With Colin Farrell finally getting confirmed as the lead in Season Two of True Detective, the Irishman could finally breathe a sigh of relief. Months of speculation are over, and he landed a main role in one of TV’s best shows.
But not everyone can always be so lucky. A lot goes on between the time an actor or actress’ name gets mooted as a possibility for a role, and them actually stepping in front of the camera.
We’ve all heard the stories about a Nicholas Cage Superman film, or how Sean Connery was supposed to be Gandolf the Gray and how Tom Cruise could have donned a leopard-print vest and played Ferris Bueller.
But in recent years, there’s been a number of Irish stars who came close to roles we all love. For better or for worse, they didn’t get, or didn’t take them, so we’ve gone and compiled a collection of some of the best.
The Antrim man is a great example, because of the sheer volume of roles he almost bagged. As well as being in the running for Robin Williams’ role in Dead Poets Society, Neeson once turned down the Role of James Bond. Claiming his fiancée Natasha Richardson was against it, saying she said ‘If you play James Bond we're not getting married!' And I had to take that on board, because I did want to marry her".
If one iconic role is hard to pass on, try imagine doing it twice, but that’s what Neeson did as he turned down the chance to play Abe Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s epic. Still, with Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Day Lewis stepping up in his place, we managed to force a few Irish faces in there.
Daniel Day Lewis
Speaking of Daniel Day Lewis, he almost played The Bard in Shakespeare in Love. Well, Julia Roberts demanded that he played the role, and if he didn’t she’d leave the production. Sticking to her word, she walked when Day Lewis showed no interest in the role, and her part went to Gwenyth Paltrow, who won an Oscar for her performance.
But Lewis got a lot closer to some even higher profile gigs. Getting beaten by Anthony Hopkins while in the final three to play Hannibal Lecter, Day Lewis tried to play John Travolta’s role in Pulp Fiction but director Quentin Taratino was having none of it, which was his own reaction to being offered the role of Aragorn in Lord of the Rings, but if you think the Irish and the LOTR links end there, hold on.
Who? You might ask. The actor from Howth was a young Hollywood star in the early 00’s, and with everyone and their cat turning down the role of Aragorn(Russell Crowe and Nicholas Cage among the biggest names), the Irishman bagged one of the trilogies lead roles. Townsend did rehearsals and extensive combat training for two months before being fired the day before shooting, you know, because Viggo Mortensen is amazing. Townsend didn’t even get paid for his time, but on a plus note, he did go out with Charlize Theron for about nine years, so, could have been worse.
While we’re talking about missing out of huge franchises, it’d be tough not to give this Cork man a fair mention. How does an Irish Batman sound? We’ll Christopher Nolan was keen on the idea for a while at one point. There’s even a tape from the audition.
In hindsight, it seems pretty crazy, a skinny 5’7 Batman from Cork, but Murphy eventually played Scarecrow in the first instalment, before making cameos in the final two, so it didn’t work out too bad in the end. And he still has this tape to remember the day he was almost The Dark Knight.
To shoehorn in a blatant rumour, Murphy may or may not have been Danny Boyle’s first choice to play James Franco’s role in 127 Hours. Regardless of its validity, that could have been great.
Remember how I mentioned Colin Farrell at the start of the piece, well it’s come full circle now, because I’m finishing with the man who made his name on Ballykissangel. And, it actually ties in with Murphy a bit too, because Colin was one of the favourites to play Batman in an attempted Batman vs Superman film before Nolan’s adaption.
We’re not here to criticise, but having found that out, it’ll be tough to watch Ben Affleck knowing we actually could have had a legitimate Irishman in the Batmobile. Still we’re sure he’ll do a great job.
Or course, Farrell has been around Hollywood so long that he’s always had his name mentioned with big roles, and of course being Irish, he was always going to be linked with James Bond, because nobody plays British like the Irish... seemingly.
It’s Fassbender’s turn to be linked with 007 now, speaking of which, he was turned down when he auditioned for the current Gotham Knight’s role in Pearl Harbour. See, full-circle people, full-circle.