGM soured by adding Dean Martin as a mafiosi.  (“He wears a lucky chip around his neck, he gets shot,  the chip saves his life – you call the  movie Lucky Chip.”)  The guys fled to Universal which gave Spielberg The Sugarland Express to play with. Bye-bye Joey. And hello Bob Altman with a dynamic duo: M*A*S*H pal Gould (a former Walsh room-mate)  and George Segal (instead of De Niro or Peter Falk). “Altman,” said Chicago critic Roger Ebert, “has made a lot more than a comedy about gambling; he’s taken us into an American nightmare.” While Spielberg bemoaned: “I coulda made millions… I would’ve built it up to the greatst orgasm in town!” 

8. – James Caan, Funny Lady, 1975.    This time, Caan was a better choice for the Broadway showman Billy Rose. Barbra Streisand, however, wanted Robert Blake. And tested him at home.  

9. – Bruce Dern, Family Plot, 1975.   De Niro and Al Pacino apparently wanted too much money thereby  letting Dern share Alfred Hitchcock’s final film. Dern had previously made Marnie and one of the Hitch TV shows and told Roger Ebert that Hitchcock looked him over and said: “Who would ever have believed after all these years that you would be my leading man?” Dern replied: “Hitch, you’re looking at living proof that if a guy hangs out long enough and the others flake out and lose their hair, sooner or later you’ve got to give it to old Dern. After all, a couple of years ago, I would be playing the kidnapper in this picture. You see how I’ve come up in the world?”

10.  – David Carradine, Bound For Glory, 1976.   “Bob was busy for the next eight years!” says screenwriter Robert Getchell. “Anyway, we wanted a short, wiry,  23-year-old.”  Carradine chased the role over eight years with the same message:  “But  I  am Woody Guthrie!”  Despite being tall and 40! 


  (Clic to enlarge)  

* A producer called Robert Redford wanted a modest movie  about the Washington Post reporters who broke the Watergate story.  Before  they  helped topple President Richard Nixon, a ($2m) budget and  unknown  actors were planned. He chose the 1973 Bang The Drum Slowly: Robert De Niro to be Carl Bernstein and Michael Moriarty as Bob Woodward.  Increased costs called for safeguards called Dustin Hoffman and Redford.

[Montage by Reg Oliver, 1976]


11 – Dustin Hoffman, All The Presidents Men, 1976.   Robert Redford snapped up the rights – for a little film for De Niro as Carl  Bernstein, Michael Moriarty as Bob Woodward. This, in  fact, is the very casting story that bred this  fetish of mine…

12 – James Caan, A Bridge Too Far, 1976.   UK director Richard Attenborough got most of the A List cameos he’d set his heart on for the WWII saga. From James Caan, Michael Caine, Sean Connery to Laurence Olivier, Ryan O’Neal, Robert Redford – but not Charles Bronson, Audrey Hepburn, Steve McQueen. Not De Niro as as Staff Sergeant Eddie Dohan.  Money was never the issue – he was happy with $500,000 per day! But UK actor-director Richard Attenborough could never find time to meet and analyse  the role with him. Caan picked the perfect cameo of Dohan  forcing  a  US Army surgeon at gunpoint to operate on wounded buddy.

13 – Harrison Ford, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, 1976.

14 – Richard Dreyfuss, The Goodbye Girl, 1977.  Written as Gable Slept Here, it started shooting in 1974 as Bogart Slept Here but  De Niro was no Bogie fan. In  a comedy too soon after Taxi Driver angst, he walked away after two weeks. “It never worked. Then, they tried not to pay me.  They didn’t succeed.” Mike Nichols tested a few replacements, then threw in the towel – “It would be wrong to continue” – and quit movies for five years, including his next project, The  Last Tycoon, with…  De Niro. Neil Simon, who re-wrote  script  to suit the girl’s angle for his  second wife, Marsha Mason, commented:  “De Niro’s  a very intense actor. He doesn’t play joy very  well.”  Dreyfuss  said: “I think I’m wonderful.” Oscar agreed.   

