Charlton Heston (1924-2008)
- Dewey Martin, The Big Sky, 1951. The Grey Fox, Howard Hawks, paid $30,000for the rights to AB Guthrie Jr’s Western saga and considered Robert Mitchum opposite Heston or Marlon Brando for “the love story” of Jim and the younger Boone. Brando was too expensive at $125,00 (exactly the salary ofDouglas a year later) and Hawks slid downwards into Kirk Douglas and Martin.
- Gary Cooper, High Noon, 1951. Carl Forman created Sheriff Will Kane for Henry Fonda - passed over by the suits on being grey-listed for his politics. “Not for me,” said Heston, Marlon Brando, Montgomerty Clift, Burt Lancaster, John Wayne… Gregory Peck found it too similar to his previous Gunfighter(!). And Kirk Douglas came thisclose to playing Kane with Lola Albright as the missus. Cooper was keener. He even cut his fee to wear the tin star - and win the Oscar on March 19, 1953.
- Marlon Brando, Julius Caesar, 1953. MGM's Front Office voted Leo Genn, taciturnly impressive in Quo Vadis, or Heston, a 1948 Mark Antony at 25 in a $11,000 version in 16mm. And three years away from Moses..
- William Holden, Stalag 17, 1953. Holden said that the only time he was Billy Wilder's first choice for any film was for What A Life, 1939. Certainly, this was penned for Heston. But as Sefton became more cynical that, to Wilder, meant Holden. He hated it and was forced by his studio into...winning his Oscar. His acceptance speech was the shortest in Academy history: “Thank you!”
- Robert Wagner, Broken Lance, 1954. Ranald MacDougallhad written his “Cain and Abel on a mountain” forHeston as the younger brother.But not forSpencer Tracy as the impossibly 30 years older bother! He looked more like the kid’s grandpa. For the scenarist,the outcome ofthe primal contest between simple good and simple evil would have been more in doubt with a stronger man. “With Wagner, I felt that the younger man would emerge as being petulant rather than powerfully evil.”
- Richard Burton, Alexander The Great, 1955. One epic - The Ten Commandments - in a year was enough. “Alexander is the easiest kind of movie to do badly. I thought it overlong... Burton lacks the dimension of heroism.” Burton hated the epic so much he almost refused another one. Cleopatra. In short, the Burtons might never have happened!
- Robert Stack, Written on the Wind, 1956. “I was right..." says the Hollywood star most honest about listing all his rejections (or 95% of them) in his diary, published as The Actor's Life, 1976.
- James Dean, Giant, 1955.
- Kirk Douglas, Paths of Glory, 1957. “Partly to do Touch of Evil - Orson is impossible to resist.”
- Jeff Chandler, Jeanne Eagles, 1957. Not attracted...
- Christopher Plummer, Winds Across The Erverglades, 1957. Director Nicholas Ray, his star, Burl Ives, and their producersargued over Plummer.Possible substitutes:Heston, Ben Gazzara, even Paul Newman. Ray, however,kept the faith. More than scenarist-producer Budd Schulberg did, taking over the final days of shooting and subsequentediting fromthe (equally) alcoholic helmer. Warners released film in 1958, despite it being incomplete.
- James Garner, Darby's Rangers, 1958. Sacked! By Jack Warner when learning Heston's agent, Herman Citron, had won him 5% of the gross. His $250,000 law- suit was settled (hardly from the thin profits) in 1959. Garner made the film and suffered - financially. After Sayonara with Marlon Brando and the Maverick pilot, “they told me I was such a good guy that they wanted to give me a raise.” He was getting $250 a week, soon to be $350 - plus a further 18 months on the end of his seven-year contract. With a pregnant wife and a young daughter just out of hospital with polio, he was bumped up to $500 a week. “Well, on Monday morning, I found out I'd been given Heston's starring role... OK, the sons of bitches got to me!”
- Tony Curtis, The Vikings, 1958. “Foreign locations!”
- Raymond Massey, The Naked and The Dead, 1958. “What the hell do I want to play another general for after Jackson?”
- Kirk Douglas, Last Train From Gun Hill, 1958. Producer Hal Wallis bought TV writer Les Crutchfield’s tale for Heston - or Burt Lancaster. It was patterned after the 1956 Douglas-Lancaster-Wallis Western, Gunfight at the OK Corral. The name came from marrying the working titles: Last Train From Harper's Junctiony and Showdown at Gun Hill. Douglas was paid $325,000 against 10% of the gross.
