George.C Scott

  1. Laurence Olivier, Bunny Lake Is Missing, 1965.     “I’’ve been in a lot of pictures for various reasons,” comments Scott. “Some I wish to God I hadn’t turned down.”
  2. Eli Wallach, How To Steal A Million, 1966.     Legend says he showed up late first day and veteran director William Wyler sacked him. “It’s the only time I’ve ever been fired from a film. I sued Fox and collected. Wyler never did speak to me after that. He wouldn’t talk to me on the phone. I think it was personality. He didn’t care for me.”
  3. Alan Arkin, Wait Until Dark, 1967.     Few actors wanted to be the guy terrorising Audrey Hepburn – indeed, a blind Audrey Hepburn! Director Terence Young wanted Scott but Audrey’s husband, Mel Ferrer, was producing. 
  4. Burt Lancaster, The Swimmer, 1967.
    Lancaster called it: “Death of a Salesman in swimming trunks.” (Seventeen pairs, his only wardrobe for the film). He  went into serious  training to match his old nickname, The Build, for novelist John Cheever’s tragic hero, who suddenly decides to swim home via the pools of his Connecticut friends and neighbours.  Burt was no great swimmer but producer Sam Spiegel praised his “perception and courage and an intense interest in  films that go beyond the obvious and ordinary.”  Hah, said Burt. The whole film was a disaster,” he told  Take 22 magazine.  “Sam had promised me, personally promised me, to be there every single weekend to go over the film, because we had certain basic problems – the casting and so forth. He never showed up one time. I could have killed him, I was so angry with him. And finally Columbia pulled the plug on us. But we needed another day of shooting – so I paid $109,000 for it.” Montgomery Clift (!), Glenn Ford, William Holden, Paul Newman and George C Scott had all been in the swim for what became Spam’s fourth consecutive flop. Minus David Lean, Spiegel was  a zero. 
  5. Rod Steiger, In The Heat Of The Night, 1967.     Scott was negotiating to play the racist Southern police chief. when his then lately, re-married wife, Colleen Dewhurst, insisted he join her in a Broadway play. Steiger got $150,000 – and an Oscar. He thanked hios co-star,. “Mr. Sidney Poitier, who taught me about prejudice and maintaining dignity under prejudice. Sidney, we shall overcome.” Scott got (and refused) his Oscar for Patton, 1969, a film turned down by Steiger!
  6. Kirk Douglas, The Arrangement, 1968.  Elia Kazan had written a novel, a continuation, in fact, of his America, America – “the first thing I ever wrote that was intended as a novel.”  Now he  wanted to film it.  A bad idea. As his natural first choice, Marlon Brando, quickly understood.  OK, he’d ‘take a stab at it.” Instead, he  split for Italy’s Queimada mish-mash – using as an excuse, Martin Luther King’s assassination:  he could not go ahead with the film in such circumstances. Kazan thought it was a con. And it was. Otherwise  Kazan would recognise that Brando  (also!)  was no longer what he had been.  Project was iced until Kirk Douglas, George C Scott, Rod Steiger showed interest and Charlton Heston did not. (That is to say, he did not play losers!)  Reviews were wholly negative. “The best of it is too interesting,” said the LA Times, “and the worst of it is too atrociously bad.” Kazan  vowed never to make another Hollywood film. And he didn’t until his sad/bad finale, The Last Tycoon, 1976.
  7. Anthony Hopkins, Hamlet, 1969.     Richard Harris’ plans to star and direct in Northumberland – with Scott as Claudius – were beaten by Tony Richardson’s plans in London.
  8. Martin Balsam, Catch 22, 1969.   Mike Nichols came acalling, offering Colonel Cathcart. But, but,  splutterted Scott, I’ve already played him in Dr Strangelove…  Same  reason Stanley Kubrick rejected the helming gig.
  9. Robert Mitchum, Ryan’s Daughter, 1970.    Robert Bolt composed a new take on Flaubert’s Madame Bovary for Sarah Miles and handed themselves to David Lean.  Hmm, sajd Lean, go away, try another take – no Bovarys and no France. Hence the film made in Ireland plus a stunning South African beach.  With Mitchum giving an acting masterclass  to his rivals for Sarah’s husband: Anthony Hopkins, Patrick McGoohan, Peter O’Toole, Gregory Peck, Paul Scofield  and George C Scott. Richard  Lester said Lean wanted Scott because he admired Petulia so much (and wrote Lester a letter about how much it taught him in terms of editing!)  Mitchum tried to refuse the role. “I was actually planning on committing suicide.” “Well,” said Bolt,  if you just finish working on this wretched little film and then do yourself in, I’d be happy to stand the expenses of your burial.”
  10. Walter Matthau, Plaza Suite, 1970. On Broadway, George C Scott and Maureen Stapleton  starred in all three Neil Simon mini-plays. Paramount wanted six stars:  Scott & Stapleton (repeating the first of their triples),  Peter Sellers & Baraba Streisand, Walter Matthau & Lucille Ball.  Then, Matthau insisted on playing the three guys – with Lee Grant, Barbara Harris and  Stapleton. Simon didn’t like the cast, nor the picture. “Walter was wrong to play all three parts. That’s a trick Peter Sellers can do. I would only have used Walter in the last sequence and,  probably, Lee Grant.”
  11. Clint Eastwood, Dirty Harry, 1971. 
  12. John Wayne, The Cowboys, 1971.
    “I’d really appreciate it if you gave me the chance to play this part, sir,” said Duke. Actor-turned director Mark Rydell couldn’t believe it. Duke was pleading
    …  “Sir, if you give me chance, I promise you I’ll be good in the pictuie.” “I didn’t want him,” said Rydell. “I wanted George C Scott. I was absolutely stunned by Wayne… completely seduced by him.        I was a Jewish liberal, rebel, left-wing kinda guy and I knew Wayne to be what he was… a strong right-winger, very much responsible for the blacklist in the 50s.   Yet he was, indeed, one of the most gracious, charming, available, professional men I’d ever met.”  Must admit to having the same experience when meeting Wayne during his London McQ promo in 1974. So did the Fleet Street crowd. Our aggressive  questions about his politics soon  dissipated and we all ended up begging the guy for his  autograph.  Incidentally, most memorable question that night  came from Duke, himself: “Where’s [pause] the head? Or [pause]  do I hafta [pause] piss outa window?”). Wayne compared Cowboys to Goodbye Mr Chips, Sands of Iwo Jima– an older man moulding youngsters. Rydell gave in but wanted Duke out of his Batjac comfort zone. “Because I didn’t want a standard Wayne performance. I wanted to agitate him off the mark…” So his wife was played by Allyn Ann McLerie, an ex-blackistee!   “He impresed me tremendously.”  And they quoted their favourite poems to each other!

