Donald Pleasence


  1. Vincent Price, Witchfinder General, 1968.    Vincent Price, Witchfinder General (US: The Conqueror Worm), 1968.    Over to the UK’s Monthly Film Bulletin: “Not since Peeping Tom, 1960, has a film aroused such an outcry about nastiness and gratuitous violence as this one.”  Depressive UK director  Michael Reeves wanted Pleasence but Hollywood’s AIP, the co-backers, insisted on their man.  “I’m not making a Carry On film or a Hammer horror,” Reeves was purported to have yelled.  “He’s camp, a parody of himself…” They fought  on  the set and Reeves (at 23, it was only his third featuire)  un-hammed Price, resulting in what he called the finest of his horror movies. It relaunched him and “Call me Vinny” gladly  agreed to Reeves’ next project, The Oblong Box, 1969, but the dazzling Reeves was in one – dead at 25 after miscounting his anti-depression drugs.
  2. John Meillon,  The Car That Ate Paris (US: The Cars That  Ate People), Australia, 1973.     Pleasence and  Meillon co-starred in Wake In Fright in 1970. This time  there room for only one of them  – and although  Donald’s fee was reasonable, no one could afford it.  Or, only the makers of a third Aussie film, Barry McKenzie Holds His Own
  3. Telly Savalas, Capricorn One, 1976.   The Brit was wasn’t available – not for a single day’s work as Albain, the crop duster pilot. (No, not looking for Cary Grant).
  4. Charles Gray, The Legacy, 1977.  Failing to be Harry Liebnecht, immolated in Jimmy Sangster’s literal horror – with Hollywood leads, of course (Katharine Ross, Sam Elliott) in an English country house, of course – were the obviously much relieved Harry Andrews, Bernard Archard, Peter Cushing, Michael Gough (the future Batman’s man, Alfred), Patrick Troughton (the second Doctor Who, 1966-1969), Peter Vaughan, Plus two Donald: Houston and Pleasence.  Gray was totally mis-cast. Better German accents would have from the also listed Peter Arne, Anton Diffring, Christopher Lee and Herbert Lom. Elliott (who wed Ross in 1984) warned the Associated Press: “I wouldn’t rush out to see it. It’s about 15 years behind its time.”
  5. Maximilian Schell, The Black Hole, 1978.   One Swede, three Germans and six Brits were dsicussed for Dr Hans Reinhardt – heading a mission aboard the US spaceship, Palomino, to find habitable spots in space. Max von Sydow; Anton Diffring, Curd Jürgens, Hardy Krüger; plus Harry Andrews, Peter Cushing, Jeremy Kemp, Hardy Kruger Christopher Lee, Herbert Lom, Donald Pleasence and Patrick Troughton. This was Disney’s first attempt at science fiction – and a PG rating.  Never got it right until buying Lucasfilm and the Star Warsfranchise.  In 2014.
  6. Laurence Olivier, Dracula, 1979.       He passed on vampire hunter Van Helsing because he wastoo close to his Dr Loomis in the Halloween films. Which is exactly why he asked in the first place.
  7. Vincent Ball, Breaker Morant, Australia, 1979.  Talked of for Colonel Johnny Hamilton before Aussie film-maker Bruce Beresford’s let’s-go-international production went more (correctly) Australian
  8. Bill Fraser, Doctor Who # 110: Meglos, TV, 1980.        Co-writer John Flanagan created General Grugger for Lee Marvin (!) – and was staggered when new producer John Nathan-Taylor chose Fraser, a sitcom clown. Akin to subbing Marvin with Phil Silvers. Some thought was also given to four Z Cars cops – Brian Blessed, James Ellis, Stratford Johns, Frank Windsor – and the Houston brothers, Donald and Glyn. Plus Pleasence, Harry Andrews, Bernard Archard, Peter Cushing, Ronald Fraser, Peter Gilmore, TP McKenna, Leonard Sachs, George Sewell, Nigel Stock, John Stratton, Richard Todd and Peter Vaughan… very familiar names on Nathan-Taylor’s casting (dart) board throughout his infamous 80s.
  9. Wilford Brimley, The Thing, 1981.       John Carpenter (a director who sadly  never lived up to his potential) kept the faith and asked his British Halloween star to play Blair in the horror re-make. Schedules had other thoughts…
  10. Trevor Howard, The Missionary, 1982.        With Gielgud and Olivier gone from “Mish” (Johnny totally disinterested, Larry too expensive), the battle for the curmudgeonly Lord Ames was between Pleasence and Howard.

