Gene Hackman


  1. Murray Hamilton, The Graduate, 1967.   
  2. Robert Reed, The Brady Bunch, TV, 1969-74.    “Not well known  enough”  to be Mike Brady.  (Who can name who was!). Gene’s  possible wife, Joyce Bulifant, was also rejected. Reed hated the role and said only signed on  being told it was a serious, boundary-pushing look at modern family life.  D’oh!
  3. Gregory Peck, I Walk The Line, 1970.     US director John  Frankenheimer (the Spielberg-cum-Tarantino of his day) wanted Hackman after making The Gypsy Moths together.  Columbia wanted a bigger name.
  4. Barry Newman, Vanishing Point, 1970.   Director Richard C Sarafian wanted Hackman for his ultra-rapid hot rod delivery driver, Kowalski. Fox suits wouldn’t hear of it. Newman, OK! Ironically, Fox (new suits?) then let Hackman rule The French Connection, which also had one helluva fast driving sequence. And more. Huge box-office. An Oscar for the guy not good enough for Sarafian’s tiny cult winner. A change of suits after that mess, no?  Trousers, at least. 
  5. Richard Boone, Big Jake, 1970.   John Wayne knew the number of actors who could go against him was few. He played safe with Boone, from his Alamo dud and paid him $90,000 – $5,000 being sent direct to a school Boone helped support in Hawaii.
  6. Paul Newman, Sometimes A Great Notion, 1970.    “It wasn’t great but it certainly wasn’t a lousy movie.”  Handy that Newman (and not Hackman) was  heading the Stramper logging clan  when somebody had to take over directing from Richard Colla. “Rather than close down and find another one and then have him learn about the whole logging thing, it seemed better for me to take over.” George Royh Hill flew up to the Oregon location to help see how much Colla material could be kept. Newman found  actor-directing for the first time was like putting a gun in his mouth.  He’d never do it again.  But he did… for Harry & Son in 1983.   
  7. Donald Sutherland, Klute, 1971.    “I wanted it desperately but Jane Fonda vetoed me.” George Roy Hill on Hackman: “He has  no star ego and doesn’t ‘care how you photograph him.”
  8. Warren Beatty,(Dollars), 1971.    Director Richard Brooks would have been happier with either Hackman or Al Pacino as the Hamburg bank robber – of criminals’ cash.  Beatty, felt Brooks, was too handsome, too much A Star. Exactly  why Columbia wanted him! (Learning its lesson, Columbia bit the bullet about  Hackman starring in Brooks’ next venture… Bite The Bullet).   
  9. Burt Reynolds, Deliverance, 1971.     He wanted to be Lewis.  UK director John Boorman  had other ideas… 
  10. Jon Voight,  Deliverance,  1971.  … “I see you more as  Ed.”  Now, Hackman refused. After The All-American Boy, Voight’s career was in the toilet.   He said  Boorman saved his life and  career. While nearly killing him with danger-filled stunts. 

