David Bowie (1947 – 2016, left) performing with guitarist Mick Ronson (1946 1993) at a live recording of ‘The 1980 Floor Show’ for the NBC ‘Midnight Special’ TV show, at The Marquee Club in London, with a specially invited audience of Bowie fanclub members, 20th October 1973. (Photo by Jack Kay/Daily Express/Getty Images)

David Bowie’s impact on music and pop culture is immeasurable, but his influence in film, particularly as a potential villain, could have been equally iconic. From his early roles in “The Man Who Fell to Earth” to his memorable turn in “Labyrinth,” Bowie’s screen presence was magnetic. However, there’s one role that almost added another layer to his diverse acting career: the villain in “Cliffhanger.”

Directed by Renny Harlin and starring Sylvester Stallone, “Cliffhanger” was a high-octane action thriller that demanded a formidable antagonist. Harlin had his sights set on Bowie for the role of Eric Qualen, the mastermind behind a midair heist. With Bowie’s charisma and stage presence, he seemed like the perfect fit to match Stallone’s intensity.

Unfortunately, Bowie’s schedule didn’t align with the production timeline. Harlin pursued Bowie vigorously in 1992, but the rock legend was coming off a world tour and had other film commitments. Despite their discussions and close negotiations, Bowie ultimately had to pass on the role due to conflicting schedules.

John Lithgow eventually stepped into the villainous role, delivering a memorable performance filled with energy and menace. Still, one can’t help but wonder what could have been with Bowie in the role.