John Cusack


  1. Keith Gordon, Christine, 1983.  Shot before the novel came out, this is #8 of Stephen King’s staggering 313 screen credits… Christine is one helluva car. A red, Plymouth Fury, circa 1958. It killed one worker and maimed another before leaving the factory.  Gordon buys it 21 years later, and it – the car – changes him from a bullied male-Carrie to a cool guy winning Alexandra Paul. That makes the car jealous and…  Cusack didn’t buy any of it. Nor did  Scott Baio and John Cusack. Pity. Because Gordon could never handle Christine’s automatic transmission control. (Cusack  was Danny in  the King classic, Stand By Me, 1985, and made two more King pieces (both with Samuel L Jackson) 1804 in 2006 and  Cell, 2015).

  2. Michael J Fox, Back To The Future, 1985.   Refused by every studio in town, the now iconic role of Marty McFly was always planned for Fox. However, when his TV series, Family Ties, got in the way, his possible successors were Cusack, Johnny Depp, C Thomas Howell, Ralph Macchio and the Canadian singer Corey Hart – who never made a movie before or since. Filming actually began with Eric Stoltz, who hadn’t got the heavy Mask out of his system. He was fired. That’s when exec producer Steven Spielberg finally brokered a deal with Ties producer Gary David Goldberg… and poor Fox worked as Alex P Keaton all day and Marty McFly all night. And survived for two sequels.

  3. Johnny Depp, A Nightmare on Elm Street, 1984.     Depp’s debut. Before noticing him (accompanying pal, Jackie Earl Haley to the auditions), Ohio auteur Wes Craven had also seen Nicolas Cage, C Thomas Howell, Brad Pitt, Charlie Sheen and Kiefer Sutherland for the heroine’s boyfriend. 
  4. Judd Nelson, The Breakfast Club, 1985.     When Emilio Estevez was moved from Bender to the impossible-to-cast lead, teenage angst auteur John Hughes then also found Bender difficult to fill. Contenders included Cusack (from Hughes’ 1983 debut, Sixteen Candles), the (already) too pricey Nicolas Cage and his pal, Jim Carrey. Hughes killed all talk of sequels by saying he would never work with Nelson again.
  5. Tom Cruise, Top Gun, 1985.   Among those passing on cocky USNavy jet pilot Lieutenant Pete “Maverick” Mitchell  were: Kevin Bacon, Scott Baio, , Jim Carrey, John Cusack, Robert Downey Jr, Michael J Fox, Rob Lowe, Matthew Modine (took exception to the script’s Cold War politics), Patrick Swayze, Eric Stolz John Travolta (too pricey) and brothers Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez.  Too young, at 20, Sheen sent the whole movie up in Hot Shots! 1990. Maverick became one of Cruise’s signature acts – still  took 34 years for a sequel!
  6. Chip Zien, Howard The Duck, 1985.    Everybody wanted to voice Marvel’s Howard T Duck… Cusack, Jay Leno, Martin Short, Robin Williams. Plus voicing specialists Townsend Colman and Rob Paulsen (more than 500 credits between them). Zien was not a voice-actor. Howard was the big deal production of the year… massive budget… George Lucas, Mr Star Wars, producing… his American Graffiti writers, writing. And. It. Bombed! Willard Huyck never directed again. And in need of cash for his Skywalker Ranch, Lucas sold to Steve Jobs what became… Pixar!
  7. Matthew Broderick, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, 1986.     Considered for Ferris. So were: Jim Carrey, Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, Robert Downey Jr, Michael J Fox and Eric Stolz.
  8. Charlie Sheen, Platoon, 1986. 
  9. Charlie Sheen, No Man’s Land, 1987.     Barry Miller and Cusack were original notions for the innocent rookie undercover cop and the coke-fueled, Porsche-stealing, 1980’s party-boy.  “No one saw it,” said Miller.  Well, maybe Brad Pitt – making his film debut.   As a waiter.
  10. Val Kilmer, Willow, 1988.    Tested for Madmartigan.  He was perfect for a collection of underdogs and odd men out.

