George C Scott (1927-1999)
- Laurence Olivier, Bunny Lake Is Missing, 1965. “I’'ve been in a lot of pictures for various reasons,” comments Scott. “Some I wish to God I hadn’t turned down.”
- Eli Wallach, How To Steal A Million, 1966. Legend says he showed up late first day and veteran director William Wyler sacked him. “It’s the only time I’ve ever been fired from a film. I sued Fox and collected. Wyler never did speak to me after that. He wouldn't talk to me on the phone. I think it was personality. He didn’t care for me.”
- Alan Arkin, Wait Until Dark, 1967. Few actors wanted to be the guy terrorising Audrey Hepburn - indeed, a blind Audrey Hepburn! Director Terence Young wanted Scott but Audrey’s husband, Mel Ferrer, was producing
- 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 midstream or pool - was Sam’s fourth consecutive flop. Minus David Lean, Spiegel was a zero. Probably the reason that Montgomery Clift(!), Glenn Ford, William Holden and Paul Newman also passed.
- Rod Steiger, In The Heat Of The Night, 1967. Scott was negotiating to play the racist Southern police chief. when his then lately, re-married wife, Colleen Dewhurst, insisted he join her in a Broadway play. Steiger got $150,000 - and an Oscar. He thanked hios co-star,. “Mr. Sidney Poitier, who taught me about prejudice and maintaining dignity under prejudice. Sidney, we shall overcome.” Scott got (and refused) his Oscar for Patton, 1969, a film turned down by Steiger!
- Anthony Hopkins, Hamlet, 1969. Richard Harris’ plans to star and direct in Northumberland - with Scott as Claudius - were beaten by Tony Richardson’s plans in London.
- Martin Balsam, Catch 22, 1969. Mike Nichols came acalling, offering Colonel Cathcart. But, but, splutterted Scott, I’ve already played him in Dr Strangelove… Same reason Stanley Kubrick rejected the helming gig.
- Robert Mitchum, Ryan's Daughter, 1970. Once Paul Scofield pulled out, fellow director Richard Lester says that David Lean wanted Scott because he admired Petulia so much (and wrote Lester a letter about how much it taught him in terms of editing!)
- Walter Matthau, Plaza Suite, 1970. On Broadway, George C Scott and Maureen Stapleton starred in all three Neil Simon mini-plays. Paramount wanted six stars: Scott & Stapleton (repeating the first of their triples), Peter Sellers & Baraba Streisand, Walter Matthau & Lucille Ball. Then, Matthau insisted on playing the three guys - with Lee Grant, Barbara Harris and Stapleton. Simon didn’t like the cast, nor the picture. “Walter was wrong to play all three parts. That’s a trick Peter Sellers can do. I would only have used Walter in the last sequence and, probably, Lee Grant.”
- Clint Eastwood, Dirty Harry, 1971.
- John Wayne, The Cowboys, 1971.
“I’d really appreciate it if you gave me the chance to play this part, sir,” said Duke. Actor-turned director Mark Rydell couldn’t believe it. “I didn’t want him. I wanted George C Scott. I was absolutely stunned by Wayne... completely seduced by him. I was a Jewish liberal, rebel, left-wing kinda guy and I knew Wayne to be what he was... a strong right-winger, very much responsible for the blacklist in the 50s. Yet he was, indeed, one of the most gracious, charming, available, professional men I’d ever met.” Wayne compared the script to Goodbye Mr Chips, Sands of Iwo Jima - an older man moulding youngsters. Rydell gave in but wanted Duke out of his Batjac comfort zone. “Because I didn’t want a standard Wayne performance. I wanted to agitate him off the mark…” So his wife was played by Allyn Ann McLerie, an ex-blackistee! “He impresed me tremendously.” And they quoted their favourite poems to each other!
- Warren Beatty,McCabe and Mrs Miller, 1971. Fox bought the novel for Scott, Director Robert Altman wanted Elliott Gould and Pat Quinn. “One of my problems,” said Gould, “was I thought we should choose the leading lady together.”
