Bobby D turned 71 this weekend, and instead of looking back at his best or even worst films, I’m highlighting ten Robert De Niro almost parts that were never meant to be. Most of these movies worked out to be great films without him, but for better or worse, they might have turned out very different had they gotten a dose of Robert De Niro’s trademark squint.
1. The Godfather (1972) – De Niro wasn’t even 30 when he auditioned for the part of Santino “Sonny” Corleone in the first installment of the Godfather series. He nailed it as young Vito Corleone in The Godfather Part II, earning himself a “Supporting Actor” Oscar, but his take on Sonny didn’t quite have the psychotic appeal that James Caan brought to the role.
2. The Shining (1980) – Stanley Kubrick had considered De Niro for the part of inn-keeper Jack Torrance, but reportedly changed his mind after seeing him in Taxi Driver and went with his original choice, Jack Nicholson. It’s probably for the best that De Niro never ended up in the role. He revealed in a radio interview that when he watched the movie for the first time it gave him nightmares for a month.
3. The Usual Suspects (1995) – De Niro, Christopher Walken, and Al Pacino were all offered the part of detective Dave Kujan before it found its way to Chazz Palminteri. Pacino was initially interested, but turned it down because he had just played a cop in Heat, and De Niro and Walken turned it down for unknown reasons.
4. The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) – This one isn’t too surprising, considering that back in 1970s and 80s Martin Scorsese and De Niro were BFFs. (Then Leo had to come between them.) The part eventually went to Willem Dafoe.
5. Home Alone (1990) – Director Christopher Columbus knew he wanted somebody from the Goodfellas cast in his holiday movie, and approached De Niro about playing Harry first. When De Niro passed, he of course sealed the deal with Joe Pesci.