Peter Falk (1927-2011)
- Martin Milner, Marjorie Morningstar, 1957. He tested for Gene Kelly’s friend who was more successful inshowbiz than Gene Kelly.Legend has it that the one-eyed Falk failed a screen test at Columbia and studio boss Harry Cohn told him: “For the same price I can get an actor with two eyes.”
- Allen Baron, Blast of Silence, 1960. Given the choice of playing a hitman for free or a less interesting gig with a salary, Falk followed the money. And his Brooklyn pal, the debuting auteur said: “Hell with it, I’ll play Frank Bono myself.” Which he did most successfully, often resembling Lino Ventura, just as the movie (reborn on DVD in 2008) resembled a French Nouvelle Vague thriller. With endless shots of Baron walking along busy New York streets… and indeed, having a punch-up during a (real) hurricane. No wonder he was hailed as a new Orson Welles! But a Welles winding up directing 40 TV gigs from from Kolchak to Charlie’s Angel.
- Mike Connors, Situation Hopeless - But Not Serious, 1965. Due to join Robert Redford as the US flyers kept prisoner long after 1945 by German air-raid warden Alec Guinness in a seriously hopeless(unreleased) version of actor Robert Shaw's first novel, The Hiding Place.
- Elliott Gould, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, 1969. Ted.
- Milton Berle, The Oscar, 1965. When Harlan Ellison adapted Richard Sale’s book, he had Steve McQueen and Falk in mind for the major roles, a movie star jerk and his agent, Kappy - a non-comedy role until Berle played it.
- Alex Rocco, The Godfather, 1971.
- Elliott Gould, California Split, 1974. Falk and Robert De Niro were among Steven Spielberg's ideas before passing the pot to the much revered Robert Altman... who left it to Gould to convince his writer-buddy Joseph Walsh. Calling from Germany, Gould told him: "Joey, you don't see me as Charlie because you've been Charlie all your life... But to the outside world, I'm Charlie. I'm the crazy one!"
- Jack Lemmon, The Prisoner of Second Avenue, 1975. It was Peter's role. He created it on Broadway. "Jack was good," agrees Neil Simon, "but it needed someone more ethnically right, much more urban. Jack, to me, does not portray a typical New Yorker. But the studio told me: "Look, Peter's not a name - and Jack is a big name." Big names prove nothing in the wrong picture."
- Gert Frobe, The Serpent's Egg, 1977. Lost: a rare opportunity to work with Ingmar Bergman. (Working later with Wim Wenders was not the same thing).
- George Segal, The Duchess and The Dirtwater Fox, 1977. So, I said, quite innocently to Segal in Paris: Was your great Touch of Class comedy partner, Glenda Jackson, supposed to be the Duchess. “Yes,” he smiled. “She was supposed to do that. [Pause]. With Peter Falk!”
- John Belushi, Continental Divide, 1981. Steven Spielberg adored the Tracy/Hepburn unlikely romcoms. Now he’d found his own. Except he chickened out whenhe 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 perfectfor… Robert De Niro, Richard Dreyfuss (known as Spielberg's Tracy), Dustin Hoffman, George Segal. Plus Peter Falk -Spielberg had directed the first Columbo episode, Murder By The Book, in 1971. Then, Belushi, the ruination of Spielberg’s 1941, decided he could go straight. Stevenbelieved him. And stuck him on poor UK director Michael Apted. Monumental error!
- Harrison Ford, Blade Runner, 1981. UK wiz Ridley Scott spent a long time sniffing out the perfect Deckard. From top notchers Sean Connery, Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman (keen… but on making it a totally different character, of course), Robert Mitchum, Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino… to such excellent journeymen as Falk, William Devane, Robert Duvall, Frederic Forrest, Scott Glenn, 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.
- Jon Voight, The Runaway Train, 1984. Due in 1970 as Akira Kurosawa’s first US film, the project was canceled due to heavy snowstorms (and budget hassles) in the upstate New York. Cannon’s much ridiculed Go-Go Boys, Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, wisely invited Russian director Andrei Konchalovsky aboard - and really shook up the 1986 Cannes festival. Kurosawa had wanted Peter Falk as the escaped convict aboard a speeding train… without a driver.
- Albert Brooks, The Scout, 1994. But then, Brooks didn’t just audition, he re-wrote his own version...
- Bruce Willis, Breakfast of Champions, 1999. Set as Dwayne Hoover (with Alice Cooper as his son) in director Robert Altman’s take on Kurt Vonnegut. Except Dino De Laurentiis got cold feet after his and Altman’s (or, as Dino would say, Altman’s) Buffalo Bill and the Indians flopped in 1976.