11 Movies That Could Have Starred Tom Cruise

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Whether you’re a fan of his films or not, there’s no denying that Tom Cruise—who turns 56 today—is the epitome of a movie star. Unlike so many of his contemporaries, who struggled for years to find their big breaks, Cruise’s career has been seemingly blessed from the very beginning. Within two years of making his big-screen debut in 1981’s Endless Love, Cruise turned in memorable performances in Taps, The Outsiders, Risky Business, and All the Right Moves. But for every Maverick, Jerry Maguire, and Ethan Hunt that Cruise has portrayed on the big screen, there are plenty of well-known parts that never came to be for the actor for one reason or another. Here are 11 of them.

1. FOOTLOOSE (1984)

Fresh off the success of playing teen pimp Joel Goodsen in Risky Business, the producers of Footloose were convinced that Cruise had what it takes to pull off playing a high schooler determined to get his tiny town’s “no dancing” law repealed. (They had seen Cruise rocking out in his tighty-whities to Bob Seger, after all.) But Cruise’s schedule wouldn’t allow for it, as he was shooting All the Right Moves at the same time.

2. EDWARD SCISSORHANDS (1990)

Though he’d proven that he could make a big-budget movie that still turned a profit with 1989’s Batman, Tim Burton was still somewhat at the studio’s mercy when it came to casting his next project, Edward Scissorhands. And what the studio wanted was simple: Cruise in the titular role. “He certainly wasn’t my ideal, but I talked to him,” Burton recalled. “He was interesting, but I think it worked out for the best. A lot of questions came up—I don’t really recall the specifics—but at the end of the meeting I did feel like, and I probably even said this to him, ‘It’s nice to have a lot of questions about the character, but you either do it or you don’t do it.’”

3. THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994)

There’s only one thing that stood in the way of Tom Cruise playing Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption: “a sh*tload of dough” in Frank Darabont’s pocket. Though it had always been the plan that Darabont, who had never directed a feature film before, would both write and direct the big-screen adaptation of the Stephen King short story, Rob Reiner (who produced the film) had a momentary change of heart. After working with Cruise on A Few Good Men, Reiner realized that The Shawshank Redemption could be a great opportunity for him and Cruise to re-team on a project. So he made Darabont an offer he (almost) couldn’t refuse: the aforementioned “sh*tload of dough” in order to turn directing duties over to Reiner, so that he could make the movie with Cruise. And it was a tempting offer.

“In my struggling-writer days, I could barely meet the rent,” Darabont told Vanity Fair. By taking the deal, Darabont would not only have cash in his pocket, but he'd be able to make a quick name for himself in the industry he was trying to conquer—and he admits that the dilemma “completely tormented” him. Ultimately, the would-be first-time director realized that “you can continue to defer your dreams in exchange for money and, you know, die without ever having done the thing you set out to do.” So Darabont said no to Reiner and went on to direct the movie, which garnered seven Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture and another for Darabont’s script.

4. DONNIE BRASCO (1997)

Like so many movies before (and after) it, Donnie Brasco made the rounds in Hollywood for many years before actually going into production. And the more time that passed, the more actors and directors became attached to it—and dropped out, including Tom Cruise and director Stephen Frears.

5. GHOST (1990)

In his autobiography, The Time of My Life—which he co-wrote with his wife, Lisa Niemi—Patrick Swayze recounted how when his name was brought up as a possible fit for romantic lead Sam Wheat, Ghost director Jerry Zucker responded with, “Over my dead body!” (Zucker apparently couldn’t separate Swayze from his Roadhouse alter ego, Dalton.) While Demi Moore had already been cast, Swayze wrote that “a Who’s Who of leading men were under consideration, including Kevin Bacon, Alec Baldwin, Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, and Tom Hanks, but the role was still open. Zucker was absolutely convinced that I was the wrong guy for the role, but he finally agreed to at least let me audition for it.” The rest, of course, is history.

6. INDECENT PROPOSAL (1993)

Ghost wasn’t the only Demi Moore-starring romantic drama Cruise was up for. He was also being considered for the role of David (the husband) in Indecent Proposal, with then-wife Nicole Kidman in contention for the part of Diana and Warren Beatty as the propositioning millionaire. In an interview with the Sun Sentinel, director Adrian Lyne shared how Cruise was circling the role of the husband. “I tested Nicole Kidman later,” said Lyne. “She was good, but it didn’t work out. Demi was better. I’ve seen Demi for every movie I’ve done, and I’ve watched her change. She’s lovely to watch in a tactile way.”

