- Charles Laughton, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1938. Director William Dieterle’s and only titular choice was Laughton. However, he was trying to set up a Cyrano De Bergerac at MGM. Before that dream collapsed and he signed on as Quasimodo, RKO looked at the obvious (Lugosi or Lon Chaney Jr) and the intriguing Robert Morley, Claude Rains… even Orson.
- Tim Holt, The Magnificent Ambersons, 1941. To follow Citizen Kane, Welles planed to direct - and play the cruel, malicious son George – in the Amberson saga. He then gave Citizen Amberson to the more handsome Holt, stuck to directing. And messed up. After such classics as Stageoach, My Darling Clementine and The Treazsure of Sierra Madre, Holt starred in an RKO series of sagebrush B-quickies with comic Cliff Edwards. And still more, as himself, opposite Richard Martin.
- Monty Woolley, The Man Who Came To Dinner, 1941. Howard Hawks wanted Cary Grant. Orson Welles wanted to direct - and play the title role. Bette Davs wanted John Barrymore but he could no longer remember his lines. Tests of Robert Benchley and Laird Cregar were respectively deemed “too mild-mannered” and “overblown and extravagant,” by producer Hal Wallis. (Probably why Charles Coburn refused to test at all). Director William Keighley also saw Charles Laughton and Fredric March before asking the Broadway star to reprise the titular Sheridan Whiteside. Welles finally became Whiteside (based heavily on Alexander Woollcott) in an NBC Hallmark Hall of Fame TV production, 1972.
- Henry Fonda, The Ow-Bow Incident, 1943. The sole Western ever contemplated by Orson. He nearly made it as his second actor-director project before falling for The Magnificent Ambersons and leaving Ow-Bow to Wild Bill Wellman.
- Gregory Peck, The Keys of the Kingdom, 1944. Gone With The Wind producer David O Selznick gave up after two years and sold out to Fox when he couldn’t find the perfect (all too perfect) hero, Father Francis Chisholm. Contenders included Welles, Dana Andrews, Joseph Cotten, Maurice Evans, Henry Fonda, Clark Gable, Van Heflin, Dean Jagger, Gene Kelly, Franchot Tone, Spencer Tracy… plus the most unlikeiest Catholic missionaries of all: Alan Ladd and Edward G Robinson! Auteur Joseph L Mankiewicz signed Peck in July 1943 for his second film - and first Oscar nomination.
- Rex Harrison, Anna and the King of Siam, 1946. Wellesdidn’t want to be the king and have to act opposite Irene Dunne - “for several reasons, none of them personal.” He recommended Alfred Lunt or a new young English actor. “And that was the beginning of Rex Harrison’s American career.”
- Claude Rains, The Unsuspected, 1947. Director Michael Curtiz decided to change… “This is the United Motor Company presenting The Hour of Mystery!Starring your genial host renowned writer, art collector and teller of strange tales, Victor Grandison.” A radio mystery host-writer-producer - committing, he thinks, the perfect murder and re-enacting it on-air.
- Charles Chaplin, Monsieur Verdoux, 1947. Earlier in the 40s, Orson was much taken with playing the French serial wife-killer, Landru.Feeling Chaplin would be better, Welles wrote him a script: The Ladykiller. Chaplin didn’t relish the idea of being directed by someone other than himself. Orsonsold him the property (he kept one gag), hence the credit line: “Based on an idea suggested by Orson Welles.”
- Trevor Howard, The Third Man, 1949. Carol Reed’s first idea. graham Greene based the character of Harry Lime on his boss in theBritish Secret Intelligence Service, Kim Philby - eventually unmasked as a double-agent for Russia.
- José Ferrer, Cyrano De Bergerac, 1950. “I lost about nine months on that project. That’s why I left America.” All was going well until producer Alexander Korda said: “My dear Orson, don’t you really think that man with the nose is rather a bore?” So he sold it to Columbia - and Ferrer got the Oscar.
