Steve Martin Nearly Took Tom Cruise’s Most Controversial Role

Steven Martin was originally considered for Tom Cruise's part in Eyes Wide Shut.

By Mark McKee | Published

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Eyes Wide Shut

Stanley Kubrick is one of the most famous and talented directors in the history of film; with films like 2001: A Space OdysseyA Clockwork OrangeFull Metal Jacket, and The Shining, his work has become a thing of legend. Of course, for the younger crowd, he is known best for his work on his final film, the sexy thriller Eyes Wide Shut. However, according to Slash Film, Stanley Kubrick had planned to make the movie long before, with Steve Martin in the role instead of the Hollywood megastar Tom Cruise. 

According to the legend, the 1999 thriller was initially planned nearly two decades before, when the Mission Impossible star was only a child. Stanley Kubrick, who had been working since the early 1950s, had met with the Saturday Night Live alum to discuss the film. Steve Martin revealed that his appearance on an episode of Parkinson in 1980 inspired the legendary director to pursue him decades before Tom Cruise. 

Unfortunately, the movie never materialized in the 80s, and it didn’t pick up again until 1994 when the director moved on from the stand-up comedian and elected the leading man. By the time the movie was released in the late 90s, Steve Martin was 54 years old, and Tom Cruise was a much more believable 37 for the part. But one can’t help but look back at the filmographies and see that the two actors seem to be completely different styles. 

steve martin the jerk
Steve Martin in The Jerk

Martin has spent nearly his entire career as a comedic actor, beginning on Disney’s Main Street as a magician before moving to stand-up comedy and eventually sketch shows. He then spent the last 50 years making audiences laugh on shows like Saturday Night Live, then films like The Jerk and Roxanne, and most recently in Only Murders in the Building with frequent collaborator Martin Short. While Steve Martin established himself as the go-to for any comedic role, Tom Cruise took a different path in his career. 

Cruise spent the 1980s establishing himself as a credible guy for the box office by beginning with The Outsiders and Risky Business before starring in Top Gun and Rain Man. In the 90s, the actor made the push into the box office guarantee club when he made himself one of the biggest names in Hollywood by starring in A Few Good MenInterview with the Vampire, and Jerry Maguire. After a three-year break, while Steve Martin was deep in the throughs of comedy, Tom Cruise was launching a campaign for an Academy Award by switching to films like Eyes Wide ShutMagnolia, and Vanilla Sky

While Stanley Kubrick was legendary at getting the most out of the actors he worked with, it is almost impossible to picture anyone other than Cruise in the lead role. Based on the 1926 novella Dream Story, the film would go on to represent the paranoia that we still experience today as a society. Of course, Steve Martin could have pulled off the character as he repeatedly did in his comedic way, but with Tom Cruise and then-wife Nicole Kidman in the lead, the film had the mystique it became known for.