- Stephen Boyd, Ben-Hur, 1958. Cesare Danova was Judah Ben-Hur and director William Wyler told Heston (as William Hart told Francis X Bushman in 1925): “Messala is the best godamm role in the story.” As Danova's English proved unsuitable, Heston got promoted - and never believed that Ben-Hur and Messala had been boyhood lovers. Boyd did and got the Oscar. (Wyler thad also tested Danton, Leslie Nielsen and two Brits: Ronald Lewis and Bill Travers… saw Steve Cochran and Victor Mature… and Robert Ryan, when Burt Lancaster was to be Ben-Hur). “Chuck hasn’t got much charm, has he?” said scenarist Gore Vidal (“a tart, embittered man,” wrote Heston in 1995). “No,” is how Vidal quoted Wyler’s reply, “and you can direct your ass off and he still won’t have any.”
- Dirk Bogarde, The Singer Not The Song, 1960. When Orson Welles thought of making it in 1957.
- Laurence Harvey, The Alamo, 1960. He read it. And a director called John Wayne offered him the choice of leading rolews. Colonel Travis...
- John Wayne, The Alamo, 1960. Or, Jim Bowie.
- Richard Widmark, The Alamo, 1960. Or even, Davy Crockett. (No wonder Roddy McDowall called Heston - Charlie Hero!) Chuck had no wish to be directed by Duke in what he felt was a right-wing movie.And Widmark made it clear that he was not to be called: Dick.
- Gene Kelly, Inherit The Wind, 1960. “The part [of a reporter] is not good," he wrote, "although the script is."
- Yves Montand, Let's Make Love, 1960. Choice between Marilyn - or Olivier directing him in Ben Levy's The Tumbler on Broadway. “I don't know if a verse play can run but I can't let this chance pass. I never saw the film but it could hardly have been a greater failure than The Tumbler. Nevertheless, I'd make the same choice again.” He learned enough to steal Khartoum from Laurence Olivier's Mehdi, 1966. As for Marilyn: “I could have resisted her. She was very resistible. I understood the appeal but she just wasn't my type. And anyway, if I resisted Ava Gardner, which I did, then resisting Marilyn would have been easy.”
- Robert Mitchum, The Grass Is Greener, 1960. Cary Grant's offer was “flattering, frustrating, like finding a naked girl hiding in your room.” He immensely admired Grant and longed to work with him. “Because he always did those films where you stand around in beautiful clothes, saying beautiful things to a beautiful woman. It's always seemed like a fine way to make a living. Of course, the trick is being able to do it the way Grant did.” And it was Grant's role to start with, until the death of Kay Kendall had him stepping into the role first set for her widower, Rex Harrison.
- Paul Newman, From The Terrace, 1960. Another bad script.
- Ralph Bellamy, Sunrise At Campobello, 1960. Fighting polio as FDR - the future 32nd US President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt - would have been the (physical) miscasting of the century.
- Efrem Zimbalist Jr, By Love Possessed, 1961. “A worse script than the stiff, clumsy El Cid” - which he first rejected, at first, in l960. The film was, in fact, little more or less than The Colbys soap bubble he starred in on TV, 1985-87
- 26 - Stuart Whitman, The Comancheros, 1961. Opposite John Wayne but Chuck was “very leery” as the offer was attached to a new director. Not for long. Veteran Michael bison Curtiz made the Western.
- Marcello Mastroianni, A Very Private Affair, France, 1961. “Not when I was involved,” French realisateur Louis Malle told me in London. “When it came to me there was no script and we wrote it for Brigitte and Marcello... and they wouldn't even talk to each other!” Heston found the idea “appealing but impossible... since she wants to shoot it in French.” He is the sole Hollywood star passing on films with both Bardot and Monroe!
- Jeff Chandler, Merrill's Marauders, 1961.. “Seems a little unlikely - I've never yet managed to get on a sound stage at that studio.” At Warners, that is, since the Darby's Rangers law suit. No problem for the, apparently, cross-dressing Chandler.
