John Travolta

  1. Alan Vint, Panic In Needle Park, 1971.  “He was a dream, got the first part I ever sent him up for,” boasted his late manager Bob LeMond. Not true.  Director Jerry Schatzberg rejected him.  John got the next  job.  An  h.i.s. trousers commercial.
  2. Randy Quaid, The Last Detail, 1973.  Director Hal Ashby saw him as a teenager whose father had just died – in a Mutual commercial. Lynn  Stalmaster (the only casting director to win an Oscar) put him up for Meadows, Director Hal Ashby preferred Randy. The “Master Caste” did not give  up on Travolta and won him his  major  TV break – Welcome Back Kotter, 1975-1979, which led, of course, to Grease.  When they finally met years later, Jack Nicholson remembered John – not from Saturday Night Fever  but “that great commercial.”
  3. Ted Neely, Jesus Christ Superstar, 1973.     “This kid will be a very big star,” wrote Robert Stigwood after auditioning Travolta  for Christ in the Tim Rice-Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. To prove himself right, the Australian pop tycoon produced John’s 1977-78 star-making double-whammy of  Saturday Night Fever  and Grease.
  4. Michael Sarrazin, For Pete’s Sake, 1974.     Convinced that she made all her partners into stars (Ryan O’Neal, Robert Redford), Barbra Streisand passed on  Travolta.
  5. Malcolm McDowell, Voyage of the Damned, 1975.  In a Nazi propaganda exercise – “Nobody loves Jews – so leave them to us”- Germany ships Jews to Havana, in the full knowledge that Cuba won’t accept them. Nor will any other nation. They return home, by which time WWII has begun, and of the 937 passengers, more than 600 die in concentration camps!  ThIs is no retread of Katharine Anne Porter’s Ship of Fools, although similar and both featuring José Ferrer and Oskar Werner (in his final film here). No, this is a terrible true story, stuffed with stars, too many to deal with. Denholm Elliott has one scene, Orson Welles, four; luckier than the jettisoned Janet Suzman and Jack Warden.  A good guy this once, Malcolm McDowell was among the crew instead of (take a breath)… fellow Brits Jon Finch, Anthony Hopkins, Simon MacCorkindale, Ian McShane, John Moulder-Brown. Martin Potter and Hollywood’s Carradine, Jeff Conaway, Raul Julia, Martin Kove, Joe Mantegna, Ryan O’Neal, Robert Redford, John Ritter, John Travolta, Jon Voight.  
  6. Keith Carradine, Pretty Baby, 1977.   The plot sickens… A prostitute allows her 12-year-old daughter’s virginity to be auctioned off in a brothel in the red-light district of New Orleans, circa 1917. French director Louis Malle saw 28 hopefuls and/or instant (parental) refusals for little Violet… 15 actresses for her mother… and 17 guys for the real life, misshapen, hydrocephallic photographer Ernest J. Bellocq, whose Storyville work of the epoch influenced the style of the surprisingly elegant film. Robert Redford was first choice, Jack Nicholson second. Before falling for   Carradine, Malle saw Travolta (more into Grease and thereby a rare box-office double-whammy after Saturday Night Fever), Albert Brooks, James Caan, Robert De Niro, the new in town Mel Gibson,  Dustin Hoffman, Malcolm McDowell (the only Brit short-listed), Al Pacino, Christopher Reeve (planning to make us believe a man could fly), future director Rob Reiner… plus such flat out surprises as  Burt Reynolds, Sylvester Stallone (prepping FIST),  even the creepy Joe Pesci and Christopher Walken.
  7. Richard Gere, Days of Heaven, 1978.     TV made it impossible and made him depressed.  “One week later,  Robert Stigwood came up with a deal that was mind-boggling: $1m for three pictures” – Saturday Night FeverGrease, Moment By Moment.
  8. Brad Davis, Midnight Express, 1978.     If Travolta  was up for it then, as night follows day and Tom follows Jerry, so was Gere.
  9. Richard Gere, Blood Brothers, 1978.     “I don’t know John well, but he’s a very personable, genuinely nice – which is rare,” says the Buddhist of the Scientologist.   “He’s got a good heart.”  He needed it.
  10. Christopher Atkins, The Blue Lagoon, 1979.     Director Randal Kleiser wanted his Grease star to be part of a shipwrecked couple on a desert isle – and nude throughout the re-make. No thank you, said John.