  11. Joe Don Baker, Junior Bonnor, 1972.    Steve McQueen agreed to veterans Robert Preston, Ida Lupino as his parents but drew the line at Hackman playing his younger brother, Curly. “He’d be good, but he sure wants a lot of money.”   Neither McQueen nor director Sam Peckinpah were delighted with their  eventual  choice. 
  12. Jack Palance, Chato’s Land, 1972.    Julie Christie redux. “United Artists thought he would  never  make it as a star,” Michael Winner told me: January 9, 1990. Then, on April 10, 1972, six weeks before the Western opened, Gene collected his French Connection Oscar!  Winner had alrdady lived exactly  the  same story with Julie, circa 1963.
  13. Jason Miller, The Exorcist, 1972.
  14. Lee Marvin, The Iceman Cometh, 1973.  When Jason Robards was injured in a road crash, director John Frankenheimer had the choice of Brando, Hackman  or Marvin for Eugene O’Neill’s Hickey. “Secretly, I really hoped to do it with Lee. He has that wonderful… tortured face. And he looked like a salesman. He told stories so well in life and he was such a good actor. I loved working with him… a really wonderful experience. For me, he was perfect.” Even when he wasn’t required, Marvin was always on the set – “almost like an assistant director,” said Frankenheimer, “trying to quiet people down while I worked with other actors.” Including  the last hurrahs of Fredric March and Robert Ryan. Never better, any of them.
  15. Richard Kiley, The Little Prince, 1974.    First offer following his French Connection Oscar – after Sinatra baled out. Director Stanley Donen called  him back for his un-Lucky Lady, 1975..”I’d gotten very depressed after Scarecrow and Conversation failed to make money.  I was drinking and started to say: ‘Hell, I’ll do movies that will definitely make money and then I’ll have plenty of dough.’  I took pictures to play it safe and they turned out to be very dangerous for me.”
  16. Robert Shaw, Jaws, 1974.    
  17. Jack Nicholson, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, 1975.
  18. John Wayne, Rooster Cogburn, 1974.     TThe 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 (!)… This was the fifth and last time  that Burt and Duke were approached for the same movie.  Back in the 50s, Duke suggested they make Western together. Burt laughed it off. “Why not Kirk, as well?” Lancaster never agreed to share a movie with Wayne, their politics were diametrically opposed. And yet, when Duke died on June 11, 1979, Burt called a minute’s silence from cast and crew of  the Western he was shooting, Cattle Annie and Little Britches.
  19. John Wayne, The Shootist, 1976.   Duke’s finale… Hackman, Charles Bronson, Clint Eastwood 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! Despite Wayne – dead in three years – was suffering heart, lung and prostat problems.
  20. Peter Finch, Network, 1976.   “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore…”  Both director Sidney Lumet and writer Paddy Chayefsky came from the golden age of US TV – and pulled no punches in detailing where the medium was going (down the drain. Indeed, their fictional USB fourth network became, well, Fox.  After tenuous thoughts about real TV News anchors (John Chancellor and the venerable Walter Cronkite),Paddy had a wish list of real actors  for the unhinged news anchor Howard Beale: the first known instance of a man who was killed because he had lousy ratings.” Henry Fonda  found it “too hysterical” (his daughter Jane was up for Faye Dunaway’s Oscar-winning role), Glenn Ford,  Cary Grant, Gene Hackman, William Holden (he played news exec  Max Schumacher, instead), Walter  Matthau, Paul Newman, James Stewart (appalled by the script’s bad language!). Plus George C Scott , who refused because he had once been “offended” by Lumet! (Yet his final film was Lumet’s final film, Gloria, 1998).   Lumet had just the one name – and this proved to be Finchy’s farewell, winning the first posthumous Best Actor Oscar. Lumet was with Peter when he died. They were in the Beverly Hills Hotel, awaiting  a joint interview,  when  Finch collapsed and died soon after in hospital, never regaining consciousness from his heart attack.  His performance won the first posthumous acting Oscar. (Ironically, the second was also for an Aussie, Heath Ledger, for The Dark Knight… 33 years later).

  21.  Richard Dreyfuss, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 1976.   
    Spielberg tries again…   Gene’s name came up when Dreyfuss tried to increase his salary after two years waiting for the magic to start. The way the Hackman marriage was going it was not the right moment to be out of town  for 16 weeks in a blimp hangar in Mobile, Alabama.  Spielberg had told Dreyfuss the story during Jaws
    and when the director  hinted it  could he  him, Dreyfuss started bad-mouthing every actor  alive. Pacino has no sense of humor. Nicholson’s crazy!  I talked every actor out of the role!     At first, Roy Neary was a lifer in the military, suitable for Gene  Hackman. Dreyfuss said “You need a child.”  He added: “This is the only project of mine  that will be  watched 100 years after we are all dead because of it’s nobility – it’s a grown up film about something enormously benign.” 

