Colin Farrell still has many years ahead of him in show business, but he’s already built up a career’s worth of interesting and acclaimed roles (with a few not so beloved projects thrown into the mix as well, of course), but there have already been some choice parts that he let slip through his grasp. With today being Colin Farrell’s 38th birthday and his stint on True Detective being less than a month away, there’s no better time than now to look back at his lost roles — many of which, coincidentally, wound up going to Heath Ledger.
Michael Mann’s slick L.A. thriller went through a number of casting choices before finally settling with Tom Cruise as heartless hit-man Vincent. Russell Crowe first showed interest and brought the project to Mann’s attention before dropping out because of a conflict with his movie, Eucalyptus. The part was then passed around with everyone from John Travolta to Edward Norton being considered before it came down to Mann offering the role to Colin Farrell. Farrell decided not to take the part, but of course joined up with Mann and Jamie Foxx two years later for Miami Vice.
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Annie Proulx’s short story of the same title first appeared in The New Yorker in 1997 and quickly gained interest from the movie industry. Interest was really all that happened though, as the project sat in film limbo for years. During that time, a number of leading Hollywood actors were considered for the project, including Colin Farrell who passed on one of the romantic leads. It’s never been disclosed exactly why the project wasn’t a good fit for the actor, but his excuse certainly can’t be any worse than Mark Wahlberg’s reasoning.
Casino Royale (2006)
Daniel Craig’s done a fine job saving the U.K. over the last decade despite the initial outcry over the casting of a blonde Bond, but that could have been Colin Farrell saving M. When Pierce Bronson hung up his tuxedo at age 51 he recommended that his fellow Irishman take over the role, but Farrell wanted no part of it.
“The idea of me playing James Bond got into the press, but it is not true. I would not like to do it,” said Farrell. “They should find someone the audience has no history with.”
I’m Not There (2007)
Colin Farrell had already been cast as Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan when it was announced the movie would be going into production. Unfortunately for Farrell, he never had a chance to perfect his Dylan-speak and was fired by director Todd Haynes and replaced by Heath Ledger.
Tree of Life (2011)
Okay, so not every role that Colin Farrell passed on was a mistake. Telling Terrence Malick “thanks, but no thanks” regarding a part in Malick’s cinematic sleeping aid was probably a solid choice. The movie had been in development for years with Heath Ledger at one time in line for the role of Mr. O’Brien, but dropped out due to illness. When Ledger bailed, Malick talked to Farrell about doing the part, but the actor declined — though he did sign on for Malick’s 2005 history lesson The New World. The movie finally found its star some six years later with Brad Pitt.
Elizabeth Taylor and Husband #8
“Huh? That’s not a movie I’ve ever heard of!” Yeah, you’re right, but considering that Elizabeth Taylor is one of the movie industry’s most iconic stars and she had seven husbands, being her main squeeze was a pretty sought after role. Colin Farrell’s developed a bit of a reputation in Hollywood for being a ladies man, but in what is certainly his most out-of-left-field conquest, he had his sights on Liz Taylor during the last years of her life.
“I just adored her,” he gushed. “She was a spectacular, spectacular woman. I wanted to be [husband] number eight, but we ran out of road.”
That’s from an interview with Ellen DeGeneres where Farrell talked about how he got cougar fever after meeting Taylor in 2009 and developed a close, nearly romantic relationship with her before her death in 2011.