- Don Murray, Advise & Consent, 1961. Producer-director Otto Preminger's notion was anti-typecasting - Heston as the gay senator Brig Anderson. “I'm not put off by the homosexual angle but the part isn't very interesting. Anderson is acted upon rather than acting... The role of old Senator Cooley, now, would be a plum.” No deal. That plum was reserved for plummy Charles Laughton.
- John Wayne,The Longest Day, 1961. After William Holdenfell out andbefore Duke fell in,producer Darryl FZanuck mused upon the ramrod stiff Heston as the injured Lieutenant-Colonel Benjamin Vandervoort.
- Paul Newman, What A Way To Go, 1964. “A barren part. I'll pass. Let Paul Newman play it. Oddly enough, as I remember it, he did.”
- Glenn Ford, Fate Is The Hunter, 1964. Wise move from Charlie Hero!
- Stephen Boyd, The Fall of the Roman Empire, 1964. Wiser. Researched it for four months and thought better of it. Producer Samuel Bronston changed schedules, ripped down the largest outdoor movie set of the Roman Forum to make room 55 Days At Peking as Chuck's follow-up to El Cid.
- Marlon Brando, Morituri, 1965. Wisest… “Action script, more or less like 55 Days At Peking, but smaller. Brando should've passed, too.” Not only did he make it, it's one of the few films Brando actively media-promoted. it The runt-of-the-litter syndrome.
- Tony Curtis, The Great Race, 1965. “A funny script, ” Heston made few of those. Not quite his thing. He was ready to roll as The Great Leslie in the comic car-race across three continents when dates changed for his Michelangelo gig, The Agony and the Ectasy. Not a lot of laughs, that one. “Besides, [Jack] Lemmon really had the better part.”
- Peter O'Toole, Lord Jim, 1965. When Orson Welles tried to set it up in 1957.
- George Maharis, The Satan Bug, 1965. Almost his first science-fiction film. He made up for it with others.
- John Wayne, The Sons of Katie Elder, 1965. Dated back to 1955 when Hal Wall is wanted John Sturgis directing Burt Lancaster… now everyone from Heston to James Stewart were up for John Elder until Duke galloped in for $600,000, a third of the profits and and one-third ownership of the negative. With a month to go to the starting date, Duke told his producer son, Mike, and director Henry Hathway about the egg-sized tumour and in his left lung. “I’m gonna have the lung removed… tomorrow morning. Of course you’ll wanna recast - I suggest Kirk Douglas.” Hathaway had survived colon cancer and gave invaluable advice. “You’re gonna be as sore as hell - surgery is no piece of cake, expect to be tired and expect the recovery to take longer than you think.” Wayne was operated on September 17, 1964 on for six hours – twice, after edema set in. Producer Hal Wallis refused to recast. They would wait. Duke showed up for work on January 6, 1965.
- Telly Savalas, Beau Geste, 1966. After flirting with a a true UK number (Richard Burton, Albert Finney, Peter O'Toole), Universal's next notion was Dean Martin, Tony Curtis as the brothers Geste, Heston as Sergeant Markov. He was indignant - until viewing Brian Donlevy in Gary Cooper's 1939 re-make. “Markov is the best role.”
- Hugh O'Brian, Ambush Bay, 1966. “A remarkably bad action script... definitely negative, negative - double negative.”
- Richard Harris, Hawaii, 1966. “Too much plot and not enough people for my taste. I don't think Walter Mirisch, who produced it, was quite sure which part he really wanted me to play. Dick Harris gave one of his best performances as the roistering sea captain..."
- Max von Sydow, Hawaii, 1966. ... "Max von Sydow could hardly have been bettered as the driven missionary.” So, case of Charlie Zero... until Heston made the sequel, The Hawaiians, 1970.
- Kirk Douglas, Cast A Giant Shadow, 1966. Well, like Moses, Colonel Mickey Marcus was Jewish.
- Peter Sellers, Woman Times Seven, 1966. Keen to work with Shirley MacLaine and Vittorio De Sica - who called it a good cameo. Heston did not. “It's nothing, I'm disappointed. Of course, you have to give some weight to De Sica as a factor, but it doesn't seem worth doing.” It wasn't.
- George Segal, The Quiller Memorandum, 1966. Interested: “modern story, simple part, Harold Pinter due to script.”