15 – Harvey Keitel, Fingers, 1977.  Having failed to get De Niro – or the director’s chair – for  The Gambler, scenarist James Toback was determined to direct his second – and with De Niro. However… “After a month of indecision I proposed – separately to each of them – that I go with Bob’s best friend.  Harvey agreed to play Jimmy and quickly began to astonish me by taking the character into dimensions of darkness well beyond my original imagining.”  Romain Duris was just as exceptional (if not more so) in the 2004 French re-make by auteur Jacques Audiard: De battre mon coeur s’est arrêté/The Beat That My Heart Skipped.

16 – 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 29 hopefuls and/or instant (parental) refusals for pretty  little Violet… 15 actresses for her mother… and 19 guys for for the real life, mis-shapen, hydrocephallic photographer Ernest J. Bellocq, whose Storyville work of the epoch influenced the style of the surprisingly elegant film. Oskar Werner talked himself out of it. “Has to be an American actor,” he told Malle. That’s how Robert Redford was first choice, Jack Nicholson second. Then before falling for  Keith Carradine, Malle saw Jeff Bridges, Albert Brooks, James Caan, Robert De Niro, Clint Eastwood (he didn’t take up photography until The Bridges of Madison County, 1994),  the new in town Mel Gibson, Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Christopher Reeve (about to make us believe a man could fly), future director Rob Reiner, John Travolta (more into Grease)… Plus one sole  Brit, Malcolm McDowell .and such  flat out surprises as Joe Pesci(!!), Burt Reynolds, Sylvester Stallone  (prepping FIST), and even Christopher Walken.

17 – Anthony Hopkins, Magic, 1978.    Before Richard Attenborough set it up with Hopkins (one of the Bridge Too Far stars), De Niro had shown interest in the psycho-ventriloquist and set about replacing Steven Spielberg with Roman Polanski – in  jail for raping an underage girl. So De Niro became The Deer Hunter. 


18 – Sylvester Stallone, FIST, 1978.  

De Niro dawdled for months about the truckers’ union drama, so Norman Jewison snapped up the Time and Newsweek cover boy.  Rocky!  “Nobody really knew whether Stallone could act,” commented scenarist Joe Eszterhas. Next day, the De Niro camp called,:  Bob was in! Too late. There was a verbal agreement with Sly – soon re-writing the script. Eszterhas called Sly a thief and Stallone had him banned from the set. Ain’t stardom great! 


19 – Tom McKitterick, The Warriors, 1979.     Walter Hill asked De Niro – and then chose an unknown for Cowboy.  He’s remains unknown..

20 – Harvey Keitel, La mort en direct (UK/US: Death Watch), France-West Germany-UK, 1979.    Lyons realisateur Bertrand Tavernier unwisely insisted on “unbankable” Keitel (just sacked from Coppola’s Apocalypse Now) and Romy Schneider. His producers wanted bigger names.  De Niro or Richard Gere, Jane Fonda or  Diane Keaton.

21 – Jack Nicholson, The Shining, 1979.    
Judging them solely  on Taxi Driver and Mork & Mindy, Stanley Kubrick said Robert De Niro was not psychotic enough while  Robin Williams was too much so! Although Kubrick’s only choice was Nicholson, Warner Bros also suggested Ford, Christopher Reeve. Plus Martin Sheen (who’d already made it… as Apocalypse Now!).  (He’d also made Stephen King’s Dead Zone in 1983). Or even the funny Chase and Leslie Nielsen (what were they smoking?)  Author King said “normal looking” Michael Moriarty or Jon Voight going mad would work better than Jack.  Didn’t matter who was Jack Torrance as Kubrick, usually so blissfully right about everything, had  clearly lost it.  He insisted on  up to 70 takes  for some scenes (three days and 60 doors for “Here’s Johnny!”), reducing Shelley Duvall and grown men, like Scatman Crothers at 69, to tears.  “Just what is it that you want, Mr Kubrick?” He didn’t know. He was, quite suddenly, a director without direction. Result: a major disappointment. Not only for Stephen King but the rest of us. Harry Dean Stanton escaped being Lloyd, the bartender. By making a real horror film.  Alien. 