  11. Richard Gere, An American Gigolo, 1979.
    “The biggest star in the world at the time” split for all kinds of true/false  reasons  – apparently Travolta  wanted $3m, no nudity and final cut (!) or  simply a break as his girlfriend  had just died…”  “Best thing that happened to the film,”    LA auteur Paul Schrader told me in London. “I’d softened it quite a bit for John.”Gere had been  first choice, until Travolta showed interest in 1978. “It’s Paul’s best work, his sole script with redeemable characters.” Schrader, felt that Travolta lost his passion after the flop of Moment By Moment  (a more saccharine version of his own young man-older woman affair).  “He kept asking for so many delays I became concerned.  Those kind of delays often result in the film not being made.  Then our mothers had died the same week.  I asked Paramount to give him a firm start date – ‘with you or without you.’  He said: ‘Without me’.”    “We had a weekend to go get another actor,” co-producer Jerry Bruckheimer told Deadline Hollywood’s Mike Fleming Jr in December 2013.  “The studio wanted Christopher Reeve because he was Superman …the perfect star. But he didn’t really fit the part.”  Schrader went back to Geare. “There were some hard feelings to soothe over…”    Bruckheimer focused on convincing Gere, “but we didn’t tell Paramount. And so Monday morning,  we go into the office and said that Reeves had passed but we got  Gere. He’d just come off LookingFor Mr. Goodbar, so he was a hot commodity. They said fine, but you have to cut the budget.  We did, and got the movie made.” “John was very romantic.,” said Gere’s co-star Lauren Hutton.  “If John had played the role, it would have been much more romantic and you would have seen the gigolo kiss. With Richard, you never really see the gigolo kissing. You see everything leading up to it. You see his expertise in dressing, more than his expertise at romance.”

  12. Michael Beck, Xanadu, 1979.     Despite (or because?) his Grease girl, Olivia Newton John, was starring, Travolta zana-didn’t touch this alleged musical (Gene Kelly’s finale). Andy Gibb of the Bee Gees band, also fled what proved such a disaster that Olivia refused any other filmusical for 30 years!

  13. Dudley Moore, Arthur, 1980.  The suits wanted a US star. Brand new auteur Steve Gordon wanted Dud.  Gordon won, made a big hit, but never a second film – he died at 44 in 1982. John Belushi had passed, scared of being typed as a drunk (surely the least of his troubles!). Orion Pictures’ other choices for the titular rich man-child were: Jeff Bridges, Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, Bill Murray, Robin Williams… and quite ridiculously, Travolta, James Caan, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino (that would have been tough going!), Robert Redford, Sylvester Stallone. Enough for an Arthur XI soccer squad – and one reserve.

  14. Harrison Ford, Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1980.

  15. Ken Wahl, Fort Apace the Bronx, 1980.    New York mayor Ed Koch called it racist. Yeah, right, with a civil rights champion like Paul Newman headlining it! Floating around for some years – once with Steve McQueen and Nick Nolte attached – the script was based on real life New York detectives, Tom Mulheran and Peter Tessitore (respun for Newman and Travolta, then Wahl, as Murphy and Corelli). Their 41st Precinct beat was known as Fort Apache because of the huge crime rate. Must have improved. It was later known as… Little House on the Prairie. 
  16. Treat Williams, Prince of the City, 1981.    For almost two years, director Brian De Palma was aiming his take on the  NYPD anti-corruption cop Bob Leuci at Al Pacino – who, naturally, found it far too close to his NYPD anti-corruption cop, Serpico.  OK, what about  De Niro or Pacino?  (Were there only two honest cops in town?). When Sidney Lumet gave up Scarfaceand took over the Leuci story, he wanted just the one “unknown” actor…. “because,” he told Williams, “ you don’t really give a shit what anyone thinks of you.”  De Palma, then made Scarface. Not that the swop was that amical. And he starred Travolta in Blow Out first. “What you turn down can be a gift to someone else. There is enough to go around.”  Obviously, Gere  had a  day job at the time.

  17. Richard Gere, An Officer and a Gentleman, 1981.   “The girl had the best part.”   Travolta complained…  The way too busy Jeff Bridges (in three films that year) was director Taylor Hackford’s first Zack Mayo.  Dennis Quaid and Christopher Reeve were seen. Travolta, John Denver, Kurt Russell, and Ken Wahl simply refused.Hackford said Eric Roberts’ manager Bill Treusch got in the way of any possible director-actor teamanship. So it was Gere who literally swept Debra Winger off her feet. Denver never looked strong enough to sweep her carpet. When the film became a hit, Travolta  asked Warren Beatty if he should have  made it. “You have two of the biggest movies in history [Saturday Night Fever, Grease]. Why do you need another?  Just do good movies, John.”  For John,  Beatty, “who has the ultimate show-business viewpoint,” was right.  “I don’t need another blockbuster for my career. In the list of top-grossing movies – I may be the only actor the public went to see instead of a shark.”  That could  not  last for long.  And did not.
  18. Sylvester Stallone, First Blood (Rambo),1981.
  19. Henry Winkler, Night Shift, 1982. “I was probably less preoccupied with my career than others were. I was turning down movies that I should  have  taken… I’d just finished Blow Out and wanted something lighter.”  Like… Arthur?