- Kirk Douglas, The Way West, 1966. “OK by me,” he said on hearing his co-stars would be Robert Mitchum and Richard Widmark. Yet despite certain tax incentives, he passed Senator Tadlock to Douglas (who had starred in The Big Sky, 1951, the opening of Shane author AB Guthrie Jr’s s trilogy, closing with Three Thousand Hills, filmed in in 1958). “I was readily dispensable; they did fine without me.”
- Peter O'Toole, A Lion In Winter, 1968. A uniqe kind of epic - one without Charlie Hero!
- Rock Hudson, Ice Station Zebra, 1968. Good script, bad part. Patrick McGoohan had the good one.
- Henry Fonda, C’erra una volta il West (UK/US: Once Upon A Time in the West, Italy-US, 1968.Charlie Villain...?! Director Sergio Leonesaid he would have won a higher budget from, his usual spaghetti Western backers, UA- if he’d agreed to Heston, Gregory Peck and Kirk Douglas. Leone settled for less money, but all his own decisions at Paramount.
- Robert Ryan, The Wild Bunch, 1968.
- Kirk Douglas, The Arrangement, 1969. US director Elia Kazan asked for him in 1967. “I'm attracted by his reputation” but filming clashed with other plans. “It's nice to be wanted.” He still feels there was no film in the “loser's book, with a loser for a protagonist. All these bloody stories are the same - damned dreary.” Marlon Brando was booked - and suddenly quit.
- Richard Harris, Cromwell, 1970. Refused on November 2, 1961. Good job, too. Heston looked as much like Cromwell as he did Roosevelt.
- Robert Stephens, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, 1970. And lo, legendary auteur Billy Wilder decreed that Moses could not be Holmes. If only, said Stephens, nearly driven to suicide during the film as his marriage to Maggie Smith exploded.
- Jon Voight, Deliverance, 1971. “Sorry to have missed it; a good film.” But he was prepping a bad 'un. His biggest ego-trip - co-adapting, starring (as Marc Antony) and directing Antony and Cleopatra with a (deliberately?) weak Hildegarde Neil
- Richard Burton,The Assassination of Trotsky, 1972. “Not vastly excited” by producer Joe Shaftel’s 1960 offer.
- Oliver Reed, The Three Musketeers: The Queen’s Diamonds & The Four Musketeers: Milady’s Revenge, 1972. Enuff with action, said Chuck. “Good script, very funny, not a parody.Why do they want to spend as much as they have to pay me to play Athos? Not that good a part; nothing like the brilliant kind of key cameo roles actorslookfor.”
- Frank Finlay, The Three Musketeers: The Queen’s Diamonds &The Four Musketeers: Milady’s Revenge, 1972. Producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind (theydid more casting than poor director Richard Lester) were also turned down for Porthos. They still wanted Heston on their marquee and heagreed to be Cardinal Richlieu
- James Coburn, Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid, 1972.
- Robert Duvall, The Outfit, 1973. "Turned down after a skim."
- Roy Sheider, Jaws, 1974. Steven Spielberg decided against Heston because of his Charlie Hero image in other Universal thrillers (Airport 1975, Earthquake). The young director felt from the public’s point of view, Heston v the shark would be no contest! Rather like poor Heston v Vanessa Redgrave in what he did instead - Macbeth, on the LA stage.
- 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 Heston, Charles Bronson, Richard Burton, Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Burt Lancaster, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, George C Scott and some of Duke’s co-stars: Kirk Douglas, Charlton Heston, Rock Hudson, Robert Mitchum, Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn. This was director Stuart Miller’s second feature. The “6ft 6ins somafabitch no-talent, ” as Duke termed him, never made a third.
- Gregory Peck, The Omen, 1975. Dropped out of another horror, then called The Antichrist, after discussing it with his wife. Liked the script,the part was obviously right, but the exploitive potential of the film was off-putting. “And I disliked the idea of working alone through a European winter. Greg was quite marvelous ” Not having worked for five years, Peck cut his fee for 10% of the take - highest pay-chequeof his career.
- Rock Hudson, Embryo, 1976. He only liked the “horror flick” for a Columbia precedent. “The percentage of the gross they offer plus the guarantee. mIf thisis the new trend, the market is getting damn rich, especially for an old dog like me.”
- Derek Jacobi, I, Claudius, TV, 1976. Considered (so was BBComedy star Ronnie Barker!) for this jewel in Aunty’s crown.
