Paul Newman (1925-2008)
- Marlon Brando, On The Waterfront, 1953. Director Elia Kazan was more upset than he revealed by Marlon Brando’s point-blank refusal in August 1953 - because of Kazan naming names in the McCarthy witch-hunt era. This lead to Sinatra’s handshake deal. Director Elia Kazan, The Boy Genius of Broadway, feared The Voice would split too early for his next gig. OK, Montgomery Clift! Or, Newman. “He’s a wonderful prospect, rugged, sexy and somehow turbulent inside,” he wrote to producer Sam Spiegel. “He looks quite a lot like Brando.” And to help make Brando jealous enough to change his mind, Kazan had Karl Malden direct a test of Newman - and his future wife Joanne Woodward as Edie). Spiegel never gave up on Brando but it was the actor’s father who solved the issue. He called his workshy son’s agent, Jay Kanter: “Isn’t there anything you feel he should do?”
- Scott Brady, Johnny Guitar, 1954. Joan Crawford hoped to land him the role of The Dancing Kid. “It will de ,” she told him, “better for him than East of Eden.”
Tab Hunter, Battle Cry,1955. The one, the only time Newman was up for the same role as Tab Hunter!You’d think... butnot so.This was merelythe first time... (See #9). They were both up for Lafayette Escradille, 1958.Hunter was offered The Hustler by director Robert Rossen before it landed at Newman’s door.Tab also turned down an offer to succeed Newman in Tennessee Williams’ Sweet Bird of Youth on Broadway. They co-starred in The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, 1972. (Battle Cry was a book by Leon Uris- as was Newman’s Exodus, 1960).
- Richard Davalos, East of Eden, 1955.
At the end of their improvised test as the Trask brothers for director Elia Kazan, James Dean asked Newman for a kiss - “real deep and dirty.” Paul pinched Dean’s butt. “On some days I’m in love with you,” Dean told Marlon Brando. “On other days in love with Paul.” Like Kazan’s first idea (Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift!), Newman was too old at 29. He debuted, instead, in the forgettable Silver Chalice opposite Pier Angeli - Dean's lover, after her affairs with Kirk Douglas, John Drew Barrymore, Brando (Dean's lover, as well) and Eddie Fisher before marrying fellow-Catholic singer Vic Damone.
- Gordon MacRae, Oklahoma, 1955. From the outset, director Fred Zinnemann wanted actors rather than singers... Montgomery Clift or James Dean as Curly, Rod Steiger or Eli Wallach as p’or Jud Fry. For a wee while, it looked as ifNewman and his future wife, Joanne Woodward, would be Curly and Laurey. However, the musical’s parents had casting approval -Rodgers and Hammerstein, agreed only on Steiger. PS: Oklahoma was shot in... Arizona.
- William Holden, Picnic, 1956. Newman worked up a good audition with Carroll Baker and impressed scenarist Daniel Taradash - but not Broadway’s Joshua Logan, who directed the movie.
- Christopher Plummer, Winds Across The Everglades, 1957. Director Nicholas Ray, his star, Burl Ives, and their producersargued over Plummer. (Newman, Ben Gazzara, even Charlton Heston were discussed as substitutes). Ray, however,kept the faith. More than scenarist-producer Budd Schulberg did, taking over the final days of shooting and subsequent editing from the (equally) alcoholic helmer. Warners released film in 1958, despite it being incomplete.
- Gene Kelly, Marjorie Morningstar, 1957. What were they thinking?! Natalie Wood’s Jewish lover was... 32. Kelly was 45 and Irish. Jewish Newman was ... 32. Hey, ‘twas the fag-end of the 50s.
- Elvis Presley, King Creole, 1957. Imagine Presley’s rapture at winning a role once aimed at his idols: Marlon Brando and James Dean! Before the Harold Robbins’ hero was tailored to suit Elvis, other potential Danny Fishers were: Newman, Tony Curtis, John Cassavetes, Ben Gazzara, Gerald O’Loughlin. In his fourth, favourite and best movie, Presley never let his idols down. “Good comic timing,” noted the LA Times, “considerable intelligence and even flashes of sensitivity.” Sadly never again. After this, the US Army cut his hair and his manger, Colonel Parker, castrated the rest.
- Tab Hunter, Lafayette Escradille (UK: Hell Bent For Glory), 1958. Paul withdrew over script hassles and Hunter, Warners’ new (and gay)tweenage idol, was drafted - proving the importance of director William “Wild Bill” Wellman’s final film!
- John Gavin, A Time To Love and A Time To Die, 1958.Director Douglas Sirk - naturally - wanted Newman.What Mr Sirk got was MrCardboard.