22 – Treat Williams, Prince of the City, 1980.  For almost two years, director Brian De Palma was aiming his take on the  NYPD anti-corruption cop Bob Leuci at Al Pacino – who, naturally, found it far too close to his NYPD anti-corruption cop, Serpico.  OK, what about  De Niro or Pacino?  (Were there only two honest cops in town?). When Sidney Lumet gave up Scarface and took over the Leuci story, he wanted just the one “unknown” actor…. “because,” he told Williams, “ ou don’t really give a shit what anyone thinks of you.”  De Palma, then made Scarface (with Pacino). Not that the swop was that amical. And he starred Travolta in Blow Out first. Lumet’s Prince  was adored by Akira Kurosawa, described by delighted a Sidney as “the Beethoven of movie directors.”

23 – Al Pacino, Cruising, 1980.     Isn’t this where we came in…? A quick refusal – same from Roy Scheider, who lost Deer Hunter to De Niro.

24 – Robert Duvall, True Confessions, 1980.   Director Ulu Grosbard’s first choice for the cop bro of Robert Duvall’s priest’s was De Niro (still  carrying some of his Raging Bull weight).   Then, Gene Hackman. Finally, , the two Roberts switched roles Fine with Ulu. He had directed Duvall on stage in American Buffalo  and A View from the Bridge.

25 – 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… De Niro, Peter Falk, Dustin Hoffman, George Segal – plus  Richard 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. Big mistake! 

26 –  Frederic Forrest, Hammett, 1981.   German director Wim Wenders wanted him but his producer – a guy called Coppola – wanted to use his own contract players. Wenders was 33 at the start of the “long, amazing experience – too good to be true” and 38 at the end, and no longer wed to his new wife and star Ronee Blakely.  After some 40 drafts of the script, Coppola then re-shot the whole damn thing. Neither version was worth a nickel.  In all, the shoot lasted long enough for  co-stars Frederic Forest and Marliu Henner to fall in love, marry and divorce! 

27 – Sylvester Stallone, First Blood (aka Rambo), 1981. 

28 – Gérard Depardieu, Le Retour de Martin Guerre, France, 1982.    One of The Incredible Bulk’s classics.  His 1900 co-star was hunting up French locations with Martin Scorsese to make it with Meryl Streep and Paul  Scofield,  when hearing of the French version. De Niro’s producer,  Arnon Milchan, eventually made the 1992  Hollywood re-make, Sommersby, with Richard Gere. 

29 – Al Pacino, Scarface,  1982.    Both De Niro and Edward James Olmos refused to be Cuban gangster Tony Montana – Pacino called it among his most favorite roles.  

30 – Michael Nouri, Flashdance, 1982.    Potential Nick Hurleys were: Pierce Brosnan, Kevin Costner (runner-up to Nouri), Live Aid creator Bob Geldof, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks, Burt Reynolds, rocker Gene Simmons,  John Travolta… plus such surprises as De  Niro, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci!   At 36, Nouri was double the age of the flashdancing  Jennifer Beals. 


31 – Richard Gere, Breathless, 1983.   Jim McBride’s first choice took too long to say pay or nay. 

32 –  Nick Apollo Forte, Broadway Danny Rose, 1983.  Sorry, Woody, but he didn’t want to pile on the Raging Bull kilos again. Once was enough.  Forte took over egocentric Frankie-cum-Dino Italian crooner Lou Canova, singing two of his own  songs in  the comedy.  (The 1987 porno version was, inevitably: Broadway Fanny Rose). 

33 – Mickey Rourke, The Pope of Greenwich Village, 1983.   A dozen years before auteur Michael Mann managed to get De Niro and Pacino together for the first time in Heat, 1995, director Stuart Rosenberg had tried to achieve the same miracle for his study of two gormless cousins who rob the Mob. Accidentally.  Surprisingly, Pacino would have had first billing as in Heat. This is the  film that turned director Michael Cimino on to Mickey Rourke – and into Heaven’s Gate, Year of the Dragon and Dangerous Hours.

