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Sir Alan Bates (1934-2003)


  1. Sean Connery, An Age of Kings, TV, 1960.      As impulsive as Hostspur, Bates refused to be Harry Hotspur in the BBC’s Shakespearian chronicle of king’s lives  across the 86 years between Richard II and Richard III.
  2. Dean Stockwell, Sons andLovers, 1960.      Losing out to an American for a DH Lawrence tale was rough, but Bates later secured theLawrentian figure in Women in Love, 1969.
  3. Robert Redford, Inside Daisy Clover, 1964.   The Brit was lucky to escape this disaster – as the moie star lover of the new chick in town. (Except Daisy was 15, and Natalie Wood, who played her, was 27). 
  4. Robert Redford, This Property Is Condemned, 1966.       Routine Hollywood interest in Bates  following his  Euro-hit: Zorba The Greek. After this  second consecutive flop  with Redford, Wood quit movies for three years.
  5. Stuart Whitman, The Sands of the Kalahari, 1965.      Chose a BBC-TV play instead.
  6. Keir Dullea, The Fox, 1968.       Missing out on DH Lawrence again: opposite... well, Vivien Leigh and Patricia Neal, were the opening gambit. (But the producer was married to Anne Hwyood!). 
  7. Jean-Pierre Cassel, L’armée des ombres (US: Army of Shadows), France-Italy, 1969.     For the greatest film about the French Resistance - and indeed his own masterpiece - auteur Jean-Pierre Melville was considering Bates (or Tom Courtenay) as François, youngest of Lino Ventura’s cell.   Bates had already made a French film, Le roi de coeur (US: King of Hearts), 1966,  Courtney never did.
  8. Oliver Reed, Women In Love, 1969.       First director, Silvio Narizzano,  chose Bates as Gudrun’s self-destructive lover Gerald. Mext man in charge, Ken Russell, preferred his mate Reed opposite Bates as Rupert - in the historic, full-frontal nude wresting bout.
  9. Jean-Paul Belmondo, La Sirene du Mississippi, France, 1969.        François  Truffaut’s  producer wannabes, the Hakim brothers - they didn't even own the rights - wanted Alan or Alain (Delon).  Although fretting about the character’s age, Belmondo signed on.
  10. Richard Chamberlain, The Music Lovers, 1971.      “I was lucky,” said the ex-Dr. Kildare.“Alan Bates left for a more lucrative film.”