Charlton Heston, Ben-Hur, 1959. “After The Silver Chalice, I’ll never act in a cocktail dress again,” he told scenarist Gore Vidal. “I haven't got the legs.” And Newman just fled…. His great rival, Marlon Brando, also ran from the MGMighty $5m epic re-make. Director William Wyler (one of the original’s 1924 crew) also studied Italians Cesare Danova and Vittorio Gassman. Plus Montgomery Clift, Tony Curtis, Kirk Douglas, Rock Hudson, Van Johnson (no, really!), Burt Lancaster - and Edmund Purdom, who had picked up another epic dropped by Brando, The Egyptian, 1953. Judah Ben-Heston won his Oscar on April 4 1960.
- Marcello Mastroianni, La Dolce Vita, Italy 1959.
Producer Dino De Laurentiis wanted Paul (or Gérard Philipe).Director Federico Fellini did not.“He’s star. Too important. I need common face...Like Mastroianni.”“No,” yelled Dino. “Too soft and goody-goody: a family man rather than the type who flings women onto the bed.”Dino quit and Fellini
asked his co-writer Ennioi Flaiano to pass the script to “cher Marcellino.” It comprised mainly the maestro’s cartoons- one of the hero swimming along the horizon with an enormous penis almost dragging along the sea bed.Said Marcellino: “Where do I sign?” Newman asked the same thing about The Voyage de G Mastorna when pushed by Dino to Manziana where Fellini was convalescing from “a diplomatic illness.” He also considered Alain Cuny, Steve McQueen, Marcello Mastroianni, Gregory Peck, stage director Giorgio Strehler and Oskar Werner before signing Ugo Tognazzi - for the best film Fellini never made!
- Alain Delon, Rocco e I suoi fratelli(Rocco And His Brothers), Italy-France, 1960. Luchino Visconti’s first producer wanted Brigitte Bardot - one of the reasons the maestro quit and persuaded Goffredo Lombardo to produce And then he wanted Newman!
- Dirk Bogarde, The Angel Wore Red, 1961. The Brit tried to pick up the pieces dropped by Hollywood’s elite. To no avail. The “priest and a tart” number in blazing Madrid number, said Bogarde, “opened to ten Eskimos in North Alaska and sank without trace.”
- John Mills, The Singer Not The Song, 1961. Cast as a campy bandito (or a bandito he made campy), Dirk Bogarde fretted that Mills would steal the (terrible) movie. The priest was the better role and, therefore, suggested to the A List: Richard Burton, Peter Finch, Laurence Harvey and the two Pauls, Newman and Scofield.
- Robert Mitchum, Two For The See-Saw, l961. To have see-ed with Liz Taylor. Mitchum saw-ed with Shirley MacLaine. Didn’t he though!
- Laurence Harvey, Walk On The Wild Side 1962. Newman had been set for the atrociously named Dove Linkhorn three years before.
- Cliff Robertson, PT 109, 1963. Newman apparently hated Robertson.
- Steve McQueen, Love With The Proper Stranger, 1963. For the jazz musician awash with girls, Newman was ex-TV director Robert Mulligan's first choice. Newman was everyone’s first choice! McQueen had been on $50-a-day for a bit part in Somebody Up There Likes Me - starring Newman in 1956. “He walked into the audition, “ said director Robert Wise, “wearing a beanie hat and that smile and within a few minutes, he’d got the part.”
- Sean Connery, Marnie, 1963. After Newman and Marlon Brando passed, Rock Hudson had a meet with Alfred Hitchcock about playing Mark Rutland. Then, Cubby Broccoli showed Hitch some glimpses of Dr No. … and, although, Sean hardly matched the “American aristocrat hero,” the role was Sean’s. Newman agreed to The Master’s next (and supposedly 50th) film, Torn Curtain. Neither one was among Hitch’s finest.
- Dirk Bogarde, Darling, 1964. Julie Christie’s husband had first been written as a US journalist wandering around Europe. As the film was all Julie, director John Schlesinger found that “no Hollywood star would touch it.”
- Kirk Douglas, Seven Days In May, 1964. Wizard director John Frankenheimer wanted Newman as the heroic colonel saving the US from a seditious General Douglas. No, said Kirk, I’m the hero and Burt Lancaster is the general. No, said Frankenheimer, two films with Lancaster was enough... After much persuasion, he found they (finally)“got along magnificently and became good friends.”
- Omar Sharif,DoctorZhivago, 1965. Preposterous idea. Epic director David Lean checked him out in The Prize "Ican discover nothing of the dreamer about him." MGM's pet Zhivago duo, Newman and Sophia Loren, did Lady L, instead.Equally preposterous.
- Peter O’Toole, Lord Jim, 1965. Two years earlier, Newman was offered the lead. And he passed! “It was a mistake and I made the mistake because I was conservative and played safe. And that way lies failure.”
