Tommy Lee Jones

  1. Scott Glenn, Apocalypse Now, 1976.
  2. Brad Dourif, Wise Blood, 1978.   John Huston had chosen TLJ for thje preacher setting up his own church as per the first Flannery O’Connor novel.  Huston nmext asked Dourif to test for Enoch Emnery. Oh no, said Brad, much more keen on Hazel Motes…  Well, thatwas his lucky day.  TLJ had to leave then project  and, following the prerequisite audition Dourif was  creatiing his own “church of Christ Without Christ. Where the blind can’t see, the lame don’t walk, and the dead stay that way.”
  3. John Heard, Cutter’s Way, 1980.   Once Dustin Hoffman’s schedule clashed, producer Paul Gurian was keen on Jones or Nick Nolte as Alex Cutter, while Czech director Ivan Passer, preferred Heard. Passer later complained: “UA murdered the film. Or, at least, they tried to murder it.”
  4. Kurt Russell, Escape From New York,  1981.  Good pals and 1993 Blown Away co-stars in 1993, TLJ and Jeff Bridges, were both on auteur John Carpenter’s list for his hero,  Snake Plissken. TLJ was just a tad over half the age of the studio’s other choice: Charles Bronson. John Carpenter only ever wanted his tele-Elvis. Five years younger than Jones.
  5. Harrison Ford, Blade Runner, 1981.    UK wiz Ridley Scott spent a long time sniffing out the perfect Deckard.  From top notchers Sean Connery, Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman (the first choice was keen… on making it a totally different character, of course), Robert Mitchum, Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino…  to such excellent journeymen as William Devane, Robert Duvall, Peter Falk, Frederic Forrest, Scott Glenn, Tommy Lee Jones, Raul Julia, Nick Nolte, Christopher Walken.  Martin Sheen was too exhausted after Apocalypse Now. In sheer desperation, choices lowered to Cliff Gorman, Judd Hirsch. Even the Virginian Morgan Paull stood a chance, having played Deckard in Scott’s tests of potential Rachaels. (He was given Holden for his pains). Plus Arnold Schwarzenegger, not yet seen as Conan, much less Terminator.  And for probably the last time in such an illustrious list,  the fading star of Burt Reynolds.
  6. 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 TLJ, Jeff Bridges Charles Bronson, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Gene Hackman, 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. 
  7. Gary Busey, Lethal Weapon, 1986.  There were 39 possibles for Mel Gibson’s suicidal cop.  Just seven  for this bad man target, Mr Joshua. John Saxon was first choice – but off having A Nightmare on Elm, Street: Dream Warriors.  Next up: TLJ, Keith Carradine, Scott Glenn, Christopher Walken, , James Woods… and a slimmed-down Busey.  He said the role rescued his career.
  8. 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 susperstardom (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?!
  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 Dream (Costner), Major League (Berenger and Sheen).  

  10. 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, apparently, the film.  Lousy! Which is probably why 18 other big guns, said nadato being Nada: TLJ, Alec Baldwin, Michael Biehn, Jeff Bridges, Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, 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.”
  11. 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… TLJ, Jeff Bridges, Charles Bronson, Michael Douglas, Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Don Johnson, Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Ryan 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.
  12. Dennis Quaid, Everybody’s All American (UK: When I Fall In Love), 1988.   Warners refused Michael Apted’s budget: $15m. (The toppermost  A Listers  gets more per film).
  13. Richard Gere, Internal Affairs, 1989.     ’Tis the season to be cops…. via two offers… 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 – TLJ, Alec Baldwin, Tom Berenger, Jeff Bridges, Pierce Brosnan, Kevin Costner, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Ed Harris, William Hurt, Don Johnson, 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. Patrick Swayze, Next of Kin, 1989.   Next…  c ountry bumpkins v the Mafia. Again. For the hero of his respun Raw Deal, 1985, UK director John Irvin went from The Obvious Aces: Kevin Costner, Tom Cruise, Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis… to the Tango and Cash possibles: Michael Biehn, Jeff Bridges, Pierce Brosnan, Kurt Rusell… plus The Also-Rans: TLJ, Kris Kristofferson, Dennis Quaid. And even French Christopher Lambert, Swedish Dolph Lundgren and Belgian Jean Claude Van Damme… for a Chicago cop!

