As far as ’90s action trash goes, Face/Off is fairly sublime, combining a gleefully dumb premise with some great over-the-top acting from both John Travolta and Nicolas Cage. But the tale of Sean Archer and Castor Troy was almost a very different film—multiple times over—as revealed in a recent oral history courtesy of Ralph Jones at ShortList. Jones’ article tracks the multiple incarnations of the film, including the time it almost starred Johnny Depp—except he was too mad that it wasn’t about hockey.
The anecdote in question comes from a period when the film was briefly in the hands of Demolition Man director Marco Brambilla, when Paramount wanted Depp in one of the starring roles, opposite Cage. When Depp finally got around to reading the script, though, he realized that, contrary to what he’d thought, it wasn’t a hockey film, and he abruptly dropped out. (Taking Brambilla with him, which left the movie to be directed by John Woo.)
This isn’t the first time Depp has made an abrupt filming decision for weird internal reasons; he apparently rejected a Pirates 5 script because it had a female villain, and he’d already had one of those. (Presumably, he finally got his hockey fill with his recent Canadian movies with Kevin Smith.) It’s all for the best, obviously; besides the fact that Woo’s input was exactly the goofy nonsense that Face/Off needed, there’s also the fact that it would suck to have to ask ourselves whether we wanted to support Depp every time we wanted to put the movie on, and just chill out with some simple face-transplanting fun.