34 – Mel Gibson, The River, 1984.   Gibson was Hollywood’s current big cheese. But director Mark Rydell couldn’t imagine him playing an American. Anyway, he was close to winning either De Niro or Paul Newman as the Tennessee farmer. “Mel was very persistent,” Rydell told Moveline’s Stephen Rebello, “asking me to promise that I wouldn’t cast it until he’d finished making The Bounty.” Gibson next visited Rydell’s home for a test. Rydell knew he’d worked on his accent with an expert  in London… Instead of letting him read the scenes he’d rehearsed, Rydell asked him to read from Newsweek magazine.  “Being a musician, my ear is reasonably accurate. He knocked me flat. He had slaved to do that, and I like that kind of commitment. I cast him on the spot.”

35 – Michael Palin,  Brazil, 1985.     “He needed the work,” joked Terry Gilliam. “He chose Palin’s part (the torturer) because it was more complicated. Bobby’s instincts go for complex, confused characters. But I wanted him to play a hero. [Superplumber Harry Tuttle].  He’s  simple,  honest, honourable, so I said:  ‘You’re our hero, just be yourself.’ This was terrifying for him. He actually tried to make it more complicated… until we all wanted to kill him!”

36 – Robert Duvall, Let’s Get Harry, 1985.     De Niro would have been the biggest star-capture by Hollywood’s most notorious director, Allen  Smithee – official pseudonym for  Directors Guild members taking their names off films (Stuart Rosenberg in this case).  

37 – Walter Matthau, Pirates, 1986.   When Nicholson jumped ship, Polanksi  contacted De Niro. He was making almost any-and-everything at the time (he had a company to finance), but there were limits… “I had to decide early on whether I was to be an actor or a personality.”

38 – Christopher Walken, At Close Range, 1986.    De Niro felt the role of Sean Penn’s father was “too dark.” Hearing that, Taxi Driver  co-producer Julia Phillips scoffed: “Must be as black as darkest Africa for De Niro to say that.”

39 – Sean Connery, Der Name der Rose/The Name of the Rose, France-Italy-West Germany, 1986.   Réalisateur Jean-Jacques Annaud was not keen on 007 as Umberto Eco’s medieval monk turned detective.  Columia Pictures even refused financing if Connery was involved as his post-Bond star was imploding. Naturally, Brando topped Annaud’s further 14 ideas. Five Americans: De Niro (dropped because he wanted a duel scene… with real swords),  Frederic Forrest, Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, Roy Scheider;  four Brits: Michael Caine, Albert Finney, Ian McKellen, Terence Stamp;  two and Canadians: Christopher Plummer and Donald Sutherland; plus French Yves Montand, Irish Richard Harris and Italian Vittorio Gassman. Connery’s reading was the best and his career exploded anew. Two years later, he won his support Oscar for The Untouchables.

40 – Robert Downey Jr, The Pick Up  Artist, 1986.   De Niro & Toback – Part Three…   Suddenly, Warren Beatty turned shy, reluctant, said auteur  James Toback,  “to portray a character whose erotic compulsions propelled the narrative.” (He’d been there, done that and got the Shampoo tee-shirt in 1974!). He suggested De Niro and Martin Scorsese attended their reading at the actor’s loft, laughing “hysterically in all the right places.” Next day, Beatty called: Jack Jericho should be 20, not 45.  “You’re going to have to make the call.” De Niro called first, as Toback  reported in Vanity Fair in 2014. “Listen, Jim. I’ll still do the movie if you want me to, but to be honest about it, this character should be much younger. Like 20.” Toback said: “You’re not going to believe this… Mutual enthusiasm had melted into mutual relief.” 