7. A BEAUTIFUL MIND (2001)

Before it was a Ron Howard film starring Russell Crowe, A Beautiful Mind was set to be a Robert Redford film starring Tom Cruise as Nobel Prize-winning mathematician John Nash. Ultimately, Cruise opted to star in Vanilla Sky instead.

8. RUMBLE FISH (1983)

After working with Francis Ford Coppola on The Outsiders, the legendary director offered Cruise a role in his follow-up film, Rumble Fish. Though Cruise was anxious to work with Coppola again, he told Interview Magazine that the offer came in “the same week I was offered Risky Business.”

9. SALT (2010)

In the earliest days of its development, Salt—Phillip Noyce’s 2010 action-crime-mystery—was about a man, Edwin A. Salt. And that man was (hopefully) going to be Cruise. “Tom was flirting with the part, and we just couldn't pin him down,” Noyce told NBC Bay Area. “Eventually he did Knight and Day instead.”

10. STARMAN (1984)

In casting his cult classic alien romance movie, director John Carpenter told The Boston Globe that the studio “wanted Tom Cruise for the lead. But when I auditioned actresses in New York, Karen Allen was far and away the best. I wanted her for Jenny Hayden, and so we had to go with actors her age. I didn't want a big star to play the male lead because there might be too much identification with other roles. I thought of Jeff Bridges because he's a name actor, yet he's not a big celebrity.”

11. IRON MAN (2008)

That Iron Man director Jon Favreau had a tough time getting the studio to say yes to Robert Downey Jr. as a superhero is by now legend. And it probably didn’t help his cause that Cruise had expressed an interest in taking the part, and reportedly producing the film, too. But when pressed on the topic of the project’s status in 2005, Cruise stated that “It's not happening. Not with me, no … They came to me at a certain point and, when I do something, I wanna do it right. If I commit to something, it has to be done in a way that I know it's gonna be something special. And as it was lining up, it just didn't feel to me like it was gonna work. I need to be able to make decisions and make the film as great as it can be, and it just didn't go down that road that way.”

15 Uncensored Facts About Midnight Cowboy

Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy (1969)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

On May 25, 1969, United Artists released the film Midnight Cowboy, starring Jon Voight (Texas transplant Joe Buck) and Dustin Hoffman (the sleazy Ratso Rizzo) as street hustlers in New York City. It was the first studio film to receive an X-rating (the studio refused to edit anything out), and it became the first X-rated movie to be nominated and win a Best Picture Oscar (A Clockwork Orange and Last Tango in Paris followed suit with X-rated nominations). Hoffman and Voight were also nominated for Oscars, and screenwriter Waldo Salt and director John Schlesinger ended up winning gold statuettes for the movie. After the movie became a success, the MPAA demoted its rating to an R.

Based on the novel by James Leo Herlihy, the controversial film managed to gross $44 million—about $200 million by today’s standards. The movie saved the careers of its actors, producers, and Salt, who had been blacklisted and fallen on hard times. It also produced a hit song, Harry Nilsson’s “Everybody’s Talkin’.” Here are 15 facts about the landmark film.

1. John Schlesinger was reluctant to hire Dustin Hoffman.

Like everybody else, the filmmakers associated Dustin Hoffman with Benjamin Braddock, the clean-cut twentysomething he played in The Graduate. “The truth was, I saw The Graduate as a setback, because I was determined not to be a star,” Hoffman told the Los Angeles Times. Hoffman was doing Off Broadway performances during the casting of Midnight Cowboy, so Schlesinger checked him out in a play. Hoffman frequented an automat with fellow thespians Gene Hackman and Robert Duvall; one night Hoffman showed up there with a scruffy beard, disheveled clothes, and a Bowery accent. Schlesinger said to Hoffman, “Why Dustin, you do fit right in,” and he got the part.

2. Mike Nichols tried to talk Dustin Hoffman out of doing the movie.

Dustin Hoffman appears on the set of the film 'Midnight Cowboy' in 1969 in the USA
Dustin Hoffman stars in Midnight Cowboy (1969).
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Hot off the heels of Mike Nichols’ The Graduate, Hoffman could’ve kept his romantic lead image up, but instead he opted to take a supporting part in Midnight Cowboy. “Mike Nichols, in fact, called me up,” Hoffman told Peter Travers. “And he says, ‘Are you crazy?’ He says, ‘I made you a star. This is an ugly character. It’s a supporting part to Jon Voight.’ He says, ‘What are you doing? Why are you sabotaging?’” But Hoffman stuck to his guns and took the role. “I love the fact I was trying to remain a character actor and that was my desire,” he said.

