With a career as long as Robert De Niro‘s, there are plenty of missed opportunities. One supposed near miss involved Martin Scorsese, but the acclaimed director has made clear one of his best movies was never meant to include Robert De Niro.
Revealed in an interview with Deadline, Scorsese was asked about De Niro being cast in Last Temptation of Christ. Categorically untrue, he says. “That was a myth that’s been started,” Scorsese says. “Everyone else involved with it, their producers and the studio asked me to talk to Bob about doing it. Out of respect for everyone, including Bob, we did have a conversation but I knew that was not his kind of role.”
He did add there was a possibility of De Niro being in the drama movie, but that would’ve been out of circumstance. “He did tell me, ‘Listen, if you have trouble getting it made, I’ll do it for you’,” Scorsese reveals. “But it was a different time. But primarily, I was going off on my own and the studio and my producers said could you please talk to Bob about it. I said, OK.”
Willem Dafoe played in the lead in Last Temptation of Jesus Christ, and it’s hard to imagine the thriller movie without him. The Spider-Man movie star brought a certain level of vulnerability and insecurity to the role that might have been missing with De Niro.
Of course, we’ll never know either way, but that De Niro would’ve done it as a favor to Scorsese makes us happy. The frequent collaborators would work together again on Goodfellas, Casino, and Netflix movie The Irishman, all three of them being career highlights for both.