- Peter Ustinov, Quo Vadis, 1950. Took Hollywood 26 years to film Henryk Sienkiewicz’s 1895 epic novel about ancient Rome. MGM won the rights in 1925, with Wallace Beery in mind for Nero in 1935. Amid the 1942 promise of “176 speaking parts and 30,000 extras,”, the choice was between Welles and Broadway star Alfred Lunt. By 1943, it was Charles Laughton, the Nero of Paramount’s 1932 Sign of the Cross… Ustinov was Oscar-nominated in 1951.
- Pierre Brasseur, Barbe-Bleue, France, 1951. According to Michel Simon, who also refused.
- Charles Laughton, Salome, 1953. For producer Alexander Korda, Welles intended to played both Oscar Wilde and King Herod opposite Vivien Leigh in the title role -that eventually went to Orson’s ex-wife, Rita Hayworth.
- Anthony Quayle, Oh...Rosalinda!!, 1955. Sure, said Orson, he’d be the Russian General Orlovsky. “Can I havethe money now.I’ll give you three days for £30,000 on three days’ notice.” And that was the last they saw of him. Director Michael Powell cursed him but knew he had too many irons in the fire,unfinished films across Euproe that he had to visit, as Powell put it, like a doctor with ”a shot inthe arm, or the ass.”
- Ralph Richardson, Richard III, 1955. Laurence Olivier regretted giving in to the entreaties ofRalph, his life long friend. “Orson would have brought an extra element to the screen, an intelligence that would have gone well with the plot element of conspiracy.
- Wendell Corey, The Killer Is Loose, 1955. Director Budd Boetticher sure loved Citizen Kane… He tried to get Welles for the vengeful bank robber Foggy Poole - and settled for Cotton as Poole’s target Detective Sam Wagner.
- Henry Fonda, War and Peace, 1955. Welles’ first “non-picture” (there were many) with producer Alexander Korda. Orson helming his script, with Robert Donat, Vivien Leigh, Laurence Olivier, etc, on Russian locations with the entire Red Army for the retreat from Moscow.“The Cold War killed us off.”
- David Niven, Around The World In 80 Days, 1955. German playwright (and scenarist) Bertold Brecht told Welles that his 80 Days stage production was the greatest US theatre he’d ever seen. Producer Alexander Korda planned a movie version with him.Welles even shot some second-unit material in North Africa before “once again”Korda sold his script to... Mike Todd, the producer of the stage version without any money which is how Welles lost all his and was not even offered one of the 43 star cameos.
- Alec Guinness, The Bridge On The River Kwai, 1957. 1956. Welles was good chums with producer Sam Spiegel since he produced (and drastically cut) The Stranger in 1945 – when billed as SP Eagle. One reason why Welles called jit “my worst film.” (The other reason was… Welles). At least they remained friendly until Sam refused to let Orson star in or direct River Kwai. (Not even to play the bridge, adeed Hollywood wags!) “I don't think this part is right for me.” He was too obese to pass for a prisoner in a Japanese POW camp. “But I’ll be glad to direct it.”
- Lee J Cobb, The Three Faces of Eve, 1957. He read it andtold scenarist-director Nunnally Johnson that whoever was Eve would win the Oscar (Joanne Woodward did just that).However, he passed on Dr Luther...to make Touch of Evil.
- Burt Lancaster. Sweet Smell of Success,1957. A great idea for the powerful Walter Winchell-style newspaper columnist, J.J. Hunsecker.
- Spencer Tracy, The Last Hurrah, 1958.
The name is Bond. Ward Bond. And he is the reason why Welles never played Frank Skeffington for John Ford… Welles refused when Ford’s ultra right wing blowhard pal publicly questioned Welles’ loyalty to the US. Ford was almost as furious as Welles. The two directors were not friends but fans of each other’s work. By 1992, Welles was more polite when he told biographer Peter Bogdanovich that Welles’ agent passed for him while he was out of town.. as the money and/or billing was not good enough. Earlier Ford had flirted with Cagney long enough to arouse Tracy’s interest in the old Irish politico - and the longest death scene in screen history. First, the ex-pals had to meet up anew. (Ford had first brought Tracy to Hollywood for Up The River, 1930. The last meet was in 1936!) In a fit of typical pique , Ford turned to Welles when the Hurrah schedule clashed with Tracy’s Old Man And The Sea. Katharine Hepburn acted as agent and peace-maker. Welles was less than gracious about Tracy, having trouble trying to think of a great Tracy performance. “He was gigantic in Judgment at Nuremberg, although it is not a great picture,” the embitteed icon told his friend, director Henry Jaglom. “But I couldn’t stand those romantic Katharine Hepburn things. He was just a hateful, hateful man.”
