Eric Idle


  1. Gene Wilder, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, 1970.       Author Roald Dahl’s  original choice to play his eccentric chocolatier was BBC radio Goon Spike Milligan.  Next? Spike’s co-Goon Peter Sellers –  too expensive. LA’s choice, Joel Grey, was “not physically imposing enough.”  Ron Moody would have frightened the horses – and the kids. UK comic Frankie Howerd was into two film farces. Jon Pertwee was wed to Doctor Who. Carry On stars Sidney James and Kenneth Williams were as keen as (a way too old) Fred Astaire. One by one, all six Monty Pythons (Idle, John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Michael Palin) were judged not international enough – and Howerd, Milligan and Pertwee were?!  Cleese, Idle and Palin were offered the 2004 re-hash, by which time Chapman had died and Gilliam and Jones had turned director.  PS  Because of Idle’s Nudge-Nudge sketch on Monty P, Elvis called everyone  Squire for a while.   
  2. Rowan Atkinson, The Lion King, 1993.    Also in the mix to voice Zazu in the 32nd Disney toon – Bambi meets Hamlet in Africa! – were Chris Barrie, Simon Callow, David Jason, Spike Milligan, Vic Reeves, Patrick Stewart. Plus various UK comedy giants: Peter Cook and Dudley Moore; The Two Ronnies: Barker and Ronnie Corbett; The Goodies: Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden, Odie; and the Monty Pythons: Idle, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Michael Palin. (I first saw Erc, pre-Python, in London’s West End production of My Girl Herbert in 1964). 
  3. Paul McGann, Doctor Who (The Movie), TV, 1996. 

  4. Johnny Depp, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, 2004.  
    A major Monty P fan, director Tim Burton also mused over Idle and his fellow surviving Pythons – John Cleese , Terry Gilliam, Michael Palin – for chocolatier Willy Wonka. Burton’s 27 other fancies were: ole Betelgeuse, Michael Keaton, plus Dan Aykroyd, Rowan Atkinson, Nicolas Cage, Jim Carrey, Chevy Chase, Warwick Davis, Robert De Niro, James Gandolfini, Dwayne Johnson, Ian McKellen, Marilyn Manson, Steve Martin, Rik Mayall, Bill Murray, Mike Myers, John Neville, Leslie Nielsen, Brad Pitt, Peter Sallis, Adam Sandler, Jerry Seinfeld, Will Smith, Patrick Stewart, Ben Stiller, Christopher Walken and Robin Williams Among the five exec producers, author Roald Dahl’s widow, Liccy, wanted her husband’s favourit Willy – Dustin Hoffman.   If not possible she voted for UK comics, Eddie Izzard or David Walliams. She was quite happy with Depp… who found Willy’s voice while riffing on a stoned George W Bush!

 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  4