Keanu Reeves

1. – Charlie Sheen, Platoon, 1986.  

2. – Andrew McCarthy, Less Than Zero, 1987.      Originally cast as Clay Easton in Brad Pitt’s (uncredited) second movie – he was paid $38. 

3. – Alex Winter, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, 1987.     Director Stephen Herek whittled down 200-300 actors to 24 for the time-travellers meeting Beethoven, Billy The Kid, Freud, Lincoln, Napoleon, Socrates.  At one time it looked as if the guys would be Brendan Fraser and Pauly Shore (future Encino Manco-stars in 1991). Except thescript’s skinny teenagers became more cool when Winter, 21, and Reeves, 22, blew away all other hopefuls – when testing for each other’s role.  Also up for Bill S. Preston, Esqwere Sean Penn…  and River Phoenix, whotwice co-starred with Reeves in I Love You to Death, 1989, and My Own Private Idaho, 1990. “Everyone was auditioning for both roles,” Reeves told Hollywood Reporter 30 years later. “We were playing these clowns, fools, but in an epic sense that they’re confronting tragedy with ebullience.. It’s still funny.” The bodacious dudes made  a hit (after two years on a bankrupt shelf) and a sequel – Bill & Ted’s Bogus Adventure, 1990 – and remained good pals ever since, Reeves making cameos for several films directed by Winter, such as Freaked, 1993. Washington Post critic Hal Hinson called them frisky and companionable. “Like unkempt ponies.”

4. – William Baldwin, Backdraft, 1990.        Tested for firefighter Brian McCaffrey. So did Robert Downey Jr, Dermot Mulroney and Brad Pitt. But director Ron Howard felt Baldwin looked more like Kurt Russell’s brother.Reeves’ test was among 54 such tapes banned fromauction in Beverly Hills by the actors’ union in April 2013. “Auditions are not public performances,” said the SAG-AFTRA. “Performers are entitled to expect them to remain private.” And yet not a word when Paramount’s Real TV tabloid show starting running such audition tapes…in 1995!

5. – Devin Ratray, Home Alone, 1990.    Co-stars in I Love You to  Death, 1990, and My Own Private Idaho, 1991, Reeves and River Phoenix were the (pricey) favourites for Macauley Culkin’s bullying older brother, Buzz. Enter: actor-singer-songwriter Ratray.

6. – Woody Harrelson, White Men Can’t Jump, 1992.    “I was on Cheers for   eight years and I couldn’t get another job,” recalled  Harrelson. “I thought I’m going to be Woody Boyd forever, which is not bad, but I really thought I was capable of more.” And he might have remained but for the fact that Keanu didn’t give good basketball. Woody’s “mindset was very positive and confident –  “I’ve gottta get this part. And then, of course, it did change my life.” 

7. – Gary Oldman, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, 1992.       Director Francis Coppola decided to make the old legend “younger, very erotic, very romantic and very horrific.” Losing his favourites – Jeremy Irons, Daniel Day-Lewis – Francey looked at everyone else, mainly during auditions at his Napa Valley estate… Reeves, Armand Assante, Antonio Banderas, Nick Cassavetes, Nicolas Cage, Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Andy Garcia, Hugh Grant, Ray Liotta, Kyle MacLachlan, Viggo Mortensen, Dermot Mulroney, Michael Nouri (a long way from Flashdance), Adrian Pasdar, Jason Patric, Aiden Quinn, Alan Rickman, Christian Slater and Sting. Reeves was considered better suited – hot!  – for Lucy’s guy, Jonathan Harker.

8. Dermot Mulroney, Point Of No Return, 1993.        Having gained Bridget Fonda, Gabriel Byrne, Harvey Keitel for his Nikita make-over, producer Art Linson still wanted “extra insurance” as the girl-assassin’s boyfriend – and pushed for Point Break‘s Reeves or John Cusack.

9. – Jean Reno, Léon (US: Leon: The Professiona), France, 1994.       The word spread about auteur Luc Besson’s new projects. Keanu (and Mel Gibson)made it known they expected to be the hit-man. Besson, however, kept the faith with his pal Reno – in five of the previous six Besson movies.

