Ash Wednesday: Bruce Campbell and the lost role files


Most fans of Bruce Campbell know the roles that he has played. However, what about the ones that he came close to getting?

“There’s all kinds of reasons why they want one person over another. I don’t worry about it, but it can hurt sometimes if you really wanted something, if you really went after something.” – Bruce Campbell

An Actor’s Life

Bruce Campbell has been in the business of show for over four decades (if you count his Super 8 efforts). He’s been around the block a time or two so he knows the drill. There will be parts that you will nail and others that will be elusive.

Most fans know his filmography. However, do they know the roles that got away? Oh, what might have been…

The Lost Role Files

Pet Sematary

Pet Sematary – Dale Midkiff – Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

In 1989, Paramount Pictures was looking for a leading man to play Louis Creed in the film adaptation of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. According to IMDb trivia for the movie, Bruce was the first choice to play Louis.

However, we all know how that turned out. Dale Midkiff ended up with the role. It isn’t surprising that Campbell would be considered for the top spot in a King film. After all, Stephen gave Evil Dead a killer review and he persuaded Dino De Laurentiis to give Raimi and company financing for Evil Dead II.

Drag Me to Hell


When this film was released in 2009, Sam Raimi fans immediately thought that his pal, Bruce Campbell would be in it. Alas, that never came to pass so some audience members were deeply disappointed.

As unusual as it seemed for a Michigan Mafia flick to be without one of the key members, there was a very good reason for the absence. When Campbell was asked about it on Twitter, his response was very simple. Burn Notice was filming.

Men in Black

Men in Black – Vincent D’Onofrio – Courtesy of Getty Images

After seeing this science-fiction classic a million times, I cannot imagine anyone else in the role of Edgar except for Vincent D’Onofrio. However, this movie could have gone in a very different direction. According to the Men in Black Wiki Fandom site, John Turturro and Bruce auditioned for the role of the big, bad bug.

In my opinion, Campbell would have been a better fit for the role over Turturro because he is a gifted physical comedian. Another interesting bit of trivia, in a roundabout way the three actors share a six degrees of separation moment.

D’Onofrio was nominated for an Emmy for his poignant performance on Homicide in the episode The Subway. He played a man who was pushed off the platform and was pinned by a Baltimore Metro train. Bruce guest starred on the show as well in a two-part episode in 1996 entitled Justice.

As for John Turturro, as everyone knows he is a Coen Brothers favorite starring in Barton Fink, Miller’s Crossing, O, Brother Where Art Thou and The Big Lebowski. Bruce was featured in Fargo the movie as Alan Stuart on the Detroit based soap opera, Generations.

He was also seen in Intolerable Cruelty as a soap opera actor with Billy Bob Thornton. Campbell also appeared in the promo trailer for the brothers’ film Blood Simple. Then of course, there was his role on the television show, Fargo as Ronald Reagan.

Word is both actors turned the part down. Bruce chose to do Tornado! instead.

Happy Gilmore

Happy Gilmore – Christopher McDonald – Courtesy of Universal, Brillstein Entertainment and Imagine

Ah, Shooter McGavin, the nemesis of Happy Gilmore, played with smarmy perfection by Christopher McDonald. Can’t imagine anyone else in that iconic comedy role, right? Well, McDonald almost didn’t make it.

According to Screen Rant, the actor turned down the role two times! Also, in the mix was believe it or not, Kevin Costner. Of course, it didn’t interest him and he went on to star in Ron Shelton’s Tin Cup. Enter Bruce who by all accounts REALLY wanted the part.

Personally, I think he would have been an excellent choice because he plays that cocky, self-assured buffoon type very well (I’m looking at you, Ash Williams). However, in the end, McDonald played the part.

According to Bruce, in a chat over 20 years ago on PRODIGY:

MasterSven (PRODIGY Member)
Would you ever do a movie with Adam Sandler? That would really be cool.

Bruce Campbell (Speaker)
I tried to get in “Happy Gilmore.” No dice. Send complaints to Universal.

The X-Files

The X-Files – Robert Patrick – Courtesy of Fox

As fans of The X-Files and Bruce know in 1999 he starred in an episode entitled, “Terms of Endearment.” In it, he played Wayne Weinsider, the demon with a heart of gold that wanted to father a human child. If you haven’t seen this, seek it out immediately. This is one of the best roles that Campbell has played.

When David Duchovny decided that he was going to pursue other career avenues for a while, Chris Carter went on a search to find a suitable replacement. He created the character of John Doggett.

Bruce’s name came up in the casting process. According to Flickfilosopher, “rumor is that it was too soon after he’d guest-starred on the show in a fascinating and really kinda poignant straight part.” That explanation doesn’t really make sense about why he wouldn’t be considered for the role but then again, we are dealing with Hollyweird.

A bit of interesting trivia is that Campbell wasn’t the only one up for the part. Lou Diamond Phillips and Hart Bochner were also contenders per TV Tropes.

The Phantom

The Phantom – Billy Zane – Courtesy of Paramount Pictures, Ladd Company, The, Boam Productions

Kit Walker a.k.a. The Phantom was played by Billy Zane in the 1996 movie. Although Lee Falk created the character in the 30s, in the 80s, DC Comics published some books on the first costumed superhero. Originally, this film was expected to be a blockbuster but that isn’t what happened.

After shooting Brisco County, Jr, Bruce was approached by executive producer Jeffrey Boam. This is what went down according to Mental Floss. Boam invited him to audition for the part. Although he ended up being in contention, eventually the role was filled by Zane.


Crimewave- Bruce Campbell – Courtesy of Embassy Pictures and Renaissance Pictures

I don’t know where to start with this film except by saying the road is paved with good intentions and then the studio swoops in and the intentions go to hell in a handcart. Crimewave was written by Sam Raimi, Ethan and Joel Coen. From the get go, the shoot was problematic.

Originally, Raimi wanted to cast Bruce in the lead role of Vic Ajax. The studio on the other hand had other ideas. In their words, they wanted a more “Hollywood” actor. So, Sam gave Campbell the role of Renaldo the Heel.

That supporting effort turned into Bruce being there for the entire production. Although he almost didn’t get to stay in Los Angeles for post with Rob Tapert and Raimi because the studio refused to pay for his stay. According to IMDb, a compromised was reached.

Sam was annoyed at not being able to use Campbell, his editor Kaye Davis and Joseph LoDuca because the producers wouldn’t allow it. As a result, Raimi considers this to be in his words, “one of the least favorite moments” of his career.

In his mind, Crimewave “was really wrong. It was such a horrible, horrible, horrible, depressing scene.” Despite the backstage drama, the film is an interesting watch and a must see for all Raimi, Campbell and Coen Brothers fans.

Next: Bruce Campbell could have been Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park, really?

Did you know that Bruce was considered for these roles? Feel free to share your opinions in the comment section below. We want to hear from you.