  20. Steven Bauer, Scarface, 1982.     Director Brian De Palma calls again. But about Manny Ribera, not  the titular Tony Montana.  With Bauer,  he  obtained  at least one true Cuban for Al’s  Cuban gang.

  21. Michael Nouri, Flashdance, 1982.    Potential Nick Hurleys were: Travolta,  Pierce Brosnan, Kevin Costner (runner-up to Nouri), Live Aid creator Bob Geldof, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks, Burt Reynolds, rocker Gene Simmons,  John Travolta… plus such surprises as Robert De Niro, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci!   At 36, Nouri was double the age of the flashdancing Jennifer Beals.

  22. Richard Gere, Breathless, 1983.    For once, Gere was inheriting not merely from Travolta, but  Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, too.  “His instincts are very different than mine and our careers, too,” comments Gere about five times subbing Travolta.  “Those projects would’ve been very different had John done them.”
  23. Vincent Spano, Baby It’s You, 1983.    Writer-director John Sayles’ one and only studio  movie was not helped by Paramount bickering over A Name, even if he was too old. They even suggested The Name’s Brother,  Joey!
  24. Rex Smith, The Pirates of Penzance, 1983.     A few surprising names were mentioned –  Travolta, Brooke Shields!!  – before Hollywood (almost uniquely) went with the Broadway cast.

  25. Prince, Purple Rain, 1983.  
    Oh, Hollywood – Chapter 1,500,836… When Prince’s managers were searching for funding for the rock icon’s dream movie (scribbled over the years in his notebook while tour buses and planes) , the Warner Bros suits actually said: Yeah, sure.  If you get Travolta to play Prince!

  26. Tom Hanks, Splash, 1983.  Forgetting Beatty’s advice about “good movies, John, ” he went through a succession of almighty flops. Then, CAA’s über-agent Mike Ovitz warned him off director Ron Howard’s comedy because Beatty was prepping his own mermaid number.  Due to Splash‘s splash, Beatty fled.  And Travolta quit CAA. Hanks always claimed he was director Ron Howard’s 11th choice for Allen Bauer in his breakthrough (mermaid) movie.  Sorry, Tom – 15th!  And here they be: Travolta (his agent turned him off it!), Jeff Bridges, Chevy Chase, Richard Gere, Steve Guttenberg (Howard chose him for Cocoon a year later), John Heard, Michael Keaton (he also refused Alan’s brother,  Freddie), stand-up Robert Klein, Kevin Kline, Dudley Moore, David Morse, Bill Murray (PJ Soles was to be his mermaid), Christopher Reeve, Burt Reynolds and Robin Williams. “Ronnie made me a movie  star,” said Hanks.” That’s what he did.” He also booked Guttenberg for his next gig, Cocoon. (Channjng Tatum was due for a 2016 reverse re-make –as the merman opposite Jillian Bell as his human lady).

  27. Jack Nicholson Prizzi’s Honour, 1984.   ”Do I ice her? Do I marry her?” Conundrum for Charley Partanna, hit-man for the Prizzi Family, when he falls for a fellow contractor: Kathleen Turner. John Huston had ten other Charley notions, each as mad as the other. Italians Travolta, Al Pacino, Sylvester Stallone, made more sense than, say, Tom Hanks, Dustin Hoffman, Bill Murray, Ryan O’Neal, Christopher Reeve (!), Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight.  Of course, Nicholson was the unlikeliest Brooklyn Mafioso  since the Corleones’ James Caan, but terrific… because Huston kept reminding him: ”Remember, he’s stupid!”
  28. Michael Keaton, Mr Mom, 1983.    Fairly rapidly into the A List,  Chevy Chase found himself up for Teri Garr’s sudden home husband Jack Butler – alongside Travolta, Michael Douglas and  Steve Martin. Ron Howard was due to direct but moved to Splash!- which Keaton left to be Jack.