  13. Burt Reynolds, Deliverance, 1971.  The studio “had very little confidence in the material,” said UK director Boorman. He wanted Marlon Brando and Lee Marvin as Lewis and Ed. “We’re too old,” said Lee. (Not as aged as the mad notion of Henry Fonda and James Stewart – the tough shoot would have killed them!) When the idea of Brando and Nicholson represented half the $2m budget, the Warner suits  looked at Warren Beatty and  Lee Marvin and  told UK director John Boorman: “Make it with nobodies for no money.”
  14. Warren Beatty,McCabe and Mrs Miller, 1971.     Fox bought the novel for Scott, Director Robert Altman wanted Elliott Gould and Pat Quinn. “One of my problems,” said Gould, “was I thought we should choose the leading lady together.”
  15. Marlon Brando, The Godfather,1971.
  16. Robert Redford, The Hot Rock, 1972.     UK director Peter Yates’ first casting idea: Scott and Redford. Once Redford read his pal William Goldman’s script, he wanted the lead – and persuaded George Segal to take his old role. Or, maybe Scott knew the UK title would, incredibly, become: How To Steal A Diamond In Four Uneasy Lessons.
  17. Gene Hackman, The Poseidon Adventure, 1972.    For SS Poseidon passenger list, producer Irwin Allen wanted Oscar-winners. He persuaded five to set sail: Jack Albertson, Ernest Borgnine, Red Buttons, Shelley Winters and the most recent, Hackman, as the hero. Scott was another, even though he refused his Patton Oscar in 1971. “I should’ve done the fucking thing because I could’ve made a lot of money. But I’m just as happy that I didn’t.  I saw that picture!”
  18. Charles Bronson, Death Wish, 1974.     “I’d have done it a lot differently. Although I admired what Charley did with it. I would’ve tried to get him to lean in a little different direction.”
  19. John Wayne, Rooster Cogburn, 1974.  The idea was fair – a sequel  to True Grit.  But if Wayne proved too ill, what would be the point of someone else in his titular Oscar-winning rôle? Marlon Brando topped producer Hal Wallis’ eye-patch  list of Eastwood, Richard Burton, Gene Hackman, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, George C Scott and some of Duke’s old co-stars: Kirk Douglas, Charlton Heston, Rock Hudson, Robert Mitchum, Gregory Peck.. Pus four of Katharine Kate’s previous co-stars – Charles Bronson, Burt Lancaster, Peter O’Toole, Anthony Quinn – and as she continued trying to pick guys she’d never  worked with before… Warren Beatty, Henry Fonda, Laurence Olivier, Ryan O’Neal, Paul Scofield, Henry Winkler (!)… (McQueen turned down her Grace Quigley in 1983).   Kate wrote that embracing Duke “was like leaning against a great tree.” This was director Stuart Miller’s second feature.  The  “6ft 6ins somafabitch no-talent, ” as  Duke termed him, never made a third.
  20. John Wayne, The Shootist, 1976.      Duke’s finale… Charles Bronson, Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman and Paul Newman passed. Scott was signed but not sealed when John Wayne showed interest in the dying gunfighter JB Brooks… and it was bye-bye George, baby! Despite Wayne – dead in three years – suffering heart, lung and prostate problems. Duke changed plenty, seeing that it could be – and was – a great end to one helluva career.