- George Segal, King Rat, 1965. Both Newman and Steve McQueen refused the Sammy Glick of POWs - prisoners of wars. To Segal’s undisguised delight.
- Tony Curtis,The Great Race, 1965. Well, he dida lot of driving- from New York to Paris, by way of Russia.
- James Garner, Grand Prix, 1966. When Steve McQueen backed out, Newman's name entered the grid.Obviously.
- Oskar Werner, Fahrenheit 451,1966.
Introduced to Ray Bradbury's book in 1962, French réalisateur François Truffaut first considered shooting in America in 1964 with Newman. “He is very handsome, especially when he is filmed in colour, and I prefer him to all the Hollywood actors who have box-office appeal: Hudson, Peck, Heston, Brando, Lancaster.” During the long financial delays, Truffaut interviewed Alfred Hitchcock, ten hours a day for six days, for their classic book, by which time Newman had cooled on the project and Truffaut felt Ray Bradbury’s story was too important to be shot in English! And contacted his past and future stars, Charles Aznavour, Jean-Paul Belmondo - and Oskar Werner as Montag’s boss. “It's very important that it’s the first European science fiction film.” Producer Lewis Allen got him back on track, offering Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, Kirk Douglas or Sterling Hayden. Producer Sam Spiegel tried muscling in by promising Richard Burton bossing a Robert Redford and loving Elizabeth Taylor! To stay in charge, Truffaut ran for cover to Terence Stamp - whose ego proved jealous of Julie Christie having a dual role! Getting desperate, Truffaut made the mistake of his life by giving the fireman to Werner, originally booked as Montag’s boss. Any of the others asleep would have been better! The Austrian’s head had been turned by Hollywood since his and Truffaut’s Jules et Jim triumph. Werner argued constantly over (his dull) interpretation, refused one “dangerous” scene (as if a fireman would not have to deal with fire), even cut his hair to ruin continuity. If not for the six years of planning the film, Truffaut would have walked. Instead, he simply truncated Werner’s later scenes - and used a double John Ketteringham, in most of them!
- Yves Montand, La guerre estfinie, France-Sweden, 1966. Paul topped the list of French cineaste Alain Resnais, followed by Montand and Vittorio Gassman for the role(based on Spanish writer Jorge Semprum) of a SpanishCommunist agitator - still loyal, but doubting. “My personal history,” said Montand, “gave Diego credibility.”
- Brahim Haggiag, The Battle of Algiers, Italy-Algeria, 1966. Producer Saadi Yacef played his own role in the film of thebook he wrote in prison, but Italian director Gillo Pontecorvo wanted Newman as Yacef’s accomplice Ali la Pointe.“Non,” said Yacef,an NLF leader during the battle. “There was no Paul Newman in the Algerian war!”Hence the more (and highly praised) documentary approach, with mostly non-actors.
- Warren Beatty,Bonnie and Clyde, 1966.
- Albert Finney, Two For The Road, 1967. Director Stanley Donen’s firstchoiceto be Audrey Hepburn’s on-off husband. (Well, he dida lot of driving!). Finney was third choice, after Michael Caine.
Steve McQueen, The Sand Pebbles, 1966. And a decade after the beanie ’n’ smile audition, Robert Wise called him back when he couldn’t land Newman. “He was so real and so right. ” And the film was so boring. McQueen hated his performance, loved his pay-cheque: $500,000.
- Robert Blake, In Cold Blood, 1967.
The film of Truman Capote’s book needed anonymous actors as the killers, Perry Smith and Dick Hickock. Columbia wanted names - as if Truman Capote and director Richard Brooks were smallfry! “They wanted Newman and McQueen,” said Brooks. “But I never write for a specificactor,” he added, forgetting his Bogart beginnings, and penning The Happy Ending,1969, for his wife Jean Simmons. Newman preferred Cool Hand Luke.
- Steve McQueen, The Thomas Crown Affair, 1967. McQueen was now Then Big Cheese. His contract reflected his post-Great Escape status: $700,000 and numerous Italian suits. Plus his his usual McExtras: ten pairs of jeans, ten electric razors. Huh? Not for him but the guys at his alma mater: the Boys Republic correction centre.
- Cliff Robertson, The Honey Pot, 1967. And writer-director Joseph Mankiewicz’s variation on Volpone sureneeded him opposite Rex Harrison, Susan Hayward, Maggie Smith, etc. As Chicago critic Roger Ebert put it: “The leading actors are all competent, except for the wooden Cliff Robertson."
- Albert Finney, Two For The Road, 1967. "No, it's a director's picture.Not for an actor."