  22. Al Pacino, Bobby Deerfield, 1976.  Dabney Coleman suggested a titular Hackman when bringing the script to his pal, Sydney Pollack. But the  director first thought of using a real superstar driver (Steve McQueen or Paul Newman (who had originally bought the rights). Instead, the director went off to make Three Days of the Condor with his mate, Redford. When he came back, Newman had lost interest. “I thought Al gave an extraordinary performance” opposite  his lover, the “brilliant” Marthe Keller.
  23. Robert Duvall, The Great Santini, 1979.     Hackman is the reason his agent Sue Mengers says she quit agenting. “At one point he said: ‘I don’t want to work for awhile.’ And I said: ‘Great, Gene, what’s a while? Three months? Six months?’ He said: ‘I don’t know and if I give you a date, then it’s not open-ended. Then it’s just a holiday.’ I admired that…”   Six months later he was more tempted by Santini  than True Confessions and Mengers told him: ‘They’ll wait for you. What do you want? Another three months? They’ll wait three months. Maybe, they’ll even wait four months.’ And Gene said – I’ll never forget it – ‘If I give a day now – even if I do a picture in six months – every day when I wake up, I’ll say to myself, ‘OK, only X number of days until I have to think about working.’ He was not ready to commit. “
  24. Roy Scheider, All That Jazz, 1979.  When director Bob Fosse was convinced (by his health) not to try and play his screen self, Broadway choreographer Joe Gideon was chased and/or avoided by… Hackman, Alan Alda, Alan Bates (“too British,” said Fosse), Warren Beatty (keen, but Gideon must not die at the end!), Robert Blake, Richard Dreyfuss (“afraid of the dancing”), Elliott Gould, Jack Lemmon (“too old”), Paul Newman (“Dumb of me… a terrible oversight”), Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, George Segal, Jon Voight. Scheider just grabbed the “outrageous, assaulting, melodramatic, very funny, stupid, silly, simplistic, vulgar… a wonderful movie!” Exactly.
  25. Donald Sutherland, Ordinary People, 1980.    Novelist Judith Guest’s anatomy of a family more in pain than love  reminded Robert Redford of “the missed signals” of his own upbringing, – it became  his directing debut. He saw Hackman for the son’s shrink. Officially, he was delayed by Superman II re-shoots. Truth was, he  would have loved it. “I didn’t turn it down, we couldn’t make a deal.  I wanted some points and they were willing to give me some, but not enough to make the picture feasible.  Just one of those deals  that fell apart.” Redford had also been talking to Sutherland about the shrink, but he wanted the father. Redford was surprised. “But I was also very touched by his directness. He wasn’t iffy, he laid it out and in that instant convinced me.”.Hirsch became the somewhat screwy Dr Berger having impressed Redfford with his frenetic dialoigue deliveries in his Taxi series, 1978-1983.  ”An intelligent, perceptive, and deeply moving film,” said Chicago critic Roger Ebert. 
  26. James Caan, Thief, 1980.    Jeff Bridges was was auteur Michael Mann’s first choice for the titular Frank. Until some dopes said that for a such a career criminal, Jeff was too young (at 31) and inexperienced (after 25 screen roles for Bogdanovich, Cimino, Frankenheimer, Huston, Rafaelson, etc).  Al Pacino and The French Connection cops, Gene Hackman and  Roy Sheider, were also in the frame.
  27. Robert Duvall, True Confessions, 1980.   Director Ulu Grosbard’s first choice for the cop bro of Robert Duvall’s priest’s was Robert De Niro (still carrying some of his Raging Bull weight).   Then, Gene Hackman. But… .    “Gene had been doing pictures back-to-back and he hadn’t been happy with them,” commented his agent, Sue Mengers. “He wanted a chance to renew himself and just get away from the movie business. I said: ‘Gene, I totally understand.” Finally,  the two Roberts switched
  28. Harrison Ford, Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1981.
  29. 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.
  30. Jack Lemmon, Missing, 1981.     Director Costa-Gavras also asked Hackman (not right for it) and Paul Newman (fully booked up) to play the all-American parent searching for his missing US journalist son-in-law, an obvious victim of the horrendous Allende regime in Chile. Although winning Best Film and Actor at the 1982 Cannes festival, Missing was lacking the raw passion of Z. Instead, said, Chicago critic Roger Ebert, Costa “achieved the unhappy feat of upstaging his own movie, losing it in a thicket of visual and editing stunts.

