- Tom Hulce, Amadeus, 1984. Originally, a young Branagh (seven years younger than Hulce) was chosen, before Milos Forman Americanised the major roles.
- Daniel Day-Lewis, My Beautiful Laundrette, 1985. Gary Oldman was first choice for Johnny, Kenneth Branagh auditioned but Day-Lewis said: Yes! Written by Hanif Kureishi, the Stephen Frears classic dissected Margaret Thatcher’s Britain via the love affair of a young Pakistani (Gordon Warnecke) and street punk Johnny.
- Richard E Grant, Withnail And I, 1986. “We want the finest wines available to humanity…” The casting of Withnail (based on arrogant/drunk actor/toff Vivian MacKerrell) is hardly news to fans of the cult UK tragi-comedy that took 17 years to get before cameras, two more for a release – and then a major flop (helping to kill George Harrison’s HandMade company) until rediscovered on VHS and DVD. The actor turned writer Bruce Robinson said: “I’m still owed thirty grand [£30,000] for directing it.”
- Scott Glenn, The Silence of the Lambs, 1989.
- Kevin Dunn, Chaplin, 1992. Due as the young J Edgar Hoover. Sans frocks.
- Chazz Palminteri, Jade, 1995. Definitely one worth avoiding.
- Daniel Day-Lewis, The Crucible, 1995. First announced for Ken ‘n’ Em in 1994. But they were acrumbling…
- Val Kilmer, The Saint, 1996. Not the right role for a “short-assed, fat-faced Irishman.”
- Ewan McGregor, Stars Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace,1997.
- Joseph Fiennes, Shakespeare In Love, 1999. Who better to play Will than the current Mr Shakespeare? And, hey, he can direct, too! That was the 1994 idea with Julia Roberts. In his version, Fiennes (Ralph’s brother) fell for Gwyneth Paltrow.
- Eddie Izzard, The Cat’s Meow, 2001. For Chaplin in director Peter Bogdanovich’s reconstruction of the death – manslaughter? – of producer Thomas Ince aboard media mogul William Randolph Hearst’s yacht on November 18, 1924. Hearst is supposed to have found his mistress, Marion Davies, in bed with Chaplin, chased him with a gun and shot Ince by error. Another weekend guest, gossip queen Louella Parsons, knew all – her silence was bought with a job for life.
- Stephen Fry, Gosford Park, 2001. After their Savannah Gingerbread Man, 1998, it was inevitable that US director ikon Robert Altman would ask Branagh to be Inspector Thompson in his most surprising success – a UK country house whodunnit. Branagh, however, was committed elsewhere.
- Ian Hart, Blind Flight, 2003. Suggested for the Beruit hostage Brian Kiernan – by Irish film-maker Danny Boyle in October 1994.
- Antonio Banderas, Imagining Argentina, 2003. Another Ken ‘n’ Em 90s’ project. Emma Thompson stayed on, Branagh moved on.
- Philip Seymour Hoffman, Mission: Impossible III, 2005. Production delays meant Branagh had to quit for As You Like It, passing villainy to Hoffman.
- Danny Huston, Fade To Black, 2006. Ken was Orson Welles for the project in 1999. Then he must have re-read the (credit-less) script (early drafts by John Sayles) about Welles up to his neck in murder, politics, and other intrigues (Vatican, Mafia, State Department) while playing Cagliostro in Black Magic at Cinecitta, circa 1948. Huston played him like Papa John performed in Welles’ finale, The Other Side of the Wind – as an Orson Huston mix. “This shaggy dog outing is all fur and no tale,” said The Guardian critic Xan Brooks. “We know Welles is never truly in danger, because we know that he lives to fight another day, voice lager commercials and crop up in The Muppet Movie.”
- Billy Connolly, The Boondock Saints II – All Saints Day, 2009. Passed on the Poppa of two Irish brothers hiding out in Ireland after knocking off Boston Mafiosi. The violent film was writer-directed by Troy Duffy, mistakenly touted by Harvey Weinstein as the new Tarantino – well, the F Word was used 246 times (versus 272 in Reservoir Dogs, 265 in Pulp Fiction).
- Colm Meaney, The Simpsons #434: In the Name of the Grandfather, TV, 2009. Since its 1989 birth, the yellowtoon family Simpson smashed records for episodes, audiences, and the most guest stars (as themselves or others). From Buzz Aldrin, Glenn Close (Homer’s Mom), Dennis Franz (Evil Homer!), George Harrison, Stephen Hawking, Dustin Hoffman, Bob Hope, Eric Idle to Paul and Linda McCartney, Conan O’Brien (a Simpsonswriter made good), Michelle Pfeiffer, Mickey Rooney, Ringo Starr, Meryl Streep plus Barry (and Betty) White! Not all celebs won through… Not all celebs won through… For example. Writer-produce Al Jean announced Branagh but another Irishman won the gig.
Birth year: Death year: Other name: Usual occupation: Film director Casting Calls: 18