- Burt Lancaster, The Swimmer, 1967. Lancaster called it: “Death of a Salesman in swimming trunks” - as John Cheever’s tragic hero decides to swim home via the pools of his Connecticut friends and neighbours. Burt accused producer Sam Spiegel of spending more time playing gin than on the production. The result, after changing leading lady in mid er, pool - was Sam’s fourth consecutive flop. He needed David Lean more than vice-versa. (Montgomery Clift (!), Glenn Ford, William Holden and George C Scott had also been in the Ned mix).
- Charlton Heston, Planet of the Apes, 1968.
- Rod Steiger, The Ilustrated Man, 1968. OK, Ray Bradbury, the heavyweight champion of science fiction writers, told Jack Smight, Hollywood’s featherweight director (not even a contender), you can film my book as long as the lead is Burt Lancaster, Paul Newman or Steiger!
- Robert Redford, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, 1969.
- Clint Eastwood, Dirty Harry, 1970.
- Gene Hackman, The French Connection, 1970. “We had a budget at the time of $2.8m,” said director Wiliam Friedkin. “And half a million of that was for Newman... or somebody like that. Richard Zanuck, the Fox production chief like his father before him, said: “You’ll never get Newman. Who else?” Writer Jimmy Breslin, Jackie Geason. Rod Taylor… Zanuck vetoed them all. And mentioned Charles Bronson, Lee Marvin, Robert Mitchum and, cheapest of all, the Fox Batman, Adam West, Holy moley!!!!
- Robert Duvall, The Godfather, 1971.
- Kirk Douglas, A Gunfight, 1971. Western saga ofageing hired guns (Johnny Cash was the other one - don’t ask!).The budget was thefirst (and last) supplied by the Jicarilla Apache Tribe of American Indians.
- Steve McQueen, The Getaway, 1972. Newman’s agent, John Foreman, did not like Jim Thompson’spulpnovel.
- James Coburn, Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid, 1972.
- Roger Moore, Live And Let Die, 1972.
- Ryan O'Neal, Paper Moon, 1973. Before director Peter Bogdanovich rolled with Neal pere et fille, the iconic John Huston was prepping it for Newman pere et fille, Nell Potts. At age ten, Tatum remains the youngest Oscar-winner.
- 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 Newman, Charles Bronson, Richard Burton, Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Burt Lancaster, Steve McQueen, George C Scott and several Duke 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.
- Christopher Plummer, After The Fall, TV, 1974. Before itwas made for TV, a cinema movie version had been aimed at the 1965 Lady L couple, Newman and Sophia Loren as... Arthur Miller and Marilyn. As written by Miller.
- Charlton Heston, Earthquake, 1974. The Big One hits LA. And Charlie Hero catches it… But only because Newman (and another Earthquake target, Steve McQueen) were at Warner Bros and Fox saving The Towering Inferno. Both roles ear-marked for Newman were desk jockeys, an LA building exec and a towering architect… and action men for McQueen, an LAPD sergeant and a towering fire chief.
- Burt Reynolds, Lucky Lady, 1974.
“He was 24 and he rejected Paul Newman like you’d crush a fly!” said Richard Zanuck about his first choice director, Steven Spielberg. Well, obviously, he was (a) scared of working withbig stars - when out to make his name - and (b) felt Newman was unsuitable for such farce. If Spielberg had made it, he would neverhave agreed to repeat the boats and sea headaches on Jaws. Zanuck wasn’t so impressed when Spielberg rejected Mrs Z, Linda Harrison, for the police chief’s wife in Jaws, 1974 - and gave to the role to far more important wife. LorraineGary was wed to his discoverer and mentor, Universal studio chief Sid Sheinberg. In 1982, he bought the film rights to what became Schindler’s List for Spielberg - it won him his first Oscar on March 21, 1994.
- Clint Eastwood, The Eiger Sanction, 1975. Musical macho chairs... Newman was announced. Steve McQueen took it over for his company. Eastwood made it for his.
- Robert Shaw, Jaws, 1974.
- Sean Connery, The Man Who Would Be King, 1975.
- Robert De Niro, Taxi Driver, 1975.
- Robert De Niro, The Last Tycoon, 1975. Passed on F Scott Fitzgerald’s Thalbergesque Monroe Stahr. Anyway, producer Sam Spiegel insisted on De Niro. For producer Lester Cowan this was the one that got way… He first tried when hot to trot after his 1945 hit, The Story of GI Joe, ironically starring Robert Mitchum, who played a studio boss in this version nearly 30 years later. Cowan tried again in 1967 - aiming for Beatty (who started writing Shampoo on Sam Spiegel’s yacht).