10 – Matthew Modine, Cutthroat Island, 1995.      Geena Davis found it tough to land a co-pirate – who wouldn’t steal her limelight. Director-husband Renny Harlin made many walk the plank.


11 – Val Kilmer, Heat, 1995.      To cash in on Speed or not to… Rather than re-working Michael Mann’s excellent 1989 TV pilot, LA Takedown, Reeves bypassed Mann, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and $7m for a previous promise to tackle Shakespeare in Winnipeg for $2,000 a week. He proved one of three best Hamlets seen by London Sunday Times critic Roger Lewis, “for the simple reason: he is Hamet,” embodying the innocence,splendid fury, animal grace and emotional violence of the Danish prince.”Surely, if he had beenthat good, the production would have transferred to Broadway.

12 – Jared Harris, I Shot Andy Warhol, 1996.      “They’d offered it out to various stars,”says Harris (son of Richard). about the titular victim.”At one point, they were talking about Keanu Reeves until they thought that might upset the balance of it. They decided to have auditions and I went in…”

13 – Jason Patric, Speed II, 1996.      “I didn’t want to work in that genre at the time.” Jan De Bont, Dutch directorof both Speeds, felt Keanu’s “fear of stardom” made him refuse. His best decision.


  (Clic to enlarge)  

* Twogether  again!  Keanu and Sandra in Speed 2 screamed the posters  Not so…  Only Sandra Bullock stayed on the bus – er, cruise liner in the Caribbean – for the totally unnecessary sequel. Jason  Patric was the new hero.  Who? Exactly!

©   20th Century Fox, 1996



14 – Harrison Ford, Air Force One, 1996. A US President aged 28…!   The action-man POTUS was written for Kevin Costner, too busymailing The Postman. He suggested Ford and if he passed, a new list included Tom Hanks, Tommy Lee Jones (Bill Clinton’s Havard room-mate), John Malkovich (a wannabe presidential assassin during In The Line of Fire, 1992), Dennis Quaid (brother Randy had played LBJ), Keanu Reeves (at 28?), and ex-California Governor Arnold Schwarzeneger. The current Prez, Bill Clinton, loved the movie; future POTUS Donald Trump was inspired by it – “Harrison Ford on the plane… He stood for America!” Quizzed on TV about this, Ford turned to the camera and wearily said: “Donald, it was just a movie. Things like this don’t happen in real life.”

15 – Will Smith, Men In Black, 1997.      His worst…Not that director Barry Sonenfield ever wanted the studio’s choice. Reevessaid he had better things to do. Like going on tour with his Dogstar band. Some called it:Dogsomethingelse.

16 – Paul Rudd, Object Of My Affection, 1998.    Brooklyn social-worker Nina Borowski is pregnant, falling for a gay guy and wanting to raise her child with him.  Nothing is that simple…  Casting went through two other couples: Sarah Jessica Parker-Robert Downey Jr and Uma Thurman-Keanu-Reeves (someone loved Stephen Frears’ Dangerous Liaisons), before settling upon Jennifer Aniston-Pau; Rudd.  Winona Ryder, Kyra Sedgwick and Debra Winger were also in the Nina mix. But just not as as famous as Friends

17 – Will Friedle, Batman Beyond,,
  The toon idea was an older Batman passing mask and cape to a high-schooler…Great efforts were made to persuade Paul Newman into voicing an older Bruce Bat, opposite Reeves as the kid, Terry McGinnis.   That, of course, was before either of them heard scenarist Paul Dini admitting the main reason for the series was to sell toys…  This was Friedle’s vocal debut; he went on to speak for Green Arrow, Nightwing, Bumblebee and Star Lord Peter Quill.

18 – Eddie Murphy, Bowfinger, 1999.       The role of Hollywood’s toppermost star Kit Ramseywas written for him by Steve Martin, who had made Parenthood with Reeves ten years before.

