Charles Bronson


  1. James Dean, Giant, 1955. 
  2. Robert Nichols, Giant, 1955. 
  3. Clint Eastwood, Per un pugno di dollari/A Fistful of Dollars), Italy-Spain-West Germany, 1964.   
  4. Lee Van Cleef, Per qualche dollaro in più/For A Few Dollkas More, Italy-Spain-West Germany, 1965.  
  5. Eli Wallach, Il Buono, il brutto, il cattivo/The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Italy-Spain, 1966.   
  6. Lee Van Cleef, Il Buono, il brutto, il cattivo/The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Italy-Spain, 1966.   
  7. Ernest Borgnine, The Wild Bunch, 1968. 
  8. Gene Hackman, The French Connection, 1971.     The budget was as low as the expectations. Suggestions for the NYPD cop ‘Popeye’ Doyle included Taylor, writer Jimmy Breslin, Charles Bronson, Jackie Geason, Steve McQueen, Lee Marvin, Paul Newman… and, cheapest of all, the Fox Batman, Adam West. Holy moley!!!! Ironically, Michael Winner refused to direct and later joined forces with Bronson for the Death Wish franchise in 1973.
  9. John Wayne, Rooster Cogburn, 1974.  The idea was fair – a sequel  to True Grit.  But if Wayne proved too ill, what would be the point of someone else in his titular Oscar-winning rôle? Marlon Brando topped producer Hal Wallis’ eye-patch  list of Richard Burton, Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, George C Scott and some of Duke’s old co-stars: Kirk Douglas, Charlton Heston, Rock Hudson, Robert Mitchum, Gregory Peck. Plus four of co-star Katharine Hepburn’s previous partners  – Charles Bronson, Burt Lancaster, Peter O’Toole, Anthony Quinn – and as she continued trying to pick guys she’d never  worked with before… Warren Beatty, Henry Fonda, Laurence Olivier, Ryan O’Neal, Paul Scofield, Henry Winkler (!)… (McQueen turned down her Grace Quigleyin 1983).   Kate wrote that embracing Duke “was like leaning against a great tree.”
  10. Gene Hackman, Bite The Bullet, 1975.    Scenarist-director Richard Brooks’ Western desperately required the actor that  auteur – John  Huston – compared to  “a grenade with the pin pulled.”  Charley didn’t agree. During  an interview in Today – “Florida’s Space Age Newspaper”! – on September 2, 1975, he declared: “I’m not a Charles Bronson fan. i don’t think I turned ought the way I thought I would turn out when I was a kid. I’m a disappointment to me.”