- Donald Sutherland, Il Casanova di Federico Fellini (Fellini’s Casanova), 1975. When Fellini didn’t fancy anyone on his 1973 wish list (Brando, Newman, Pacino, Redford, etc), producer Dino De Laurentiis brusquely quit the project in high dudgeon. Or a passing cab... Andrea Rizzoli (son of La Dolce Vita producer Angelo Rizzoli)took over in 1974 before passing the (pricey) baton to Alberto Grimaldi and the (ten month!) shooting finally began on July 20 1975.
- Bruce Dern, Family Plot, 1976. For what proved his last hurrah, Alfred Hitchcock considered Newman for the lead - odd, after Hitch’s antipathy for him during Torn Curtain. “I knew I was second or third choice,” said Dernsie. Fourth, in fact, after Newman, Pacino and Nicholson. Pacino, in particular, was too pricey. “But you,“ said Hitch to Dern, “I can get cheap.”
- John Wayne, The Shootist, 1976. Duke’s finale… Newman, Charles Bronson, Clint Eastwood and Gene Hackman passed. George C 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 - dead in three years - suffering heart, lung and prostate problems.
- Sean Connery, Robin and Marian, 1976. If you can get Newman, said director Terence Young, then you've got me... Dick Lester got better - Sean and Audrey!
- Peter Finch, Network, 1976. After tenuous thoughts about real TV News anchors (John Chancellor and the venerable Walter Cronkite), the film’s Oscar-winning writer Paddy Chayefsky wrote to Newman. “You and a very small handful of other actors are the only ones I can think of with the range for this part.” The others were Cary Grant, old pals Henry Fonda and Jimmy Stewart, Gene Hackman, Sterling Hayden and Robert Montgomery - for the “mad prophet of the airwaves,” Howard Beale. (“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore”). Finchey won the first posthumous acting Oscar. Ironically, the second was also for an Aussie, Heath Ledger, for The Dark Knight... 33 years later.
- William Holden, Network, 1976. No? OK, then what about the middle-age news executive who becomes Faye Dunaway’s mentor, lover and victim... Chayefsky (described by Women’s Wear Daily as possessing “the look of a satyr who has retired from active duty”) had written Newman on May 21, 1975, to offer him “any part in this picture you want.”
- Robert Duvall, Network, 1976. No? OK, then what about… the executive who, when murder is suggested, insists he wants to "hear everybody's thoughts on this." No!
- Ned Beatty, Network, 1976. No, OK, then what about… Beatty’s sharp-edged cameo of the TV exec with one of the film’s other famous lines. "It's because you're on television, dummy." Newman remained unmoved by Chayefsky’s prophetic vision of television’s future. It was unbelievable, dumb dumb (or ill-advised) that such a fine actor would blow off one of the greatest US scripts of the 70s. And it wasn’t as if he was still into Towering Inferno and When Time Ran Out disaster crap at the time. He was, in fact, making consecutive Robert Altman films.
Sean Connery, Robin and Marian, 1976. If you can get Newman, said director Terence Young, then you've got me… Dick Lester got better - Sean and Audrey!
- Al Pacino, Bobby Deerfield, 1977.
Newman bought the rights because the book was about car racing. Alvin Sargent’s script was not. Pacino’s decision made his manager-mentor Martin Bregman drop him.“He wanted a love story… For him to do this, after all the great roles he’d played, that stuck in my throat.” Pacino identified more with the Grand Prix driver than his first $1m salary. “Bobby Deerfield was lost... Ifelt very lost in my life. I just don’t think I had the acting technique to handle the part. I found myself too subjective. Yet I felt connected.” The film failed because it was difficul to accept Pacino (or the other contenders, Newman and Robert Redford) as a boring man. The flop crushed director Sydney Pollack - who then made Absence of Malice with Newman, 1981.
- James Caan, Un autre homme, une autre chance/Another Man, Another Woman, France, 1977. Pretentious Claude Lelouch decided to make a Western. He didn’t, of course. He made a Lelouchern. Complete with the hero riding to Beethoven's Fifth! Caan talked his way into the mess, while the realisateur was chasing Beatty, McQueen, Newman or Pacino. None of whom, Lelouch said proudly, said No. Nor yes.
- Alain Delon, Attention, les enfants regardent, France, 1977. “Refused by Newman,”said Delon,“obviously as it's about 15 minutes in a 100 minute film. But it interested me.”
- Christopher Reeve, Superman, 1978,
- Roy Scheider, All That Jazz, 1979. “Dumb of me.” said Newman. “I was just so stupid. I didn’t take into consideration what the contribution of the director was going to be. A terrible oversight.” 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… Alan Alda, Alan Bates (“too British,” said Fosse), 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”), Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, George Segal, Jon Voight. Scheider just grabbed the “outrageous, assaulting, melodramatic, very funny, stupid, silly, simplistic, vulgar… wonderful movie!” Exactly.