  31. Brian Dennehy, First Blood  (aka Rambo), 1981.
  32. 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 Jeff Bridges Charles Bronson, 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
  33. Jeff Goldbum, Into The Night, 1984.   The third Blues Brother – director John Landis – wanted Hackman as his hero.  Universal suits said he was not box-office. Nor was the film. Stuffed to the gills with directors playing cameos (from Jack Arnold to Roger Vadim), this was Landis’ first flop. 
  34. Sean Connery, HIghlander, 1985.   Sean brushed aside ooffers to be either the clansman,Connor MacLeod or the  villainous Kurgan, “strongest of all the immortals,”  in their tussle for… The Prize! He did exacytly the same with them on-screen in his preferrred role of  the 2,000-year-old nobleman, Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez… knowing full well, he could knock him off in a single week for his $1m. fee.  Connery had more panache than the movie or his rivals… and they weren’t  exactly nobodies… but Michael Caine, Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Malcolm McDowell, Peter O’Toole and Lee Van Cleef.
  35. Jon Voight, Runaway Train, 1986.     After Superman,  this was only the second known example of Hackman being offered same role as his old pal Hoffman –  before  Voight stepped in. “Hoffman was busy, Hackman busier,” laughed Russian director Andrei Konchalovsky. “He’d said Yes, but was then not available in time.”
  36. Jack Nicholson, Ironweed, 1987.    As William Kennedy’s hobo Francis Phelan. Except, Gene had been here before in his favourite film, Scarecrow, 1973.
  37. 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… Hackman, Jeff Bridges, Charles Bronson, Michael Douglas, Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, 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.
  38. Bob Hoskins, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, 1988.  Off-the-wall casting. But then he had been Superman’s nemesis, Lex Luthor.
  39. Fred Ward, Mjami Blues, 1988.  Fred Ward optioned Charles Willeford’s novel. Hackman was keen on the central character, Miami PD sergeant Hoke Moseley – a regular in Willeford books. That was fine by Ward who was aiming to play the wild sociopath Frederick J Frenger Jr.  Or he was until Orion Pictures wanted a younger lead.  Ward then passed Junior to Alec Baldwin, and took over Moseley Hoke for himself. He was, after all, one of the seven producers of what the Washington Post’ critic Desson Howe called “funny, stirring and full of great moments done in the pop-arty, lightly macabre spirit.”
  40. Paul Newman, Blaze, 1989.  Paul Newman agreed to be the licentious Louisiana governor Huey Long falling from power in the late 50s due to his affair with stripper Blaze Starr. He relished such line as ”Ah gotta weakness  for tough-minded, iron-willed, independfnt women with big titties.”  But he almost backed out when he realising he had a daughter around the same age as Blaze… Hackman was immediately contacted, Then, Newman woke up: “Screw it. I’ll do it!” Hackman finallyh worked with Newman in Robert Benyton’s Twilight. a kind of Harper 30 Years On… Said Hackman: “Everything  about Paul Newman, was real.”
  41. Scott Glenn, The Silence of the Lambs, 1990.
  42. Paul Sorvino, Dick Tracy, 1990.     Invited to be Madonna’s sugar daddy, Lips Manlis,  he had a life-mask made by special effectichian John Caglione Jr.  “I’d just come off a picture a couple days before and was starting another in three days.  I was just too tired.” That was the diplomatic way of not saying he didn’t wish to be directed by Warren Beatty again after the Reds experience in 1980. Warren Beatty was disappointed. “He’s Everyman on the one hand and yet, on the other, he’s an Übermensch.  He has a broad spectrum of gifts, a combination of sensitivity and toughness. That’s why he’s done what’s he’s done.”

  43. 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.

  44. 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!

  45. Bob Hoskins, Heart Condition, 1990.     Bigoted white cop haunted by having a transplant of black  lawyer Denzel Washington’s heart. Gene had his own cardiac problems in 1990, a heavy heart attack leading to angioplasty surgery.

  46. Michael Lerner, Barton Fink, 1990.    Hackman and Jon Voight were in the running but Lerner was perfect as the crass, venal Hollywood studio chief. A match, thought  Chicago critic Roger Ebert, for the Coen brothers’ other “evil, compromised and corrupt” powerhouses: M Emmet Walsh in Blood Simple,1984, Trey Wilson in  Raising Arizona, 1986,  and Albert Finney in Miller’s Crossing.1990.Lerner had played the real thing – head brothert Jack Warner  in the Marilyn Monroe tele-bio, This Year’s Blonde, in 1979.
  47. Clint Estwood, The Rookie, 1990.  Closest to a Dirty Harry sequel after The Dead Pool, 1988, so it had to be Eastwood and not Hackman. Clint agreed on condition Warner backed his John Huston movie, White Hunter, Black Heart. He stopped shooting for a week to take Hunter to Cannes – a welcome respite for the then record number of 80 stuntmen   on Clint’s biggest action enterprise.
  48. Stuart Wilson, Lethal Weapon 3, 1991.  The new (and rather ho-hum) ex-cop villain given to British Wilson (born I might add in  the finest UK county of Surrey!) was first offered by the franchise’s director Richard Donner  to five of  the 39 guys he’d seen for Mel Gibson’s Martin Riggs in 1986:  Alec Baldwin, Robert De Niro, Michael Keaton, Al Pacino and John Travolta. Pus James Caan, Gene Hackman, Jack Nicholson and Al Pacino.  NB This is the first time we see Gibson and Danny Glover actually making an arrest. Only took ‘em five years!
  49. James Woods, The Hard Way, 1991.     Interested when director John Badham chose Kevin Kline as the TV cop researching real cops – with a tough nut like Hackman.  Kevin had the Oscar, but Michael J Fox had the box-office clout and had always wanted to be a cop.  Better yet, an actor wanting to play a cop. 
  50. Charles Bronson, The Indian Runner, 1991.     Still resting. So, for his directing debut, Sean Penn persuaded Bronson into his first film  (and suicide)  since the death of his wife, Jill Ireland, in 1990.

