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Richard Dreyfuss

  1. Nicholas Hammond, The Sound of Music, 1965.  "I was the uncrowned prince of Hollywood because I hadn’t made a feature film either, but I was already turning down work, which you don’t do as a young actor.”   He was the oldest testee, at 18, for Friedrich von Trapp. OK but...  couldn’t dance! Same fault had him quiting The Producers musical on-stage  in London...  40 years later.z
  2. Dustin Hoffman, The Graduate,  1967.  
    "Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me. Aren't you?"  Hoffman kept refusing to test because he felt insulted - he was Jewish, not a WASP.  So was director Mike Nichols, who convinced him with his celebrated zinger. “Well, maybe Benjamin ls Jewish inside.  Robert Redford insisted he wasn’t right and Nichols agreed. “The public would never believe Redford as a loser with girls.”   Idem for Warren Beatty, George Hamilton and Robert Wagner...  Next? Keir Dullea, Charles Grodin (called up for  Nichols in 1969’s Catch 22, 1969), Albert Finney, Harrison Ford, Steve McQueen (!),  David Lynch regular Jack Nance, Jack Nicholson, Anthony Perkins (better as Chaplain Tappman in Catch 22),  Burt Ward (Batman’s Robin but Fox TV wouldn’t let him go), Gene Wilder and the inevitable unknown, Lee Stanley, who went on to be a  docu director. Oh, and Hoffman’s room-mate, Robert Duvall. (Gene Hackman also shared their digs and he was fired from Mr Robinson!). Producer Lawrence Turman said they saw a million kids… Nichols used as many as he could. Mike Farrell (TV’s M*A*S*H) and Kevin Tighe won screen debuts. Richard Dreyfuss, for example, got an actual line - "Shall I get the cops? I'll get the cops” -   much better than walk-ons for  Brian Avery (in TV until 2018) and Donald F Glut (TV’s Frankenstein  monster in the 50s).  Hoffman got $17,000 and was then jobless and back on welfare for months. Until catching the Midnight Cowboy bus.

  3. Leonard Frey,  Fiddler on the Roof, 1970.    Seen  for Motel… 
  4. Paul Michael Glaser,  Fiddler on the Roof, 1970.    And   for Perchik.
  5. Ray Lovelock, Fiddler on the Roof, 1970.    …and, indeed, for  Fyedka during the January 1970 auditions.
  6. Michael Margotta, Drive, He Said,  1970.     Producer Bert Schneider wanted Dreyfuss, who auditioned for the director – Jack Nicholson, no less. No go! Jack insisted on Margotta, something of a Jack clone - in attitude and belief in all things Rechian.  Jack also suggested that co-star William Tepper would be the best actor of his generation. No.  He made only four features before turning writer-producer-director., Margotta lasted much longer, before  turning teacher at the Actors Studio.
  7. James Woods, Kojak, TV, 1973.     Dreyfuss - and Martin Sheen - passed, so Jimmy won his fourth TV role, as a thug called Caz on the 13th episode, Death Is Not A Passing Grade, screened on January 30, 1974.
  8. Ron Howard, American Graffiti, 1973.     George  Lucas saw Dreyfuss (and the worst Cockney accent in  stage  history)  in an LA  production of Major Barbara and offered him Steve. No, he wanted Curt. “Because he’s filled with self-awareness.  He’s aware that 20 years from now he will remember that night, he knows and cherishes that experience even as it is happening.”  However, after seeing a work print he told Lucas: “You should cut me out - and I know how to do it.”
  9. James Caan, The Gambler, 1973.    When Paramount cheesily announced  a 2012 re-make without telling him, scenarist James Toback related the unexpurgated chronology of the original  (“from erection to resurrection,” to quote Churchill), revealing how his UK helmer Karel Reisz interviewed Dreyfuss and Chris Sarandon among others and became the only director in the world to have   threatened to  resign rather than work with Robert De Niro! “As unresponsive to DeNiro as Karel had been,” said Toback, “he flipped wildly for Jimmy... who charmed me with great dispatch as well!”
  10. James Woods, Kojak, TV, 1974. At 27, Woods won his third television break, after Dreyfuss and Martin Sheen refused the  punk that Woods fed upon. in the 13th episode: Death Is Not A Passing Grade.

