Se7en’s John Doe Was First Offered To This Oscar Nominee

Kevin Spacey plays an incredibly important role in two of the best twist endings in modern filmmaking. In Bryan Singer's thriller The Usual Suspects he transforms in an instant from the limping Verbal Kint to the ultra-smooth Keyzer Soze, and in David Fincher's Se7en he's revealed as being the psychotic, bible-influenced serial killer known only as John Doe (who also, we learn, has cut off Gwyneth Paltrow's head). Spacey plays both parts completely effortlessly and brilliantly, and there's little question that the moments are memorable in large part because of his performances. But did you know that it was almost someone else in the latter role?

With his new film Gone Girl set to hit theaters soon, director David Fincher recently took part in a BAFTA event, and during the proceedings he revealed that the John Doe role in Se7en was almost played by Ned Beatty. According to Screen Daily, the Deliverance star was actually the director's first choice, and that screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker was in complete agreement about the choice. A big part of this is because they saw Beatty has having a resemblance to the Zodiac killer (funny since Fincher would later go on to make Zodiac). Unfortunately, this idea hit a dead end when Fincher sent Beatty the script. His response? "I can’t do this. This is the most evil thing I’ve ever read."

This is where Kevin Spacey entered the picture. Fincher recounted that the Oscar winner came in and "killed" his reading, but that the folks at New Line felt that his "quotes were too high." The search continued as production on the movie began, at which point star Brad Pitt - fresh off of Legends of the Fall - began to wonder about the situation with Spacey. When the director explained that signing him would be too expensive, Pitt replied "Fuck that," and called studio telling them that they needed to sign Kevin Spacey - which they immediately did.

Let's take a quick moment to remember the gloriousness of the Kevin Spacey reveal in Se7en, shall we?

Of course, this story does make me wonder what could have been - mostly because Ned Beatty would have been an excellent choice to play John Doe. Obviously he would bring something completely different to the role than what Spacey wound up doing, but I can only imagine how absolutely terrifying he would have been in that part.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.