It’s common for journalists to focus on actors and actresses who didn’t get roles that would have given them more appeal or acclaim. What doesn’t get as much focus are directors who finds themselves in roughly similar positions. Unlike thespians, it’s more than rejection; rights can be an issue. Bruce Lee said what might work for one person might not work for another. David Lynch probably regrets passing up Return of the Jedi for Dune (which he has disowned).
Matthew Vaughn left X-Men: Days of Future Past for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but the deal fell through. David Fincher (who worked on Episode VI: Return of the Jedi) resigned because it meant compromise. Walter Hill pulled out of Alien, so he could focus as a producer instead. Speaking of tech tales, Martin Scorsese was unable to direct Blade Runner because he didn’t option the rights.
Guillermo Del Toro rejected AVP: Alien vs. Predator. Andrew Davis didn’t want to do Hard Target. Rob Reiner was disappointed about not purchasing the rights (from Frank Darabont) to direct The Shawshank Redemption. Damningly, Alfred Hitchcock rejected the chances to direct Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist. Tony Scott wanted to direct Reservoir Dogs, but Quentin Tarantino told him that he could only direct one production between that and True Romance.
Peter Bogdanovich rejected the opulent opportunities to direct Chinatown, A Fistful of Dynamite and The Godfather. Sergio Leone rejected Hang ’em High because he was working on Once Upon a Time in the West. Bafflingly, John Carpenter refused to do Top Gun and Fatal Attraction. He described the latter as Play Misty for Me. Bogdanowich was rejected for The Exorcist and The Long Goodbye. Burton didn’t think much of Stay Tuned in comparison to Batman Begins.
Sam Raimi was rejected for Batman, Batman Forever and The Truman Show. Conversely, Burton, Brian De Palma, Cronenberg, Terry Gilliam, Barry Sonnenfeld and Steven Spielberg were considered for the latter but the relatively unknown Peter Weir got the gig. Gilliam passed up on Enemy Mine, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump, Alien: Resurrection and American Beauty.
Puzzlingly, Brad Bird and Neill Blomkamp resisted the allure of directing The Force Awakens. Spielberg was rejected by George Lucas when the former asked to do Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Paul Verhoeven was offered The Empire Strikes Back until he made them watch Spetters. Sam Peckinpah rejected The Thomas Crown Affair and King Kong.
Tim Burton rejected Dick Tracy because he was committed to the planning stage of Edward Scissorhands. John Woo neglected the chance to work with the son of Bruce Lee on Rapid Fire. It was Brandon who wanted Woo. It’s ironic that Woo was happy to accept Van Damme’s offer but not Bruce’s son. Sidney Lumet bowed out of Scarface, which prompted De Palma to bow out of Flashdance.
Burton was offered to direct Michael Keaton for The Fly, but they backed out. Michael Bay dismissed Red Dragon, Van Helsing, Man on Fire and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Burton was attached to Jurassic Park and The Stepford Wives, but there were stronger bids. Stanley Kubrick wisely avoided Exorcist II: The Heretic. Sadly, he was not allowed to master the Western with One-Eyed Jacks.
Unfortunately, Hitchcock passed on Jane Eyre and Sleuth. Paul Brickman, the director of Risky Business, remained as a one hit wonder by passing offers to direct Rain Man and Forrest Gump. Superman would have benefited from Spielberg’s childlike sense of wonder. Ditto for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, but J.K. Rowling wanted more control.
Gilliam snubbed the PG-restricted Harry Potter and the ddd Sorcerer’s Stone. Speaking of stone, Oliver wanted nothing to do with American Gangster. Quentin rejected Get Shorty and Iron Man. Ron Howard lost interest in directing D-Tox so that he could be more famous with How the Grinch Stole Christmas. It’s this same motive that greedily compelled him to ditch The Chamber for Ransom.
Conversely, artistic interest in Hellboy was a motive for Guillermo skipping Blade: Trinity along with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Likewise, Hellboy II: The Golden Army was worth missing out on One Missed Call, I Am Legend along with Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Then again, Guillermo is a better director than Ron.
Clint Eastwood envied Ron Howard being able to direct Angels & Demons. Ridley Scott shunned Dune so that he could do Blade Runner. Oliver Stone had dropped out of American Psycho after Leonardo DiCaprio did. Raimi rejected I Am Legend. John Woo declined to direct Hard Rain (which would’ve been the third time that he directed a film whose title began with that word).
James Cameron rejected Solaris. Spielberg was hesitant about Something Wicked This Way Comes, Big, The Last Action Hero, Meet the Parents and Collateral. The latter film was embarrassingly rejected by Fincher and Scorsese (who was fired from The Honeymoon Killers, dropped out of Clockers but felt that Schindler’s List should be directed by a jew).
Spielberg was reluctant about helming The Curious Case of Benjamin Button without Tom Cruise, who he almost worked with on Rain Man if it wasn’t for Indiana Jones 3. Fincher forgoed 8mm and Catch Me If You Can. Burton didn’t want to go through with How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Darren Aronofsky opted out of The Wolverine. Strangely, he was offered this right after rejecting Batman Begins. Fincher also rejected.
Meanwhile, Cameron could never be accepted as a director for Spider-Man. On the other hand, Raimi took a cue from Wong Jing’s Future Cops – he created Darkman as a reaction to not being given the rights to adapt The Shadow. Both copycats were more successful than the official adaptations (ala Star Wars versus Flash Gordon). The same thing can’t be said for Saviour of the Soul, which grossed 10 million Hong Kong dollars shorter than City Hunter.
Bruce Malmuth was fired from Stone Cold. Speaking of a blood-curling stone that you can’t get blood out of, Oliver Stone thought it best to back out of directing Mission: Impossible 2. To his detriment, Fincher has dropped out of projects more times than a high school drop-out. The Black Dahlia and Mission: Impossible III would have benefited from a guy who had more street cred in the thriller department.
Steve Chase was fired from Money Talks after ironically trying to fire Chris Tucker (who was also one of the executive producers) because he didn’t want the latter to do improv. The former had been developing the script for half a year. Despite having only directed a trio of short films, Jason Reitman double-declined the opportunity to be at the helm of Dude, Where’s My Car?
Ridley didn’t see much of a profitable prospect in Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. Burton missed out on The Nightmare Before Christmas because of Batman Returns. Guillermo can spot more turkeys than a bloated Thanksgiving devotee, so he nixed the idea of working on End of Days and Hellraiser: Bloodline. Edgar Wright was dumped as the director of Ant-Man.
The featured image is perfect because reels are like strings, whereas reel cans are like bows.