The great es­capes

Af­ter the news that Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio chose to pass on the lead roles in Broke­back Moun­tain, PAUL WHITINGTON looks at the other iconic parts big stars have — of­ten wisely — turned down

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - CULTURE -

Have you ever imag­ined Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio fall­ing for each other on that lonely hill­side in Broke­back Moun­tain? Only in pri­vate mo­ments per­haps, but ac­cord­ing to film-maker Gus Van Sant, we al­most got to see those images. Be­fore Ang Lee took over as di­rec­tor, Van Sant was at­tached to the pro­ject, which was based on An­nie Proulx’s story about a love af­fair be­tween two cow­boys hired to herd sheep in Wyoming.

“I felt like we needed a re­ally strong cast, like a fa­mous cast,” Van Sant said last week, but “no­body wanted to do it. I asked the usual sus­pects: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Matt Da­mon, Ryan Phillippe. They all said no.”

As we know, Jake Gyl­len­haal and the late Heath Ledger said yes, and both earned Os­car nom­i­na­tions for their trou­ble. Well, 2005 is a long time ago and DiCaprio, Pitt and Da­mon might have been wor­ried about the film’s frank de­pic­tion of gay sex. But I doubt it: Da­mon would later play Lib­er­ace’s gay lover in Steven Soder­bergh’s Be­hind the Can­de­labra, and nei­ther DiCaprio nor Pitt strike me as ac­tors afraid to take a risk.

They might sim­ply have de­cided that the roles, how­ever in­ter­est­ing, weren’t good fits for them, and I think, over­all, they were prob­a­bly right. Film ca­reers stand or fall on the de­ci­sions ac­tors and their agents make about what projects to at­tach them­selves to, and it’s not al­ways merely about whether a script is any good or not: the big­ger ques­tion is al­ways whether it’s right for you. Down the years, there have been some lucky es­capes in this re­gard, and none luck­ier than Lau­rence Olivier who, be­lieve it or not, was Para­mount’s first choice to play Don Cor­leone in The God­fa­ther.

Fran­cis Ford Cop­pola was con­vinced that Mar­lon Brando should play the charis­matic mob boss, but Para­mount Pres­i­dent Stan­ley Jaffe was not one bit keen on that idea. Brando’s rep­u­ta­tion as an un­re­li­able tantrum-thrower pre­ceded him, and by the early 1970s he was con­sid­ered a vir­tu­ally unin­sur­able risk. Jaffe help­fully sug­gested that the craggy-faced char­ac­ter ac­tor Ernest Borg­nine play the part, but prefer­ably the le­gendary Bri­tish thes­pian Olivier.

The great man had been around the block sev­eral times at this stage, and knew he ran the risk of look­ing ridicu­lous in the film. So he had his agent claim he was sick, leav­ing the way clear for Cop­pola to cast Brando. It’s hard to imag­ine Olivier mut­ter­ing men­aces from an arm­chair as Don Vito, or mut­ter­ing any­thing come to think of it, but even harder to imag­ine Brando play­ing The Pen­guin in Tim Bur­ton’s 1990 se­quel, Bat­man Be­gins. He was Bur­ton’s first choice, but Warn­ers told him he must be jok­ing, and cast the far more rea­son­ably priced — and sized — Danny DeVito in­stead.

Tom Cruise as Iron Man any­one? In 2004, when Marvel Stu­dios were cook­ing up the 2008 film that would launch its mighty movie fran­chise, pro­duc­ers talked with Tom about star­ring as the cocky billionaire Tony Stark. Nervy ex­ec­u­tives reck­oned their big-bud­get film needed a star to en­sure it re­couped its money, and there are none big­ger than Cruise.

But when Jon Favreau was asked to di­rect Iron Man, he made the bril­liant sug­ges­tion that Robert Downey Jr might be the right man for the job. Cruise plays fo­cused, straight-talk­ing he­roes, but the ar­ro­gant, ob­nox­ious and wise-crack­ing Stark is not ex­actly that. At that point, Downey was slowly re­build­ing his ca­reer af­ter a se­ries of drug-re­lated set­backs and Favreau reck­oned his bruised pedi­gree would add depth and nu­ance to his por­tray-

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.