Turns out Quentin Tarantino wasn’t done telling “what if?” Hollywood stories. After telling the tale of how he nearly cast Laurence Fishburne in the role of Jules in “Pulp Fiction” and how him not getting it may have lead to Fishburne missing out on “Die Hard: With A Vengeance,” and how he originally considered Paul Newman and Gene Hackman for “Jackie Brown,” the director is back to tell the story of how Harvey Keitel was originally set to play the role of Frank White in “King of New York.”
Abel Ferrara’s crime thriller “The King of New York” stars Christopher Walken as Frank White, a drug lord who leaves prison and decides to take total control of the criminal underworld of New York City in order to give back to the community. Except it wasn’t always going to be Walken in the role. During an appearance on The Ringer’s “The Rewatchables” podcast, Tarantino talks about the version of the film that never was, starting with a plan in the mid-‘80s to make the movie with James Remar in the lead role. Remar was best known at the time for Gus Van Sant’s “Drugstore Cowboy,” Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Cotton Club,” and for almost being the lead in James Cameron’s “Aliens” before being replaced by Michael Biehn. According to Tarantino, “they couldn’t get it going, so that didn’t happen.”
Except a couple of years later, the script made its way to Harvey Keitel, who was scheduled to do “King of New York” and then “Bad Lieutenant.” But as Tarantino tells it, “Harvey didn’t care for the script, and Harvey finally backed out,” Tarantino explained. “And he said, ‘You know, this isn’t the one for me to do’ – but he considered it for a long time – ‘this isn’t the one for me to do, so I think we should stick with “Bad Lieutenant.” So why don’t you do this one, and I’ll do “Bad Lieutenant” when you’re done with this one.’ “Harvey didn’t care for the script, and Harvey finally backed out,” Tarantino explained. “And he said, ‘You know, this isn’t the one for me to do’—but he considered it for a long time—’this isn’t the one for me to do, so I think we should just stick with ‘Bad Lieutenant.’ So why don’t you do this one, and I’ll do Bad Lieutenant when you’re done with this one.’ And so they went to Walken and Walken said yes.”
You can listen to the entire episode below.