Kevin Spacey was replaced by Kiefer Sutherland in the television pilot for L.A. Confidential, but why not replace the disgraced star with Sutherland in all his films?
Family Guy warned everyone about Kevin Spacey, but it wasn’t until a 2017 accusation from actor Anthony Rapp that the floodgates opened on Spacey’s various sexual indiscretions. As a result of the lawsuits and potential criminal charges over attempting to coerce minors into sex, the House of Cards star was dropped by Netflix and has been a Hollywood pariah ever since. Unfortunately, the prolific actor has appeared in countless hit films that might be hard to watch, but what if Spacey was replaced on-screen by Kiefer Sutherland? Don’t laugh, it already happened.
Kevin Spacey starred in the 1997 film L.A. Confidential, a star-studded noir detective film exploring corruption in 1950’s Hollywood. Alongside Spacey’s turn as Detective Hollywood Jack Vincennes is an amazing ensemble consisting of Russel Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito, James Cromwell, Paul Guilfoyle, and David Straithairn. Replacing Spacey as the star is easy to visualize, as when the hit movie was adapted for television, 24 star Kiefer Sutherland filled the role of Detective Vincennes.
It’s easy to understand why Warner Bros. executives wanted to revisit the characters and setting of the James Ellroy novel. Making $126 million on a budget of $35 million and winning countless awards, L.A. Confidential was a critical and commercial blockbuster. At the time though, television was considered a step down from acting in movies, so replacing Kevin Spacey with the less famous Kiefer Sutherland made sense.
L.A. Confidential, the television series, took the exact same characters and slightly tweaked them to allow for a 13-episode HBO mini-series. Kevin Spacey and Russel Crowe were replaced by Kiefer Sutherland and David Conrad, Melissa George played Kim Basinger’s character, and Eric Roberts replaced David Straithern’s playboy. After HBO passed on the show, the producers tried to pitch it to FOX to no success, resulting in the pilot episode being lost until it aired as a television movie in 2003.
Kevin Spacey went on to star in American Beauty after L.A. Confidential, a film that would not be able to be made today. One year after the television series failed to be picked up, FOX cast Kiefer Sutherland in the role that would define his career, Jack Bauer in 24. Amazingly, the two men had their biggest success on the small screen once Spacey went on to star in Netflix’s first original series, House of Cards.
While Kevin Spacey’s career is currently in shambles, and likely to stay that way, digitally re-inserting Kiefer Sutherland into his roles in such hits as The Usual Suspects, Glengarry Glenn Ross, even Horrible Bosses. It wouldn’t be the first time a filmed Spacey role was re-cast after the fact, All the Money in the World by Ridley Scott replaced the disgraced actor with Christopher Plummer after filming was completed.
Kevin Spacey will, hopefully, never be heard from again while on the other hand, more Kiefer Sutherland is almost a good thing. The star of Designated Survivor is such a gifted actor he made Colin Ferrall’s Phone Booth compelling with just his voice. Watch the failed pilot for L.A. Confidential and note that Sutherland is the best part of the entire project, let’s re-release Superman Returns with him as Lex Luthor, it’s only right.