Richard Harris (1930-2000)
- Dean Stockwell, Sons and Lovers, 1960. Robert Goldstein, London's Fox chief, suggested Harris as the son - DH Lawrence, himself - of Vivien Leigh and Jack Hawkins. Director Jack Cardiff duly saw them all and talked them out of it, "although the test made with Harris was hilariously enjoyable."
- Richard Attenborough, The Great Escape, 1962. Roger Bartlett was given to Harris, who quit because (a) This Sporting Life was running late and (b) he was not happy with the way the emphasis switched from British Commonwealth POWs to Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas, who finally became James Garner and Steve McQueen - when all US prisoners were moved from Stalag Luft III seven months before the mass break-out on March 24, 1944.
- David Tomlinson, Mary Poppins, 1963. Harris, James Mason, George Sanders, Donald Sutherland and Terry-Thomas were in the mix for Mr Banks in Walt Disney’s supercalifragilisticexpialidocious version of PL Travers’ books - Uncle Walt’s finest hour. Eight Oscars!
- Robert Shaw, The Luck of Ginger Coffey, 1964. He had not yet won Best Actor at Cannes for This Sporting Life, but there was a Haris buzz in the air and he had a choice: a Peckinpah Western in Mexico for hefty dollars, or a great little script for much less. "I had wife and kids but no house - so Major Dundee bought us a house." It was, though, he later admitted, the start of run of bad choices while Shaw had a better Hollywood career.
- Christopher Plummer The Fall of the Roman Empire, 1964. Harris loved the first script - obviously, as it centred around his mad Emperor Commodus. Refused the second, plus the $400,000 fee, as it violated his no-cuts clause - inserted since his experiences on Mutiny on the Bounty.
- Michael Caine, The Ipcress File, 1965. He rejected it for... Caprice with Doris Day! "I have been guilty of a lack of judgment in my roles," he admitted to Sean Connery while shooting The Molly Maguires. (As his wife, Ann Turkel, was to find out). Connery recovered and achieved Oscar-winning superstardom. Harris never did.
- Rod Taylor, Young Cassidy, 1965. The role was the young Sean O'Casey. At least, Harris had Irish blood. But it would never have worked. He felt that legendary director John Ford (and actor Barry Fitzgerald) were responsible for crimes against Ireland with overly sentimental, Oirish portraits.
- Laurence Olivier, Bunny Lake Is Missing, 1965. Director Otto Preminger and Harris on the same set. Impossible!
- Richard Johnson, The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders, 1965. Bondsmith Terence Young juggled various couplings from the Connerys (Diane Cilento) to Loren-Beatty and Harris-Gina Lollobrigida before settling on Johnson-Kim Novak. They clicked better off-screen - and wed. For all or 13 months.
- Sean Connery, Thunderball, 1965.
- Mike Connors, Se tutte le donne del mondo (US: Kiss The Girls And Make Them Die), Italy, 1965. This is among Quentin Tarantino’s favourite films. Yeah, that bad. When Italian cinemogul Dino De Laurentiis tried to cash in on 007 (it was all Italy was doing at the time), he passed on Harris and fell for Connors in his test for a similar spy spoof…
- Dean Martin, The Silencers, 1965. Michael Connors lost the Matt Helm franchise (four films in two years, each worse than t’other). However, Mike Connors won TV shamus, Mannix, He played him for eight years., 1967-1975. Or so they say. I felt sure that towards the end his waxwork dummy took over. Girls… is among Quentin Tarantino’s favourite films. Yeah, that bad.
- Rod Taylor, The Liquidator, 1966. Getting lofty, Harris dismissed it as being too commercial! Went to Norway to join Kirk Douglas' Heroes of Telemark, instead. The on-set gofer was 21-year-old... Michael Douglas.
- Nigel Davenport, Play Dirty, 1968.
Harris arrived in Almeria in February 1968, and split, immediately. "I wasn't going to play second fiddle to Caine. This was a royal fuck-up because [producer Harry] Saltzman lied to me.... [I] had a clause in my contract saying an offered role could not be tampered with once I'd accepted. Saltzman signed that contract. But then, when I arrived in Spain, I was given 30 new pages, with four of my main scenes cut to ribbons. I told Saltzman: 'You are a contemptible, low-life fucker' and I walked off." The Harris-Caine feud never ended, certainly not after a 1995 Harris letter to the Sunday Times castigating Caine as "an over-fat, flatulent, 62-year-old windbag, a master of inconsequence now masquerading as a guru, passing off his vast limitations as pious virtues... traumatised into petty tantrums of disbelief when Hopkins, McKellen, Jacobi and Stephens were elevated to knighthood... but... he did achieve the title he had diligently worked for, Farceur du Salon, of Beverly Hills - and a lot of people know that. "
- Peter McEnery, Meglio vedova/Better A Widow, Italy, 1968. Better a refusal.
