Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI

10 Movies That Almost Starred Will Smith

Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI

After rapping about parents just not understanding and extolling the virtues of summertime with DJ Jazzy Jeff, Will Smith achieved TV stardom as the titular Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (where poor Jeff usually got acquainted with the ground, on the order of Judge Philip Banks). Soon enough, Smith was starring in blockbusters like Independence Day (1996) and I, Robot (2004), crowd-pleasing franchises like the Men in Black and Bad Boys films, and romantic comedies like Hitch (2005), plus earning critical praise (and Oscar nominations) for his work in the dramas Ali (2001) and The Pursuit of Happyness (2006).

As Oscar buzz continues to build around Smith's performance in Concussion, in which he plays Dr. Bennet Omalu, a pathologist who discovers the horrific after-effects of playing professional football, here's a look back at some of the could-have-beens in Smith's career.

1. SNAKE EYES (1998)

Smith was set to co-star with Nicolas Cage in the Brian De Palma-directed film. He would have played the role of Commander Dunne, which eventually went to Gary Sinise. Smith passed on account of not being offered enough money.

2. THE MATRIX (1999)

Johnny Depp was the Wachowskis’ original choice to play Neo in The Matrix, but Will Smith was offered the part at some point in the casting process. In 2004, he told WIRED that he had no regrets about saying no to the film, explaining that, “The Matrix is a difficult concept to pitch. In the pitch, I just didn't see it. I watched Keanu [Reeves'] performance—and very rarely do I say this—but I would have messed it up. I would have absolutely messed up The Matrix. At that point I wasn't smart enough as an actor to let the movie be. Whereas Keanu was smart enough to just let it be. Let the movie and the director tell the story, and don't try and perform every moment.”

3. K-PAX (2001)

“I loved, loved, loved [the script for] K-PAX”, Smith admitted to MTV. “But it never really jelled in my mind. I always wanted to make that movie.” Kevin Spacey, who was originally offered the role of the psychiatrist (later played by Jeff Bridges), stepped in and played Prot instead.

4. OSMOSIS JONES (2001)

The live action/animation hybrid was planned to have featured Smith as the voice of the titular character. After script issues and conflicting schedules forced Smith to leave the project, Chris Rock took the role.

5. PHONE BOOTH (2002)

Colin Farrell ended up playing Stu Shepard in Joel Schumacher's claustrophobic thriller. Smith claimed he “loved” the script, but passed because the “bad guy’s story wasn’t clear enough.”

6. THE TRUTH ABOUT CHARLIE (2002)

In Jonathan Demme’s remake of Charade (1963), Mark Wahlberg portrayed Lewis Bartholomew/Joshua Peters, a role originally played by Cary Grant. Smith was offered the part, but declined in order to star in Michael Mann's Ali (2001) instead. Which was a smart move, as Smith was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar, whereas Charlie was ignored by awards shows and audiences alike.

7. MR. AND MRS. SMITH (2005)

Originally the title roles were to go to Brad Pitt and Nicole Kidman. Kidman had to leave the project when The Stepford Wives (2004) went over schedule. When Kidman left, Pitt also dropped out, leading director Doug Liman to consider pairing Will Smith and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Then Johnny Depp and Cate Blanchett. When Pitt stepped back in, it was going to co-star his ex-fiancée, Gwyneth Paltrow. Then Angelina Jolie came along.

8. SUPERMAN RETURNS (2006)

Brandon Routh played the one superhero Hollywood has seemed to have trouble finding success with since Christopher Reeve retired the cape because Smith turned the role down. Smith's explanation: “I had already done Jim West [of Wild Wild West (1999)], and you can’t be messing up white people’s heroes in Hollywood! You mess up white people’s heroes in Hollywood, you’ll never work in this town again!”

9. DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012)

In 2013, Smith claimed that he turned down the titular role in Quentin Tarantino's slave-turned-vigilante epic because he believed that the bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) was the real star in the film. In 2015, he said he wanted to make the movie more romantic—“I wanted to make the greatest love story that African-Americans had ever seen.” Despite not seeing eye-to-eye with the writer-director, he said he thought the movie was “brilliant.”

10. INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE (2016)

Earlier this year, writer-director Roland Emmerich insisted that Smith was “excited” to reprise the role of fighter pilot Captain Steven Hiller in next year's Independence Day sequel, with Vivica A. Fox set to come back as his wife Jasmine and a young actor cast as their son. But then After Earth (2013) bombed at the box office and Smith changed his mind. “In the very beginning, I wanted to work with him and he was excited to be in it but then after a while he was tired of sequels, and he did another science fiction film, which was his father-son story, so he opted out,” Emmerich explained.

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David Lynch's Amazon T-Shirt Shop is as Surreal as His Movies
Dominique Faget, AFP/Getty Images
Dominique Faget, AFP/Getty Images

David Lynch, the celebrated director behind baffling-but-brilliant films like Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive, and Twin Peaks, is now selling his equally surreal T-shirts on Amazon.

As IndieWire reports, each shirt bears an image of one of Lynch’s paintings or photographs with an accompanying title. Some of his designs are more straightforward (the shirts labeled “House” and “Whale” feature, respectively, drawings of a house and a whale), while others are obscure (the shirt called “Chicken Head Tears” features a disturbing sculpture of a semi-human face).

This isn’t the first time Lynch has ventured into pursuits outside of filmmaking. Previously, he has sold coffee, designed furniture, produced music, hosted daily weather reports, and published a book about his experience with transcendental meditation. Art, in fact, falls a little closer to Lynch’s roots; the filmmaker trained for years at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts before making his mark in Hollywood.

Lynch’s Amazon store currently sells 57 T-shirts, ranging in size from small to triple XL, all for $26 each. As for our own feelings on the collection, we think they’re best reflected by this T-shirt named “Honestly, I’m Sort of Confused.”

Check out some of our favorites below:

T-shirt that says "Honestly, I'm Sort of Confused"
"Honestly, I'm Sort of Confused"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt with a drawing of a sleeping bird on it
"Sleeping Bird"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt that says Peace on Earth over and over again. The caption is pretty on the nose.
"Peace on Earth"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt with an image of a screaming face made out of turkey with ants in its mouth
"Turkey Cheese Head"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt with an odd sculpted clay face asking if you know who it is. You get the idea.
"I Was Wondering If You Know Who I Am?"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt with an image of a sculpted head that is not a chicken. It is blue, though.
"Chicken Head Blue"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt with a drawing of a lobster on it. Below the drawing, the lobster is labeled with the word lobster. Shocking, I know.
"Lobster"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt with an abstract drawing of what is by David Lynch's account, at least, a cowboy
"Cowboy"

Buy it on Amazon

[h/t IndieWire]

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9 Things You Might Not Know About Maurice Sendak
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Maurice Sendak's books were shaped by his own childhood: one marked by the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, the concentration camp deaths of most of his extended family, and parents consumed by depression and anger. When Sendak started illustrating and writing for children, he vowed that he wouldn't write stories of sunshine and rainbows, because that's not real life. In honor of what would have been his 90th birthday, here are a few other things about Maurice Sendak's real life you may not have known.

1. HE DESIGNED F.A.O. SCHWARZ'S WINDOW DISPLAYS.

Sendak and his brother visited Manhattan’s F.A.O. Schwarz in 1948 to try to get the company to purchase their handmade, fairytale-inspired wooden toys. Though the toy store declined to purchase the brothers’ work for reproduction, they were impressed with Sendak’s artistic eye and asked him if he’d be interested in a job dressing windows. He worked at F.A.O. Schwarz for three years while taking classes at the New York Art Students League.

2. WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE WAS ORIGINALLY TITLED WHERE THE WILD HORSES ARE.

The book was intended, of course, to feature fillies, foals and mares. Editor Ursula Nordstrom adored the title, finding it poetic and beautiful, but there was one problem: Sendak couldn’t draw horses. When he told his editor that the whole horse thing wasn’t going to work out, he recalls her “acid tone[d]” response: “Maurice, what can you draw?”

“Things,” he said, and "things" he drew.

Side note: Ursula Nordstrom was also the editor of a few classics like The Giving Tree, Goodnight Moon, Harold and the Purple Crayon and Charlotte’s Web among others. Not a bad resume.

3. THE “THINGS” SENDAK ENDED UP CREATING WERE INSPIRED BY HIS IMMIGRANT RELATIVES AND THE WAY HE VIEWED THEM AS A CHILD.

“They were unkempt; their teeth were horrifying. Hair unraveling out of their noses.” Though the monsters were modeled after his family, they weren’t named after them; in fact, the things had no names in the book. They finally received monikers when Wild Things was made into an opera. “We had to have names to tell [the actors] when they were screwing up. They had Jewish names: Moishe, Schmuel. But the names were dropped after the opera. They never had names until they became movie stars.”

4. MOST OF HIS EXTENDED FAMILY DIED IN CONCENTRATION CAMPS.

It wasn't until he was older that Sendak realized how lucky those immigrant relatives were to be alive—and how lucky he was. Most of his extended family died in concentration camps, which his father discovered the day of Sendak's bar mitzvah. He attended the happy event anyway. When unknowing guests burst into "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" when Mr. Sendak walked through the door, Maurice knew something horrible had happened by his father's expression. "My father's face was vivid, livid, and I knew I had done something very bad, that I had made him suffer more than he had to. This 13-year-old ersatz man."

5. EVEN IF WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE HADN'T BEEN SUCH A HIT, YOU PROBABLY WOULD HAVE KNOWN SENDAK’S WORK ANYWAY.

Prior to the success of his own books, Sendak illustrated the popular Little Bear series by Else Holmelund Minarik.

6. ONE OF HIS BOOKS IS FREQUENTLY BANNED.

Though many parents and libraries initially protested that Where the Wild Things Are was too scary for children, it was his later book, In the Night Kitchen, that landed on the American Library Association’s frequently challenged and banned books list. It features a little boy named Mickey, who is nude throughout most of the story, likely because he’s dreaming. “Have you never had a dream, yourself, where you were totally naked?” he said, when Stephen Colbert asked him about the nudity. (Colbert: “No.” Sendak: “I think you’re a man of little imagination.”) Because of Mickey’s full frontal and some of his nude antics in the book (he jumps into a milk bottle, for instance, and later slides down it), critics have deemed it inappropriate for children. It was #24 on the ALA’s frequently banned books from 2000-2009.

7. HE WAS DEEPLY AFFECTED BY THE LINDBERGH BABY KIDNAPPING.

Sendak believed that the Lindbergh baby kidnapping very much affected his childhood, his work and his views on life in general. Though he was only 3.5 years old when the tragedy occurred in 1932, he says he vividly remembers the whole thing, including hearing Mrs. Lindbergh’s tearful voice pleading with the kidnappers via radio to rub camphor on her infant’s chest because she didn’t want his cold to get worse. “If that baby died, I had no chance. I was only a poor kid, okay? [When the Lindbergh baby was found dead,] I think something really fundamental died in me.”

8. SENDAK HATED EBOOKS.

Waiting for a sweet Where the Wild Things Are app for the iPad so your kids can explore the book in a new way? Don’t hold your breath. To say that Sendak disliked eBooks is an understatement: "F*** them is what I say; I hate those e-books. They cannot be the future ... they may well be. I will be dead, I won’t give a s***!”

9. HE NEVER CAME OUT TO HIS PARENTS.

Sendak never told his parents that he was gay. “All I wanted was to be straight so my parents could be happy,” he told The New York Times in 2008. “They never, never, never knew.” His partner of 50 years, Eugene Glynn, passed away in 2007.

This post originally appeared in 2011.

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