41 – Gene Hackman, No Way Out, 1986.  For his excellent thriller (labyrinthine and ingenious, said Roger Ebert) the under-praised Aussie director Roger Donaldson tried all ages for the villain politico. From James Caan and Al Pacino at 46 to Gregory Peck at 70. Plus James Coburn, Sean Connery, James Cromwell, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall, Dustin Hoffman, Tommy Lee Jones, Robert Mitchum, Donald Moffat, Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Burt Reynolds, Jason Robards Donald Sutherland and Jon Voight.   Hackman was 56.

42 –  Mel Gibson, Lethal Weapon, 1986.      In all, 39 possibilities for the  off-kilter, ’Nam vet cop Martin Riggs – not as mentally-deranged as in early drafts (he used a rocket launcher on one guy!)  Some ideas were inevitable: Der Niro, Alec Baldwin, Michael Biehn (shooting Aliens), Jeff Bridges,  Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Al Pacino, Sean Penn, William Petersen, Dennis Quaid, Christopher Reeve, Kurt Russell, Charlie Sheen, Sylvester Stallone, John Travolta, Bruce Willis. Some were inspired: Bryan Brown, Nicolas Cage, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum (he inherited Gibson’s role in The Fly), William Hurt (too dark for Warner Bros), Michael Keaton, Michael Madsen, Liam Neeson, Eric Roberts. Some were insipid: Jim Belushi, Pierce Brosnan, Kevin Costner, Kevin Kline, Stephen Lang, Michael Nouri (he joined another  cop duo in The Hidden),  Patrick Swayze. Plus TV cops  Don Johnson, Tom Selleck… three foreign LA cops:  Austrian Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dutch Rutger Hauer and French Christophe(r) Lambert. And the inevitable (Aussie) outsider Richard Norton.

43 – Mickey Rourke, Angel Heart, 1986.  Or Fallen Angel when UK director Alan Parker  asked  De Niro  to play Harry Angel, described by Chicago  critic Roger Ebert as “an unwashed private eye who works out of an office that looks like Sam Spade gave it to the Goodwill.” (Parker also considered Jack Nichiolson and Al Pacino).  De Njro, it seemed, wanted to dress up for once – as he  accepted instead the elegant villain Louis Cyphre (say it), basing his look on his director pal,  Martin Scorsese.

43 – Nick Nolte, Weeds, 1987.   “Once in a generation a gifted actor makes a role his own…”  screamed the hype.  But which gifted actor…?  In 1980, the life of ex-con-playwright Rick Cluchey was set for De Niro, the Raging Bull producers and his his Bang The Drum Slowly maker John  Hancock. It resurfaced in 1982 at EMI, still with  De  Niro.  By l984,  Nick Nolte took over.  Three more years before it was  made – and  instantly forgotten. 

44 – Scott Glenn, Man On Fire, 1987.   Producer Arnon Milchan’s Once Upon A Time In America team of director Sergio Leone and De Niro passed. Milchan  tried Marlon Brando – who only worked on script of  French director Eli Chouraqui’s first/last US film.  (Tony Scott re-made it with Denzel Washington, 2004).  

45 – Jack Nicholson, Ironweed, 1987.    Dropped when he avoided carrying films and preferred cameos – like Al Capone in The Untouchables. “People treat me with a bit too much reverence.”

46 – Michael Douglas, Fatal Attraction, 1987. 

47 – Tom Hanks, Big, 1987. 
“I wish I was big…”  A kid drops a quarter in a wish-machine, makes his wish,  and next morning he wakes up an adult Hanks – still behaving, of course, like a kid.  Steven Spielberg’s sister, Anne, wrote the script.  Albert Brooks rejected it.  But then, so did Harrison Ford – while Fox rejected Gary Busey and John Travolta.  Nexct up:   Steve Guttenberg (shooting 3 Men and a Baby), Michael Keaton, Bill Murray, Denis Quaid, Judge Reinhold and Robin Williams (who did his own take on the notion in Francis Coppola‘s Jack, 1996, first aimed at to Hanks). Warren Beatty wasn’t  tempted  until De Niro was keen.   “I’ve known Bobby for years,” said director Penny Marshall.  “He has a different sense of humor but he has a sense of humor. It was just that every actor at that point had said: No! So I said, ‘Well I’ll go with a man-man then.  I think that [audiences] would’ve paid to see him in that comedy. He’s really great with telling directors: Watch all my films. Tell me what you don’t want to see.”  However, De Niro wanted $6m – and  kept his childlike self for Marshall’s next film,  Awakenings, 1990. Hanks agreed to $2m but had to finish Dragnet and Punchli

