The films missed by De Niro in his incredible career are not few and some are really unexpected. De Niro’s career is full of great productions and successes, as well as some minor mistakes (especially in recent years).
The actor was the protagonist of masterpieces such as Taxi Driver, The Mission, The Godfather Part II, Raging Bull, The Deer Hunter, Once Upon a Time in America and Novecento, showing an enviable versatility.
But many films were “missed” by De Niro over the years: here are ten of the most sensational ones and the stories behind them.
The Silence of the Lambs
In Jonathan Demme’s movie, for the role of Hannibal Lecter were also considered Al Pacino, Sean Connery (who was actually the first choice), Dustin Hoffman and De Niro. Hopkins was preferred for the great performance in The Elephant Man.
The film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel had James Caan in the role of Paul Sheldon and Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes. De Niro was among those who were asked to be imprisoned and tortured by the psychopathic fan, but, like many of his colleagues (William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Harrison Ford, Dustin Hoffman, Michael Douglas, Robert Redford, Al Pacino), he refused the proposal.
The names of Stephen King and De Niro could’ve met years before, during the production of The Shining. Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece is one of many films missed by De Niro, which was initially among the most popular names pushed by production.
In addition to De Niro, contending for Jack Torrance was Harrison Ford, Jack Nicholson and Robin Williams. None of them found particular appreciation by Stephen King, who was pushing for Jon Voigt.
In the end Nicholson convinced the director more than anyone else. Kubrick discarded De Niro option after seeing Taxi Driver.
De Niro later declared that The Shining‘s vision gave him nightmares for a month.
Ron Howard’s romantic comedy, which launched Tom Hanks’ career, was another of De Niro’s missed films. Initially the production wanted to have in the cast a big name and contacted Richard Gere, Bill Murray, John Travolta, Chevy Chase, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Kline and also De Niro.
The multiple refusals forced Howard to bet on a new name and to hire a very young Tom Hanks, who finally met Hollywood’s success.
Big is another film with Tom Hanks where the protagonist was actually offered to De Niro.
The casting was not easy and many stars declined the role. Among the actors considered there were Warren Beatty, Clint Eastwood, Jeff Bridges, Harrison Ford and Robin Williams. De Niro rejected the proposal, as it was far below his usual compensation.
The Godfather saga launched the careers of Al Pacino and De Niro, although the latter had to wait for the second chapter. The first film, however, had De Niro among the eligible candidates for two roles, before the parts were assigned to others.
In fact, initially the production considered the actor for the parts of Sonny and Michael Corleone, and then turned respectively to James Caan and Pacino himself.
The Godfather part III
After taking part in The Godfather Part II, Robert De Niro was contacted for the final chapter of the series. Although the production and Francis Ford Coppola wanted a young actor for the role of Vincent Corleone, De Niro was initially evaluated for the part that went to Andy Garcia.
Besides him the casting considered also Billy Zane, Charlie Sheen, Matt Dillon, Nicholas Cage, Val Kilmer and Alec Baldwin.
Collateral was one of Michael Mann’s most appreciated films by critics and audiences, also thanks to the performances offered by Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx.
Foxx risked not having the part of Max Durocher, since the author Stuart Beattie was pushing to have De Niro as a co-star, dreaming of another great interpretation of the actor as a taxi driver after Taxi Driver. However, the production aimed at a younger actor and Collateral eventually became one of the films missed by De Niro.
The streets of Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro often crossed their paths, offering pages of great cinema.
In The Departed, the role of Queenan (later assigned to Martin Sheen) was initially offered to De Niro, who refused because he was already engaged in The Good Shepard. Too bad, because The Departed could’ve been the occasion to see names like Leonardo Di Caprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson and, indeed, De Niro on the same screen.
At the beginning of the 1990s, that is long before he almost completely changed genre, De Niro was still very reticent to play in comedies. For this reason, when Home Alone’s script was proposed to him, he didn’t hesitate to reject the role for Harry.
The production then opted for another Italian-American actor such as Joe Pesci, who proved to be far less picky than his colleague.