19 – Hugh Jackman,X-Men quartet, 1999-2013.    “Hey, bub, I’m not finished with you yet…”  Jackie Earle Haley, Gary Sinise and Kiefer Sutherland were in the 1989 Logan/Wolverine frame.  In the early 90s. James Cameron chose, of all people,  chubby Bob Hoskins. The fans voted for Jack Nicholson…   well, he’d been a decent Wolf in 1994. Fox could not think beyond Keanu Reeves. Russell Crowe felt Logan was too similar to his 1999 Gladiator…and just a toon, anyway. Took him a dozen years to understand comics and succeed Marlon Brando, no less, as Superman’s father, Jor-El, in Man of Steel.  Director Bryan Singer searched on through… Singer-songwriter Glenn Danzig, Aaron Eckhart, Mel Gibson, Viggo Mortensen   (a great idea but not finished with Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings), Edwards Norton (also considered for Scott Summers/Cyclops) and – oh no! – Jean-Claude Van Damme.  Finally, Singer chose Dougray Scott – but he was stuck on Mission: Impossible II in Australia which is where Jackman came from (on Crowe’s reccommendation) to save the day. And the franchise. Jackman was Wolverine in ten movies (Deadpool 2 included) across 19 years. (By contrast, Sean Connery, was James Bond for 007 times). 

20  – John C Reilly, Chicago, 2001.

21 –  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. The most absuerd ideas of the new century!    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.”

22 – Johnny Knoxville, Men in Black II, 2001.    Reeves and Robert Downey Jr (not yet Iron Man or Sherlock Holmes), auditioned for Scrad, a two-headed, shapeshifting Kylothian alien often morphing into human form as Charlie. “Although that is not as amusing as you might hope,” commented Chicago critic Roger Ebert.  Would have been with Downey!

23 –  Chris Klein, Rollerball, 2002. Lucky to have escaped such a disastrous re-hash.  

24 – Jake Gyllenhaal, Midnight Mile, 2002.        Obviously, Dustin Hoffman, Susan Sarandon, were happier working with an actor. 

25 – Denzel Washington, Man on Fire, 2004.   
Tony Scott backed out of directing the first version in 1986, but helped  Denzel Washington retrieve his lost taste for acting in this re-make.  Sergio Leone chose  Robert De Niro  and Marlon Brando nearly played A J Quinnell’s ex-CIA hero turned mercenary (certainly helped re-write  him) but Scott Glenn won the  role. Tony Scott  had wanted Robert Duvall. The new scriptwriter, Brian Helgeland,  recalled going  into the LA Video Archives store  in the 80s and asking the clerk: “What’s good?” The clerk said:  Man on Fire. The clerk was Quentin Tarantino.  In both films Creasy  is trying to rescue a kidnapped girl, almost a daughter to him, that  he’s bodyguarding.  Yeah, rather like a matrix for Liam Neeson’s Takens. So no surprise to find Liam among some 25 actors up for Creasy. Alec Baldwin, Sean Bean (a nearly 007),  Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe, Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, Andy Garcia, Mel Gibson, Ed Harris, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, Viggo Mortensen,  Gary Oldman, Dennis Quaid, Keanu Reeves, Alan Rickman, Kurt Russell,  Arnold Schwarzenegger, Will Smith, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis… even our dear old  Bob Hoskins.  Creasy was later  Bollywooded by the inimitable  Amitabh Bachchan (at age  63!). There were three songs, of course.

26 – Christian Bale, Batman Begins,  2004.

27 – Brandon Routh, Superman Returns, 2005.

28 – Kelsey Grammer, X-Men: The Last Stand, 2005.  London’s Flemyng (39) and Keanu By contrast,  (41) were possibles for the blue behemoth before the franchise’s new helmer, Brett Ratner, voted for the  Cheers/Frasier/boss TV star (50). Grammer reprised the Beast in X-Men: Days of Future Past, 2013, for returning director, Bryan Singer. 