  51. Kevin Costner, JFK, 1991.
  52. Ed Asner, JFK, 1991.

  53. Robert Duvall, Falling Down, 1992.  “You’re angry because you got lied to? Is that why my chicken dinner is drying out in the oven…?”  On his last day on the job, LAPD Sergeant Lester Prendergast  finds a guy, known only by his car number-plate, D-FENS, melting down, dangerously.  He’s Michael Douglas, in buzz-cut, glasses and, finally, his own One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  Duval won the role; from Gene Hackman, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier and Jason Robards.
  54. Tommy Lee Jones, The Fugitive, 1993.    A dozen A listers were up for Dr Kimble chasing the one-armed man in the movie of David Jansse’s 1963-1967 series. Just four for his  hunter, Lieutenant Gerard: TLJ, Mel Gibson, Gene Hackman, Jon Voight… who quickly vacated the role on hearing Jones had decided against reprising Captain Woodrow F Call in Return to Lonesome Dove in order to play Gerard.  And Voight had always wanted to be Woodrow. And got it.  TLJ won a support Oscar  (and a sequel, US Marshals) as the Les Miserables-inspired cop chasing  Harrison Ford’s Dr Richard Kimble.   Last time Kimble went on the lam, it took 120 hours  during 1963-1967 to prove he didn’t kill his wife.  Despite being chased all over by TLJ, Ford managed it in 130 minutes. 
  55. Anthony Hopkins, Nixon, 1994.  The JFK director Oliver Stone’s ideas for Tricky Dicky included Warren Beatty, Tom Hanks, Tommy Lee Jones,  John Malkovich, Jack Nicholson, Gary Oldman and Robin Williams.  Next time around, Dan Heyda – Stone’s Trini Cordoza – played Nixon in Dick, 1998.
  56. Dennis Hopper, Waterworld, 1994.     He could not be every villain in town.  (Already doubling as producer and star, Kevin Costner wanted to play both hero and villain!).  Also in the frame for Deacon: Gary Busey, James Caan, Laurence Fishburne, Samuel L Jackson, Gary Oldman.
  57. David Huddleston,The Big Lebowski, 1997.  In his making of book, ex-Coen Brothers assistant Alex Belth said the titular casting of the fat, wheelchair-bound Pasadena tycoon(Jeff Bridges was the son, remember) was among the final decisions made before shooting. The Coens aimed high – Marlon Brando! – then chewed through Hackman (on a break), Ernest Borgnine, Robert Duvall (not seduced by the script), Andy Griffith (great idea!), Anthony Hopkins (not keen on playing Americans), author Norman Mailer, George C Scott, longtime right vleft political adversaries William F Buckley and Gore Vidal…. And even the arch conservative  Bible thumping televangelist Jerry Falwell!
  58. Burt Reynolds, Striptease, 1996.  Burt moaned he was uncomfortable playing a porno director in Boogie Nights in 1996 – more than this Congressman? He was so sleazy that Hackman, Michael Caine and Donald Sutherland refused the role!   Burt still hated Boogie Nights – and refused to see it. The ever foolish Reynolds then fired his agent… before his one and only Oscar nomination!  Which he lost for denigrating the very film he was nominated for!  Foolish? No, plain dumb ass stupid.
  59. Robert Forster, Jackie Brown, 1997.    No, sir, Quentin Tarantino had promised Max Cherry to Forster, out in the cold since his Medium Cool  ’70s.
  60. Burt Reynolds, Waterproof, 1998.  Hackman, Jack Lemmon and Paul Newman were first sought for what proved the unlikeliest role of all for  the doldrummed Reynolds  – Eli Zeal, the elderly  Jewish owner of a little grocery store in what was now an African-American neighborhood.  Shot over 24 days in ’98, the film  never found a distributor. The re-make rights we bought by Cloud Ten Pictures in 2010. To be continued…?