48 – Bruce Willis, Die Hard,  1987.   Vengeance is mine…! This once, the prerequisite Great Outsider won – when De Niro declined…  just after Willis was rejected as De Niro’s co-star in Midnight Run! The movies opened the same weekend (bad news for De Niro). Frank There were 17 possible John McClanes… From Tom Berenger, Michael Madsen and Willis to top TV heroes  Richard Dean Anderson and Don Johnson to A-listers:  Burt, Charles Bronson, James Caan, Robert De Niro, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, Nick Nolte, Al Pacino, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone… and Frank Sinatra?  Yes, well, Roderick Thorpe’s book, Nothing Lasts Forever, sequelised to The Detective  – that 1967 film starred Sinatra (as Joe Leland,  changed here to  McClane) and so Frank had first dibs on any sequels. He passed. He was 73! In his 1980 movie his debut, The First Deadly Sin, Willis was seen leaving a bar as Sinatra walks in. So it flows… He was soon taking roles from most of those on the McClane list.
49 – 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 autistic savant. “Uh ho!” 


50 –  Willem Dafoe, The Last Temptation of Christ, 1988.   
Scorsese’s first choice since 1971. “There are subjects Marty wants to do that I’m not particularly interested in,” De Niro told me in Deauville. “And this was one of them.  To play Jesus is  like playing Hamlet – everybody’s done it.  Even though Marty  wanted to do it more connected to reality. But I did  say: ‘As a friend,  I’d do it if you needed to get it going.  But I don’t think you’d want me to do  it under those conditions.’ I’m happy he did it. It’s a work of love, a chef d’ouvre. I don’t know what the scandal is about. What scared them is that Marty really cared.” Scorsese fell for Dafoe in To Live And Die In LA, and Platoon, 1986. “Physically, an extraordinary actor. Particularly in the Crucifixion – when he  did everything but the nails.”


51 – Dennis Quaid, Everybody’s All  American  (UK: When I Fall In Love), 1988. One of the many due to be ex-football star Gavin Grey during six years of more Development Purgatory than Hell.

52 – Danny Ailleo, Do The Right Thing, 1988.    Director  Spike Lee wrote Sal, the pizzeria racist, for him. “He suggested Danny,” Spike told me.  “I had thought of Danny.  But I wanted De Niro. But when you think of it,  De Niro probably wouldn’t have been right for this.  It would’ve like thrown everything out of whack. To have a star of that magnitude in a film like this.  But we had him on the Wall of Fame in Sal’s Famous Pizzeria.”  On and off stuntman Ailleo  had taught De Niro the art of baseball for his breakthrough movie,  Bang The Drum Slowly, 1973. 

53 – Stephen Lang, Last Exit To Brooklyn, Germany, 1988.    Various US film-makers attempted to crack Hubert Selby Jr’s controversial jigsaw: Ralph Bakshi,  Arthur Hiller, Steve Kranz,  Stanley Kubrick…  Brian De Palma was working on it for De Niro until stopped by the US anti-porno forces.  Germany finally made it – with most of their US cast doing its best to sound like De Niro. 

54 – Joe Pesci, Home Alone, 1989.    De Niro and Macauley Culkin!!!  Never. De Niro passed Harry Lime (!) to pal Joe Pesci.   Tough of the kid as when Pesci had to bite his finger, he actually bit his finger!  

55 – 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 earlty 80s.  In ’89, De Niro had no wish to be typed as a post-Taxi Driver tough guy. Also seen were Bruce Campbell, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, 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! 

