Why Tom Hanks, Robert Downey Jr. declined to work with Spielberg??

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Dec 14, 2012, 4:09 PM EST

When the news broke last summer, it seemed like a natural fit: Steven Spielberg and the remake of Harvey, the whimsical 1950 James Stewart movie about the friendship between a man and an invisible 6-foot rabbit.

Now comes news that Spielberg is dropping out in part because he couldn't get Tom Hanks or Robert Downey Jr. to fill Stewart's sizable shoes, Variety's Michael Fleming reported:

Pic—an adaptation of Mary Chase's Pulitzer Prize-winning play about a man who befriends a six and a half foot tall invisible rabbit—has been a challenge to pull together since Spielberg committed last August. One of the biggest challenges has been setting a star to play Elwood P. Dowd, the character played by James Stewart in the 1950 film.

Spielberg's first choice was Tom Hanks, but the actor who is often regarded as a modern day Stewart wanted no part of taking over a role played by the iconic star. Spielberg and Fox spent several months courting Robert Downey Jr. While the star didn't commit, he made suggestions on rewrites of the Jonathan Tropper script. He and Spielberg never found themselves in creative sync on the script, and the director finally called the whole thing off.

It's possible that 20th Century Fox, which was co-financing the movie, could persuade Spielberg and maybe Downey to reconsider, but Spielberg's got a full plate as it is, so we're not optimistic.

What do you think of Spielberg's decision? Should Harvey remain a relic of the '50s?