The four leads in Darren Aronofsky’s “Requiem for a Dream” are all incredible actors that give truly great performances in a film that was clearly physically and emotionally demanding. And with that acclaim, folks like Jared Leto and Marlon Wayans were able to prove that they were up-and-coming talents that were destined for bright futures. But in an alternate world, neither would have starred, as the filmmaker recently explained in a Vulture Oral History, neither Wayans nor Leto were his first choices for the film.
When it came to the role of Harry Goldfarb, Aronofsky explained that he talked to a cavalcade of young actors that he thought would be great for the role. Ultimately, he ended up landing on someone he didn’t even expect was in the running.
“I didn’t really know Jared’s work at all,” said the filmmaker. “So I had to really educate myself on him. And I think there were a bunch of actors I went to — the who’s who of who was hot back then — and they all passed on it.”
While he didn’t name names, producer Eric Watson did and said, “Tobey Maguire, that was someone who said no to us.”
At the time, Maguire had not quite been cast as Peter Parker in Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man.” He was coming off of roles in “Pleasantville” and “The Cider House Rules.” It’s crazy to think that he could have landed Leto’s role and what might have happened if so. Would he have been Spider-Man? Can you imagine what heroin-addicted Tobey Maguire would have looked like through Aronofsky’s lens?
But it wasn’t just Leto’s role that was up for grabs well before it was finally cast. While Marlon Wayans would go on to shock film fans and show off his dramatic chops in ‘Requiem,’ Aronofsky had an entirely different funny man in mind for the role.
“I wanted to cast Dave Chappelle,” the director explained. “I had a bunch of friends that were in the comedy scene, and I’d seen him onstage and thought he was amazing. I begged him, but he wasn’t really interested in acting at the time. So he passed. But I always felt like a comedian for that role would be great. There were so many great actors for that role that could have done it, but Marlon just came in and there was a level of commitment — I think he didn’t shower for three days.”
Now, twenty years after the film was released and the roles occupied by Leto and Wayans are drilled into the minds of cinephiles, we can try to retrain our brains and think about what “Requiem for a Dream” could have looked like with Dave Chappelle and Tobey Maguire.
“Requiem for a Dream” is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and was just released on 4K for the first time.