- Robert Shaw, Force Ten From Navarone, 1976. Or Force 17 Years Later… Long wait for even a sorta-sequel. Shaw took over Gregory Peck’s 1960 Major Mallory and died from a heart attack during post-production - hence some of his dialogue is dubbed (by actor Robert Rietty, who rescued numerous roles – even dubbing Orson Welles, Christopher Plummer and Blofeld - in his career of 279 credits). Idem for his next movie, Avalanche Expresss.
- Richard Harris, The Cassandra Crossing,1977. “Even the prospect of Sophia Loren’s not quite enough to get me on that train full of plague victims being sent to their doom by an unscrupulous American colonel, while a scrupulous American doctor... well, it’s very complicated and the thought of twelve weeks in Italy, Switzerland does not excite me."
- Gregory Peck, MacArthur, 1977. His agent, Herman Citron (who died in 1987), felt he didn’t win the role because he was doing too many films. “I don’t quite buy this. Still, greater selectivity, thus even fewer films than I do now, would be the answer.”
- Glenn Ford, Once An Eagle, TV, 1977. “The best novel about war I’ve read,” he said in 1968, when doubting anyone could afford to film it. He was right. It became “an incredibly ordinary” TV series. “I still look at it as my finest unmade film. I really believe it could have been a great, great movie.”
- Steve McQueen, An Enemy of the People, 1978.
The American Film Theatre offer of an Arthur Miller adaptation arrivedat a goodtime, whenHestonwasonce again wondering about his whoring.“The part's right for me, it’d be a good balance (for the critical fraternity,if no one else)forthe commercial choices I’ve made in the last few months. On the other hand… Is it a good part? Not necessarily. Most translations of Ibsen are very stiff and almost unplayable.” He discussed it with Orson Welles(“Miller is really the Ibsen of ourtimes: talented, socially concerned and absolutelyhumourless”) and agreed-“for practically nothing.” His agent's deals for Charlie Hero parts in Earthquake, Airport ’75 could subsidise forays into Ibsen or Shakespeare - and Chuck was planning a stage Macbeth. McQueen asked Heston (apparently, a good friend), to play his brother in his version. “No, you need an English actor,” said Chuck. Of course, he may have been referring to McQueen’s lead role... Final score: Ibsen 10, McQueen, 1.
- Robert Stack, 1941, 1979. Badmouthing Steven Spieberg since being passed over for Police Chief Brody in Jaws, Heston swore he’d never work for the young director. (As if Spielberg needed him!) Publicly, he used the same excuse as John Wayne - that Spielberg’s General Stilwell was unpatriotic, an insult to WWII veterans. Except the farce had nothing to do with WWII veterans... just the hysterical folks at home. Worse, in LA!
- Jason Miller, The Ninth Configuration, 1980. First offered to him byExorcistauthor William PeterBlatty, as Twinkle, Twinkle, Killer Kane, then as The Eighth Configuration in 1976. “It’s not as unique as it was when I first read it, but it’s still a helluva attractive part.”
- Jason Robards, Raise The Titanic, 1980. The utter folly of the UK film and TV mogul, Lord Lew Grade, sounded a simple job for the man who parted the Red Sea.
- Gregory Peck, The Sea Wolves: The Last Charge of the Calcutta LightHorse, 1980. His meetings with producer Euan Lloyd came to naught.
- Kabir Bedi, The 40 Days of Musa Dagh, 1982. MGM toyed with the Armenian independence saga, going from Heston to Yul Brynner, before letting the property go to an Armenian business group.
- Richard Attenborough, Jurassic Park, 1992.
- Christopher Lloyd, My Favourite Martian, 1998. A Martian makes a visit - and friends with Jeff Daniels’s reporter. There goes the neighbourhood! (Title of another Daniels’ movie, circa 1992). The five possibilities fort “Uncle Martin” were Heston(!), Michael Douglas, Bill Murray (a tad obvious), Martin Sheen - and Star Trek’s latest skipper, Patrick Stewart.
- James Woods, Scary Movie 2, 2001. Marlon Brando was paid $1m to be straining on a toilet as Father McFeely in an Exorcist spoof, but he got pneumonia and was replaced by Woods after Heston nixed the idea. One year later, August 9, 2002, Heston announced he had Alzheimer's disease. “I can part the Red Sea, but I can’t part with you [the audience], which is why I won’t exclude you from this stage in my life.”