James Woods


  1. William Katt, Carrie, 1976.    Which means, in all  Brian De  Palma-George Lucas lore, that Woods  was seen for Star Wars, as well. And to his immense pleasure, (but not his landlord’s), he won neither one. But he had a talent   his rivals never had – an an I.Q. of 180. (Einstein had approximately 160). Another source lists Woods’ IQ as 184. (Via a new publicist?)
  2. Harrison Ford, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope,  1976.
  3. Leigh McCloskey, Inferno, 1979.     Dario Argento, Italian chiller-maker, wanted Woods. But so did Canada’sDavid Cronenberg for Videodrome.  Nolo contendere.
  4. Harry Dean Stanton,  The Black Marble, 1980.      After starring in two films from ex-LAPD cop Joseph Wambaugh’s cop-art books  – the brilliant Onion Field and the excremental Choirboys – Jimmy (“the lizard”) was obviously in with a chance. “If  Jimmy  was older,” Wambaugh (“the weasel”) told me,  “we’d have cast him as Philo, immediately, because  Jimmy is a sleazy 30-year-old!  Philo, though, is a sleazy 50-year-old” – and, among, Harry’s finest performances.
  5. Sylvester Stallone, First Blood (Rambo) 1981.
  6. Louis Gosset Jr, An Officer and Gentleman, 1982.      Tied up elsewhere when the film rolled early to avoid a directors’ strike.  “Lou won an Oscar.  He deserves it.  He did a wonderful job by taking a cliché and making it different.  Quite frankly, it wouldn’t have been as interesting for me as it was for him.”  They worked together in Diggstown, 1992.
  7. Robert De Niro, The King of Comedy, 1982.      First director Bob Fosse was promised Sammy Davis as the TV talk show host kidnapped by Woods as a comedy star wannabe. Fosse died and Martin Scorsese took over. So, naturally, De Niro became the comic. When Johnny Carson wouldn’t play, well, himself, really, Scorsese thought of Frank Sinatra and the whole Las Vegas/Ocean’s 11 group – “I just love that crowd and their clothes.” He also saw Sammy, plus Joey Bishop, Dean Martin. “And then, of course, Jerry Lewis.”
  8. Kurt Russell, Silkwood, 1983.      “I just couldn’t see myself making a movie about three Okies fucking…,”  he told me in Cannes. “If California fell into the ocean and I happened to be in New York, the only American actor left alive, they’d have a talent search in Paraguay rather than give me the role.”
  9. Christopher Lloyd, Back To The Future, 1985.     On director Robert Zemeckis’ short list for Doc Brown, alongside Jeff Goldlbum, John Lithgow, Dudley Moore. (Ex-President Ronald Reagan “reluctantly”  passed on a bit as Mayor Hurert  in Back To The Future Part III, 1990).
  10. James Belushi, Salvador, 1986.     Originally approached by writer-director Oliver Stone to be Dr Rock, the radio dee-jay pal of photo-journalist Richard Boyle, Jimmy pushed for the lead.  “Such a great role, this man with all his shortcomings and vices… ultimately interested in finding the truth.” So began  the endless Woods-Stone love affair.

  11. Tom Berenger, Platoon, 1985.  

  12. Willem Dafoe, Platoon, 1986.  

  13. 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: Keith Carradine, Scott Glenn, Tommy Lee Jones, Christopher Walken, James Woods… and a slimmed-down Busey.  He said the role rescued his career.

  14. Charles Dance, Good Morning Babylon, Italy, 1987.     The Taviani brothers’ choice for DW Griffith. However,  it was the summer of heavy Euro-terrorism and Yanks stayed home.

  15. Jack Nicholson, Batman, 1988.
  16. Michael Douglas, Wall Street, 1989.   “Greed is good!”  Warren Beatty topped director Oliver Stone’s list for Gordon Gekko.  Next: Richard Gere, William Petersen or James Woods.  None wanted  to be a bad guy. Douglas won an Oscar. Gere immediately changed his tune to rescue his fast-fading career as the badass cop in  Internal Affairs.  Woods  had also preferred playing a… Cop. ”Could have been a mistake! But I have no regrets.” Stone said his film was about sharks. During 2006-2008, Jimmy was a hot-shot lawyer in a seriescalled… Shark.
  17. Michael J Fox, Casualties of War, 1989.       As they passed through directors as varied as Jerry Schatzberg and John Schlesinger, Jimmy tried to get the rights to Daniel Lang’s 1969 New Yorker article about the Vietnam rape-murder atrocity in October 1966 – the basis of his film debut role in Elia Kazan’s The Visitors, l972. Woods and Fox later made The Hard Way, 1991.
  18. Kurt Russell, Tango & Cash, 1989.   Sylvester Stallone was Raymond Tango – without question. But who would he accept as his equally frame cop pardner, Gabriel Cash? After Patrick Swayze ran (to solo billing in Road House), the list was long… Woods, Michael Biehn, Pierce Brosnan, Kevin Costner,, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, Don Johnson, Michael Keaton, Ray Liotta, Liam Neeson, Michael Nouri, Gary Oldman, Robert Patrick, Bill Paxton, Ron Perlman, Dennis Quaid, Gary Sinise. Plus three future Sly co-stars: Harrison Ford,  Bruce Willis and James Woods. 
  19. Harvey Keitel, Thelma & Louise, 1990.