  15. Sam Shepard, 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 clichéin sight is the usual pairing of old cop-young cop (or FBI agents here), the rest was the usual Apted brilliance.  He shuffled eleven choices for the older agent, Frank “Cooch” Coutelle: Brian Cox, Robert De Niro, Scott Glenn, Dennis Hopper, Tommy Lee Jones (also up, at 45, for the younger Ray Levoi), Harvey Keitel, Stephen Lang, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, Ron Perlman.  So where was Marlon Brando?  “He’s gone on record so many times about the current state of the Indians, I almost expected him to ring me,” Apted told me in Deauville, France.  “I asked him to play the head of the FBI – just one day’s work in Washington.  I thought it might appeal to him – as a cause.”  It did not.
  16. Val Kilmer, Thunderheart, 1991.  At 45, Tommy Lee was up for both Fibis! Apted’ saw another dozen contenders for Ray Levoi: Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Mel, Gibson, Michael Keaton, Dennis Quaid, Kurt Russell, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvster Stallone, Patrick Swayze, Bruce WillisLevoi was 1/4th Sioux. Kilmer (“the most unsung leading man of his generation,” for Chicago critic  Roger Ebert) is 1/8th Cherokee.

  17. Martin Sheen, Gettysburg, TV, 1992.   General Robert E Lee went from William Hurt to Tommy Lee to  Robert Duvall (who played him  in  the prequel, Gods and Generals, 2003) to Sheen.   No wonder it lasted 4 hours 8 minutes!
  18. Christopher Walken, Pulp Fiction, 1993.
  19. Peter Greene, The Usual Suspects, 1994.   Jeff Bridges, Johnny Cash, Al Pacino, Charlie Sheen, James Spader, Christopher Walken were also listed for  Redfoot, the LA fence.  The New Jersey actor  got the part – but no credit.
  20. Anthony Hopkins, Nixon, 1994.  The JFK director Oliver Stone’s ideas for Tricky Dicky included TLJ, Warren Beatty, Gene Hackman, Tom Hanks, John Malkovich, Jack Nicholson, Gary Oldman and Robin Williams. Next time around, Dan Heyda  (Stone’s Trini Cordoza) was Nixon in Dick, 1998.

  21. Gene Hackman, Crimson Tide, 1995.   First choice for the comeback  of producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer at Disney until Tony Scott moved into higher A-star areas – although Tommy Lee had collected an Oscar in the meantime.
  22. Dylan Walsh, Congo, 1995.     Oscar means changes. The Steven Spielberg production wanted Tommy Lee as the hero (a primatologist),  no longer the baddy. With his refusal, the film was downsized.
  23. Brian Cox, Chain Reaction, 1996.      Jones won his support Oscar for the same director’s previous outing, The Fugitive, 1992. This was another chase movie – barely gripping.

  24. Harrison Ford, Air Force One, 1996.  
    The action-man POTUS was written for Kevin Costner, too busy mailing The Postman. He suggested Ford and if he passed, a new list included Jones (Bill Clinton’s Havard room-mate), Tom Hanks, John Malkovich (a wannabe presidential assassin during In The Line of Fire, 1992), Dennis Quaid (brother Randy had played LBJ), Keanu Reeves (at 28?), and ex-California Governor Arnold Schwarzeneger. The current Prez, Bill Clinton, loved the movie; the childish mind of future POTUS Donald Trump was inspired by it – “Harrison Ford on the plane… He stood for America!” Quized on TV about this, Ford turned to the camera and wearily said: “Donald, it was just a movie! Things like this don’t happen in real life.”

