Hoskins wasn’t a box office draw in the U.S., but his portrayal of London mobster Harold Shand in John Mackenzie’s “The Long Good Friday” transformed him into director catnip. After scoring an Academy Award nomination for “Mona Lisa,” everyone wanted a piece of him, including De Palma. Unfortunately, Hoskins wasn’t going to move the needle marketing-wise for “The Untouchables,” so when the director sent the actor the screenplay, he was incredibly candid about the tentativeness of the offer.
In a 1998 interview with Conan O’Brien, Hoskins explained that, after reading the script, he met with De Palma at a bar where the latter explained his conundrum. De Niro was the director’s first choice, but he was being squirrely. If he didn’t commit, would Hoskins be willing to take the role? “I said, ‘Yeah, if I’m free, yeah,'” said Hoskins. “I’m leaving myself open, you know?”
A while later, Hoskins read in the paper that De Niro had agreed to play Capone. That, it would seem, was that. Only it wasn’t. As he told O’Brien:
“Linda [Hoskins’ wife] and me are sitting out having breakfast one morning, and Linda’s opening the [mail]. She said, ‘Oh, what’s this?’ It was a check for $200,000. It said, ‘Thanks for your time. Love, Brian.’ I phoned him up, and I said, ‘Brian, listen, you got any films you don’t want me to be in, babe, I’m there for you any day!'”