  11. Lenny Baker, Next Stop, Greenwich Village, 1975.    He refused a fourth film with actor-turned-director Paul Mazursky. Why? “I was an asshole,” he  admitted during a Mazursky memorial in September 2014. “When I was around Paul, I wanted to be Paul,” he said. “And I like being Richard. But I wanted to be Paul.” Just not in his autobiopic about his early acting days in New York. Richard could not even say he’d already played an actor, thank you very much - that was his next role (based, this time on Dustin Hoffman) in The Goodbye Girl, winning him an Oscar (and thereby bringing him even closer to Hoffman’s instant-famew tribulation!). 
  12. Robert De Niro, Taxi Driver, 1975.
  13. David Carradine, Bound For Glory, 1976.  Holding out for more money helped Carradine's dream come true. "I was too tall, too old and too fit,  but I was the  essence  of Woody Guthrie." Dreyfuss told The Guardian in 2020: “I guess because I’ve always known that there was a kind of unlikelihood about my stardom and yet, when you thought it through, you realise it was not unlikely at all. I know my constituency. Every actor has a constituency and, in my case, it was college-educated, Upper West Side Jews who were urban and 20th-century as opposed to, let’s say, John Wayne, who is more 19th century than 20th, as opposed to Charlton Heston, who is eternal and can actually play God. I couldn’t, so I knew who my people were.” 
  14.  Louise Fletcher, The Exorcist II: The Heretic, 1976.
  15. Jane Fonda, The China Syndrome, 1978.     Producer Michael Douglas' package was: Jack Lemmon, himself and Dreyfuss as the hot-headed TV cameraman.   "Hey,"  said Dreyfuss,  "why  don't  I  play the producer,  because  I've  always played the  hot-headed cameraman part." He then changed his mind "and basically asked for twice as much money," Douglas told me in Cap d’Antibes, France.  "I'd already talked to Jane in London,  knowing things were a little shakey with  Richard." And Douglas played the cameraman.
  16. Dustin Hoffman, Kramer v Kramer, 1979.     "Pacino was the first one they offered Kramer to," reported Roy Scheider, "and Dreyfuss was actually cast in All That Jazz.  But Al turned down Kramer and Richard walked out of Jazz.  Then, Bobby Benton asked me to do Kramer but producer Stanley Jaffe wanted Dustin. So,  Dustin and I ended up with the best roles of the year...  that both of us were absolutely perfect for. Dreyfuss got nothing. And Pacino got worse than nothing. He got Cruising."
  17. Malcolm McDowell, Time After Time, 1979.    Being a big fan his Lindsay Anderson's films, Nicholas Meyer wanted McDowell -  the UK director’s most recent star -  and only McDowell.
  18. Judd Hirsch, Ordinary People, 1979.  Robert Redford’s directing debut was a toughie - Judith Guest’s anatomy of a family more in pain than love. Redford saw Dreyfuss as the shrink, but he was in mid-nervous breakdown, himself.  Donald Sutherland preferred the father. Paramount suggested Hirsch. Talking to him rather than his agent (“they always mess things up”), the new director  suggested doing all his scenes last, like a movie within the movie, to get him back to his Taxi sitcom in good time. Result:  ”An intelligent, perceptive, and deeply moving film,” said Chicago critic Roger Ebert. Plus Oscars for Best Picture, Adapted Script, Supporting Actor (Timothy Hutton as the son)  and Best Director!
  19. Roy Scheider, All That Jazz, 1980.      “Soon as we got together,” said Bob Fosse, “you could smell disaster. He was afraid of the dancing and used to directors giving him more freedom than I would.” Also in the loop: Alan Alda, Alan Bates (“too British,” said Fosse), Robert Blake, 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.
  20. John Belushi, Continental Divide, 1981.    Steven Spielberg adored the Tracy/Hepburn unlikely romcoms. Now he’d  found his own. Except he chickened out when  he couldn’t unearth a new Spence/Kate.  He remained producer and thought the no-nonsense journo hero (based on Chicago Sun Times columnist Mike Royko) was perfect  for… Robert De Niro, Peter Falk, Dustin Hoffman, George Segal.  Plus Dreyfuss,  who would re-hash Tracy’s role in 1943’s A Guy Named Joe in Spielberg’s clunky 1989 version, Always. Then, Belushi, the overblown ruination of Spielberg’s 1941, decided he could go straight. Steven believed him.  And stuck him on  poor  UK director Michael Apted. Major error!