- Richard Harris, Your TicketIs No Longer Valid, Canada, 1980. Everyone passed. Why? The subject. Sexual impotency.
- Nick Nolte,Cannery Row, 1980. After reading four drafts he still said no - wisely. Even though (or, because), Raquel Welch was due to co-star.
Jürgen Prochnow, Das boot/The Boat, West Germany, 1981. Bavaria Studios was trying to go international, with John Sturges or Don Siegel helming, perhaps, Newman...?
Frederic Forrest, Hammett, 1981. UK director Nicolas Roeg backed out when distributors told producer Francis Coppola to go with a name like Newman for Dashiell Hammett. German director Wim Wenders took forever (40 script drafts!) to make it due to continual Coppola interference. But called it “a long, amazing experience - too good to be true.” And then Coppola re-shot the whole damn thing. Neither version was worth a nickel. The shoot lasted long enough for co-stars Frederic Forest and Marlu Henner to fall in love, marry and divorce!
Ford, Blade Runner, 1981. UK wiz Ridley Scott spent a long time sniffing out the perfect Deckard. From top notchers Newman, Sean Connery, Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman (keen… but on making it a totally different character, of course), Robert Mitchum, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino… to such excellent journeymen as Julia, William Devane, Robert Duvall, Peter Falk, Frederic Forrest, Scott Glenn, Cliff Gorman, Tommy Lee Jones, Raul Julia, Nick Nolte, Christopher Walken. Then, in sheer desperation, choices lowered to Cliff Gorman, Judd Hirsch. Even the Virginian Morgan Paull stood a chance, having played Deckard in Scott’s tests of potential Rachaels. (He was given Holden for his pains). Plus Arnold Schwarzenegger, not yet seen as Conan, much less Terminator. And for probably the last time in such an illustrious list, the fading star of Burt Reynolds.
- Jack Lemmon, Missing, 1981. Director Costa-Gavras also asked Newman (fulky booked) and Gene Hackman (not right) to play the all-American parent searching for his missing US journalist son-in-law, an obvious victim of the horrendous Allende regime in Chile. Although winning Best Film and Actor at the 1982 Cannes festival, Missing was lacking the raw passion of Z. Instead, said, Chicago cri†ic Roger Ebert, Costa “achieved the unhappy feat of upstaging his own movie, losing it in a thicket of visual and editing stunts.”
- Harrison Ford, Blade Runner, 1981. UK wiz Ridley Scott spent a long time sniffing out the perfect Deckard. From top notchers Newman, Sean Connery, Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman (keen… but on making it a totally different character, of course), Robert Mitchum, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino… to such excellent journeymen as Julia, William Devane, Robert Duvall, Peter Falk, Frederic Forrest, Scott Glenn, Cliff Gorman, Tommy Lee Jones, Raul Julia, Nick Nolte, Christopher Walken. Then, in sheer desperation, choices lowered to Cliff Gorman, Judd Hirsch. Even the Virginian Morgan Paull stood a chance, having played Deckard in Scott’s tests of potential Rachaels. (He was given Holden for his pains). Plus Arnold Schwarzenegger, not yet seen as Conan, much less Terminator. And for probably the last time in such an illustrious list, the fading star of Burt Reynolds.
- Sylvester Stallone, First Blood (aka Rambo), 1982.
- Jack Lemmon, Missing, 1982. “I really wanted to work with [Z director] Costa-Gavras and I’m not above doing something that’s critical of our American society, politically, socially or morally. But if it’s going to be critical,I want it to be mycriticism... not to be the mouthpiece for somebody else’s criticism."
- Jackie Gleason, The Sting II, 1983. The Big One “did it for the money”and wished he had also steered clear of Fargo Gondorff.
- Jack Nicholson, Terms of Endearment, 1983. Written for Burt Reynolds, rejected by Paul -another Oscar for Jack!
- Michael Caine, Educating Rita, 1983. Apart from his 007 films, Lewis Gilbert’s biggest hit stemmed from a play: Alfie. Now he, or rather his wife, Hylda, had foundanother great UK play, a two-hander abouta young hairdresser with a passion for learning and Frank, her condescending, alcoholic English Lit professor. Fine, said another Frank - a certain Frank Price, surprisingly still in charge at Columbia after notoriously rejecting a Spielberg script called ET! Now he wanted Dolly Parton and Paul Newman. “Out of the question,” snapped Gilbert. “With egg on our faces,” Price insisted on releasing the film after Gilbert did it his way. He nearly made a US re-tread in 2002 with Denzel Washington and Halle Berry.