- Rod Serling, The Twilight Zone, TV, 1959-1964. CBS obviously wanted Welles as the host-narrator to intone lines like “The place is here. The time is now. And the journey into the shadows that we're about to watch could be our journey...” Once again,his agent wanted too much money. Welles claimed he hatedTVas much as peanuts. “But I can’t stop eating peanuts.”
- Herbert Lom, Spartacus, 1960. Back from the blacklist, scenarist Dalton Trumbo created the pirate Tigranes Levantus with Orson in mind.
- Herbert Lom,El Cid, 1961. Charlton Heston always tried to get him roles... “Most of my movies,” said Welles, “are movies I didn't want to make.”
- Fred Surin, Vie privée (UK/US: A Very Private Affair), France-Italy, 1961. Wanted: a notable director to be seen working on Heinrich von Kleist’s CatherineHeilbronn at the Spoleto Festival inthe over-arty counterpoint to the final third of the Brigitte Bardot vehicle. (Big switch from the original idea of updating Noel Coward’s Private Lives). Realisateur Louis Malle invited Welles but as he’d also been asked to act in one of the Spoletoplays, Orson was muddled by thetwo letters. “Now they want me to direct one?”His place was taken by the film’s production director... while Malle was equally muddled over a fan letter from Welles, admiring his films and wanting to work with him! (Malle directed an opera at the 1964 Spoleto festival).
- Michael Lonsdale, The Trial, 1962. He was already writer-directing sohe “really didn’t want to be in the film.”Except nobody but Welle could be The Advocate, so hepassed his priest cameo to Lonsdale.
- Andrew Duggan, The Chapman Report, 1962. The LA Times reported Welles was first choice for the Kinseyesque sex-researcher Dr George C Chapman. Choosing Duggan instead was akin to Chetah playing Tarzan.
- Gert Fröbe, Goldfinger, 1964.
- Jason Robards, The St Valentine’s Day Massacre 1966. For his first bigstudio project, director Roger Corman wanted Welles as Citizen Capone. Fox did not. Robards (already cast as Bugs Moran) became the thinnest Capone ever, with Ralph Meeker as Moran.
- Maurice Evans, Planet of the Apes, 1967.
- Massimo Girotto,Teorema (Theorem), Italy, 1968. “A religious story,” said Italian auteur Pier Paolo Pasolini. “A God - handsome, young, fascinating, blue eyes -moves into a bourgeois family. And he loves everyone from the father, who is Orson Wellesto the servant who is Laura Betti...” ExceptWelles wouldn’t play. And missed a classic. He had earlier played The Director in PPP’s sketch in RoGoPG, 1962.
Robert Morley, The Story of Joseph and his Brothers,1969. Discovering he was not getting the lead opposite his wife in 1955,Rita Hayworth’s fourth and penultimatehusband, crooner Dick Haymes, ruled out any suggestion that Orson, hersecond husband should be Potiphar.“She wouldn't even consider it,” said Haymes (trying to be be Joseph, himself). Rita fled the film - and Haymes.
- Jason Robards, JuliusCaesar, 1970.
“Brutus was a part he had played with distinction more than once," noted Charlton Heston. Sir John Gielgud said abruptly… ‘Oh, but he’s much too fat...’ He was, I expect, but he could have acted it beautifully.” Better than Robards who, Heston felt, had no sense of language. Or. not Shakespeare’s, anyway.
- James Gregory, Beneath The Planet of the Apes, 1970. The mask, more than the suit put Welles off playing gorilla General Ursus.“You can’t act witha mask,”he thundered.”“Actors used masks in ancient Greece,” countered director Ted Post. “Ah,” said Welles, “but can you name any of them?”If he had beendirecting, he would have used another actor - and simply dubbed him.