  21.  Dudley More, Arthur, 1982.     "He said he couldn't do it," said producer Charles Joffe about the alcoholic comedy, "because it was  his  life.  Now he's totally  clean and says:  If you ever  give me a script  again, I won't even read it,  I'll say yes."
  22. James Woods, Once Upon A Time in America, Italy-US,  1984.   “Noodles,” said Sergio Leope about his gangster, “wasn’t Doc Schultz, Peter Lorre, Alan Ladd, Lucky Luciano, Al Capone or Humphrey Bogart  - just a small Jew from the ghetto.”  The maestro first thought of Dreyfuss - “remarkable in Jaws and The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz.” Yet he was also impressed by Woods on-stage. “His text wasn’t convincing but I was attracted by the nervousness behind that strange face. Co--star Robert De Niro wanted one of his mates  - Joe Pesci. Leone got around that by giving another De Niro pal a good role - Tuesday Weld.
  23. Nick Nolte, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, 1986.     Auteur Paul Mazursky said he was casting out of the Betty Ford Clinic... So he was shocked when Dreyfuss refused to be Jerry the hobo - in the LA version of the 1932 French classic Boudou sauvé des eaux/Boudou Saved From Drowning. “Nick was perfect and I couldn’t do that. I preferred Dave.”
  24. Christopher Reeve, Street Smart, 1986.    Reeve was so keen to make it (for Cannon) that he agreed to make them a fourth Superman.  (Not unsurprisingly,  the worst!)
  25. Jeff Goldblum, The Fly, 1986.  “Be afraid, be very afraid!” Dreyfuss and Michael Keaton passed on Seth Brundle. The promise of five hours (and 5 lbs) of prosthetic make-up as the Brundlefly didn’t delight them.   Mel Gibson fled for Lethal Weapon. John Lithgow auditioned. - Keanu Reeves, Speed, 1993. There were 30 stars queuing for Die Hard On A Bus. From A Listers Jeff Bridges, Kevin Costner, Tom Cruise, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks, Kurt Russell, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Patrick Swayze, even Mr Die Hard, himself, Bruce Willis… to the B group: Kevin Bacon, three Baldwin brothers (Alec, Stephen and William), Michael Biehn, Bruce Campbell, George Clooney, Johnny Depp, Richard Dreyfuss, Michael Keaton, Christophe(r) Lambert, Viggo Mortensen, Dennis Quaid, Mickey Rourke, Tom Selleck… and two also-rans Bruce Campbell and Chuck Norris. All crushed by a whippersnapper!
  26. Will Patton, No Way Out, 1986.  For his excellent thriller (labyrinthine and ingenious, said Roger Ebert) the under-praised Aussie director Roger Donaldson looked at his fellow Aussies Bryan Brown and Colin Friels for the villain Gene Hackman’s aide.  Plus Alec Baldwin, Michael Biehn,  Richard Dreyfuss, Scott Glenn, John Heard, Stephen Lang, Gary Oldman, Ron Perlman, Sam Shepard, James Spader, JT Walsh. Patton got the gig and  was cast as gay again in The Punisher, 2003. 

  27.  Ed Harris, To Kill A Priest, 1988.  
     Dreyfuss met exiled Polish director Agnieszka Holland in LA,  agreed to the project  but was tied up when shooting began. Or as he explained his career to The Guardian in 2020: 
    :“I guess because I’ve always known that there was a kind of unlikelihood about my stardom and yet, when you thought it through, you realise it was not unlikely at all. I know my constituency. Every actor has a constituency and, in my case, it was college-educated, Upper West Side Jews who were urban and 20th-century as opposed to, let’s say, John Wayne, who is more 19th century than 20th, as opposed to Charlton Heston, who is eternal and can actually play God. I couldn’t, so I knew who my people were.” 

  28. Harvey Fierstein, Torch Song Trilogy, 1988. Impossible to make such a gay tale minus a name. And Fierstein, the queen of Broadway, was  no movie star. Dreyfuss (and Hoffman) refused to steal his role. Matthew Broderick saved the day by signing  on as the project's  star appeal - young at that.
  29. Michael Caine, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, 1988.     Or King of the Mountain Dirty and Rotten Criminals when Dreyfuss refuses, changes his mind,  fails to get a grip on and stlll returns to in the mix with Steve Martin in the con-men roles created (badly) by Marlon  Brando-David Niven in 1963 and originally revamped for David Bowie-Mick Jagger.
  30. Billy Crystal, When Harry Met Sally...  1989.    No one met Richard!
  31. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Total Recall, 1989.    After 42 drafts, no third act and one bankruptcy, Total Recall became another word for jinx in Hollywood… Italian producer Dino De Laurentiis’ never-ending Martian thriller was nearly made by Dreyfuss in Italy, Patrick Swayze in Australia… and William Hurt for Canadian director David Cronenberg… Next up for the heroics were Jeff Bridges, Christopher Reeve, Tom Selleck before almost becoming a B-movie with little Matthew Broderick (!) or Harmon (cheapest on the list). Then, Dino went belly-up… enabling Arnold to take over (Dino had refused to audition him!) and move Mars to Mexico where everyone got the touristas except him - he had his food, water, B12 shots flown in from home after a rotten Mexperience during Predator, 1986.