  29. Zeljko Ivanek, Mass Appeal, 1984.    To prove his worth as the young  priest, Travolta did a Colorado stage production with Charles Durning in Jack Lemmon’s  screen line-up.
  30. Hart Bochner, Supergirl, 1984  In 1977, he had  been rejected by the Salkinds, pere et fils, for Superman, himself. Now they were offering him – Mr Grease, Mr Saturday Night Fever!! – the zero rôle of the doofus earthling boyfriend of Superman’s cousin, Kara Zor-El.  Despite the titular Helen Slater, the film flopped. Alas, because the Salkinds then sold their Super-rights to Cannon (hence the excremental Superman IV in 1986) and poor Kara was not seen on-screen again until the TV series…31 years later!
  31. Cameron English, A Chorus Line, 1985.     Offered $5m in 1980. “Too close to the truth. And it’s inappropriate being so familiar to the public to take part in a film about a chorus line.”  He did his  own version:  Staying Alive.  Difficult to guage the bigger mess.

  32. 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!, 1991.

  33. Mel Gibson, Lethal Weapon,1986.    In all, 39 possibilities for the off-kilter, ’Nam vet cop Martin Riggs – not as mentally-deranged as in early drafts (he used a rocket launcher on one guy!)  Some ideas were inevitable: Alec Baldwin, Michael Biehn (shooting Aliens), Jeff Bridges, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Al Pacino, Sean Penn, William Petersen, Dennis Quaid, Christopher Reeve, Kurt Russell, Charlie Sheen, Sylvester Stallone, John Travolta, Bruce Willis. Some were inspired: ,Bryan Brown, Nicolas Cage, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum (he inherited Gibson’s role inThe Fly), William Hurt (too dark for Warner Bros), Michael Keaton, Michael Madsen, Liam Neeson, Eric Roberts. Some were insipid: Jim Belushi, Pierce Brosnan, Kevin Costner, Kevin Kline, Stephen Lang, Michael Nouri (he joined another  cop duo in The Hidden),  Patrick Swayze. Plus TV cops Don  Johnson, Tom Selleck… three foreign LA cops:  Austrian Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dutch Rutger Hauer and French Christophe(r) Lambert. And the inevitable (Aussie) outsider Richard Norton.

  34. Steve Martin, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, 1986. Auteur John Hughes dreamed Travolta  and Tom Hanks (or Rick Moranis) and as The Odd Couole  travellers – based on Hughes taking five days to get home when his New York-Chicago flight wound up in Wichita, Kansas.  Their  plane was the one in  Airplane! Film is one of  Chicago critic Roger Ebert’s “great movies.”
  35. Michael Douglas, Fatal Attraction, 1987.
  36. Tom Hanks, Big,  1987.    Steven Spielberg’s sister, Anne, wrote the script. about a teenager wishing himself in an adult’s body.  Josh possibiles included the unlikely Robert De Niro and Harrison Ford, plus Albert Brooks, Steve Guttenberg (shooting 3 Men and a Baby), Michael Keaton, Bill Murray, Denis Quaid, Judge Reinhold and Robin Williams (who did his own take on the notion in Francis Coppola‘s Jack, 1996, first aimed at to Hanks !). And Fox simply  rejected Gary Busey and… John (Box Office Poison) Travolta.  First choice Hanks had to finish Dragnetand Punchlinebefore he could head up Anne’s third and final filmed script, ninth and last producing gig. She’d also acted – in Escape To Nowhere in 1961, when her brother directed. At 13.
  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… Travolta, Jeff Bridges, Charles Bronson, 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, Jon Voight and even the musclebound Arnie and Sly – Schwarzenegger and Stallone. Director Martin Brest, that’s who.
  38. Michael Keaton, Batman, 1988.
  39. Adam Coleman Howard, Slaves of New York, 1989.     He originally agreed to be the painter Stach Stoltz.
  40. Richard Gere, Internal Affairs, 1989.     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 – Travolta, Alec Baldwin, Tom Berenger, Jeff Bridges, Pierce Brosnan, Kevin Costner, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Ed Harris, William Hurt, Don Johnson, Tommy Lee Jones, Michael Keaton, Nick Nolte, Al Pacino, Christopher Reeve, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone…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.
  41. Christopher Rydell, Blood and Sand, 1989.     First mooted as a l978 re-make for Travolta by ex-porno producer Manuel S Conde, head of outfit called  Manny’s Filmmakers Inc.  Rydell’s  partner, Sharon Stone, later planned  The Lady Takes An Ace  with Travolta  – it never took off.

