Ah, Daniel Day-Lewis. God of Method acting, three-time Best Actor Oscar winner, and a famously selective actor who somehow still ended up in a movie with Fergie. Though he officially announced his retirement from acting in 2017, making Paul Thomas Anderson's Phantom Thread his final film, it's worth noting that he had a lot of cinematic flybys in his life—some for the better, some for the worse.
1. The Lord of the Rings (2001)
Daniel Day-Lewis’s most famous could’ve-been is the role of Aragorn in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which he turned down multiple times. The actor’s not too keen on big-budget studio franchises in general. In a 2009 interview, he admitted that “I wouldn’t really want to be involved in making films I wouldn’t want to go and see … When I’m working on something I’m intrigued by, I’m never bored. I’m incapable of being bored. And if I found myself working on a film and during the course of that work I was bored, because I didn’t really know what the hell I was involved in, I would find that infinitely demoralizing and it might well make me decide to pack my bags.” Jackson eventually hired ;Viggo Mortensen for the role, though he considered several other actors first.
2. Interview With the Vampire (1994)
The Lord of the Rings wasn’t the first genre offering that Day-Lewis passed on. Back in the 1990s, he was offered the role of Lestat in Interview with the Vampire. At the time, however, he was filming In the Name of the Father and refused to read any scripts. According to a 1994 Premiere profile, Interview with the Vampire producer David Geffen called the actor’s agent “on an almost daily basis” over a period of months before Day-Lewis eventually declined. Tom Cruise filled out the fangs.
3. Philadelphia (1993)
The lead role in Philadelphia is another one Day-Lewis said no to, to the apparent irritation of writer Ron Nyswaner. “Tom Hanks really wanted to play Andrew Beckett,” Nyswaner later recalled. “[Director] Jonathan [Demme] and I, and the producers, had been thinking of more, perhaps, conventional casting. Honestly, it was Daniel Day-Lewis. And Daniel Day-Lewis passed. We were so pissed off … [laughing] How dare he! This is going to be such an important picture! Tom Hanks and Jonathan Demme had lunch, and Tom Hanks said, ‘I think I can do this.’” Hanks would go on to win the Best Actor Oscar for the role, beating out Day-Lewis, who was nominated for In the Name of the Father.
4. Pulp Fiction (1994)
This time, it was Day-Lewis who got turned down. Well, sort of. Pulp Fiction's producers weren't thrilled with Quentin Tarantino’s idea of casting John Travolta as Vincent Vega, as the Saturday Night Fever star hadn’t exactly been lighting the box office on fire at the time. As a result, the studio reached out to other actors, one of whom was Day-Lewis. He “and Bruce Willis, who was the biggest star in Hollywood, had both gotten their hands on the script and wanted to play Vincent Vega,” Tarantino’s agent, Mike Simpson, told Vanity Fair. With the deadline to secure Travolta looming, the studio caved into Tarantino’s wishes.
5. Sid and Nancy (1986)
Early in his career, just around the time he was breaking out with My Beautiful Laundrette and A Room with a View, Day-Lewis expressed interest in playing Sid Vicious in Sid and Nancy, the role that would instead be Gary Oldman’s breakout. “I think [Day-Lewis] would have been very good, too,” director Alex Cox said. “He gives one the impression of possessing a soul, and would probably have handled the romantic aspect well. But Gary was an authentic Bermonsey boy … he really understood the ambitious aspect, the desperate need to get out of South London at all costs.”
6. Terminator Salvation (2009)
File this one under “not in a million years.” Terminator Salvation director McG wanted Day-Lewis for the cyborg role that would eventually go to Sam Worthington. “I’m looking for credible actors,” the director said while the movie was still in the casting process. “We’ve already got Christian Bale, who is one of the greatest actors of his generation [to play John Connor]. I’d love to get Daniel Day-Lewis, but I don't know if he goes in for this kind of movie.” Not so much.
7. Batman Forever (1995)
Equally unlikely, if not more so: According to actor Billy Baldwin, he and Day-Lewis were both on the shortlist of actors director Joel Schumacher was considering to play the Caped Crusader in Batman Forever. “Tim Burton and Michael Keaton had left, so Joel had the luxury of replacing Michael Keaton and he told me that his four choices—which was an eclectic, diverse array—were Daniel Day-Lewis, Ralph Fiennes, Val Kilmer, and me,” he said. It was apparently studio Warner Bros.’ choice to go with Kilmer; one doubts Day-Lewis would have answered their calls.
This piece has been updated for 2019.