Tom Berenger


  1. William Hurt, Body Heat, 1981.        Scenarist and debuting director Lawrence Kasdan called him back for his next  film, The Big Chill.
  2. John Heard, Cutter’s Way (ex-Cutter and Boone), 1980.   Once Dustin Hoffman’s schedule clashed, Berenger tried hard to win Alex Cutter. He was turned down by producer Paul Gurian – more keen on Tommy Lee Jones or Nick Nolte – and Czech director Ivan Passer, who prefered Heard. Passer later complained: “UA murdered the film. Or, at least, they tried to murder it.”
  3. Ken Marshall, La Pelle/The Skin, Italy, 1981.      “Liliana Cavani saw me as being very innocent. She’s quite enamoured by the American quality of  being ingenuous.  She’d asked [Czech director] Milos Forman for suggestions.  He pulled out a cassette of my tele-film, Flesh and Blood, and she recognised me from Looking  For Mr Goodbar.  But I was tied up.  Determined lady, though. She waited and waited until I could make her next Mastroianni film, Beyond The Door, 1982.  I still can’t get over Forman keeping a tape of me for three or four years.  European directors care more about actors than they do in Hollywood.”
  4. Scott Tiler, 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.  The maestro said he interviewed “over 3,000 actors,” taping 500 auditions for the 110 speaking roles in the three hours-49 minutes unfurled at the ’84 Cannes festival… instead of Leone’s aim: two three-hour movies. 
  5. Eric Roberts, The Runaway Train, 1984.       When Berenger  split for Platoon, Roberts became the second escaped convict on the fast moving train… without a driver.  First due in 1970 as Akira Kurosawa’s first US film, the project was cancelled due to heavy snowstorms (and budget hassles) in upstate New York. Cannon’s much ridiculed Go-Go Boys, Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, wisely invited Russian director Andrei Konchalovsky aboard – and really shook up the 1986 Cannes festival.
  6. Peter Weller, Firstborn, 1985.        “Car smash,” he told me in London. “Dislocated hip. Broken knee.  I went into the hospital.  Peter went into the film.”
  7. Peter Weller, RoboCop, 1986.  The cop as a machine – “the future of law enforcement.”   Blade Runner bred the idea. Actors galore came and went: Armand Assante, Tom Berenger, Dale Dye (Hollywood’s favourite military adviser on Vietnam war films),Peter Fonda (“Here I am!” “No, you’re not!”), Rutger Hauer, Lance Henriksen (when Weller complained about the suit),  Michael Ironside (first choice), Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone. Most were too big for the suit, (seven of them), too bulky to fit into a police car! Every studio in town laughed at the concept. Even the short-tempered Dutch director Paul Verhoeven first thought it a dumb actioner. (Read it again, said his missus).  Orion took a chance on it (and his Hollywood debut), ending up with two sequels, four more as movie-length TV series episodes,  two cartoon shows, various comic books…  and a $1bn-plus from toys and figurines alone. Ken Russell said it was the greatest science-fiction film  since Metropolis in 1927. Ken was always over then top

  8. 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 Frank 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.  So it flows… He was soon  taking roles from most of those on the McClane list.

  9. 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 Dreams (Costner), Major League (Berenger and Sheen).  
  10. Chris Sarandon, Child’s Play, 1988.   Actor-writer-director Tom Holland called up three guys  from his 1981 filmed script, Class of 1984 – Berenger, Robert Forster and Perry King –  to be the cop all but strangled by  Chucky, the killer-doll, in what Chicago critic Roger Ebert called “a cheerfully energetic horror film of the slam-bang school, but slicker and more clever than most.
  11. Richard Gere, Pretty Woman, 1989.

  12. Kevin Costner, Dances With Wolves, 1989.      Viggo Mortensen was first due to portray the  hero John J Dunbar. Tom Berenger was second. Then, a guy called Costner rode up. Said he’d direct it as well. Took him five years, dollars by the thousands of his own money and losing many movie offers along the way to winning – on March 25, 1991 – the first Best Picture Oscar for a Western since Cimarron…  in 1931.

  13. 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 – Berenger, Alec Baldwin, Jeff Bridges, Pierce Brosnan, Kevin Costner, Willem Dafoe, 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.
  14. Michael Douglas, Basic Instinct, 1991
  15. Kevin Costner, JFK1991.
  16. Nick Nolte, Prince of Tides, 1991.      Everyone, including her ex-lover Jon Peters, moved Barbara Streisand away from early ideas. “As long as we’ve got a good-looking blond actor and we’ve got Barbra,” said Peters, “we’re doing fine.”

  17. Michael Ontkean, Making Love, 1992.
    Various stars were worried about the subject matter: a young husband’s bisexuality being aroused by Harry Hamlin.  Also fleeing: Berenger, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, William Hurt,  Peter Strauss. Pauline Kael called it: ineffable. Poor Hamlin lost various films after the gay love story. “It was ten years too early, I guess, and it completely ended my career. That was the last studio picture I ever did. The door shut with a resounding smash.” And this after Warner Bros had offered him “the Clint” – a three-picture contractl named after Clint Eastwood’s deal.  The first two films were to be First Blood, the first Rambo movie, and Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes. Three years later, Hurt was gay in The Kiss of the Spider Woman. It did not, er, hurt his career; indeed, he won the first Best Actor Oscar, for such a role.

  18. Eric Roberts, Doctor Who (The Movie), TV, 1996.   
  19. Jared Leto, The Thin Red Line, 1998.        After various 1995 readings and workshops of auteur Terrence Malik’s first script for 17 years (with Kevin Costner, Johnny Depp, Martin Sheen Will Patton, etc) at producer Mike Medavoy’s house, the two film-makers saw other youngsters.Including Berg – who later became a director, himself: 19 films and TV shows during 1997-2013.
  20. Bruce Boxleitner, Gods and Generals, 2002.      Difficult to play someone younger than when you played him ten years earlier: Lieutenant-General James Longhurst fromGettysburg, 1993.
  21. Terry O’Quinn, Gang Related, TV, 2013.        After the table read was over, so was Berenger… swiftly replaced by the Lost star as head of the San Francisco PD’s Gang Task Force.





 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  21