Lee Marvin (1924-1987)
- Rod Steiger, Oklahoma, 1954. From the outset, director Fred Zinnemann wanted actors rather than singers... Montgomery Clift, James Dean or Paul Newman as Curly, Eva Marie Saint, Joanne Woodward for Laurey and Marvin, Steiger, Marlon Brando, Eli Wallach for p’or Jud Fry - “a bullet-coloured, growly man,” as Curly called him. However, the musical’s parents had casting approval - Rodgers and Hammerstein agreed only on Steiger. Marvin had to wait a further 14 years before singing on-screen - in Paint Your Wagon. And immediately won a gold record for his #1 single, ‘Wand’rin’ Star.’
- Walter Brennan, Rio Bravo, 1958.
- Ricky Nelson, Rio Bravo, 1958.
- John Wayne, The Longest Day, 1961. His MCA agent passed on Duke’s role… Producer Darryl F Zanuck praised Wayne for accepting a cameo “even after he knew the same role had been turned down by another star who considered it ‘insignificant’. ”
- Chuck Connors, Synanon, 1964. History of Santa Monica’s Synanon House, the first rehab centre for US drug addicts. (AA wouldn’t touch them). Well-meaning but it didn’t inhale. Marvin called himself a dog-assed heavy, one of the posse … “with a sagging mouth, makes me look like an idiot - because I can’t breathe through my nose.” (Well, no wonder he played Slob in Shack Out On 101, 1955). Randolph Scott and Jack Webb pushed Marvin. “This kid’s good. You should give him more lyrics.” Just as Marvin would boost the careers of Richard Boone, James Coburn, Pernell Roberts, Stuart Whitman,
- Burt Lancaster, The Hallelujah Trail, 1964. “I was a troubleshooter. If they didn’t know what to do with a role, they’d say: We’ll give it to Lee Marvin. He’ll do something without overpowering the stars.” Not this time. He passed - easily - on the veteran US Cavalry colonel in an over-the-top and unfunny comedy. Whiskey Galore Goes West.
- James Coburn, Major Dundee, 1964. Coburn and Sam Peckinpah went on to make two more films together. In the 50s, New York Times critic Vincent Canby dubbed Marvin: The Merchant of Menace.
- Clint Eastwood, Per un pugno di dollari/For A Fistful of Dollars, Italy-Spain-Germany, 1964. After Henry Fonda (actually, his agent) refused the Euro-pudding from, well, an unknown Euro-pudding. Marvin followed suit and passed on what became The Men With No Name - a different character per movie: Anonymous, Manco (Joe for US), and Blondie.
- Lee Van Cleef, Per qualche dolllaro in piu/For A Few Dollars More, Italy-Germany-Spain-Monaco, 1964. Never too happy about mixing spaghetti with pork ’n’ beans. Marvin quit for Cat Ballou (and as things turned out, an Oscar). Leaving poor Sergio Leone three days to find a new Colonel Mortimer. Studying the Academy Players Directory on the plane to LA, Sergioi’s eye fell upon a familiar face “with the nose of an eagle, the eyes of Van Gogh… and a Sicilian haircut. I remembered him from Bravados and High Noon.” Yet Van Cleef proved a forgotten man in Hollywood. No one knew who or where he was. “Finally his old agent phoned me…Lee had been in hospital after breaking nearly all his bones in a car crash- and stayed long enough to get off the booze. He’d given up movies for painting with little success.” He met with Leone. He offered $15,000. Lee took it. And the next plane together to Rome. That’s where he first read the script (“it’s Shakespearean!”) “We touched down at noon, arrived at Cinecitta at 1pm and by 2.15pm he was doing his first scene.”
- Lee Van Cleef, Il Buono, il brutto, il cattivo/The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Italy-Spain, 1966. A week before shooting, Marvin won his Cat Ballou Oscar and pulled out. Leone then tried Bronson rather than the other Lee, fearing that his audience would not accept the last film’s Colonel as a villain. Van Cleef insisted he was a faster draw than Clint: taking one eighth of a second to draw, cock and fire.
