Saturday, June 6, 2015

Who Almost Played The Role?

Casting for the lead role in a movie can be a lengthy process with many qualified candidates to sift through before making that final decision.  The choice of actor in a role can sometimes end up making the difference between a box office success and a mediocre film.

Through the decades there have been many starring roles that were almost cast with a different lead, possibly changing the audience response to the character and the movie.  In retrospect, trying to visualize someone else in the role sometimes leaves us scratching our heads and wondering what in the world they were thinking of with their first choice.

Here's a sample list of films and the stars that almost didn't get the role, some of the second choices earning an Oscar for their performances.

Pirates Of The Caribbean:  the role of Capt. Jack Sparrow in that first movie was originally intended for Jim Carrey, but when a scheduling conflict forced him to bow out the role went to Johnny Depp who put his own indelible stamp on the character in a series of successful Pirates Of The Caribbean films.

Drive:  Hugh Jackman was originally signed for the role that ended up being Ryan Gosling's.

Lord Of The Rings:  When Sean Connery turned down the role of Gandalf, it went to Sir Ian McKellen.

American Psycho:  It was originally Leonardo DiCaprio who was eventually replaced by Christian Bale.

Men In Black:  Chris O'Donnell was originally cast but due to the director's insistence Will Smith replaced him.

Basic Instinct:  Kelly McGillis was considered before the role went to Sharon Stone.

Dirty Dancing:  Val Kilmer was considered but the role eventually went to Patrick Swayze.

The Shining:  The iconic Jack Nicholson role almost went to Robin Williams.

Pretty Woman:  Molly Ringwald turned down the role that was a career maker for Julia Roberts.

Silence Of The Lambs:  Michelle Pfeiffer almost had the role that won Jodie Foster one of her Oscars.

Indiana Jones:  George Lucas was pushing for Tom Selleck but Steven Spielberg held out for Harrison Ford. And in addition to that, Tom Selleck but had done a pilot for Magnum P.I. and the network wouldn't let him out of the contract.

The Matrix:  Ewan McGregor was cast first, but turned down the role in favor of Star Wars Episode 1.

Gladiator:  Mel Gibson turned down the role that won an Oscar for Russell Crowe.

Titanic:  Matthew McConaughey was first choice, but the role ultimately went to Leonardo DiCaprio.

Forrest Gump:  John Travolta turned down the role that earned Tom Hanks one of his Oscars.

Chicago:  John Travolta also turned down the role of Billy Flynn with the role going to Richard Gere. (I saw an interview with John Travolta where he was asked why he turned down the role. He said he had seen the Broadway production and couldn't visualize how they could turn it into a good movie. He was then asked if he regretted that decision and he gave what I thought was a very gracious answer. To paraphrase, he said that the movie audience was treated to Richard Gere's excellent performance.)

Iron Man:  Tom Cruise turned down the role due to script issues. It was then offered to Robert Downey, Jr., along with Iron Man 2 and Iron Man 3.

Rebel Without A Cause: Marlon Brando lost out to James Dean.

The Sound Of Music:  Mia Farrow lost out on the role of Liesl.

Superman:  Stockard Channing lost out to Margot Kidder for the Lois Lane role.

Star Wars:  Kurt Russell lost out to Harrison Ford for the role of Han Solo.

East Of Eden:  Paul Newman tested and was turned down for the role of James Dean's brother.  Joanne Woodward lost out on a role in the same movie.

Octopussy (James Bond):  James Brolin tested for the role of James Bond, then Roger Moore decided not to leave the 007 franchise.

Valley Of The Dolls:  Judy Garland was cast in the movie.  After production began, she was fired and replaced by Susan Hayward.  Interestingly—it was rumored that in her book, author Jacqueline Susann based the Patty Duke role in this film on Judy Garland's life.

Godfather:  Robert DeNiro tested for the role of Sonny (went to James Caan) and was considered for the role of Michael that went to Al Pacino who had dropped out of The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight to do the Michael role. DeNiro took the role in The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight that Pacino vacated.  In Godfather II, when Marlon Brando dropped out over salary disputes, the role of the young Vito went to DeNiro.

And now let's go back several decades to some movies from the 1940ish time frame.

The Wizard Of Oz:  MGM wanted to borrow Shirley Temple from 20th Century Fox to play the role of Dorothy.  When that negotiation didn't work out, the role went to Judy Garland.

Robin Hood:  Jack L. Warner wanted James Cagney cast in the title role that went to Errol Flynn who seemed born to play the part.

Gone With The Wind:  Every leading actress in Hollywood (over thirty actresses including every top name) was tested for the coveted role of Scarlet O'Hara and all were rejected.  And when I say every leading actress, that's not an exaggeration. Even totally unlikely candidates were tested including Lucille Ball, Gloria Swanson, and even Mae West (who was 43 years old at the time which made her at least twenty years older than the Scarlett character). The movie had already started filming before a British actress named Vivien Leigh (married to Laurence Olivier at the time) was finally cast as Scarlet. A year after Gone With The Wind, Vivien Leigh tested for the lead role in Rebecca and lost out to Joan Fontaine who had tested and lost out on the role of Scarlet O'Hara.

The Maltese Falcon:  George Raft turned down the role of Sam Spade because he felt it was 'not an important film.'  To director John Huston's delight the role went to Humphrey Bogart.

Casablanca:  Ronald Reagan was first considered for the Humphrey Bogart role in one of the all time classic films.

Citizen Kane:  Orson Welles was turned down for a studio contract at Warner Bros.  So, he took a script he had co-written to RKO and made the film in which he starred and also directed, a film that is considered by many to be the finest film ever made.  And Orson Welles was only twenty-five years old at the time.

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