  11. Christopher Lloyd, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, 1988. Producer Steven Spielberg (and the Disney suits) found Tim Curry’s test as Judge Doom quite terrifying. As if Lloyd was not – he never even blinked! And they’d even considered Christopher Lee… Surely, Jon Pertwee was too sweet. Also seen: Cusack, Roddy McDowall, Sting.
  12. Dwight Schultz, Fat Man and Little Boy (UK: Shadow Makers),1989.    UK director Roland Joffé chose Barry Miller, then Cusack to portray J Robert Oppenheimer making the Hiroshima bomb.  “The film will be Faustian,” promised Joffe.  “A cosmic struggle between God and Science.”Not. Exactly.
  13. Kevin Anderson, Sleeping With The Enemy, 1991. “In the end, the films you don’t do, the money you turn down, is what defines your taste… Does this sound pretentious?” That year, Cusack was due to be the young Spock (opposite Ethan Hawke’s Kirk) in an early, Starfleet Academy draft of Star Trek V1: The Undiscovered Country.Steven Waddington, The Last of the Mohicans, 1992.    The Hollywood word on Cusack is  that he flirts too often with offers and for too long.  He’s in, he’s out, he’s in…
  14. Robert Downey Jr, Chaplin,1992.  Peter Sellers’ dream role for decades…  The studio wanted to play safe: Billy Crystal or Robin Williams.  UK director Richard Attenborough had even more bizzare ideas for his biopic: Jeff Bridges, Jim Carrey, John Cusack, Johnny Depp, Tom Hanks, Kevin Kline (he became Douglas Fairbanks Jr). Plus Nick Nolte as the older Charlie. And one Brit only, the West End stage star Anthony Sher. Oh, and inexplicably, Nicolas Cage!!??? The first time she saw Downey dressed up on-set, Geraldine Chaplin (playing her paternal grandmother Hannah Chaplin) was so choked up she could scarcely breathe. 
  15. Steven Waddington, The Last of the Mohicans, 1992.    The Hollywood word on Cusack is that he flirts too often with offers and for too long. He’s in, he’s out, he’s in…
  16. Vincent Gallo, Arizona Dream, 1992.    “He gets more offers than he accepts,” admitted agent John Burnham. “I never turn anything down without talking to John.”
  17. Kevin Spacey, Glengarry Glen Ross, 1992.   “If he’s interested in a project,” added John Burnham, “which isn’t often because he’s very picky, then he’ll read the script. And then, he usually passes.”  Everyone else wanted in to this stellar David Mamet ensemble.  
  18. Woody Harrelson, Indecent Proposal, 1992.    Cusack, William Baldwin, , Johnny Depp, Val Kilmer, Charlie Sheen… None of them had Harrelson’s guts to accept the role of a husband selling his wife for $1m to a zillionaire for one night. (He’d even walked out of Benny & Joon to play David – costing Paramoiunt $400,000). Didn’t matter which lady played the missus – Irene Jacob, Andi MacDowell, Sophie Marceau, Demi Moore, Julia Roberts – the film had a fatal flaw. Mr Money Bags was Robert Redford. ’Nuff said?

  19.  Dermot Mulroney, Point of No Return, 1993.
    The Nikita re-maker, Art  Linson, lost patience with John’s flirtatiousness and told casting director Bonnie Timmerman
    to tell the actor’s agent:  “As far as we’re concerned, yesterday John Cusack got  hit by a bus!”