  21. Peter Finch, Network, 1976.
    “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore…”  Both director Sidney Lumet and writer Paddy Chayefsky came from the golden age of US TV – and pulled no punches in detailing where the medium was going (down the drain. Indeed, their fictional USB fourth network became, well, Fox.  After tenuous thoughts about real TV News anchors (John Chancellor and the venerable Walter Cronkite),Paddy had a wish list of real actors  for the unhinged news anchor Howard Beale: the first known instance of a man who was killed because he had lousy ratings.” Henry Fonda  found it “too hysterical” (his daughter Jane was up for Faye Dunaway’s Oscar-winning role), Glenn Ford,  Cary Grant, Gene Hackman, William Holden (he played news exec  Max Schumacher, instead), Walter  Matthau, Paul Newman, James Stewart (appalled by the script’s bad language!). Plus George C Scott , who refused because he had once been “offended” by Lumet! (Yet his final film was Lumet’s final film, Gloria, 1998).   Lumet had just the one name – and this proved to be Finchy’s farewell, winning the first posthumous Best Actor Oscar. Lumet was with Peter when he died. They were in the Beverly Hills Hotel, awaiting  a joint interview,  when  Finch collapsed and died soon after in hospital, never regaining consciousness from his heart attack.  His performance won the first posthumous acting Oscar. (Ironically, the second was also for an Aussie, Heath Ledger, for The Dark Knight… 33 years later).

  22. William Holden, Network, 1976.   Scott also refused  the middle-age news executive who is mentor, lover and victim… of, well, scenarist Paddy  Chayefsky wouldn’t give Scott’s wife the role in question. It won Faye Dunaway her Oscar.  Scott was still angry  a some old beef about  having been  “offended” by Lumet! Yet his final film was Lumet’s his final film, Gloria, 1998. 
  23. Gregory Peck, MacArthur, 1976.    “I shall return,” said, fanously, General Douglas MacArthur in WWII. ”I shall not,” said Cary Grant. Retired really meant retired. But nobody believed him! Also on Patton producer Frank McCarthy’s (very) short list were Marlon Brando, Charlton Heston and, of course,  George C Scott (“too close to Patton”)..  Plus, . incredibly, both Grant and John Wayne up for the same role as….  Laurence Olivier!   “They finally got around to me,” said Peck. At one point Universal announced Steven  Spielberg as director of McCarthy’s final production. He’d run out of generals.   (Three years later, Olivier was MacArthur in  Terence Young’s Inchon, 1979).