  25. Jon Voight, Anaconda, 1996. “Alone among snakes, anacondas are unique. After eating their prey, they regurgitate in order to eat again.”   We learned a lot like this in this creature feature.  TLJ, Sean Connery, John Malkovich, even the French Jean Reno preferred refused tickets to the Amazon – and Voight tackled the riff on Robert Shaw.
  26. Laurence Fishburne, Event Horizon, 1996.  The title warned us… In astrophysics, an event horizon is a boundary beyond which events cannot affect any observers. Exactly!  TLJ, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis refused the captaincy of the rescue-mission spaceship, Lewis and Clark (!) in director Paul WS Anderson’s The Shining in Space – studio slashed from 130 (violent) mjnutes to 96.
  27. Brian Cox, The Glimmer Man, 1996.    Once again, Jones passed a project to Cox. Jones had studied the script and figured out exactly what would happen. The film would be cut about until it was a typical Steven Segal movie… which is always the (yawn!) problem with a Steven Seagal movie.  One legend said he was replaced because Warners thought he might kill the “star,”  Steven Seagal.
  28. Kevin Spacey, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, 1997.     Tommy Lee-Brad Pitt-Ralph Fiennes became Spacey-John Cusack-Jack Thompson.
  29. Christopher McDonald, The Iron Giant, 1998.  The character was Mansley, the very manly BUP agent – Bureau of Unexplained Phenomena – investigating sightings of  the 50ft metal-eating robot created by  the  British Poet Laureate  Ted Hughes. So the antagonism should come from  who? Alec Baldwin, Tommy Lee Jones, Burt Reynolds or Arnold Schwarzenegger?  Answer: None of ‘em! The toon’s director, Brad Bird, went for the lesser known McDonald. Bird went on to make Pixar’s The Incredibles, Ratatouille and Tom’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.
  30. Donald Sutherland, Without Limits, 1998.     LA auteur Robert Towne could see only Tommy Lee as Steve Prefontaine’s running coach  – but lost him. Towne got on so well with Sutherland, he asked him back for his  next, Ask The Dust, 2006.
  31. Dennis Quaid, Frequency, 2000.     When Finnish film-maker Renny Harlin was prepping  the tale of the New York firefighter rescued from  death by his son – living  30 years in the future.
  32. Michael Douglas, Traffic, 2000.     Another A List name leapt from Steven Soderbergh’s hat after losing Tommy Lee,  Kevin Costner and Harrison Ford.
  33. Billy Bob Thornton, Monster’s Ball, 2001.    So many fingerprints  to be  found  on Hollywood’s hottest screenplay for five years – by Millo Addica and Will Rokos. And they won the Oscar to prove it.
  34. David Wenham, Dust, 2001.    This time the leads were a  whole century apart! The 1996 idea of Tommy Lee-Ralph  Fiennes became Wenham-Joseph Fiennes.
  35. James Garner, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, 2001. Disney science fiction has never gelled until this animated feature from the Lion King/Hunchback of Notre Dame/Beauty and the Beast trio: producer Dan Hahn, directors Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise. Before settling on Garner, they listened to TLJ, Jack Davenport, Tommy Lee Jones, Nathaniel Parker and Kurt Russell voicing Commander Lyle Tiberius Rourke.
  36. Steve Martin, Looney Tunes: Back in Action,  2002.    “A pretty grim experience all around –  longest year and a half of my life.”  Director Joe Dante refusing to say anymore about how his planned tribute to his late friend, toon ikon Chuck Jones, ended up a mess. Then again, when the suits approve Dalton  over  TLJ, Alec Baldwin, Brian Cranston, Robert De Niro and  Kevin Spacey for Damien Drake, you know you’re in trouble.
  37. Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Watchmen, 2008.   In Terry Gilliam’s version in the early 90s, Tommy Lee was top-listed for Edward Blake, aka The Comedian. Trouble was Gilliam always wanted a three-and-a-half hour movie… in two parts. In the 20 years it took for Alan Moore’s DComic-book to be filmed, other 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 Edward Morgan Blake, aka The Comedian: Gary Busey, Nathan Fillon, Thomas Jane, Ron Perlman.
  38. Ned Beatty, Rango, 2010.  TLJ and Christopher Walken were up for thje devious and disabled mayor Tortoise John of a wild West town called Dirt. Beatty won because of his voicing the 2008 Toy Story 3 antagonist, Lotso-Huggin-Bear. Result? “Some kind of a miracle:” said Chicago critic Roger Ebert, “deserving comparison with Blazing Saddles, from which it borrows a lot of farts.”
  39. Dwayne Johnson, Fast Five, 2010.  TLJ was up for  Hobbs, the  FBI hot-shot out to bring down the Fast crew. Until some casting by a fan called Jan Kelly – she just ached to see Fastchief Vin Diesel sharing action with Johnson. Rolling Stone critic  Peter Travers said they  were a hoot: “showing off their bulging biceps and tats in a display of homoerotic porn.” 
  40. Larry Hagman, Dallas, TV, 2011.   Efforts were made since 2002 to reboot the iconic 1978-92 series (and tele-films) for the cinema. Result? This pilot for a 2012 series… about JR and Bobby’s rival sons Directors, stars, genres changed:Robert Luketic, Gurinder Chadha quit, Betty Thomas was to shoot a Southfork comedy; Drew Barrymore, Minka Kelly, Catherine Zeta-Jones were named for Pam, James Brolin as Jock and Jane Fonda, Diane Ladd or Shirley MacLaine as Miss Ellie. Despite some talk of Jones, Kevin Costnerand Mel Gibson, Travolta remained #1 choice for the villainous oil tycoon JR Ewing. Finally, the original JR led the old-timers returning to their 1978-1992 roles… and died after 16 episodes.

  41. Christoph Waltz, Horrible Bosses 2, 2013.   TLJ and Jack Nicholson were invited to be the slick villain. They walked away, missing Jennifer Aniston reprising her nympho-esque dentist Dr Julia Harris  a second time. In her fifth movie with Jason Sudeikis , which helps erase the bad taste of two with Adam Sandler.
  42. Robert Duvall, The Judge, 2013.  Jones and Jack Nicholson were also sought for the titular father of  lawyer Robert  Downey Jr – accused of murder just when Downey goes home for his mother’s funeral. 



 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  42