  42. Richard Gere, Pretty Woman, 1989
  43. Jim Belushi, Curly Sue, 1990.    “What I thought would be this cute, sweet little movie experience ended up going on for something like five months,” reported Kelly Lynch. “So much money was spent. It was insane! It was going to be me, Alec Baldwin and Kevin Spacey –  a whole different situation.  [They left for stage dates].  Those were two guys I knew really well, but I’d never met Jimmy [Belushi] before, and then he and [director John Hughes making his final film] didn’t get along. I kinda felt like a mom dealing with two 12-year-old boys. They, uh, definitely weren’t the best of friends.“  Also up for  Bill Dancer  were Jeff Bridges, Richard Dreyfuss, Mel Gibson, Jeff Goldblum, Steve Guttenberg, Ray Liotta, Bill Murray (off shooting What About Bob?), Kurt Russell, Tom Selleck, Sylvester Stallone, John Travolta, Bruce Willis. [Quotes va IMDb; no other source credited].

  44. Franc D’Ambrosio, The Godfather: Part III, 1991.
  45. John Heard, Home Alone, 1990.   For the zero roles of Macauley Culkin’s forgetful parents (in a film written for and duly stolen by him), an astonishing 66 stars were considered – including 32 later seen for the hot lovers in Basic Instinct: Kim Basinger, Stockard Channing, Glenn Close, Kevin Costner, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Douglas, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Linda Hamilton, Daryl Hannah, Marilu Henner, Anjelica Huston, Helen Hunt, Holly Hunter, Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange, Christopher Lloyd, Jack Nicholson, Sean Penn, Michelle Pfeiffer, Annie Potts, Kelly Preston, Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan, Martin Sheen, Sylvester Stallone, Sharon Stone, John Travolta.   Other potential Pops were Dan Aykroyd, Jim Belushi, Chevy Chase, Jeff Daniels, Tony Danza, John Goodman, Charles Grodin, Tom Hanks, Robert Hays, Steve Martin, Rick Moranis, Bill Murray, Ed O’Neill, John Ritter, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Skerritt, Robin Williams… and the inevitable unknowns: Broadway’s Mark Linn-Baker, Canadian musicians-comics  Alan Thicke (“the affordable William Shatner”) and Dave Thomas.
  46. Stephen Tobolowsky, Thelma & Louise, 1990.

  47. Val Kilmer, The Doors, 1991.   
    “I had it down, worked on this guy for months.  Really disappointing.    I wanted to think that the people behind Jim Morrison had some of the magic.” No, just squabbles. Producer Aaron Russo contacted Travolta in 1980 with rights to No One Gets Out Of Here Alive by Jerry Hopkins and ex-Doors gofer Danny Sugarman. Except the deal did not cover the music. Exit: Russo. Doors John Densmore and Robby Krieger preferred a docu as no actor could fill Jim’s boots. Not the philosophy of Sugarman and a third Door, Ray Manzarek, sticking with Travolta as he interested Paramount and director Brian De Palma – while a back-Doors deal for Warners had helmer William Friedkin musing about “the Raging Bull of rock movies.” By April 1982, everyone quit – five months before Rolling Stone’s cover: “Jim Morrison – he’s hot, he’s sexy and he’s dead.”

  48. Michael Douglas, Basic Instinct, 1991.
  49. Stuart Wilson, Lethal Weapon 3, 1991.   The new (and rather ho-hum) ex-cop villain given to British Wilson 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!
  50. Bill Murray, Groundhog Day, 1992.    For the acerbic TV weatherman suddenly reliving February 2 over and over again until he gets it right, director Harold Ramis had several ideas,  Except  they were “far too nice” compared to Murray… in his finest work. “Before he makes the film wonderful,” said Chicago critic Rogert Ebert, “he does a more difficult thing, which is to make it bearable. I can imagine a long list of actors, whose names I will charitably suppress, who could… render it simpering, or inane.” They would have included the nice Travolta, Chevy Chase, Tom Hanks, Michael Keaton.
  51. Michael Keaton, The Paper, 1993.    For another of his tepid movies, director Ron Howard mused over Travolta, Alec Baldwin, Kevin Costner, Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kurt Russell andRobin Williams  for  Henry Hackett, the New York Sun‘s metro editor… who tells his editor-in-chief (a superb Robert Duvall – is there any other kind?): “Every day I’m behind from the minute I get up.”