  24. Peter O’Toole, The Stunt Man, 1977. The dream project of director Richard Rush took seven years to finance and three more to release it… in 1980.  Jeff Bridges and Martin Sheen were sniffing around the title role  when Elia Kazan recommended Railsback. As for the director role, Sean Connery and George C Scott were suggested. They lacked O’Toole’s passion. “I am an articulate, intelligent man,” he told Rush. “I read the screenplay and if you don’t give me the part I will kill you.”

  25. Richard Burton, Equus, 1977.     Burton beat all contenders by “auditioning” in the play on Broadway for a spell.
  26. Dudley Moore, Ten, 1979.
  27. Alan Arkin, The Magician of Lublin, 1980.     Announced by a pre-Cannon Globus & Golan at Cannes 1976.
  28. Robert Mitchum, That Championship Season, 1982.     After James Cagney, Jason Robards, etc, Scott found himself on various lists… including the hit list of John Lennon’ assassin, Mark David Chapman.
  29. Richard Crenna, First Blood (Rambo), 1981.
  30. John Stanton, Tai-Pan, 1986.     Refused it – twice. Once opposite McQueen and he also rejected an $8m offer for a two-film version. “But you know you’re going to be miserable, it’s not going to be a good experience: why do it? Life’s too short.” 
  31. Ian Holm, Another Woman, 1988. Woody Allen’s costume designer Jeffrey Kurland hand-delivered the script to Holm – and then took it back to New York (with Holm’s suit measurements). Ian heard that Scott had refused to even to read the script. “Which,” commented Holm, “quite surprisingly, I thought, meant he must have received one.”
  32. Warren Beatty, Dick Tracy, 1989.  Sonny Bono with the missus, Cher, as Tess, were set for a  70s’ musical version that never flew.  Next came Ryan O’Neal in the earlty 80s. Then, Bruce Campbell, Robert De Niro, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, Robert Redford and even such total opposites as George C Scott and Tom Selleck were seen in ’89.   James settled for a cameo as Splandoni.  Beatty agreed to direct if he could play Tracy, his boyhood idol. Disney suits spoiled the whole caper by making him slash his 135 minute cut by a half-hour!
  33. Robert Mitchum, Cape Fear, 1991.     Scott’s ill-health made room for Mitchum – the villian in the 1962 version.
  34. Lloyd Bridges, Hot Shots, 1991.     Fun idea. The Clouseau-esque Admiral Thomas ‘Tug’ Benson could not have been funnier with Patton as the “blustery, multi-war veteran whose various body parts have been systematically replaced after a series of illustrious combat injuries.” It started a whole new, Leslie Nielsen-esque career for Bridges in his 80s, including two prim spots on Seinfeld just before his 1998 death.
  35. David Huddleston,The Big Lebowski, 1997.  In his making of book, ex-Coen Brothers assistant Alex Belth said the titular castingof the fat, wheelchair-bound Pasadena tycoon(Jeff Bridges was the son, remember) was among the final decisions made before shooting. The Coens aimed high – Marlon Brando! – then chewed through Scott, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Duvall (not seduced by the script), Andy Griffith (great idea!), Gene Hackman (on a break), Anthony Hopkins (not keen on playing Americans), author Norman Mailer, the longtime right vleft political adversaries William F Buckley and Gore Vidal…. And even the arch conservative  Bible thumping televangelist Jerry Falwell!
  36. Jason Robards, Magnolia, 1999.     Scott threw the script at writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson. “This is the worst fucking thing I’ve ever read. The language is terrible.”
  37. Jeremy Irons, The Borgias, TV, 2010.     The Italian Caligula director Tinto Brass told me he offered Pope Alexander VI to Scott long before  Irish director Neil Jordan got his film  off the ground  – as a TV  series.

Birth year: 1927Death year: 1999Other name: Casting Calls:  37