  32. Willem Dafoe, Flight of the Intruder, 1990.  Top Gun, John Milius style… ie darker. A wooden Brad Johnson plans a forbidden US missile attack on Hanoi, circa a 1972. Richards Dreyfuss and Gere were also seen for the cowboyish Lieutenant Commander Virgil ‘Tiger’ Cole.  
  33. James Caan, Misery, 1990. Apart from being anti-Stephen King books and anti-playing victims, director Rob Reiner felt the big names, like Dreyfuss, "saw the woman's role as being the most flashy." It was. It won Kathy Bates her Oscar. The refusniks also included Warren Beatty, Jeff Daniels, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Gene Hackman, Ed Harris, John Heard, Dustin Hoffman, William Hurt, Robert Klein, Kevin Kline, Ed O’Neill, Al Pacino, Robert Redford, John Ritter, Denzel Washington. Why did Caan agree? "I think he wanted the work."
  34. Colin Friels,  Darkman, 1990.     Nothing to play... Then again, his substance abuse and bipolar disorder  led to odd decisions. “If someone psychoanalysed me, there’d be a good chance they’d say I set it up so that I could have it, lose it, have to regain it, have, lose, regain it.”
  35. Bob Hoskins, Hook, 1990.  Dreyfuss was (almost inevitably) Steven Spielberg’s first notion for Smee. Yet he fretted about the  potential  and power battles between Dreyfuss and the titular Dustin Hoffman.  (Hoskins was Smee again in the UK TV series, Neverland, 2011).
  36. Jim Belushi, Curly Sue, 1990.    “What I thought would be this cute, sweet little movie experience ended up going on for something like five months,” reported Kelly Lynch. “So much money was spent. It was insane! It was going to be me, Alec Baldwin and Kevin Spacey -  a whole different situation.  [They left for stage dates].  Those were two guys I knew really well, but I'd never met Jimmy [Belushi] before, and then he and [director John Hughes making his final film] didn't get along. I kinda felt like a mom dealing with two 12-year-old boys.“  Also in the Bill Dancer mix were Jeff Bridges, Richard Dreyfuss, Mel Gibson, Jeff Goldblum, Steve Guttenberg, Ray Liotta, Bill Murray (off shooting What About Bob?), Kurt Russell, Tom Selleck, Sylvester Stallone, John Travolta, Bruce Willis. [Quotes va IMDb; no other source credited].
  37. Gene Hackman, Company Business, 1991.    Post-cold-war spy stuff started life as Dinsoaurs, opposite Elliott Gould and "creative disgareements" in 1989.  Nicholas Meyer made it with Hackman and Mikhail Baryshnikov. The Russian hated it, so did Meyer, reviving the basic plot (without studio tampering,  this time) in his next assignment, Star Trek VI, 1991.
  38.  Al Pacino, Frankie and Johnny, 1991.   After Pretty Woman, Garry Marshall decided  on a prettier couple than stage-screen director Mike Nichols' plan of Dreyfuss and Dianne Wiest.
  39. Steve Martin, Father of the Bride, 1991.  Dreyfuss had played an old Spencer Tracy role in Always without much success. So he passed this time,  to another  white-haired star for the Tracy re-tread.  “I wasn’t built to be a movie star. I was built to become a movie star. I felt very comfortable with that.”
  40. Jack Nicholson, A Few Good Men, 1992. He saw the Aaron Sorkin play and wanted the hard-nosed, scene stealing Marine Colonel Nathan Jessup:  “You can’t handle the truth!”  (That might have been director Rob  Reiner, when  turning him  down...  for Jack).