  52. Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump, 1994.    Life is  like a box of projects, you never know what you’re gonna refuse. Hey, passing one hit to Hanks was enough… “I probably should have said yes .  But I gave Richard Gere and Tom Hanks a career…!”  Author Winston Graham  saw John Goodman as his creation. Director Robert Zemeckis did not.   His first choice was Harry Anderson  – stuck in Dave’s World, 1993-1997. Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Bill Paxton and John Travolta simply refused. Hanks earned his second consecutive Oscar plus an estimated $40m from his profits-deal. And that’s all I have to say about that…
  53. Tim Robbins, The Player, 1994.     Independent (very) director Robert Altman made his comeback just before Travolta’s due to an eleventh hour switch. It was correct decision. Because, as. Robbins’ lady Susan Sarandon says:  “Nobody  plays assholes better than Tim.”
  54. Tom Cruise, Interview With The Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, 1994. 
  55. Ed Harris, Apollo 13, 1995.    Even his big Pulp Fiction comeback could not win him this cherished role of the legendary  NASA flight director Gene Kranz.
  56. Tom Cruise, Mission: Impossible, 1995.   Before Tom Cruise and JJ Abrams took it on – for 20-plus years! –  Paramount had offered the (expected) franchise to Travolta, Nicolas Cage, George Clooney, Mel Gibson, Bruce Wills. And, inexplicably, Ralph Fiennnes… who would make a right dog’s breakfast out of another TV cult hero, John Steed, in The Avengers three years later. 
  57. Johnny Depp, Nick of Time, 1996.     Director John Badham swears  he was considering Travolta before Pulp Fiction  re-booted him. The studio wanted to wait for the Pulp opening – by which time it could not afford him.
  58. Johnny Depp, Donnie Brasco, 1996.     Nearly off the ground with UK director Stephen Frears the year before when Travolta was one of many seen as the FBI man going undercover into the Mob. The others included:  Tom Cruise, John Cusack, Andy Garcia, etc.
  59. Robin Williams, Jack, 1996.     Director Francis Coppola’s movie about a fatal rejuvenating illness, making a kid out of a full grown man and, incidentally,  a rotten movie!
  60. Tom Cruise, Jerry Maguire, 1996.    Super-Tom One, Hanks, was into his helming debut, The Thing That You Do, 1996. Super-Tom Two, Cruise, said: “I may not be right for this but let me just read for you.”  And Super-Tom-One added: “It couldn’t have been anyone but Cruise.” Except auteur Cameron Crowe had also considered Travolta, Tim Allen (briefly, thankfully), Alec Baldwin, Edward Burns (who recommended his latest co-star, Connie Britton, for Dorothy; they both came second), Johnny Depp, Sean Penn (from Crowe’s first script, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, 1981) and Bruce Willis.   
  61. George Clooney, From Dusk Till Dawn, 1996.    “One movie can make you, one move can re-make you.” Hollywood’s biggest comeback since Sinatra’s started when Quentin Tarantino contacted the deep-sixed idol in 1993 about this horror-thriller… and then switched offers to Pulp Fiction‘s Vincent Vega, once Michael Madsen withdrew. The Tarantino-Robert Rodriguez casting of Clooney did for him whatPulp Fiction did for Travolta. A new haircut and box-office cred.

  62. Antonio Banderas, Evita, 1996.     An early 80s idea was hopelessly devoted to Danny and Sandy for  Che and Eva.
  63. Christian Slater, Broken Arrow, 1996.   You choose, said John  Woo. The villain  or the hero. No contest, said Travolta, the baddy!  Quentin Tarantino had taught him  good. 
  64. Danny Glover, Gone Fishin’, 1996.   Travolta was first attached as the fishing fanatic. John Candy and Rick Moranis and the film was eventually made with Glover and Joe Pesci after Candy’s death and the semi-retirement of Moranis. “This unbelievably moronic comedy” (Desson Howe,  Washington Post)  led to the tragic death of a stuntwoman in a boat gag that also  injured  her husband and father, stunters both. 
  65. Dustin Hoffman, Mad City, 1997.    During a script reading at chez Travolta (John as the journalist, Jude Law as the loser), Paris réalisateur Costa-Gavras noticed how Travolta was intrigued by all the directions given to Law. Travolta asked Costa to stay for lunch and, whaddyerknow, he suddenly aspired to being the loser, taking hostages to win back his job! But Law was too young for the TV news veteran…  which is about when Hoffman called Costa. For awhile, John remained the journo and Dustn, the loser – until Hoffman spent 45 minutes convincing Travolta to swop roles in the (lite) updating of Kirk Douglas milking his surprise scoop in Billy Wilder’s Ace in the Hole, 1950.
  66. Alec Baldwin, The Edge, 1997.     Baldwin had nearly Faced/Off  with Travolta.
  67. Sylvester Stallone, Cop Land, 1997.     Miramax bully Harvey Weinstein did  not wish, said director James Mangold, to “pay full freight” for interested  A List actors: Cruise, Hanks. Penn. “Harvey’s talked to me about it,” Travolta told Mangold during a  Florida meeting  at the Church of Scientology, “but he wants me to do  it for no money  because he thinks I owe him for Pulp Fiction. But I’d like to believe that I had a little something to do  with its success…  I’ve already set aside the things I’m willing to do as a labour of love and this is not one of them.”
  68. Michael Keaton, Jackie Brown, 1997.     Aw c’mon  now, John, Quentin Tarantino steered  you back in the charts, now you gotta look after yo’self out there.   It’s Michael’s turn for a boost. He played FBI agent Ray Nicolette again (uncredited) in Steven Soderbergh’s Out Of Sight, 1998.
  69. Jack Nicholson, As Good As It Gets, 1997.   With John, it wouldn’t have been. Suddenly, the reborn Travolta was hotter than the first time around…  Not thinner, though.
  70. Nicolas Cage, Snake Eyes, 1998.    He avoided helmer Brian De Palma yet again in this thriller of a US Secretary of Defence being assassinated during a boxing match.
  71. Kevin Spacey, American Beauty, 1998.      Chevy Chase, Kevin Costner, Jeff Daniels, Tom Hanks,  Woody Harrelson (!) and Bruce Willis  were also in the mix for the miserable spouse/father, Lester Burnham. UK stage director Sam Mendes fought hard  for Spacey. “There’s one thing better than having a really good actor, and that’s having a really good actor who has never done this kind of role before.” Spacey won his second Oscar despite masturbating in the shower – the high point of Lester’s  day: “it’s all downhill from here.”

