Richard Gere Was Going to Leave 'Primal Fear' Until They Discovered Edward Norton

There was a long list of young actors reportedly in the running for the role of Aaron Stampler, the seemingly harmless altar boy accused of brutally murdering a priest in the 1996 thriller Primal Fear, among them: Matt Damon, Edward Furlong, James Marsden, Danny Masterson, and James Van Der Beek. Other performers, like Leonardo DiCaprio and Will Wheaton, turned down the role.

“We couldn’t find someone to play the kid,” Richard Gere, who starred as the Aaron’s pro-bono lawyer, Martin Vail, told Yahoo Movies in our latest episode of Role Recall (watch in full below). “We had all these wonderful young actors, who were very talented, and could play the crazy part, but they couldn’t play the innocent.” (Spoiler: In one of the best twists of the decade, we learn at the end of the film that Aaron has a split personality.)

Then, finally, an unknown actor named Edward Norton arrived. “At the very last second — I was ready to leave the movie [because] we couldn’t cast — Edward came in,” Gere said. “We tested him a couple times and they were both extremely brilliant.

“It was really Edward that allowed us to make the movie, allowed me to stay in the movie. He could pull that off: that darkness behind a very believable, genuine soft boy.”

Norton received an Academy Award nomination for the debut role.

Gere currently stars in the drama Norman, now in theaters. Watch his full Role Recall interview:

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