  61. Anthony Zerbe, Star Trek: Insurrection, 1998.      The ninth Trek… Director (and co-star) Jonathan Frakes was blown way by Zerbe’s audition – reciting Dante’s Inferno before seguewaying into the test script. Until then, Frakes had been hoping for Hackman or Wilford Brimley for Admiral Dougherty.
  62. James Cromwell, RKO 281, 1999.     UK director Ridley Scott’s choice for William Randolph Hearst in his all-star  tribute to the making of Citizen Kane. Too pricey  for cinemas, it became a smaller-budget  HBO special. Very special.
  63. Jon Voight,  Pearl Harbor, 2001.   The role was majestic, his first real president after three fictional ones: FDR  The script was Looney Tunes.
  64. James Cromwell, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, 2001.  The wild mustang is captured by US Cavalry soldiers. They set out to tame him.  Fat chance. But for The Colonel, voiced by Cromwell and not Hackman as planned, Spirit becomes akin to his Moby Dick.  
  65. Cillian Murphy, Batman Begins,  2004.
  66. Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, 2006.     Which of the three words don’t you understand: I Am Retired! During 25 years in Development Hell, titular casting also included Russell Crowe, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Richard Dreyfuss, Dustin Hoffman, William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Steve Martin, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino. Tim Curry was the sole Brit considered and the most absurd notions were… Warren Beatty, Harrison Ford and Robert Redford!
  67. Tom Cruise, Knight and Day, 2009.    As the tepid actioner went through nine writers over the years –  from All New Enemies to Trouble Man to Wichita –  buddies Hackman and Justin Long morphed into Cruise and Cameron Diaz. And still flopped. Final title was, literally, senseless.  Bollywood (re-) made it a giant hit in 2014 as Bang Bang… wkth Hrithik Roshan and Katrina Kaif.  
  68. Jeremy Irons, The Borgias, TV, 2010.     The Italian Caligula director Tinto Brass told me he offered Pope Alexander VI to Hackman long before Irish director Neil Jordan got his film  off the ground  – as a TV series.

  69. Bruce Dern, Nebraska, 2012. 
    Ten years in the making… since Nebraskan director Alexander Payne decided only one actor could be Woody, the crotchety alcoholic who thinks he’s won a sweepstake. But, hey, hadn’t Hackman retired ? Yeah, since Welcome to Mooseport,   2004.  And he meant it.  “The compromises that you have to make in films are just part of the beast…     It had gotten to a point where I really don’t want to do it any longer.”   Next? “Bruce was  the first name that leapt to mind, ” said Payne – while flirting with Bryan Cranston and the two Roberts (Duvall and Forster) As the director went off to make Sideways and The Descendants, Dern was wondering when…  Before shooting began in October 2012, Dern told Payne: “I’ve been turning in Dernsies all my life. Too damn old for that now [77], just wanna relax into a part, become that person.” Dernsie was Nicholson’s nickname for his pal. Plus, said daughter Laura Dern, that  “something unique with a moment that only he can do.”  Result: Dern was voted Best Actor  by Steven Spielberg’s 2013 Cannes festival jury and won an Oscar nod.

  70. Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables, 2011.   Oh, Hollywood… Since the musical’s 1985 London opening, suggestions for Jean Valjean went from the logical –  Hackman, Robert De Niro, Richard Dreyfuss, William Hurt, Kevin Kline – to the preposterous: Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks, Robert Redford, Christopher Walken.  Plus close pals, rarely rivals, Beatty and Jack Nicholson. However, Tom Cruise, Dustin Hoffman  and Al Pacino were far too short for the hefty hero who, in a signature scene, has to carry Cosette’s lover, away from the battle of the barricades. Put it another way, Hollywood’s last Valjean had been Liam Neeson  – 6ft. 4in.














 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  70