John Cassavetes (1929-1989)
- Edmund Purdom, The Egyptian, 1953. Once Brando split for his New York shrink’s couch, head Fox Darryl Zanuck scurried around searching for a new Sinuhe, the court physician - Cassevetes, Dirk Bogarde, John Montgomery Clift, Richard Conte, John Derek, Rock Hudson, John Lund, Guy Madison, Hugh O’Brian, Michael Pate. Fox borrowed MGM’s wooden Purdom and sued Brando for $2m, settled when he agreed to make (the much worse) Désirée. Or Daisy-Rae as he called the one that got away from Napoleon. At the time, the unknown Cassavetes was called “that Mexican guy” - due to TV play about a bullfighter.
- Richard Burton, Alexander The Great, US-Spain, 1955. Photo-journalist Sam Shaw tried to interest Robert Rossen in the unknown New York actor. He did not get the rôle but became firm friends with the one-time blacklisted director who taught him much and helped Cassavetes make his famous directing debut, Shadows, in 1959. Shaw went on to help produce four Cassavetes films during 1970-1980: Husbands, A Woman Under The Influence, Opening Night and Gloria.
- Red Buttons, Sayonara, 1957. Marlon Brando did not run this time and Cassavetes was up for a supporting role - beaten in auditions and to the Oscar by a red-headed stand-up.
- 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: Cassavetes, Tony Curtis, Ben Gazzara, Paul Newman, 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.
- Dean Martin, Rio Bravo, 1958.
- Warren Beatty, The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone, 1961. On the scratch list for Vivien Leigh’s Rome gigolo, Paolo di Leo, in Tennessee Williams’ favourite movie of his work (his sole novel, in fact) were… the Roman looking Cassavetes, Frankie Avalon(!), James Darren, Fabian, Ben Gazzara, George Hamilton, Jeffrey Hunter, and John Saxon. Oh and Anthony Newley - more talented than any of them but hardly Italiano
- Paul Newman, Paris Blues, 1961. During their second film together, Sidney Poitier told John about his jazz film. But Cassavates was always too busy directing his own movies, making quickies - and the jazz-loving Johnny Staccato private eye series to help finance them.
- Dirk Bogarde, Darling, 1965. No US star would bite after realising this was all about The Girl. Asked which role he wanted, Laurence Harvey said: Julie Christie's!
- Robert Forster, Medium Cool, 1969. Hero John Cassellis was, actually, called John Cassavetes in the script... and was going to be played by him.
- Woody Allen, Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex * But Were Afraid To Ask, 1971. Woody was spurned by John and Raquel Welch and when Richard Benjamin andhis wife,Paula Prentiss,passed on being the couple in the third stanza called Why Do Some Women Have Trouble Reaching an Orgasm? Allen made it as an homage to Michelangelo Antonioni.. The best-selling author, Dr David Reuben (150m copies sold in 52 countries) hated the film, but thenWoody’s parody of the sex manual was his revenge on Reuben for stealing oneof his Take The Money And Run jokes on TV. Johnny Carson: “Is sex dirty?”Reuben: “It is if you’re doing it right.”
- Cameron Mitchell, Klansman, 1974. “My neighbour and friend said it WAS ONE OF THE BEST SCRIPTS HE’D EVER READ,” growled maverick auteur Samuel Fuller in his usual CAPS, “and he’dlove to be part of it.” So he asked Cassavetes to play the Ku Klax Klan lieutenant.Then Paramount got scared by Fuller’sferocity - and insisted he tone downthe violence. “HOW CAN ANYONE MAKE AN HONEST MOVIE ABOUT THE KKK WITHOUT VIOLENCE?” Before he could quit, Sammy was dropped and 007’s Terence Young was in- and out of his depth. He was not alone. Co-stars Richard Burton and LeeMarvin wereboth so drunk that they had no memory of ever having worked together when they met up five years later.As for the rewritten script: “MADE NO SENSE AS SOCIAL COMMENTARY AND WAS REPUGNANT AS ENTERTAINMENT.” Fuller later playedy a role written for John in Sons, 1989.
- Nick Mancuso, Paroles et Musique, France, 1984. The film was written for Catherine Deneuve- and required a strong presence for the husband who dumps her.Alas, John’s health was not good enough. Enter: the Canadian Italian.
- Dennis Hopper, Der Amerikanische Freund/The American Friend, Germany, 1977. German auteur Wim Wenders originally considered John for Tom Ripley. And John said: “Oh no, you need Dennis!” Hopper, said Wenders, proved “the one guy who could truly incorporate everything in Ripley’s character in his persona.”
- Samuel Fuller, Sons, 1989. Auteur Alexandre Rockwell wrote the role for John, thendying of cirrhosis of the liver. “He told Alex to come see me,” recalled Fuller.”I said I’d do it. WE DEDICATED THE ENTIRE PROJECT TO JOHN... All filmmakers today who call themselves “independent” OWE A TREMENDOUS DEBT TO JOHN. I hope they pay it down BY TAPPING INTO THEIR HEART OF HEARTS, TAKING RISKS, making the kinds of personal films that John had the talent and courage to do.”
- William Hurt, The Big Brass Ring, 1998. In the mid-80s, Orson Welles ran into his usual financial difficulties in trying to set up his new script - of a Presidential candidate blackmailed over an affair with his main, male adviser. For the potential First Couple, Welles (due as The Adviser) tried the Newmans and the Cassavetes.