- James Wheaton, THX 1138, 1971. Warner Bros wanted Welles as the voice of OMM. The cocky (or scared)fledgling movie-maker George Lucas insisted on a relatively unknown stage actor.Wheaton made six films onlyin 31 years. Lucas learned his lesson and six years later, he asked Welles (before James Earl Jones)to voice Darth Vader in Star Wars.
- Topol, Fiddler on the Roof, 1971. Made marginally more sense than Marlon Brando or Frank Sinatra. Butit would have neededa tremendously strong roof!
- Richard Kiley, The Little Prince, 1974. Naturally, Welles was first (in 1943) to acquire the rights to Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s French classic.... to direct, narrate and play the pilot. With animation for the space travel.Stanley Donen helmed it 30 years later. To no great worth.
Nehemiah Persoff, Voyage of the Damned, 1976. “When you see me in a bad movie as an actor (I hope not as a director), it is because a good movie has not been offered to me. I often make bad films in order to live.”Not this time.
- Brian Keith, Nickelodeon, 1976.
“Well,” growled Welles, “that’s the end of my career in Hollywood.” Director and co-writer Peter Bogdanovich felt much the same, when unable to win Welles his usual salary or to make the movie (based on Cecil B DeMille’s early years) in black-white. When Bogdanovich resurrected the project, all critics agreed that Keith had the best part: HH Cobb, chief of Kinegraph Studios of... Chicago.
- Peter Sellers, Murder By Death, 1976. Unavailable for Inspector Sidney Wang.Poor Sellers sniffed disaster and sold his profit points back to the producers... of what proved a hit. In 1967, Sellers refused to share any of their scenes with Welles during Casino Royale.
- Alec Guinness, Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, 1976.
- James Earl Jones, Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, 1976.
- Burt Lancaster, Novocento/1900, Italy, 1977. Not happy with the way director Bernardo Bertolucci had dialogue re-written the night before shooting. Orsonpreferred re-writing after shooting -simply dubbing inthe changes. (Trouble was, you could alwaystell...)
- Charles Durning, Tilt, 1978.
“He was my idol,” said Rudy Durand,ex-sports promoter and music producer and now, finally, directing his first movie… “I paid a guy $100 just… to get the script to him. Welles called it the finest screenplay he’dread. He talked on the Carson show about... ‘the only script I've read in a long time where everycharacterhas a redeeming quality.’ And the phone started ringing. He told me I was the only one to direct it as I’d lived it for so long.” However, “for several reasons,” he passed the role of a bookie called The Whale... to Spermwhale from The Choirboys.
- Ricardo Montalban, Fantasy Island, TV, 1978-1984. The ABC network (but not producer Aaron Spelling) wanted Welles as the island’s host, Mr Roarke. “No, never met Orson Welles,” said director William Friedkin. “And I’m glad I didn’t. Because I heard he was a miserable son-of-a-bitch.”
- John Gielgud, Caligula,1978.
- Broderick Crawford, Harlequin, Australia, 1980. “We wanted a tough, old, fat, cigar-smoking American with a strong screen personality,” saidthe Aussie director Simon Wincer. “But he wanted $80,000 a week for two weeks and we couldn’t affordit.God knows how we would have worked with him. [Director]Mike Nichols had his problems [on Catch 22, 1970], so I’d hate to think what might have happened.”
- Burl Ives, White Dog, 1981. Producer Jon Davison loved the idea.Maverick auteur Samuel Fuller wanted Welles as the racist training the titualr dog to attack blacks (based on a dog found in LA by Jean Seberg and her then husband, Frenchnovelist Romain Gary). Paramount did not agree... one of the reason whythis was Fuller’s final US film. (He moved to France). Orson was a definite Fuller fan. When his crew was searching for him while making The Other Side of the Wind, in 1972, Welles was eventually was found before a TV set.“Just a minute…” He was watching Sam’s Shock Corridor, 1963.
- Jerry Lewis, The King of Comedy, 1982. “Of course we really wanted Johnny Carson,” said director Martin Scorsese. About the TV talk-show host kidnapped by Robert De Niro’s aspiring comic. “Johnny wouldn’t do it.” Scorsese then thought ofSinatra, or any of his Las Vegas/Ocean’s 11 clan.“I just love that crowd and their clothes.” Or even Orson. “But he wasn’t showbusiness enough.But I’d love to have worked with Mr Welles. Doing anything! Even cleaning the floor for him.”