- Robert De Niro, Once Upon A Time In America, US-France, 1983. Early on in the writingprocess, maestro Sergio Leone decided to have his two Jewish hoods played as children, adults, and old-timers.James Cagney was flattered by the invitationto play the older De Niro, but was not up tothe task.The maestro next called uponNewman…. For roughly the same role he played for Sa, Mendes in Road To Perdition in 2001.But in the 80s, “heno longer wanted to be associatedwith violence in films.” OK, said Leone, one actor will do…
- Sean Connery, Der Name der Rose/The Name of the Rose, France-Italy-West Germany, 1986. Newman as a monk... Nah, doesn’t work! . Réalisateur Jean-Jacques Annaud was not keen on 007 as Umberto Eco’s medieval monk turned detective. Columbia 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: Newman, Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, Frederic Forrest, Jack Nicholson, Roy Scheider; four Brits: Michael Caine, Albert Finney, Ian McKellen, Terence Stamp; plus Canadian Donald Sutherland, French Yves Montand, Irish Richard Harris, 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.
- Burgess Meredith, King Lear, 1987. The contractor bilious auteur Jean-Luc Godard to tackle Shakespeare was signed (an hour after it had been mooted) on large napkin at the Majestic Hotel bar during the 1985 Cannes festival .The film was just as ridiculous; Godard, himself, detested it. Shuffling his kings from Norman Mailer to Rod Steiger, Godard also contacted Newman - to make the film at the Actors Studio. He also set about persuading Newman into being Sigmund in something called Dora et Freud.
Bob Hoskins, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, 1988. Mad as it sounds, he was considered along with Harrison Ford as the live ’tec in the cartoon world.
- Gregory Peck, Old Gringo, 1989. Jane Fonda’s first choice - as way off-beam as her last.She thought he’d be overwhelmed by her. What an ego!
- Richard Dreyfuss, Always, 1989.
Steven Spielberg’s pet project ... He loved Spencer Tracy (the father he never had) and was determined to re-make his 1943 weepie, A Guy Named Joe. Spielberg finally won the rights from MGM while going a step too far with his 1941 mess in 1979… and made much the same dog’s breakfast of his cherished project. Dreyfuss was Spielberg’s Tracy, but too young for Spence’s flying boots. So, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid were called for the two leads. Neither one bit. Redford had done the pilot thing as The Great Waldo Pepper, 1974, and Newman was presumably still sore about Spielberg rejecting him for Lucky Lady. (Billy Wilder always said for a guaranteed hit, “ you need a love story between Paul Newman and Robert Redford in a Boeing on fire flown by Barbra Streisand.”). The project was postponed for a decade, until the director (a) could land the right girl (b) Van Johnson’s successor (Brad Johnson!!!) and (c) attain enough emotional maturity for a love story (he failed at all three)… by which time Dreyfuss looked, well, older than his years!
- Harvey Keitel, Thelma & Louise, 1990.
- Tom Berenger, At Play In The Fields of the Lord, 1991. For ten years, one of the most famous unmade Hollywood movies. Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, Czech director Milos Forman, among others, were involved before Saul Zaentz produced it with the young Butch Cassidy.
- Kevin Costner, JFK, 1991.
- Tommy Lee Jones, JFK, 1991.
- Tom Hanks, Toy Story, 1992. Pixar’s hyper-talented shirts (never suits!) wanted Newman and Jim Carrey - old and new Hollywood - to voice Woody and Buzz Lightyear. Except their budget was too tiny to pay such superstars. Newman later voiced Doc Hudson in Pixar’s racing-car version of Toys - Cars, 2004. It was his final work… and his biggest box-office hit. Go figure!
- Ralph Waite, The Bodyguard, 1992. Kevin Costner asked Paul to play his father. “But the part wasn’t big enough,” admitted Costner.He won over Newman as his dad in a better script six years later, Message In A Bottle, 1998. “Paul isa very handsome fella. My father is the most handsome man I know so I sometimes look at Paul and think of my father-they're very similar.”
- James Caan, Flesh and Bone, 1993. Too busy... “Every time I get a script, it's a matter of trying to know what I could do with it. I see colors, imagery. It has to have a smell. It’s like falling in love. You can’t give a reason why.”
- Kirk Douglas, Greedy, 1993. After Newman refused, both Jack Lemmon and Anthony Quinn were suggested for Uncle Joe, a millionaire far removed from the other Douglas’ Gordon Gekko’s “Greed is good.”
- Morgan Freeman, The Shawshank Redemption, 1993. Also up for Stephen King’s veteran convict Ellis Boyd ‘Red’ Redding: Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier, Robert Redford. Eastwood, Newman and Redford had already done jail time in Escape From Alcatraz, 1978, Cool Hand Luke, 1967, and Brubaker, 1979, respectively. Clint and Newman won. Redford lost.