- Nicol Williamson, Hamlet, 1969. To be or not to be... beaten. "If I had to choose between working another 20 years as an actor or doing Hamlet and ending my career, I'd take Hamlet." Much of the 60s were devoted to minutely preparing his Dane - Ophelia changing from Faye Dunaway to Mia Farrow - to be directed by Harris or Frank Silvera. Tony Richardson's project won backing first. Harris never did play the Dane. "This Sporting Life was my Hamlet, and The Field, my Lear."
- Robert Ryan , The Wild Bunch, 1968.
- Yves Montand, On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, 1970.
Now this one sounds rather familiar… Harris signed on condition that he could sing the songs. "They cut them! It became Stresiand's vehicle. I'd no intention of playing second fiddle to her. At this stage in my career, I don't have to sit around and watch someone act or sing." Making up for passing on him for An American in Paris, director Vincente Minnelli called up the Frenchman, offering $200,000. Uneasy about playing another Latin lover, Montand made a counter-offer of $400,000, "just to see what they say". To his surprise, Paramount accepted. Yet critics agreed, the sole problem with the film (apart from La Barb’s ego) was the Frenchman.
- Anthony Quinn, Flap (UK: Nobody Loves A Drunken Indian), 1970. "A marvellous part. I'd banked everything on it and now some fat shareholder in New York has sat on the basket and it's off. I foresee a disastrous year for me." Ort, well on nigh 30 years.
- Christopher Jones, Ryan's Daughter, 1970. When Brando quit, scenarist Robert Bolt suggested three stalwart boozers to David Lean: Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Peter O'Toole.
- Albert Finney, Scrooge, l970. Harris backed out, as did Rex Harrison (in mid-affair with Mrs Harris, Elizabeth Rees, soon d to be the fifth of six Mrs Harrison). Finney had also passed - then changed his mind.0 -Richard Kiley, The Little Prince, 1974. When Sinatra quit, director Stanly Donen ran through everyone from Richard Burton, Robert Goulet, Gene Hackman, plus Richard and his Hamlet rival, Nicol Williamson.
- Richard Kiley, The Little Prince, 1974. When Sinatra quit, director Stanley Donen ran through everyone from Richard Burton, Robert Goulet, Gene Hackman, plus Richard and his Hamlet rival, Nicol Williamson.
- Donald Sutherland, The Eagle Has Landed, 1976. Withdrew as the IRA man out to kill Churchill during WWII. after anonymous calls about the actor having attended an IRA fund-raise were made to exec producer David Niven Jr - ex-husband of the new Mrs Harris, Ann Turkel.
- Stacy Keach, The Squeeze, 1976. Low after turkeys like The Cassandra Crossing, Orca, he was threatened with litigation by Warners for reneging on a verbal deal for the British gangster movie - while talking to Ingmar Bergman about...
- David Carradine, The Serpent's Egg, 1978. Richard was first choice for Bergman's then most expensive film ($4m.). Falling ill led to Bergman's "gift from heaven" - finding Carradine in a work print of Bound For Glory.
- James Coburn, Mr Patman, Canada, 1980. He knew that Patman would be no hit, man.
- David Niven, The Sea Wolves, 1980. Few The Wild Geese made it to sea. Harris was subbing for Richard Burton (spine surgery) in the Camelot revival and was still in it when Burton died in 1984.
- Sean Connery, Der Name der Rose/The Name of the Rose, France-Italy-West Germany, 1986. Réalisateur Jean-Jacques Annaud was not keen on 007 as Umberto Eco’s medieval monk turned detective. Columia Pictures even refused financing if Connery was involved as his post-Bond star was imploding. Naturally, Brando topped Annaud’s further 14 ideas. Six Americans: Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, Frederic Forrest, Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, Roy Scheider; four Brits: Michael Caine, Albert Finney, Ian McKellen, Terence Stamp; plus the Irish Harris, Canadian Donald Sutherland, French Yves Montand, Italian Vittorio Gassman and Swedish Max von Sydow. Connery’s reading was the best and his career exploded anew. Two years later, he won his support Oscar for The Untouchables.
- Lloyd Bridges, Blown Away, 1994. Wary of yet another IRA bomb(er) project.
- Nicol Williamson, Spawn, 1997. Poor Todd McFarlane. He lost Richard. And despite Cogliostro being bearded in Todd’s comicbooks, Nicol refused to grow or wear one. This proved the Scot’s final film role before dying of esophageal cancer in 2011.
- Michael Gambon,Harry Potter and the Prisoner ofAzkaban, 2004. Richard’s death meant a new Dumbledore, aka Professor Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, Order of Merlin (First Class), Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards and Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot.
- Jeremy Irons, The Borgias, TV, 2010. The Italian Caligula director Tinto Brass told me he offered Pope Alexander VI to Harris long before Irish director Neil Jordan got his film off the ground - as a TV series.