Brad Pitt and Will Smith were early candidates to star in ‘Inception’

July 13, 2010 | 3:04 p.m.

No movie dreams bigger this summer than “Inception,” and Ben Fritz has a cover story Tuesday in the business section of the Los Angeles Times about the commercial risks of the epic. During his reporting, he came up with an interesting tidbit about casting …

Inception Christopher Nolan DiCaprio Page city folding


There was never any doubt at Warner Bros. that “Inception” would star one of the world’s biggest stars. The only question was which star.


In early talks with writer/director Christopher Nolan, the studio considered both Brad Pitt and Will Smith for the lead role as a dream thief, Warner Film Group president Jeff Robinov said in an interview about the movie. Of course, the role ultimately went to Leonardo DiCaprio — a decision that certainly seems to sit well with early reviewers.

Casting DiCaprio, who is recognized by moviegoers around the world but has a mixed box-office record, may have actually been one of the safer decisions in the risk-fraught process of producing and releasing the $160-million “Inception,” which was known on the lot as “Oliver’s Arrow” to the select few who got to read the script in Nolan’s office on the Warner Bros. lot prior to production.

My story in Tuesday’s Times examines just how much is at stake with “Inception,” the rare movie this summer that is not a sequel or a big-screen movie based on a safely familiar comic book or video game. For this completely original movie, Warner Bros. and its financing partner Legendary Pictures have pretty much bet it all on the potential of Nolan to go from respected fan-favorite to a truly mainstream brand name. Here’s an excerpt:

Will Smith

The plot is difficult to explain in a 30-second TV spot (something about dreams within dreams). The star has a choppy box-office track record (most do these days). The director is not a household name (yet).

When Warner Bros. on Friday opens “Inception,” a complex action thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio as an agent who invades people’s dreams, the studio will give filmgoers something that they say they want but rarely support: a movie that is not a sequel, adapted from a comic book or inspired by a toy.

For Warner Bros. and financing partner Legendary Pictures, the $160-million “Inception” represents a gamble at a time when Hollywood shuns making big summer movies based on novel ideas. But those involved believe the film will succeed and its director, Christopher Nolan, is on the cusp of becoming as familiar to audiences as Steven Spielberg, James Cameron or Peter Jackson.

“Christopher Nolan as a brand is very powerful,” said Sue Kroll, president of worldwide marketing for Warner Bros. “You can only say that about a handful of directors …”


— Ben Fritz


Christopher Nolan Hero COmplex Film Festival 2010

“Inception” questions? Here’s the most in-depth article on the film 

Chris Nolan’s dim view of 3-D

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ellen Page dream big

Ken Watanabe wins over Nolan: “He’s such a movie star”

Bigger than Batman: Nolan takes on “Inception”

24 FRAMES: Are “Inception” expectations too high?

“Inception,” the only movie that matters?

Nolan breaks silence on Superman and Batman

Forget crossovers: Nolan says his Batman doesn’t play well with others

Photos: Top, “Inception” bends reality. Credit: Warner Bros.; Second, Brad Pitt and, third, Will Smith. Credit: Getty Images. Bottom: Christopher Nolan at the Hero Complex Film Festival. Credit: Los Angeles Times


6 Responses to Brad Pitt and Will Smith were early candidates to star in ‘Inception’

  1. agent smith says:

    What About SALT ? nope we will all Ignore that, like it's not based on an original material, Inception will save us all from very very bad summer movies, District 9 also came out last year looks way more inventive than inception and does not have the busget of a small african country to boot, riddiculous.

  2. buggeredagain says:

    Of course they considered Smith and Pitt. Doesn't everybody check off the same boxes on the A list sheet until someone says yes?

  3. D says:

    I love you, Big Willie.. but no.

  4. freddy says:

    District 9 is severely over rated…

  5. Tenny says:

    Why are you picking on Salt? Most Hollywood films are unoriginal and derivative. I liked Salt and a few other action movies because they promoted themselves honestly and are not being grossly overrated & overhyped like Inception. I can't understand the people who thought Inception was a groundbreaking compelling masterpiece when it is just another high concept action thriller. Inception is the most overrated movie of the year so far. I was very disappointed. The movie insulted my intelligence. Inception pretends to have a depth, complexity, originality, and brilliance it does not have. Nolan has a weird effect on the masses. Memento,The Dark Knight, and now Inception all became overrated phenomenons. At least Memento and The Dark Knight were entertaining and had wonderful performances. Fanboys going crazy over Inception make me feel ashamed for being a cinemaphile.

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