- John Forsythe, In Cold Blood, 1966. Liked the script (almost as good as Truman Capote’s remarkable book), but…
- Marlon Brando, Reflections In A Golden Eye, 1967. Following the death of Montgomery Clift, director John Huston suggested Richard Burton, Lee Marvin or Broadway star Patrick O'Neal for the gay Major Penderton. Elizabeth Taylor said “No Brando, no film!” And Marlon felt he owed it to Clift. And so, Brando taught De Niro how to talk to a mirror.
- George C Scott, Petulia, 1967. Director Richard Lester was keen on Marvin as the recently divorced medico starting a semi-affair with Julie Christie - and not taking the lovely kook seriously until she’s beaten up by husband Richard Chamberlain. Just a few years back and Marvin would have been favourite for the brutal husband!
- William Holden, The Wild Bunch, 1968.
- George C Scott, Patton, 1969.
- Clint Eastwood, Two Mules for Sister Sara, 1969. One-of-a-kind-director Budd Boetticher wrote it for Marvin, who passed it to Mitchum, who passed it to John Wayne who… Well, having been offered it by potential co-star Elizabeth Taylor as he made Where Eagles Dare with Richard Burton, Clint took over the cowpoke suddenly saddled with, Silvia Pinal, Deborah Kerr or even Taylor (too pricey!) as a nun… who, as naturally as night follows day, proves to be a hooker in disguise.
- Ernest Borgnine, Bunny O’Hara. 1970. Wanted - a crook. To teach Bette Davis how to commit “social revenge” bank robberies. She wanted Marvin. She got another Dirty Dozen star. Any one them would have been fine. None could have saved this clinker.
- Jack Elam, Cat Ballou, TV, 1971. “You don’t make TV shows for fun - you make them for money.” Yet Marvin was hardly going to take the shine off his Oscar to reprise his drunken gunslinger Kid Sheleen in this particularly weak pilot at NBC...
- Forrest Tucker, Cat Ballou, TV, 1971. ... nor this weaker one as NBC surprisingly wasted money on two pilots (Jane Fonda’s role going, in turn, to Lesley Ann Warren and Jo Ann Harris). Neither pilot flew. How could they sans Marvin? Besides, he’d finished with TV in 1960, following 117 episodes and four years as Chicago PD cop Frank Ballinger in M Squad.
- Omar Sharif, Le Casse/The Burglars, France-Italy, 1971. Realisateur Henri Verneuil wanted an international name for the corrupt cop Stork. Marvin refused - taking none too kindly to a French re-make of an David Goodis script, The Burglar, 1957. Once, the director switched locales from Hamburg to Greece, "Omar Sharif was perfect." (He later played Verneuil's father in the director’s autobiographical films, Mayrig and 588 rue Paradis, 1991).
Gene Hackman, The French Connection, 1971. Marvin’s name came up because the first draft was by Alexander Jacob, who wrote Marvin’s 1966 Point Blank classic. But Lee didn’t like cops, even though (or because?) he owed his career to playing one, Chicago PD’s Frank Balinger, in TV’s M Squad, 1957-1960. Other suggestions for the NYPD cop ‘Popeye’ Doyle were writer Jimmy Breslin, Charles Bronson, Jackie Geason, Steve McQueen, Robert Mitchum, Paul Newman, Rod Taylor… and, cheapest of all, the Fox Batman, Adam West. Holy moley!!!!
Burt Reynolds, Deliverance, 1971. “We're too old,” said Lee when John Boorman mused about Marvin and Brando. Then, Jack Nicholson agreed to be Ed if Boorman could swing Marlon as Lewis. Trouble was, Brando now despised acting, “nothing more than mimicry - a bunch of tricks.” Even so, he agreed. “I”ll take whatever you pay Jack.” Well, Jack’s agent Sandy Bresler wanted $500,000 - and that ruined the budget. The sans-moustache Reynolds of the 70s resembled the young Brando.