29- Mark Wahlberg, Shooter, 2006.    According to William Goldman, the film’s script doctor, Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Robert Redford refused the betrayed hero tricked into being another Lee Harvey Oswald. So director Antoine Fuqua went younger, changing Bob Lee Swagger’s betrayal from 70s’ Vietnam to 90s’ Ethiopia. Reeves became first choice…

30 – John Cusack, 1408, 2006.  Change of paranormal debunker finding true terror in a hotel’s Room 1408 – which has already scared 50 people to death! ”I’m not telling you not to stay in that room for your own good,” says Samuel L Jackson.  “Frankly, selfishly, I just don’t wanna clean up the mess.”  The 81st of Stephen King’s staggering 313 screen credits Is his homage to the similar HG Wells tale, The Red Room. Cusack (Danny in the King classic, Stand By Me, 1985) would team up  with Jackson and King again in Cell, 2015.


31 – Ben Stiller, Tropic Thunder, 2007.       The idea was born 20 years earlier when autuer Stiller heard his pals in Hamburger Hill and Platoon actually believing their booty camp training made them into real soldiers!! Stiller was first going to play Rick Peck with Reeves in Stiller’s final role of Tugg Speedman -modeled on Sly Stallone The Younger.

32 – Matthew Fox, Speed Racer, 2007.     Turned down the request of his Matrix directors, the Wachowski brothers (by now, brother and sister, Andy and Lana – later sisters Lily and Lana) to play, Racer X from the Japanese anime series. He was right.  Film flopped.

33 – Billy Crudup, Watchmen, 2008.      Not so much “Who watches the watchmen?” as Juvenal asked, but who them playeth?  In the 20 years it took to film Alan Moore’s DComic-book, directors changed  from Darren Aronofsky, Michael Bay, Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam and  Paul  Greengrass to, ultimately, the lesser  Zack Snyder. So did their choices for Jon Osterman, aka Dr Manhattan: Reeves was somehow in the same frame as the musclebound Dolph Lundgren and Arnold Schwarzenegger!

34 – Taylor Kitsch, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, 2008.   Remy LeBeau/Gambit finally showed up in  the fourth film. Back in 2005, director Bryan Singer saw Tatum and Josh Holloway but chose cReeves as Gambit in what he’d planned as the third film – helmed in 2005 by Brett Ratner when Singer left to ruin Superman Rerturns. Something he regretted before, during and after watching Ratner’sX-Men: The Last Stand, 2005.  Josh Holloway felt the role was too close to his current gig, Lost,.TV,2004-2010. Tatum   was due to later inherited the Cajun mutant.

35 – Tom Cruise, Jack Reacher, 2011.
Some of the names – and heights – up for Lee Child’s craggy ex-military cop-cum-Sherlock-homeless  were absurd.  Jim Carrey, for example. Jim Carrey!  Some 25 others  were Nicolas Cage, Russell Crowe, Johnny Depp, Cary Elwes,  Colin Farrell, Harrison Ford, Jamie Foxx, Mel Gibson, Hugh Wolverine Jackman, Dwayne Johnson (“I look back in gratitude that I didn’t get Jack Reacher”),  Avatar’s Stephen Lang, Dolph Lundgren, Edward Norton, Ron (Hellboy) Perlman, Brad Pitt, Keanu Reeves (he became John Wick x 5),  Kurt Russell, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Will Smith, Sylvester Stallone, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Vince Vaughn, Denzel Washington and the battle-fatigued  Bruce Willis.  Any of them would have been more acceptable than Tom Cruise  – with the exception of Carrey, Depp, Elwes, Reeves and, obviously the Euros. Pitt was best of the pack (remember Fight Club?)… although no one even thought of the obvious choice –   Liam Neeson!  Reacher fans were livid about  the 5ft 5ins Cruise daring to be  the  6ft 5ins  action hero. Reminiscent of Anne Rice’s capitulation over  tiny Tom as her “very tall” Lestat in  Interview With The Vampire, in 1994, author Lee Child declared: “Reacher’s size is a metaphor for an unstoppable force – which Cruise portrays in his own way.” Ah! But then in 2018, after the sequel, Child changed his tune about his child. (They share the same birthday, October 29).  ”Ultimately, the readers are right. The size of Reacher is really, really important and it’s a big component of who he is… So what I’ve decided to do is – there won’t be any more movies with Tom CruiseWe’re rebooting,  we’re going to try and find the perfect guy.” And they did with 6ft. 2ins Alan Richtson –  Aquaman in Smallville and Hawk in Supergirl and Titans – for the Amazon series.