  11. Peter Finch,  Sunday Bloody Sunday, 1970.       Director John Schlesinger  first called up Ian  Bannen to replace Bates  when he was delayed on The Go-Between.  It soon became obvious that the Scot couldn’t hack playing a gay medic and, worse, having to kiss co-star Murray Head. Finchey  came to the rescue -  losing an Oscar due (everyone said) to the gay kiss that  Bannen felt would have  ruined his career. In  fact, he later said his career never recovered from being unable to cope with the script. Until Sean Connery (keen on succeeding him here) asked Bannen to join him in The Offence, 1972., one of his 206 screen roles in 45 years.
  12. Michael Caine, Sleuth, l972.        Director Joseph L Mankiewicz's second choice after Albert Finney said Milo was “unbecoming.” Caine couldn’t lose: “If I'm not good as Olivier is, that wouldn’t be news.  If I give him a run for his money - and I will - people will be surprised.” He didn’t. But thought he did   (He played Olivier’s role in the 2007 re-make, with Jude Law in Caine’s old part - again. Law had also re-trod Caine’s immortal Alfie, 2004. Both re-hashes failed. As they should).
  13. Oliver Reed, The Three Musketeers, 1973.       Bates passed and so Athos went to his Women In Love co-star. Originally intended for John Lennon, when the Beatles were supposed to make the movie in 1967. Of course, of course! During the third film, The Return of the Three Musketeers, 1988, a riding accident led to the death of UK character star Roy Kinnear.   Director Richard Lester was so upset, he never made another film.
  14. Jean-Louis Trintignant, Le secret, France, 1974.      A man on the run shatters the tranquilityof a couple.
  15. Brian Cox, In Celebration, 1975.       When Bates spurned director Lindsay Anderson’s invitation to play Steven Shaw - and  accepted the older brother, Andy,   Steven became Cox - a stage actor finding it tough  to lower  his stage acting for cameras in his screen debut. .  He succeeded and had played 190 screen roles by 2013.  Including Agamemnon, Bach, Nye Bevan, Göring, Henry II, Victor Hugo, Ibsen, Lear, Hannibal Lecter, Macbeth, Stalin, Trotsky... 
  16. Dennis Hopper, Mad Dog Morgan, 1975.        “Everybody actually wanted to do it,” said Australian director Philippe Mora about the titular Daniel Morgan, chief inspiration of Australia’s most famous bushranger, Ned Kelly. The short list included:  Bates, Stacy Keach, Malcolm McDowell, Martin Sheen - and playwright Jason Miller.  First-time UK producer Jeremy Thomas “somehow”  got  Hopper for a mere $50,000.  “He brought an insanity to the role,” added Mora, “and an intensity that most actors would have found impossible to create. Dennis was incredibly famous as Mr Counterculture, Mr Easy Rider, so every drug dealer and hippie... were almost parachuting in to meet Dennis Hopper.” A comeback was born and one of my most memorable Cannes festival interviews on  a rainy May 26, 1976. At one point, he and Michael Douglas split for the men’s room, when they returned I’d swear their feet never touched the floor…  (Bates starred in UK producer Jeremy Thomas’ next  film, The Shout, 1977).
  17. Roy Scheider, All That Jazz, 1979.        When director Bob Fosse was convinced (by his health) not to try and play his screen self, Broadway choreographer Joe Gideon was chased and/or avoided by… Bates (“too British,” said Fosse), Alan Alda, Warren Beatty (keen, but Gideon must not die at the end!), Robert Blake, Richard Dreyfuss (“afraid of the dancing”), Elliott Gould, Gene Hackman, Jack Lemmon (“too old”), Paul Newman (“Dumb of me… a terrible oversight”), Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, George Segal, Jon Voight. Scheider just grabbed the “outrageous, assaulting, melodramatic, very funny, stupid, silly, simplistic, vulgar… wonderful movie!” Exactly.
  18. Edward Woodward, Breaker Morant, Australia, 1980. The producers wanted an international name (Bates, Rod Steiger?) for the titular poet, horseman and convicted Boer War criminal. Aussie director Bruce Beresford went, instead, for the star of the great UK TV series, Callan, 1967-1972.  “Bruce had seen my TV work and The Wicker Man. They then found that I had this extraordinary resemblance to the man, which spurred them on even more.”  He was perfection.  Even if Noel Coward once said: “Edward Woodward... Edward Woodward... sounds like a fart in the bath.”
  19. Dirk Bogarde, The Patricia Neal Story, TV, 1981.       Bates quit three weeks before playing writer Roald Dahl rehabilitating his actress wife after her 1965 strokes. Glenda Jackson was Neal.  “No one else on earth but she,” declared Bogarde, “could have have got me back to Los Angeles.”
  20. Michael Caine, The Jigsaw Man, 1983.       Producer Benjamin Fisk’s second choice (after Robert Shaw) for the thinly disguised version of Britain’s most infamous Moscow spy, Kim Philby.
  21. David Hemmings, The Rainbow, 1989.        “Red faces all around!” said director Ken Russell. He wanted Hemmings; the USbackers did not.Russell failed withhis previous DH Lawrence players (Bates, Oliver Reed) and was about to play the blacksheep Uncle Henry, himself, when with four days to go, Vestron gave in on Hemmings. Naturally, he upped his fee for, as Russell phrased it, “being pissed about with.”
  22. Nick Nolte, Clean, France, 2004.      Ill... then dead from pancreatic cancer.









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