  20. Robert Downey, Jr, Natural Born Killers, 1993.   “I try to stay away from movies that glorify violence, brutalise women, John Wayne bullshit that I’d be ashamed of.”
  21. Woody Harrelson, Indecent Proposal, 1993.    Ran from it.  Too busy dating Neve Campbell, Minnie Driver, Alison Eastwood, Claire Forlani, Lily Taylor…

  22. Tim Roth, Pulp Fiction, 1993.
  23. Eric Stoltz, Pulp Fiction, 1993.

  24. Bill Paxton, Apollo 13, 1995.    John was the first asked to portray NASAstronaut Fred Haise. “We’d heard he was a sweetheart,” said an Imagine spokesperson. “He was anything but.  We were surprised how truly uncooperative Cusack was.” And to his surprise, Paxton  finally won a role in his fifth audition for a Ron Howard movie.
  25. John Leguizamo, To Wong Fu, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar, 1995.    Douglas Carter Beane wrote the drag queen script, sold it to Spielberg and watched most leading men squeezing into dresses… “But,” he said, “John Cusack became Joan Cusack.”
  26. Johnny Depp, Donnie Brasco, 1996.    As FBI man Joe Pistone (aka. Brasco) working his way undercover into The Mob.
  27. Jude Law, Gattaca. 1996.    “I’m not sure Cusack read the script,” said producer Stacey Shore.
  28. Ben Stiller, Flirting With Disaster, 1996.    Rising auteur David O Russell was casting with Miramax bully Harvey Weinstein. Cusack’s name came up. And, immediately, Weinstein phoned him even though it was 6am in LA. “Have you seen Spanking The Monkey?  I want you to see it and meet this guy.” That’s as close as Cusack got to Flirting. “He… just woke John Cusack up,” said Russell, “to prove that he could.”   The film flopped, Miramax dropped Russell – who copied Weinstein’s bullying on his future projects.
  29. Johnny Depp, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, 1997.    Like Depp, Cusack was a pal of gonzo journalist Hunter S Thompson and was on the short-list to play his psychopathic lawyer Raoul Duke.
  30. Jude Law, Gattaca. 1997.    “I’m not sure Cusack read the script,” said producer Stacey Shore.

  31. Matthew McConaughey, Amistad, 1997.    Steven Spileberg’s worst casting error.   McConaughey was just too 20th Century-looking for 1839.
  32. Greg Kinnear As Good As It Gets, 1997.    Too busy writing, filming, and producing Grosse Point Blank to be Jack Nicholson’s gay neighbour..
  33. Keanu Reeves, The Devil’s Advocate, 1997.   Second time he missed an opportunity to work with Al Pacino.
  34. John Travolta, The General’s Daughter, 1998.   Great words for a 33-year-old actor – too young! To be a4 US Army Criminal Investigation Division cop. Travolta looked… too heavy.
  35. Johnny Depp, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, 1998.    The fact that Cusack had played him in a stage version did not count with gonzo-journalist Hunter S Thompson after meeting Depp.
  36. Bill Paxton, A Simple Plan, 1998.  Director Mike Nichols was first to pick up Scott Smith’s novel noir about how finding stolen booty affects a hero – and aimed it at Cusack.
  37. Jim Carrey, Man on the Moon, 1999.  Hollywood’s possibles for the biopic of surrealist comic Andy Kaufman included  Hank Azaria, John Cusack, Matt Damon, Tom Hanks, Edward  Norton, Kevin Spacey. Oh and Nicolas Cage. Not for long as  he refused to audition. Czech director Milos Forman could not decide between Carrey and Norton. He let Universal decide. Carrey was the bigger draw. And brilliant!  “During the shooting,” recalled Forman, “I met Jim Carrey only twice. “He was always in the role.  He was Andy Kaufman, Tony Clifton or Elvis Presley  24 hours a day!”
  38. Willem Dafore, Spider-Man, 2001.
  39. Russell Crowe, A Brilliant Mind, 2001.   The choice of the right actor to  portray the schizophrenic Noble Prize-winning mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr was vital.  Which had me wondering  why  Keanu Reeves, Charlie Sheen, John Travolta and  Bruce Willis   were on the short-list!    Then again they might have proved as surprising as Crowe. Director Ron Howard’s other candidates included  Alec Baldwin, Matthew Broderick, Nicolas Cage, Kevin Costner, Tom Cruise, John Cusack, Johnny Depp, Robert Downey Jr, Ralph Fiennes, Mel Gibson,  Jared Leto, Gary Oldman, Guy Pearce, Sean Penn, Brad Pitt. Nash  liked the  six-Oscar-winner. “But it wasn’t me.”
  40. Richard Gere, Chicago, 2002.