  72. Michael Keaton, Jack Frost, 1998.    In for awhile, then George Clooney, then Billy Bob Thornton.    Chicago Sun-Times critic  Roger Ebert suggested it  could have been co-directed by Orson Welles and Steven Spielberg   “and still be unwatchable, because of that damned snowman.

 [It] gave me the creeps.”
  73. Tom Hanks, The Green Mile, 1998.    First time Travolta got close to a great  Stephen King film since his Carrie  bit in 1976. Yet, he still refused to be prison guard Paul Edgecomb, Hanks grabbed it – having been Forrest Gumped out of the 1993 companion piece, The Shawshank Redemption. Both winners were made by director Frank Darabont, the best helmer of King’s work.  This was the 67th of King’s staggering 313 screen credits directed, praised by Chicago critic Roger Ebert for taking its time (three hours plus. “It tells a story with beginning, middle, end, vivid characters, humor, outrage and emotional release. Dickensian.” For Darabont, it was the most satisfying movie  (and review?) of his career.

  74. Harry Connick Jr, The Iron Giant, 1998. Warner Bros wanted Travolta to voice Dean McCoppin, the beatnik artist and junkyard owner – opposite Vin Diesel as the 50ft metal-eating robot creation of the  British Poet Laureate, no less,  Ted Hughes. 

  75. Richard Gere, The Runaway Bride, 1999.    
    Sixteen years on and Gere is still shadowing Travolta… The original coupling, Harrison Ford-Geena Davis became Travolta-Sandra Bullock until the brainwave of re-uniting Pretty Woman’s Julie Roberts and Gere. Not that they could save the dullard scenario. Travolta on Gere: “I think he owes me some royalties…”

  76. Jason Lee, Dogma, 1999.      Said Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers: Thou shalt not stop laughing. New Jersey auteur Kevijn Smith reached high (Travolta, Bill Murray) and low (Adam Sandler) for his demon Azrael in his askew view of religion. “It’s hard to conceive of a flick without Jason,”he when his mate was not free for the fallen angel, Loki. “Luckily, his schedule freed up and he was able to segue into Azrael. You couldn’t ask for a better villain. Jason became the guy people in rehearsals measured themselves against – such was the passion and intensity of his performance.”  
  77. Tom Hanks, The Green Mile, 1999.    “I wouldn’t trade [my career] for anyone’s except Tom Hanks’. Other than Forest Gump and The Green Mile, which I was offered and should have done – and Splash was written for me –  I still like my career better because of what I specifically contribute to it.”  Also passing on prison guard Paul Edgecomb: Michaels Douglas and Keaton.
  78. Nicolas Cage, Family Man, 2000.     Once Cage exited,  Travolta  moved in  – if he could also interest the Rush Hour director  Brett Ratner.  He did  but walked all the same. Ratner persuaded Cage that he could handle comedy.  “Brett knows how to get absurdity  out of his actors.”
  79. Willem Dafoe, Spider-Man, 2001
  80. Kevin Spacey, The Shipping News, 2001.    Travolta owed Columbia a movie after side-stepping The Double in Paris. He considered Annie Proulx’s Pulitzer-prize winning novel until deciding that the Newfoundland-set story should be shot closer to his home… in Maine. Anyway, Spacey wins Oscars, Travolta doesn’t. Anyway, like the disastrous film, the production of Travolta’s science fiction debut, Battlefied Earth, 1999 went way beyond reason. Consequently, his name was mud. Again.  
  81. Richard Gere, Unfaithful, 2001.   For Adrian Lyne’s passionate US updarte of on Madame Bovary, Travolta, George Clooney, Johnny Depp, Robert Redford, Bruce Willis were also up for Diane Lane’s husband – unaware she’s playing away. Chicago critic Roger Ebert reported her French lover Olivier Martinez could suspend a woman indefinitely in any position” during sex. French guys adored this commercial for Ze French lurverrrrs!