  11. Gene Hackman, 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. Bogarde, Caan, Caine, Connery, Gould, Kruger, Olivier, O’Neal, Redford, Schell… but not Robert De Niro, Audrey Hepburn or Steve McQueen.  Nor  Bronson (Dickie’s Great Escape co-star) as General  Stanislaw Sosabowski.
  12. John Wayne, The Shootist, 1976.   Duke’s finale… Bronson, Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman and Paul Newman passed. George C Scott was signed but not sealed when John Wayne showed interest in the dying gunfighter JB Brooks… and it was bye-bye George, baby! It was a waste of time expecting to find insurance cover when the star – dead in three years – was suffering heart, lung and prostat problems.
  13. Paul Michael Glaser, The Great Houdini, TV, 1976.     Two TV stars and one film star – PMG, Robert Blake and Charles Bronson – were chased by (usually comedy) auteur Melville Shavelson for his take on the life, times and magic illusions of Harry Houdini – last played by Tony Curtis in 1952. Followed over the years by Adrien Brody, Harvey Keitel, Guy Pearce, Will Wheaton and in 1999’s Cremaster 2… Norman Mailer!
  14. James  Coburn,  Firepower, 1978.    Announced by producer Lew Grade at a 1977 Cannes  Festival lunch for the Bronsons. Charles passed on  the  $l.5m salary as there was no role for his wife, Jill Ireland. This story was denied by Michael Winner, who directed six films  with Bronson  – Ireland apearing in one only. “There was some conflict,” Winner told me in 1990, “regarding another film.” (Probably, Love and Bullets with Rod Steiger and… Jill Ireland!). The eventual (and top-billed) co-star was Sophia Loren and Bronson never allowed a female to rain on  his parade. Not since the day Katharine Hepburn threw him over her shoulder in Pat and Mike in 1951.
  15. Christopher Reeve, Superman, 1978,
  16. Robert Conrad, Centennial, TV, 1978-1979.    Flummoxed by the necessary French-Canadian accent for Pasquinel. Robert Blake also passed.  Conrad studied with a dialect coach.  And George Clooney was an extra in the first chapter.  He was 16.
  17. Kurt Russell, Escape From New York, 1981.   “Somehow, he got hold of a script,” recalled director John Carpenter, “and he wanted to be Snake Plissken. But but I was afraid of working with him. He was a big star and I was this little-shit nobody. Plus I thought Kurt would be better… Plus Kurt is easy to work with. Plus, at 60, Bronson was far too old to be Snake.” Aka Cobra in Korea… Hyena in Italy.
  18. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Conan The Babarianmokin, 1981. Hard to believe but the producers Edward R Pressman and Edward Summer first thought  of babarising William Smith, Sylvester Sylvester Stllone… and Bronson.  What were they smoking! 
  19. 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  Bronson, Jeff Bridges 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. 
  20. Lee Marvin, The Delta Force, 1985.   According to early  Cannon Films posters, Bronson was first up  for  Colonel Nick Alexander – Marvin’s final role – based on Charlie Beckwith, creator of the Delta Force, based on his work with the UK’s SAS and French GIGN.

  21. 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.
  22. 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… Bronson, Jeff Bridges, Michael Douglas, Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Don Johnson, Tommy Lee Jones, 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. 
  23. Tommy Lee Jones, Lonesome Dove,  TV, 1989. A stupid refusal… from Bronson and before him, John Wayne…of the ex-Texas Ranger Captain Woodrow F Call in Larry McMurtry’s classic mini-series. It started as a film script  and turned into a novel after Wayne, rejected it in 1971. Actually, legend says a cantankerous (jealous!) John Ford warned Duke off it – and thereby James Stewart and Henry Fonda.  Pappy Power!
  24. Frederic Forrest, Lonesome Dove,  TV, 1989.   Having enjoyed  playing the vengeful Apache half-breed in Chato’s Land, 1971, Bronson was more keen on  being the  notorious Mexican/Indian bandit Blue Duck. “I stole horses, burned farms, killed men, raped women and stole children all over your territory and until today, you never even got a good look at me!”  But his Cannon Films contract had him heading Messenger of Death.  Thanks for nothing, Cannon.  As per… 
  25. 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 done his own form of push-ups.  Beating his head against a wall. 
  26. Gérard Depardieu, Germinal, France, 1993.    For realisateur Claude Berri, the role of Zola’s miner  hero, Toussaint Maheu, was the most difficult to fill.  “If I were shooting  in English,  no problem – it would be Bronson, the only Hollywood star who started as a coal-miner.”
  27. Darren McGavin,  Billy Madison, 1995. Then again, who would want to be seen as Adam Sandler’s father!  Bronson was so dour – and dur – that Lee Marvin  called him Charlie Sunshine.
  28. Maximilian Schell, Telling Lies in America, 1997.    Bronson  was considered when Schell wanted too much money to play  the scenarist Joe Eszterhas’ father in  the low-budget, autobiographical script.  So Joe paid him his salary. “I was happy to pay the anti-Nazi crusader… $100,00 of my own money… to effect a very personal revenge on my anti-Semitic father.”
  29. Al Pacino, Any Given Sunday, 1999.    “I wanted to make this kind of movie  with Bronson,” says  Oliver Stone about  his US football gridironmongery. “In the early 80s, I wrote a treatment… He never even read it.” 











 Birth year: 1920Death year: 2003Other name: Casting Calls:  29