- Paul Newman, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, 1972. When John Milius hoped to direct his own scenario. Time critic Jay Cocks said hearing Marvin talk “was like listening to Dizzy Gillespie play.”
- Elliott Gould, The Long Goodbye, 1973. Philip Marlowe according to director Peter Bogdanovich. Then, Brian Hutton took the film over and suggested a Gould comeback. Then, Robert Altman took it over and agreed.
- Charlton Heston, Earthquake, 1974. Charley Hero (Roddy McDowell’s name for Heston) wanted to wear a suit for once…
- Robert Shaw, Jaws, 1974. Although, allegedly quite scared of him, director Steven Spielberg offered Quint to Marvin. His reply? “I’d rather go fishing!”
- Robert Mitchum, The Yakuka, 1974. Clint Eastwood passed and helmer Robert Aldrich switched to Marvin, then Mitchum (who had passed Cat Balou to Marvin). Mitchum froze Aldrich out in favour of... oh, anybody else, man.
- Rod Steiger, Wolf Lake, 1978. Missing this post-Vietnam drama was a shame. Auteur Burt Kennedy had budgetry problems. By the time, he managed a cheap Mexican shoot ($970,000), Marvin had moved on and Steiger moved in.
- John Terry, Excalibur, 1981. UK director John Boorman’s first choice for King Arthur in 1975 was the star of his Point Blank, 1967, and Hell in the Pacific, 1968.
- Brian Dennehy, First Blood (aka Rambo),1982.
- Richard Crenna, First Blood (aka Rambo), 1982.
- Robert Mitchum, That Championship Season, 1982. Cannon’s much ridiculed Go-Go Boys, Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, couldn’t snare Marvin for the basketball coach. But they did produce his 107th and final screen role in The Delta Force, 1985. He died, at 63, two years later in Arizona.
- Jon Voight, The Runaway Train, 1984. Akira Kurosawa wanted Marvin - of course, he did, after seeing him with the Kurosawa-made star, Toshiro Mifune, in John Boorman’s Hell in the Pacific, 1967. Here, the role was an escaped convict aboard a fast moving train… without a driver. Due in 1970 as the Japanese auteur’s first US film, the project was canceled due to heavy snowstorms (and budget hassles) in the upstate New York. Cannon wisely invited Russian director Andrei Konchalovsky aboard - and really shook up the 1986 Cannes festival.
- Burgess Meredith, King Lear, 1986. Israeli producer Menahem Golan’s suggestion to the bilious realisateur Jean-Luc Godard after working with Lee. But the Israeli producer’s Delta Force, 1986, proved to be Marvin’s last hurrah, with, alas, very little to hurrah about. Orson Welles and Ingmar Bergman refused offers to be the interlocutor (well, Bergman never replied); then, Godard offered the same job - and $500,000 - to Richard M Nixon.
- Christopher Lloyd, Track 29, 1987. Having befriended Dennis Potter during Gorky Park in 1983, Marvin knew all about the UK writer’s next script and was eager to head Joseph Losey’s first film in the US America for 37 years. However, financing collapsed and Losey died in 1984. Nic Roeg made it as the second of his seven movies with his wife, Theresa Russell.
- Tommy Lee Jones, April Morning, TV, 1988. While consecutively making The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and Donovan’s Reef, 1961 and 1962, John Ford talked to Marvin about what should have been the great director’s finale. Howard Hawks also tried to film Howard Fast’s novel about the morning of April 19, 1775, when “ the shot heard ’round the world” started the American Revolutionary war.
- Jan Triska Andersonville, TV, 1996. For the never made 1965 cinema version, Marvin had been up for the ruthless and possibly insane Confederate Colonel Henry Wirtz, running America’s most infamous POW camp. Worse than Guantanamo, the South’s Andersonville is where 12,912 Union soldiers, met their deaths through malnutrition and disease. Wirtz was tried and executed after the Civil War for murder. (Richard Basehart played Wirtz in an earlier tele-film, The Andersonville Trial, 1970).