  11. Michael Robbins, Doctor Who #119: The Visitation, TV, 1982.     One of Doc5 Peter Davison’s three favourite tales, although Robbins hated his rôle as much as scenarist Eric Saward disliked the performance. Also up for Richard Mace were such Whoverse casting regulars as Pleasence, Ian Bannen, John Carson, Frank Finlay, Ronald Fraser, Donald Houston, William Lucas, Glyn Owen.
  12. Glover, Doctor Who #137: Attack of the Cybermen, TV, 1984.      Throughout the 80s, producer John Nathan-Taylor kept trying to persuade Pleasence into the Whoverse. To no avail. He preferred his sunny home in St Paul de Vence, France. And so Griffths was played by an ex-wrestler!
  13. Patrick Stewart, Lifeforce, 1984.
  14. Aubrey Morris, Lifeforce, 1984.
  15. Frank Finlay, Lifeforce, 1984. 
  16. Brian Glover, Doctor Who #137: Attack of the Cybermen, TV, 1985.       Passed Griffiths to to the ex-wrestler from Sheffield- opposite the (unpopular) Doc6 Colin Baker. Bald, ordinary yet with an air of menace, Pleasence amassed an amazing 223 screen roles in 44 years (do the math!). Such as Ernst Stavro Blofeld in You Onlyh Live Twice with Bond1 Sean Connery and Dr Sam Loomis in Hollywood’s Halloween franchise.
  17. John Stratton, Doctor Who #140: The Two Doctors, TV, 1985.       The two Time Lords were Doc2 Patrick Troughton and Doc 6, the short lived Colin Baker. Shockeyes were more plentiful. The 22 prospects were: Pleasence, Stratton, Joss Ackland, George Baker, Ian Bannen, Brian Blessed, Denholm Elliott, James Ellis, Frank Finlay, Ronald Fraser, Michael Gothard, Don Henderson, Donald Houston, Freddie Jones, Jeremy Kemp, Roy Kinnear, Ronald Lacey, TP McKenna, Aubrey Morris, Peter Sallis, George Sewell, Peter Vaughan.
  18. Patrick Macnee, Waxwork, 1987.    Pleasence, Peter Cushing, Michael Gough and Christopher Lee were the inevitables in London auteur Anthony Hickox’s mind for  Sir Wilfrid – in a horror trip unleashig havoc with wax models  of the Marquis De Sade, The Mummy, The Werewolf… and allowing Miles O’Keefe to be (surely?) the only actor to portray both Tarzan and, as here, Dracula.  I still have the tee-shirt.  It lights up in the dark.  More than the movie ever did. 
  19. Anton Diffring, Doctor Who #150: Silver Nemesis, TV, 1988.       Pinewood’s top Nazi was obviously favourite for the Nazi De Flores in the 25th anniversary episode. Along with: Harry Andrews, Bernard Archard, Peter Cushing, Frank Finlay Robert Flemyng, Michael Gough, Charles Gray, Christopher Lee, Herbert Lom and Peter Vaughan. Although baffled by the script, and in poor health, Diffring accepted what proved his final rôle in order to be in London and able to watch the Wimbledon tennis. He then returned to his French home and was dead within a year.
  20. Eric Bogosian, Arabian Knight, 1995.     When Harvey Weinstein turned his scissorhands upon the greatest Richard Williams toon that never was, The Princess and the Cobbler, more than the title was cut for Miramax.   And the British Pleasence tones became those of Broadway’s Bogosian.   Didn’t help.





 Birth year: 1919Death year: 1995Other name: Casting Calls:  20