36 – Benedict Cumberbatch, Doctor Strange, 2015.  Discussed, planned, written, re-spun since 1986, always dropped despite scripts from Alex Cox, Wes Craven, Bob Gale, etc, until chosen as the  portal into the supernatural side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Among those flown up Marvel’s  21st Century flagpole were Reeves (listed but never approached – how wise!), TV doc Patrick Dempsey, Colin Farrell, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ryan Gosling, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jon Hamm, Ethan Hawke, Jack Huston, Oscar Isaac, Jared Leto, Matthew McConaughey, Ewan McGregor, Joachin Phoenix (too strange!), Vincent Price (in 1986), Justin Theroux. Finally, the  production wisely waited until after Cumberbatch’s Hamlet stage triumph in London. If Iron Man is Mick Jagger, Strange is Jim Morrison…  and should head the MCU when Robert Downey pawns his ironmongery.  As of 2021, Reeves are never entered Disneyl;s Marvelverse. “We talk to him for almost every film we make,” Marvel chief  Kevin Feige told “I don’t know when, if, or ever he’ll join the MCU, but we very much want to figure out the right way to do it.”

37 – Will Smith, Suicide Squad, 2015.    After seeing 14 possible Harley Quinns, director David Ayer shuffled through 19 Deadshots. None hit the target. Not Daniel Craig, Matt Damon, Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, Idris Elba,  Colin Farrell, Michael Fassbender, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Jon Hamm. Nor Reeves, Oscar Isaac, Joel Kinnaman (he became Rick Flag), Matthew McConaughey, Ewan McGregor, Robert Pattinson, Brad Pitt, Alexander Skarsgård and Jason Statham. Another Warner/DC flop  because Warner wasn’t Marvel and Smith was way too top-heavy for a team effort.

38 – Chris Prat, Passengers,  2016.   First developed for  Keanu Reeves (and Blunt) at his and Stephen Hamel’s Company Films, the interstellar love story nearly took off at the Weinstein Company (yeah, that long ago) with McAdams or Reese Witherspoon as Reeves’ co-star. Columbia signed Lawrence (for $20m) and Chris Pratt ($12m). They were hot –  yes, but in separate films. Together, they were glacial. Allowing Michael Sheen to steal the proceedings as a robotic barkeep (“across between a puppy and a toaster”) in a copy-Shining bar.   On the Starship Avalon. Hence the bartbot was called… Arthur.

39 – Jude Law, Captain Marvel, 2018.     Marvel’s pursuite of Reeves continued – this  time  forthe Kree named Yon-Rogg.  But maybe Reeves didn’t get the advice Law received from his Sherlock Holmesco-star, Iron ManRobert Downey Jr.. “He talked about how making a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie is fitting this one piece into a bigger picture, and giving yourself over to that. It’s not about trying to understand everything. Just do your piece.”

40 – Michael B Jordan, Tom Clancy’s Remorse, 2019.   The 1993 book was about John Kelly who became John Clark in the Jack Ryan franchise, played by Willem Dafoe in Clear and Present Danger, 1993, and Liev Schreiber in The Sum of All Fears, 2001.  Preferring  his John Wick franchise,  Keanu Reeves passed on $7m for a ’94 Clark solo trip. Gary Sinise was due in ‘ 95, Tom, Hardy in 2012 and finally , the relentless rise of MBJ – already  Adonis Creed, Erik Killmonger, Guy Montag, Johnny Storm –  had a new hero to embody.


  1. Reeves was most displeased with me when I interviewed him for the Press Book at one of  the various French chateaux used for his ninth film, Dangerous Liaisons.  As I  thanked him and started  to  leave,  he snorted: “Wow! All my life in 12 minutes!”  Well, mate, that’s all you deserved.   Back then.   After all, the film was headlined by Glenn Close, John Malkovich and Michelle Pfeiffer. And they were waiting for me.



 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  40