56 – Richard Gere, Internal Affairs, 1989.   UK director Mike Figgis said Paramount wanted Mel Gibson or Kurt Russell (big hits in ’88’s Tequila Sunrise)  as the badass 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 –  De Niro, Alec Baldwin, Tom Berenger, Jeff Bridges, Pierce Brosnan, Kevin Costner, 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.

57 – Adam Baldwin, Next of Kin, 1989.   De Niro, Alec Baldwin (no kin to Adam), Michael Keaton,  Ray Liotta, John Malkovich, 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. 

58 –  Mickey Rourke, Johnny Handsome, 1989.  “That was my favourite role in movies,” said Al Pacino who, like William Dafoe, Richard Gere and Pacino were not Handsome enough. “I found an actor who could play Johnny and not make it risible,” director Walter Hill told The Philadelphia Inquirer.  “Someone who understood the pitfalls of the thing.  If you let any histrionics in, it will fall apart. You have to trust the drama of the whole rather than an individual scene. Mickey understood that.”  “Mickey Rourke did a great job on it,” said Pacino, “But that didn’t matter. The movie didn’t have the finish.” De Niro was juggling Johnny, Ironweed, Big… instead, he chose..


59 – Robin Williams, Awakenings, 1990.
Penny Marshall offered him Leonard, the Rip Van Winkle patient – and then, Dr Sayer.  “He’s the glue of the movie,” said Marshall.  “Let someone else be the glue,” said De Niro. “I want the glitter.” And a sixth Oscar nomination.  Williams was nervous about De Niro. He could “clear an eye-line all the way to Tasmania” with a single gaze.   “He was afraid Bobby  was going to blow him off the screen,” said Marshall. “I said: I won’t let that happen.” He actually broke his co-star’s  nose in one scene. De Niro was delighted. Robin had helped straighten  the nose broken during Raging Bull. “It looks better than it did before.”


60 – 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!

61 – Ray Liotta, Goodfellas, 1990.    “At first, I wanted to play Henry Hill.  I loved this character but wondered if I could look young  enough… Discussing the characters with Marty [Scorsese], I said: Why don’t I play Jimmy Conway? There’s  some  good  scenes  for me.”

62 – Warren Beatty, Bugsy, 1990.  Twenty years earlier, Jean-Luc Godard wrote his own version of the  Las Vegas creator,  gangster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel’s storey… Called just that – The Story. For De Niro and Diane Keaton. When she  changed her mind about being Virginia Hill, Godard went back  to France.   Beatty’s writer James Toback heard about the nouvelle vague icon’s  “pastiche-like” treatment… and took so many years  writing his version that Beatty complained: “I want to play this part while I can still walk!” As it was, Beatty had competition from two other Bugsies that year: Armand Assante in The Marrying Man and Richard Grieco in Mobsters. 

63 – Joe Pesci, Home Alone, 1990.    It was so patently obvious that the kid of the hour – Macauley Culkin – was going to steal everything but the cinema seats that most of The Names avoided the burglar clown called Harry Lime, more of a fourth Stooge than Orson Welles. Those refusing to be second banana to a moppet included Rowan Atkinson, Robert De Niro, Danny De Vito, Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd, Jon Lovitz and two musical Brits: Phil Collins and Dudley Moore.   ”Hardest thing fior Pesci,”  said cinematographer Julio Macat, “was not swearing! “ 

64 – Harvey Keitel, Thelma & Louise, 1990.

65 – Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs, 1990.


66 –  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.

67 – David  Morse, The Indian Runner, 1991.  “Relentlessly” inspired to make a movie from a favourite  Bruce Springsteen song, “Highway Patrolman,” Sean Penn talked to De Niro (they discovered they shared the same birthday during We’re No Angels) about playing his older brother. De Niro’s tight schedule meant a movie break for the St.  Elsewhere TV star – and Penn satisfied himself by directing only.

68 – Kevin Costner, JFK, 1991.

69 – Stuart Wilson, Lethal Weapon 3, 1991.  The new (and rather ho-hum) ex-cop villa Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  139