This weekend, millions of moviegoers will pay to see a science-fiction flick about teleportation, destiny and unlimited opportunity. Few, however, will realize how close they came to seeing what could have been a very different film — had Eminem not jumped out of “Jumper.”
“We did have a meeting,” writer/director Doug Liman confirmed this week, confessing that surly hip-hop superstar Marshall Mathers was once in talks for the starring role. “We did have conversations with Eminem.”
It was early 2006, just a few months after “The Bourne Identity” director Liman had been hired to adapt Steven Gould’s sci-fi novel of the same name. Despite huge obstacles, Eminem had made a smash debut with 2002’s “8 Mile” and was fielding offers to take on his first non-autobiographical role. The “Jumper” script caught his eye, and he and Liman began discussing plans to bring the real Slim Shady back to the big screen.
“The thing is that you’re like, ‘Oh my God, what would that movie have been like?’ ” the director said. “But you’ve got to understand that Nicole Kidman was originally cast as the lead in [the Liman-directed] ‘Mr. & Mrs. Smith,’ and Brad Pitt was originally the lead in ‘Bourne Identity.’ ”
In April 2006, Liman cast English actor Tom Sturridge (“Vanity Fair”) in the lead role, but was being pressured to replace him with a more bankable star. Suddenly, with the part of teleporting hunk David Rice in the air, he met with up-and-coming “Star Wars” actor Hayden Christensen, as well as the “8 Mile” star.
“[The idea to meet with the rapper] was sort of coming from the producer and [Eminem’s] manager,” remembered the director, who made his own breakthrough with Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau in the 1996 classic “Swingers.” For a brief time, after meeting with the chart-topping rapper, Liman considered the notion. “If I’ve proven anything to myself, it’s that I can tailor a role to an actor. … [I could] develop the role with [someone like Eminem] and make it extremely specific to them,” he said of his thoughts at the time. “So as long as the person has acting chops, I’m open to talking to almost anybody for almost any role.”
When the director considered Christensen more seriously, however, the Eminem flirtation vanished as quickly as David Rice jumping between Egypt and New York. “At that point, I had already met Hayden and had fallen in love with Hayden,” he recalled. “It was one of those things where the studio, with all things being equal, would rather put a bigger name in the movie [and wanted Eminem]. At some point, I just put my foot down and said, ‘I love Hayden.’ ”
So now, six years after Eminem earned an MTV Movie Award for Best Male Performance, he still hasn’t made his follow-up flick. And while Liman hopes to see the hip-hop star in a movie again soon, the director is happy with the way “Jumper” turned out. “I’m always willing to consider other people the studio may want to put in front of me before we commit to the movie,” he explained. “But I already had the person I was in love with.”
Check out everything we’ve got on “Jumper.”
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