- Albert Finney, The Dresser, 1983.Welles often talked to Michael Caine about working together. Their favourite idea was filming Ronald Harwood’s West End and Broadway memoir about his five years as dresser of the egomaniacal, hammy Shakesperian actor, Sir Donald Wolfit. Happily, it never got off the ground floor as neither could have matched the glorious magic of Finney and Tom Courtenay. Even so, Caine called it: “The best film I never made.”
- Max von Sydow, Never Say Never Again, 1983.
- Samuel Fuller, Les voleurs de las nuit, France,1983. US director Samuel Fuller never gave up on Orson and wroteZoltan for him in this French polar. “COULDN’T CONTACT HIM!” He rewrote it... for Marlene Dietrich! “COULDN’T CONTACT HER! I said we’d find SOMEONE GOOD and in the end, IT WAS ME!”(Sam Fuller invariably spoke, or growled, in CAPITALS).
- Kenneth McMillan, Dune, 1984.
- Burgess Meredith, King Lear, 1986. Marlon Brandopassed (he’d made enough rotten movies) and the modern-day Lear - a New York Mafia chief Don Learo - was then offered by Jean-Luc Godard and the Go Go twins, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, to,naturally, Orson. Plus Dustin Hoffman, director Joseph Losey andLee Marvin. Before it fell to Rod Steiger, swiftly replaced by grizzly Buzz Meredith. Godard had forgottenthe perfect American choice: Robert Mitchum.
- Rod Mullinar, Dead Calm, 1989.Orson filmed off the Dalmatian coast, 1967-69, giving Hollywood two titles to later pillage: The Deep and his working title, Dead Reckoning. Filming stopped when finances dried up, as per usual, and after his star, Laurence Harvey, died in 1973. Film-maker and Welles biographer Peter Bogdanovich said the only portion of the film not completed was an explosion towards the end. Thefilm exists in a work print in the Munich Filmmuseau, which is searching formorefootage in collectors’ hands.
- Tony Curtis, Brittle Glory, 1989.Orson supplied writer-director Stewart Schill with the firsttitle - Lobster Man From Mars -and died before playing producer JP Sheldrake in what Schill then called The Continued Adventures of Reptile Man and His Faithful Sidekick Tadpole.
- John Gielgud, Caligula, 1989.
- Anthony Quinn, Revenge, 1990. Welles had the property after Jack Nicholson and before Clint Eastwood swopped it for Bird. None of them could lick it, including Kevin Costner on-screen.
- Tim Roth, Heart of Darkness, 1994. Welles’ original choice for hisfilm debut at RKO... His script was completed on November 30 1939, sets were designed and actors tested. Orson was to be Marlow and Kurtz (he played both in his secondradio version, 1945)…
- John Malkovich, Heart of Darkness, 1994. Welles settled for Marlow just before the project was cancelled (economically) infavour of Citizen Kane. Apart from greatly influencing Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, 1979, the Conrad book was not made until Nicolas Roeg’s TVersion... 55 years on.
- Nigel Hawthorne, The Big Brass Ring, 1998.
Orson Welles’ last stand… Potential investors said he must get Nicholson, Clint Eastwood, Robert Redford or Burt Reynolds… for the gay Texas senator and Presidential hopeful. They all passed. (So did investors). Some 13 years after Orson’s death, Missouri auteur George Hickenlooper adapted the 1982-1987 Welles-Oja Kodar scenarios, with William Hurt running for governor of Missouri (hah!) and colliding into his past - his aged political mentor, the role Welles meant for himself. Enter: Hawthorne, Oscar-nominated for Madness of King George. Criticised for adapting Welles.Hickenlooper said: “Welles in many respects was the Shakespeare of the American cinema. So, if Welles adapted Shakespeare, why not adapt Welles?”
“Orson has always been ashamed of his little, tipped-up, baby nose, ” said Dick Cavett, quoting Marlene Dietrich, in the New York Times, January 212, 2012. “Like Larry Olivier, he has a different nose in every movie ”