3. Jon Voight was cast only after the original actor was fired.

Jon Voight auditioned for the role of Joe Buck and really wanted the part, but the producers chose Michael Sarrazin, whose major claim to fame is the 1969 Jane Fonda film They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? “Sometimes I would be offered a role and I would recommend somebody else—I was that kind of person,” Voight told Box Office Mojo. “Yet this one stopped me because the thing I was excited about for this piece wasn’t going to happen. I felt quite sick about it.”

Fortunately for Voight, the producers changed their minds when Sarrazin demanded more money. “It came back to looking at our screen tests back to back,” said Voight. “Apparently, Marion Dougherty, who was the casting director, was in the room and said, ‘Well, there’s no doubt who's the best actor.’ John Schlesinger said, ‘Who?’ And she said, ‘Jon Voight.’ Then, Dustin was called in to look at the tests and apparently he said, ‘When I look at my scene with Michael Sarrazin I look at myself—when I looked at my scene with Jon Voight, I look at Jon.’ That was a huge compliment. I think between these comments, that’s what tipped the balance and then John [Schlesinger] came forward, so I was very fortunate.”

4. Voight worked for scale.

Voight was so desperate to play Joe Buck that he worked for scale: “‘Tell them I'll do this part for nothing,’” Voight told The Telegraph. “They took me at my word, and they gave me minimum for Midnight Cowboy.” At the end of the shoot, they sent him a $14.73 bill for meals on the last day of filming.

5. Hoffman thought the movie would ruin his career.

The actor attended a preview of Midnight Cowboy and noticed “people walked out in droves.”

“Twenty minutes into that movie, Jon Voight has a gay sex scene in the balcony with a kid who was played by Bob Balaban, and people would get up at that point and just walk out of the theater,” Hoffman told Larry King. “We said, ‘We have big problems’ when we heard we got an X-rating and we thought this could end everybody’s career. As a matter of fact, I was talked into doing a movie I wished I hadn’t done, because they had me so frightened that I had buried myself and reversed whatever good The Graduate did.” Hoffman’s agent forced him to star with Mia Farrow in the romantic drama John and Mary to make him “look like a respectable person.”

6. Voight knew the film was destined to become a classic.

Voight and Schlesinger wrapped filming in Texas and Voight noticed how red the director’s face was. Voight thought Schlesinger was having a heart attack and asked him if he was okay. “He looked up at me and said, ‘What have we done? What will they think of us?’ After all, we had made a film about a dishwasher who lives in New York and f*cks a lot of women,” Voight told Esquire. “In the moment he’d finished it, he was shaking. All of a sudden, he saw it as banal and vulgar. He’s having an anxiety attack and I grabbed his shoulders to shake him out of it. I said, ‘John, we will live the rest of our artistic lives in the shadow of this great masterpiece.’ He said, ‘You think so?’ I said, ‘I’m absolutely sure of it.’ The only reason I said such an extravagant thing was because I wanted to get him out of it and nothing would take him out of it but that. But the statement turned out to be true.”

7. Voight and Hoffman were competitive with each other.

What made the chemistry between Hoffman and Voight work so well is they were constantly competing with one another. Hoffman became a movie star before Voight did, and that brought some jealousy to the set. “We were like Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard, two fighters going at it,” Hoffman told the Los Angeles Times. “We knew the movie depended on the bond between us. All through shooting, we’d say to each other, out of the side of our mouths, like a fighter in a clinch, ‘Buddy, is that the best you can do?’”

8. Hoffman placed pebbles in his shoe to acquire Ratso’s limp.

“Why pebbles? It’s not like you’re playing a role on Broadway for six months where you’re so used to it, limping becomes second nature,” Hoffman told Vanity Fair. “The stone makes you limp, and you don’t have to think about it.”

9. Schlesinger came out during the movie’s production.

In the late 1960s, one's sexuality wasn't often discussed in the open. But the British director fell in love with Michael Childers, who worked as his assistant on the movie. “We were one of Hollywood’s first out couples,” Childers told Vanity Fair. “He took me everywhere. I felt a little bit uncomfortable at times, but John never did. He said, ‘F*ck ‘em.’”

“John was totally torn up, because part of him wanted to just embrace this, and another part of him was in terror,” the film’s producer, Jerome Hellman, said. “He had these fantasies that if he were openly gay on a film set, that if he tried to give the crew an order, they would turn on him. I said to him, ‘John, look, you’re the director. It’s your movie. I’m the producer, but I’m your partner. There’s nobody who can challenge your authority. If someone speaks out of line to you, they’ll be fired the same minute.’”