  20. Kevin Costner, JFK, 1991.
  21. Joe Pesci, JFK, 1991.

  22. Tim Roth, Reservoir Dogs, 1991.
  23. Peter Coyote, Bitter Moon, France, 1992.    Auteur André Téchiné  lost interest when  Alain Delon passed on his version of Pascal Bruckner’s  1981 book,  Lunes de fiel (a pun on Lune de miele – honeymoon in French). Roman Polanski got the rights and starred his wife Emmanuelle Seigner  as a voracious seductres – she called the film a mistake. Roger Ebert agreed: “High porn, low art. The word ‘lurid’ was coined to describe films like this.” Said Woods: “I didn’t sell out during the 20 years it took to get hot… I’m not going to sell out now.
  24. Jason Robards, Philadelphia, 1993.   “He brought AIDS into our offices – into our men’s room!” Woods passed on the homophobic  lawyer Charles Wheeler, firing Tom Hanks’ junior partner because he has AIDS. Hanks won the  first of his  consecutive Best Actor Oscars.
  25. Jamey Sheridan, The Stand, TV, 1993.    David Bowie,. Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Lance Henriksen, Christopher Walken, James Woods – they were all unavailable Stephen King’s signature villain in at least nine books: the walkin’ dude Randall Flagg, aka The Man in Black, aka Marten Broadcloak, the Covenant Man, Richard Fannin, Richard Farris, Raymind Fiegler, Walter o’Dim, Waltert Paddick.   Miguel Ferrer was keen but given Flagg’s henchman, Lloyd Henreid,  King suggested Robert Duvall but fell for Sheridan, who understood  ‘Flagg is really a funny guy, isn’t he?’ He must have bothered to read the book… “There was a dark hilarity inhis face… a face that radiated a horrible handsome warmth, a face to make water glasses shatter… to make small children crash their trikes… a face guaranteed to make barroom arguments over batting averages turn bloody.” Sheridan was perfect for the 41st of King’s staggering 313 screen credits. (King Kameo: Teddy Weizak).
  26. John Travolta, Pulp Fiction, 1994.   
  27. Powers Boothe, Sudden Death, 1994. Director Peter Hyams’ first choice for the villain  “didn’t like the direction of the character.” Which translates as: Not another villain!  Boothe just loved him. “No one does vile and hateful like Boothe,” said  Mick La Salle,  in the San Francisco Chronicle. “He appears, lights a cigarette, smirks, tells a few jokes, kills people and from that point on you just can’t wait for him to get it.”
  28. Jon Polito, Blankman, 1994.
    “You’ve gotta be fuckin’ kidding,” said Jimmy to his CAAgent
      OK, his career was in bad shape, but no way.  “After 17 years, I was in the shithouse.It was over. Everything hit me at once. I was trying to build this house, I’d gone through a bad divorce, the work was just horrible,I was getting no representation.” He was saved when, without any CAA input, producer Jerry Weintraub offered him another villain but in an A movie, The Specialist, with SylvesterStallone (who had won First Blood (aka Rambo)
    from Jimmy). “It was a stepping-stone to get back to where I wanted to be.” 

  29. David Thewlis, The Island Of Dr Moreau, 1995.      Everyone wanted to work with Marlon Brando. At the start… Thewlis (and not Woods, Gary Oldman, Spader or Bruce Willis) replaced Rob Morrow who had swopped roles with Kilmer and then quit when the director Richard Stanley was sacked after a few days. (Numbers differ). Kilmer and Bruce Willis found themselves in divorce battles. Brando’s daughter, Cheyenne, committed suicide. And without new helmer John Frankenheimer ever knowing, Stanley had joined the extras… Brando welcomed Thewlis by saying: “Go home, David. This is not a good film to work on. It is cursed.” Thewlis could say much more about the making of the farce – but feared such honesty would kill his career.
  30. Eric Roberts, Doctor Who (The Movie), TV, 1996.       
  31. Willem Dafoe, American Psycho, 1999.     As the cop hunting Leonardo DiCaprio – for the unmade version by one of his favourite film-makers, Oliver Stone. “He’s different. Most American directors are happier with robots. They resent actors – they’re afraid we’re going to do something to spoil their film.”

  32. Harvey Keitel, Be Cool, 2004.   Second stanza of John Travolta as Elmore Leonard’s Chilli Palmer is a music biz satire with heaps of songs, shylocks and gangsters (both kinds) but no bite.    Chosen for Nick Carr, Woods wound up having emergency surgery for an aneurysm. Once back on his feet, he played Tommy Athens – rubbed out by Russians.  Keitel had a cameo in the first chapter, a sharper look at the movie biz: Get Shorty, 1994.
  33. Sean Penn, Milk, 2007.    Director Gus Van Sant had first planned a film in the early 90s about the first openly gay man elected to US public office – and assassinated for it (with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone) in 1978. Van Sant’s main candidates  back then to play  Harvey Milk were  Woods,  Daniel Day-Lewis, Richard Gere, Robin Williams. Penn won his second Best Actor Oscar for, as SF Chronicle Mick LaSalle put it,disappearing into the title role.
  34. Bruce Willis, The Expendables, 2009.    Sylvester Stallone speaks: “The Expendables stands on its own and is really kind of a throwback to earlier films like The Magnificent Seven, The Wild Bunch, when men were willing to risk their lives for friendship rather than money. There were several actors that I wanted such as Jimmy Woods” – his co-star from The Specialist, 1994 – as the McGuffin man, the guy with the laundry list,setting out the mission for Sly’s mercenaries.
  35. Michael Caine, Gnomeo and Juliet,2010.   Woods (a big hit voicing Disney’s Hades in 1996)  and Gary Oldman were also sugggestedf for  Lord Redbrick (ie Lord Capulet), leader of the  red gnomes v Gnoemo’s bluesin this garden gnomes’ take on Shakespeare  (voiced by Patrick Stewart)  with, of course, producer Elton John’s songbook – Benny and the Jets, Rocketman, Your Song, et al.Bard jokes included  houses numbered 2B and Not 2B and  the Rosencrantz  & Guildenstern moving company,








 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  34