Matthew Modine has turned down roles in some of the most recognizable films of the past 30 years — and he has zero regrets.
The “Full Metal Jacket” star turned down Tom Cruise’s role in “Top Gun,” Charlie Sheen’s part in “Wall Street” and even Michael J. Fox’s Marty McFly in “Back to the Future.”
“I think Michael J. Fox was brilliant in ‘Back to the Future’ and I can’t imagine another actor doing a better job than him,” the actor told Fox News about the 1985 blockbuster. “He was perfect. I don’t know how else to describe it but I can’t imagine someone other than Michael J. Fox in that role.”
As for “Top Gun,” the now-61-year-old has a good reason for giving the 1986 film a pass. He went on to star as Pvt. Joker in “Full Metal Jacket.” The 1987 movie, directed by Stanley Kubrick, follows a U.S. Marine observing how the Vietnam War had a profound effect on his fellow recruits.
“I wanted to tell the story about human behavior and what the war does to individuals, our youth and how the scars that people receive from combat are not always physical,” Modine explained. “I thought it was a much more important story to me than telling the story about pointing the finger at the Russians and saying that they were the bad guy.”
“It was the 1980s and Reagan was president,” Modine continued. “And you, it seemed like … there were a lot of movies that were just pointing the finger at Russia and saying they were the bad guys. I think it’s too simplistic to do that. I had grown up in Utah and went to high school in San Diego and, for instance, I had not been taught that the Russians were our allies in the Second World War. That seemed to have been left out of the history books I was reading.”
“Full Metal Jacket” premiered in theaters on June 26, 1987. The film just celebrated its 33rd anniversary. Modine said the filmmaking process was an education he would never forget.
“I can’t compare working on ‘Full Metal Jacket’ with any other experience that I’ve had,” he admitted. “I was in England for almost two years, working with Stanley Kubrick who is arguably one of the greatest filmmakers to ever get behind a motion picture camera. To learn from him, to receive a film education from him and just to listen to stories of his life and how he became a filmmaker — I just can’t compare that experience with any other film I’ve worked on.”
When it came time for “Wall Street,” Modine said it’s likely he would have taken on the film if he saw one thing first.
“I just wanted to read the script,” he reflected. “[Director] Oliver Stone is a friend of mine. He’s an incredible man, but he wanted me to say yes to the project and he hadn’t finished the script. I wanted to read the script. I didn’t want to say yes to something that I didn’t know what it was. So … I probably would have been in the movie. That would have been amazing because Michael Douglas is one of my favorite actors. And Oliver Stone is an incredible talent. That would have been a real pleasure to work with them.”
Modine went on to even say no to the role of Dr. Martin Brenner on Netflix’s “Stranger Things.” In fact, he turned down the part three times.
“The Duffer Brothers didn’t have scripts for me to read,” said Modine. “All they had was a pitch and the initial pilot episode. When you ask somebody to say yes to something, you have to wonder, ‘What am I saying yes to?’ The motion picture industry and the television industry is notorious for people not being honest about what they’re actually doing.”
The star also pointed out that he was more interested in playing a good person, as opposed to an evil character. However, all the offers he seemed to be getting were that of villains.
“It was a weird place to find myself in,” he said. “It was weird to transition from being a young leading man to receiving scripts where they were offering me … the bad guy.”
Fortunately, the creators of the hit series managed to get a yes out of Modine with enough convincing.
“The Duffer Brothers were incredibly complimentary to me,” said Modine. “They were flattering. They really had a deep understanding of the film career that I’d had up to that point. And when I spoke to them, they were so passionate about my participation that they talked me into it. And I said yes. I’m glad I did because it was an extraordinary experience to work with those young actors.”