10. The famous “I’m Walkin’ Here” line was improvised.

The scene in which Joe and Ratso attempt to walk across the street and almost get hit by a cab was filmed guerilla-style, with a camera in a van across the street. “It was a difficult scene, logistically, because those were real pedestrians and there was real traffic, and Schlesinger wanted to do it in one shot—he didn’t want to cut,” Hoffman explained. “He wanted us to walk, like, a half a block, and the first times we did it the signal turned red. Schlesinger was getting very upset. He came rushing out of the van, saying, ‘Oh, oh, you’ve got to keep walking.’ ‘We can’t, man. There’s f*cking traffic.’ ‘Well, you’ve got to time it.’”

They figured out how to properly time the walk but then almost got run over by a cab. “I guess the brain works so quickly, it said, in a split of a second, ‘Don’t go out of character,’” Hoffman said. “So I said, ‘I’m walking here,’ meaning, ‘We’re shooting a scene here, and this is the first time we ever got it right, and you have f*cked us up.’ Schlesinger started laughing. He clapped his hands and said, ‘We must have that, we must have that,’ and re-did it two or three times, because he loved it.”

11. Hoffman threw up on set while trying to cough.

Talk about Method: Ratso has a deadly cough (consumption), and in a particular scene Hoffman got sick in real life. “Because I was so nervous that I was going to come across fraudulent and not have the right cough, I tried to do the cough as realistically as I could,” Hoffman told Vanity Fair. “Each time, I tried to do it more realistically until, finally, I did it so realistically I threw up all over Jon. My lunch came up. All over his cowboy boots. Jon looked down. He said, ‘Man, why’d you do that?’ He thought I did it on purpose.”

12. Schlesinger didn’t think anybody would make the movie today.

In 1994, the director found himself at a dinner party with a studio executive. “I said, ‘If I brought you a story about this dishwasher from Texas who goes to New York dressed as a cowboy to fulfill his fantasy of living off rich women, doesn’t, is desperate, meets a crippled consumptive who later pisses his pants and dies on a bus, would you—’ and he said, ‘I’d show you the door,’” Vanity Fair reported in 2000.

13. Me And Earl And The Dying Girl pays tribute to Midnight Cowboy.

Alfonso Gomez-Rejon's 2015 Sundance hit Me and Earl and the Dying Girl features two friends who turn The Criterion Collection movies into film school comedies. One of those films is Midnight Cowboy, renamed as 2:48 p.m. Cowboy. In the film, Greg (Thomas Mann) and Earl (RJ Cyler) portray Ratso and Buck, respectively.

Midnight Cowboy became my favorite movie,” Cyler said in a featurette on Greg and Earl’s films. “Now I can’t stop watching it. I’m addicted to it. I’ll be in my trailer. ‘RJ, whatcha doing?’ ‘Watching Midnight Cowboy with some ramen noodles right now.’ It’s just so quirky the way the parody was made, and not just because I got to wear a beautiful cowboy hat.”

14. There’s a speakeasy bar in Austin named after the film.

Midnight Cowboy the bar is located inside a former oriental massage parlor that was busted by the FBI, hence the seedy name. It has a red light—not a sign—outside to mark the place. In order to drink there, you need to make a reservation online, and when you get there, you buzz the box and give the password “Harry Craddock.” They have rules, though: no talking on your cell phone inside the bar, and no “excessive displays of public affection.”

15. A Chicago theater turned it into a stage production.

Chicago’s Lifeline Theatre puts on a lot of literary adaptations, and in 2016 they presented a stage version of Midnight Cowboy, based on the book.

Updated for 2019.

Game of Thrones Studio Tour Opening in Northern Ireland in 2020

Emilia Clarke stars in Game of Thrones
Emilia Clarke stars in Game of Thrones
Helen Sloan, HBO

In a move that only a super-popular series could pull off, it was announced last year that HBO’s Game of Thrones would be getting its own 110,000-square-foot tourist attraction in Northern Ireland (where much of the show has been filmed) featuring scenes, sets, and props from Westeros. And of course, fans were instantly interested.

While the initial plan was to open the attraction this year, that date has been pushed back and an expansion on the original concept has been added.

Linen Mill Studios in Banbridge, Ireland has partnered with Game of Thrones's creators to convert the studios into an exhibition. The sets were used for filming scenes in Winterfell and Castle Black, but the display will include props, costumes, live-action cosplayers, and set pieces representing all of the show’s locations.

While other interactive fan events have already been held, such as the display at SXSW and the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience, this will be the most extensive and in-depth experience for diehard fans of the series.

When asked about the possibility of bringing a similar attraction to the U.S., Jeff Peters, HBO’s vice president for licensing and retail, told The New York Times that there were no set plans yet, but, “it’s possible. We get pitched all the time, and we’re open to a lot of different opportunities.”

[h/t The A.V. Club]

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