  41. Sam Neil, Jurassic Park, 1992. 
  42. Joe Mantegna, Searching For Bobby Fischer, 1993.  Considered when Robert De Niro had no time to play the father of the child-prodigy chess player.
  43. Ralph Fiennes, Quiz Show, 1993.  “They gave me the answers...”   Robert Redford’ inherited his third  (best) directing gig after Harold Becker, Barry Levinson and Steven Soderbergh and their suggested cast quit for paid work! William Baldwin and Tim  Robbins were up  for Charles Van Doren, rather loftily called the man who took America’s  innocence -  by  confessing to cheating on the #1 TV game show, Twenty-One, during 1957-1959.  Beckewr chose Dreyfuss as Herb Stempel, who deliberately lost to Van Doren (to boost NBC ratings) and blew the whistle on constantly rigged answers.. No one believed him, nor wanted to. (Say it ain’t so!) Until a probe by future JFK speechwriter Dick Goodwin. Watching the show at 22, Redford was always convinced Van Doren was acting.
  44. Robin Williams, Jumanji, 1995.   Two kids find a jungle board game with magic powers unleashing grotesque animalia and some poor sap trapped inside the game since playing it as a tot. Williams lapped it up after Dreyfuss, Dan Aykroyd, Sean Connery, Rupert Everett, Harrison Ford, Tom Hanks, Michael Keaton, Kevin Kline, Bill Paxton, Kurt Russell, Arnold Schwarzenegger fled the incoherent script. Jumanji, incidentally, is Zulu for “many effects.” And how.
  45. Willem Dafoe, The English Patient, 1996.    When Fox was interested in Anthony Minghella’s movie, it was less so keen on Dafoe - and suggested  Dreyfuss, Danny DeVito, or John Goodman as David Caravaggio. Minghella refused. Fox quit. Miramax took over - and scored nine Oscars, including Best Film and Best Director.
  46. Eric Roberts, Doctor Who (The Movie), TV, 1996.  Hollywood goes Who. Why?  For the pilot of a USeries to exhume the BBC science-fiction cult, buried since it ran out of puff after 26 seasons in 1989. As if to prove this was big deal LA in action (!), some 63 actors were listed for Doc8 and a further 71(well, some were on both lists) for his foe, The Master. Such as… James Bond, Caligula, Dracula, Gandhi, Freddy Krueger, Magnum, Jean-Luc Picard, Han Solo,  Spock and  - hey, they’re doctors! - Emmett Brown and Frank-N-Furter. Aka… Timothy Dalton, Malcolm McDowell, Christopher Lee, Ben Kingsley, Robert Englund, Tom Selleck, Patrick Stewart, Harrison Ford, Leonard Nimoy, Christopher Lloyd. Tim Curry.  And a certain Roy Neary from CE3K.      
  47. Woody Allen, Deconstructing Harry, 1997.    Woody said  the only reason he played the awful Harry  ("it's not me, it's not me!") is that heavyweights De Niro, Hoffman and  Dreyfuss would not
  48. Rupert Everett, The Next Best Thing, 1999.    Dreyfuss and Helen Hunt were lucky when The Red Curtain date was cancelled in 1995. Everett and Madonna took over the leads in what Chicago ace critic Roger Ebert buried as “a garage sale of gay issues, harnessed to a plot as exhausted as a junkman's horse 
  49. Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, 2006.    During 28 years  in Development Hell,  the titular casting also included Russell Crowe, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas,  Harrison Ford, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Steve Martin (!), Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino. Tim Curry was the sole Brit considered and the most lunatic  notions were...  Warren Beatty. Harrison Ford and  Robert Redford!
  50. Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables, 2011.   Oh, Hollywood… Since the musical’s 1985 London opening, suggestions for Jean Valjean went from  the logical - Dreyfuss, Robert De Niro, Gene Hackman, William Hurt, Kevin Kline - to the absurd: Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks, Robert Redford, Christopher Walken.  Plus close pals, rarely rivals, Beatty and Jack Nicholson. However, Tom Cruise, Dustin Hoffman  and Al Pacino were far too short for the hefty hero who, in a signature scene, has to carry Cosette’s lover, away from the battle of the barricades. Put it another way, Hollywood’s last Valjean had been Liam Neeson  - 6ft. 4in. 

  51. Adrien Brody, Houdini, TV, 2014.   More about the role than this actual project.  Paramount considered Edward G Robinson and Orson Welles as Harry Houdini in the 40s. He’s  been been portrayed  by actors as diverse as Tony Curtis, Harvey Keitell and Guy Pearce.  Richard Dreyfuss  was ready for a 1976 biopic. Twenty years on, Woody Allen sought  GérardDepardieu for a comedy about Houdini consulting Freud about his claustrophobia (!). By 2014, Johnny Depp and Ryan Gosling were tempted by the  Indiana Holmes  version in The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First Superhero. Finally, Oscar-winner Brody headed the A+E network’s two-parter made in Budapest - where Houdini was born.
  52. Paul Giamatti, Love & Mercy, 2014.  Way back in the 80s, Beach Boy Brian Wilson’s therapist, Dr Eugene Levy (and his associates) tried to set up a biopic with Hurt as Wilson and Richard Dreyfuss as Landy.  In the 90s, Jeff Bridges was to be Wilson. Finally, director Bill Bohlad chose Dano and Cusack as the young and older Wilson in husturbulent years of 1964-1987.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





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