- Robert Duvall, The Paper, 1994. Still too busy - this time with the Coen brothers’ Hudsucker Proxy.
James Garner, Maverick, 1994. Now too busy with Nobody’s Fool to provide a cameo opposite Mel Gibson. “We didn’t want to go to Jim Garner for risk of offending him,” recalled director Richard Donner. “What else could we ask him to play except Maverick - here's the guy who created the role [in the TV series]. And he came in and he was aglow… teaching Mel incredible one-handed card tricks.”
- Ben Kinsley, Death And The Maiden,1994. Talked about it .In June 1993.
- Jack Nicholson, Mars Attacks! 1995. Tim Burton’s first two choices, Warren Beatty and Paul Newman, absconded. So did Tim Burton’s Batman, Michael Keaton, so The Joker took overtook over the US President - and showing off with a second role of a Vegas casino boss. Didn’t help. Too many stars. Not enough satire. Donald Sutherland, A Time To Kill, 1996. Wise decision.
- Donald Sutherland, A Time To Kill, 1996. Wise decision.
- Ryan O’Neal, Faithful, 1996. Instead of Newman and Liz Taylor, it was O’Neal birthday gifting his wife, Cher, with a hit-man - Chazz Palminteri, who scripted from his own play and(naturally) co-starred.All to no avail.
- Jason Robards, A Thousand Acres, 1996. Michelle Pfeiffer, star and producer, tried hard to persuade Paul to father her, Jessica Lange and Jennifer Jason Leigh in this KingLear on an Iowa farm.
- Willem Dafoe, Victory, 1996. Among Louis Malle’s 1978 choices for Axel inhis 20-year-old dream project - the Joseph Conrad classic. (The others were Sean Connery, Robert Redford, Jon Voight).But Paramount was not as keen as it had been for its 1940 version. Gradually, shooting was planned, a France-Australia-Germany-Canada co-production in Indonesia and the Philippines, for July-September 1979. Malle and his new lover (and co-scripter) Susan Sarandon went to Atlantic City, instead.
- Robert Forster, Jackie Brown, 1997. The backers wanted yet another name. Tough! Writer-director Quentin Tarantino had created the over-the-hill bail bonds man Max Cherry for Forster and no one else.
- Bruce Willis, Icarus, 1997. When David Willis found it for his brother's Flying Heart company, he had no idea that Robert Stitzel's script dated back to MGM, circa 1980, and had been set for Newman, before moving to Sylvester Stallone and, as the hero was a F-15 pilot (facing the trauma of retirement), to fly-boy John Travolta.
- James Caan, Poodle Springs, TV, 1998.
Sydney Pollack’s first choice for ageing private dick Philip Marlowe - from an unfinished novel by Raymond Chandler, a mere synopsis and four chapters cut short by Chandler’s 1959 death and finished 30 years on by Robert B Parker, creator of a later ’ted, Spenser. After Redford also turned it down, it became bad HBO movie by director Bob Rafelson. “It sucked!” said the previous Philip Marlowe, Elliott Gould. “Even with that wonderful British writer, Tom Stoppard, it was absolutely fucking horrible!”
- William Hurt, The Big Brass Ring, 1998. In the mid-80s, Orson Welles ran out offinancial gas while trying to set up his script of a Presidential candidate blackmailed over a gay affair with his main adviser.For The First Couple, Welles tried real couples - the Newmans, the Cassavetes...
Burt Reynolds, Waterproof, 1998.Newman, Gene Hackman and Jack Lemmon were first sought for what becamethe unlikeliest role of all forthe doldrummed Reynolds- Eli Zeal, the elderlyJewish owner of a little grocery store in what had become an African-American neighbourhood.Shot over 24 days in ’98, the filmnever found a distributor. The re-make rights were bought by Cloud Ten Pictures in 2010. But this was not The Pawnbroker…
- Mel Gibson, Signs, 2002. Originally, the pastor-farmer haunted by his wife’s death was older. This explains why sliding director M Night Shyamalan offered the dog-collar to Newman and Clint Eastwood. But Depp…? Aw c’mon, Johnny can play any age - anything! - you want.
- Richard Gere, Chicago, 2002.
- David Kelly, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, 2004. Grandpa Joe was Newman’s last pass. He officially retired at age 82 in May 2007 because “I’m not able to work at the level that I would want to. So, I think that’s pretty much a closed book for me.” He died 18 months later. Also considered: Richard Attenborough, Kirk Douglas, Anthony Hopkins, Christopher Lloyd, Max von Sydow, Eli Wallach, David Warner. Plus Gregory Peck and Peter Ustinov who passed before passing.