- Marlon Brando, The Godfather,1971.
- Robert Redford, The Hot Rock, 1972. UK director Peter Yates’ first casting idea: Scott and Redford. Once Redford read his pal William Goldman’s script, he wanted the lead - and persuaded George Segal to take his old role. Or, maybe Scott knew the UK title would, incredibly, become: How To Steal A Diamond In Four Uneasy Lessons.
- Gene Hackman, The Poseidon Adventure, 1972. “I should’ve done the fucking thing because I could’ve made a lot of money. But I’m just as happy that I didn’t. I saw that picture!”
- Charles Bronson, Death Wish, 1974. “I’d have done it a lot differently. Although I admired what Charley did with it. I would've tried to get him to lean in a little different direction.”
- 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 - alongside Scott, Charles Bronson, Richard Burton, Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Burt Lancaster, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman 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.
- John Wayne, The Shootist, 1976. Duke’s finale… Charles Bronson, Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman and Paul Newman passed. 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 Wayne - dead in three years - suffering heart, lung and prostate problems. Duke changed plenty, seeing that it could be - and was - a great end to one helluva career.
- Peter Finch, Network, 1976. Because of some feud with director Sidney Lumet, Scott refused to read the amazingly prophetic scenario about US TV programming. “Television is not the truth. Television is a goddamned amusement park.” (Eons later, Rupert Murdoch’s Fox network appeared to have studied it). The film’s Oscar-winning writer Paddy Chayefsky then suggested Cary Grant, Paul Newman, even old pals Henry Fonda and Jimmy Stewart, for his “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). Scott’s last movie, Gloria, 1998, was helmed by... Lumet.
- Richard Burton, Equus, 1977. Burton beat all contenders by “auditioning” in the play on Broadway for a spell.
- Gregory Peck, MacArthur, 1977. One war hero was enough. “They finally got around to me, wisely,” said Peck.
- Dudley Moore, Ten, 1979.
- Alan Arkin, The Magician of Lublin, 1980. Announced by a pre-Cannon Globus & Golan at Cannes 1976.
- Robert Mitchum, That Championship Season, 1982. After James Cagney, Jason Robards, etc, Scott found himself on various lists... including the hit list of John Lennon’ assassin, Mark David Chapman.
- Richard Crenna, First Blood (aka Rambo),1982.
- John Stanton, Tai-Pan, 1986. Refused it - twice. Once opposite McQueen and he also rejected an $8m offer for a two-film version. “But you know you’re going to be miserable, it’s not going to be a good experience: why do it? Life’s too short."
- Ian Holm, Another Woman, 1988. Woody Allen’s costume designer Jeffrey Kurland hand-delivered the script to Holm - and then took it back to New York (with Holm’s suit measurements). Ian heard that Scott had refused to even to read the script. “Which,” commented Holm, “quite surprisingly, I thought, meant he must have received one.”
- Charles Durning, Dick Tracy, 1990. Star and director Warren Beatty wanted him for Chief Brandon, and not the role of... Pat Patton!
- Robert Mitchum, Cape Fear, 1991. Scott’s ill-health made room for Mitchum - the villian in the 1962 version.
- Lloyd Bridges, Hot Shots, 1991. Fun idea. The Clouseau-esque Admiral Thomas ‘Tug’ Benson could not have been funnier with Patton as the “blustery, multi-war veteran whose various body parts have been systematically replaced after a series of illustrious combat injuries.” It started a whole new, Leslie Nielsen-esque career for Bridges in his 80s, including two prim spots on Seinfeld just before his 1998 death.
- Jason Robards, Magnolia, 1999. Scott threw the script at writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson. “This is the worst fucking thing I’ve ever read. The language is terrible.”
- Jeremy Irons, The Borgias, TV, 2010. The Italian Caligula director Tinto Brass told me he offered Pope Alexander VI to Scott long before Irish director Neil Jordan got his film off the ground - as a TV series.