  41. Matthew Broderick, The Stepford Wives, 2004.   Both John and his sister, Joan, as Nicole Kidman’s husband and best friend, for unexplained “personal reasons.”
  42. Brendan Fraser, Crash, 2004.   Paul Haggis’ first thought for his DA in what became a surprise Best Film Oscar-winner.
  43. Keanu Reeves, The Lake House, 2006.    “How do you hold on to someone you’ve never met?”  By passing on Dr Alex Wyler, Cusack allowed Argentine director Alejandro Agresti  to reunite the Speed stars,  Reeves and Sandra Bullock,  in the time travel romance. 
  44. Michael C Hall, Dexter, TV, 2006-2014.  The Showtime cable network shortlisted 14 stars, from the impossible (Dan Aykroyd, Macauley Culkin, Tom Cruise, Sean Penn, Ben Stiller) to the plausible (Cusack, Jake Gyllenhaal, James Spader) for the Miami Metro PD bloodstain-pattern analyst moonlighting  as a serial killer… of serial killers.
  45. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt, 2007.   Tom Hanks and David Hayden Pierce were also short-listed for Father Flynn, accused by Meryl Streep’s dragon of a nun of sexually abusing  an altar boy. As with his  2005 Pulitzer Prize-winning  Broadway play,  auteur John Patrick Shanley  told Hoffman whether  or not his parish priest was guilty as charged. And no one else.  
  46. Patrick Wilson, Watchmen, 2008.    Not so much “Who watches the watchmen?” as Juvenal asked, but who them playeth?  And in the 20 years it took for Alan Moore’s  DComic-book to be filmed,  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 Dan Dreiberg aka Nite Owl:  Cusack, Kevin Costner, Nathan Fillion, Richard Gere, Joaquin Phoenix. (Fillion was also shortlisted for Edward Morgan Blake aka The Comedian).
  47. Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad, TV,2008-2013.   “Really? Isn’t there anybody else?” said the AMC suits when  creator Vince Gilligan named his #1 choice for  his anti-hero Walter White. (They leant more towards Cusack or Matthew Broderick). Trouble was they still saw  Cranston shaving his body in Malcolm in the Middle.  So Gilligan showed them Drive,  a 1988 X-Files episode, with a desperate  Cranston suffering radiation. The deal was done and Mr Chips turned Scarface – for many years,  Emmy awards and stupendous reviews.
  48. James McAvoy, Split, 2015. 
    When Joaquin Phoenix could not reach a deal, auteur M Night Shyamalan met McAvoy by chance at a Comic-Con. The Scottish actor agreed to play the Billy Milligan (1955-2014), diagnosed with 24 multiple personalities (ten desirables,13 no), including two women and a girl of three.  Charged with raping three women in 1977, Milligan was acquitted when his defence argued that the crimes were committed, not by Milligan, but by one of his alternate personalities. “Hitchcock created a masterpiece using the same subject matter to create Psycho,” noted critic Dennis Schwarz, “but Shyamalan is only a so-so director and just comes up with an unpleasant and pointless kidnapping thriller.”  David Fincher and Joel Schumacher were previously attached to another version, The Crowded Room, with such potential Milligans as Jim Carey, John Cusack, Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio (producing his version), Matthew McConaughey, Sean Penn and  Brad Pitt for the producer called Leo.











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