  82. 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.”  And he certainly wasn’t Travolta! 
  83. Richard Gere, Chicago, 2002.
  84. Harrison Ford, Hollywood Homicide, 2002.     The LAPD tecs,  Gavilan and Calden, became Ford and Josh Hartnett, in place of Travolta and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. A vast improvement.
  85. Gerard Butler, The Phantom of the Opera, 2003.    On the titular short-list: Butler, Antonio Banderas, Michael Crawford (Broadway’s Phantom), Hugh Jackman, Heath Ledger, Meat Loaf, Matthew McConaughey, Kevin Spacey and Travolta… He would have required a second mask – for his ever-expanding body.
  86. Tom Cruise, Collateral2003.   The hitman in the back of Jamie Foxx’s cab changed  – Travolta,  Leonardo DiCaprio, Colin Farrell, Edward Norton – almost as often as the thriller’s director: from Scorsese, Spielberg to Spike Lee and, finally,  Michael Mann.
  87. Christian Bale,  Batman Begins, 2004.  
  88. Paul Sorvino, Mr 3000, 2004.    For the Milwaukee Brewers’ manager. At one time, John or his great rival, Richard Gere,  were due to  make the film with Denzel Washington, not Bernie Mac.
  89. Cillian Murphy, Red Eye, 2004.    Horrorsmith Wes Craven also saw Kevin Bacon, Nicolas Cage, Willem Dafoe, Ray Liotta, John Malkovich, Edward Norton, Sean Penn and Michael Pitt. Craven said Murphy’s eyes won the creepy….  Jackson Rippner.  (Geddit?)
  90. Jason Lee, Alvin and the Chipmunks, 2006.   For some reason all the A List – Travolta, Tim Allen, Jim Carrey, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Ben Stiller – edged back from becoming Dave Seville – the chipmunks’ adoptive father, songwriter and supplier of that iconic yell: Aallvviinn!!
  91. Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 2008.     During the enforced shelf life of the curious F Scott Fitzgerald  novella, directors ranged from Spielberg to Ron Howard – with Tom Cruise or  Travolta as the pygmy man aging backward toward infancy. Inspired by Mark Twain’s comment: “Life would be infinitely happier if only we could be  born  at the age of 80 and gradually approach 18.”

  92. Larry Hagman, Dallas, TV, 2011.   Efforts were made since 2002 to reboot the iconic 1978-1992 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 talk of Kevin Costner, Mel Gibson and Tommy Lee Jones, 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.
  93. Jesse Eisenberg, The Double,  2012.    Seventeen years earlier,   Roman Polanski had great trouble trying to film the Dostoievski tale  of a  man faced with his doppleganger and total opposite: confident, charismatic, good with women.  (Last made by Bertolucci as Partner, 1968). Travolta turned his back on  $8m (and Paris) in June 1995. Anthony Hopkins had no time (booked for Nixon, Picasso, etc). Jack Nicholson, Al  Pacino weren’t keen. Steve Martin was but the project collapsed when Isabelle Adjani quit followed by Polanski.  Jesse (just 12 at the time) finally made it in London for actor-director Richard Ayoade.
  94. George Clooney, Gravity, 2013.      Science fiction was not Travolta’s strongest card by Battlefied Earth, 1999… When Robert Downey Jr ejected from this sf marvel (“technology and Robert are incompatible, explained Alfonso Cuaron), the Mexican auteur talked “with a bunch of people” for astronaut Matt Kowalski – Kevin Costner, Daniel Craig, Russell Crowe, Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, Denzel Washington and Bruce Willis. Most backed off, annoyed that the woman astronaut, Sandra Bullock, had most of the film entirely to herself. “More like 2001 than an action film,” said a delighted Clooney.







 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  93