Lord Laurence Olivier


  1. Basil Rathbone, A Woman Commands, 1932.      Jaundice cancelled Olivier’s second Hollywood film – a rotten script with Pola Negri killing her US career as Queen Marie Draga of Siberia!  After recovering from yellow jaundice, Larry’s next film  was… The Yellow Ticket.

  2. John Gilbert, Queen Christina, 1933.      
    Having refused Ronald Colman and Leslie Howard,  Greta Garbo had Olivier fired after two weeks. “Inadequate.” All part of her plan to give old lover John Gilbert a career boost, since dropping him in 1931 (from her bed- and Susan Lennox). “That was nice of her,” said a Gilbert biographer Eve Golden in 2013. “But it was not doing him any favors. First of all, it was a bad role. The production was a horror, and sending him back to MGM was the worst thing that could have happened.” As for Larry… “It was a blow at first. But – wow! What luck. An awful part. Jack Gilbert made the flop of his life in it.”  After one more film, Gibert was dead in 1936.
  3. Leslie Howard, Romeo and Juliet, 1935. Absolutely preposterous…!!  The 13-year-old Juliet was played by Norma Shearer, who was 36,  opposite Leslie Howard playing Romeo…  at 43.  “It is comical watching these middle-aged folks act as high school sophomores,” said web critic Matthew M Foster at Foster on Film.com. “But even more ridiculous is Romeo’ hotheaded, class clown friend, Mercutio, portrayed by the 54-year-old John Barrymore!”!  It could have been far worse. Other unlikely Romeos were Brian Aherne, Clark Gable (Romeo with a trash tash?), Fredric March, Franchot Tone, Roberts Montgomery and Taylor.  The British Robert Donat, John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier (a recent hit playing Romeo and Mercutio alternately in London) made (slightly) more sense … but really. What a sad end to Irving Thalberg’s producing career, even jf it was a love letter to his wife, Shearer – his widow months later in 1936.  (Olivier narrated the Franco Zeffirelli version – with real teenage lovers – in 1967).

  4. Robert Donat, Knight Without Armour, 1936.     Chosen by producer Alexander Korda as first reserve in case Donat’s notorious asthma increased.  It didn’t (thanks to co-star Marlene Diertrich’s therapy). By now, poor Larry had lost films oppposite Dietrich, Garbo, Negri.

  5. Charles Boyer, The Garden of Allah, 1936.     Producer David Selznick checked on him for half of the ex-cloistered lovers: a Trappist monk and a convent girl.

  6. Errol Flynn,  The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, 1939.   Bette Davis stamped her dainty foot, she must have Olivier. Head bro Jack Warner stamped his. Bette also lost the original title, Elizabeth The Queen, as Flynn contracts insisted on titular references. Davis played her again  in,  indeed as, The  Virgin  Queen, 1955.
  7. Robert Taylor, Waterloo Bridge, 1939. Now Vivien Leigh stamped her dainty foot – she must have Larry. LB Mayer stamped his, again: No!  Once he decided this woupld be Leigh’s first film since Gone with the Wind,  Metro didn’t want Larry anywhere near her – fearful of scandal headlines about their love affair. (They wed three months after  the US premiere).. 
  8. John Gielgud, The Prime Minister, 1940.     Olivier and Gielgud alternated as Romeo and Mercutio on-stage in 1935, now Gielgud inherited Disraeli from Larry a  year after the project was first “cancelled.”

  9. Cary Grant, Suspicion, 1940.      
    RKO had the Before the Fact book since 1935.  It became  “Alfred Hitchcock’s film with no name.” No ending, either – until the very last minute. (Same for the title, chosen just days before the premiere although Hitch had been calling it that for months; he actually preferred Fright). The ultimate problem was not Cary Grant earning so much more than Hitchcock’s weekly contract salary, but the censor. Cary could not kill his wife. OK, said Hitch, so she’s just thinking he’s going to kill her?  Or better, have her write to her mother,  naming him as her murderer, drinking the milk he’s poisoned and then Grant posts  her letter! They settled for a Hollywood ending. RKO had first wanted Robert Montgomery, Laurence Olivier, George Sanders or the Welsh Emlyn Williams,   Except no one saw any of  them as a killer. (Hitch might have obliged, he hated Joan Fontaine’s unprofessionalism). With his new confidence about drama, from  Penny Serenade, Grant won  good reviews as  “the smiling villain without heart or conscience”  ( New York Times). But Fontaine won an Oscar. Grant was furious and vowed never to work with Hitch again. Fortunately, that row was cleared up in time for Notorious, To Catch A Thief and North by Northwest. Hitch, the only director he grew to trust 100%), had surely said: It’s only a movie, Cary…  Olivier said: “I don’t want to be a film star like dear Cary– and went off   to war in the Fleet Air Arm and his “rather sweet” propaganda  film of Henry V, 1944.

  10. Walter Pidgeon, How Green Was My  Valley,  1941.     MGM had Gone With The Wind, so Fox would regain the crown with director William Wyler helming four hours of the Welsh classic with Olivier (or Alexander Knox) as the minister falling for Katharine Hepburn. Instead, Wyler fell for The Little Foxes and director John Ford replaced Hepburn with Maureen O’Hara (naturally) and needed just 118 minutes for “a stunning masterpiece,” said New York Times critic Bosley Crowther. And it went on to beat Citizen Kane to Best Film and became the third (of four) unequalled  directing Oscars for John Ford.Cary Grant, Suspicion, 1941.     “I don’t want to be a film star like dear Cary.” So,  Larry  went to war in the Fleet Air Arm and his “rather sweet” propaganda  film of Henry V, 1944.
  11. Tyrone Power, This Above All, 1941.    Over the  previous few years, Fox had planned for Donat, Olivier or Richard Greene for the Army deserter getting involved with Joan Fontaine’s  very upper-crust WAAF.  (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force,  the UK version of the US WACs).  Title stemmed from the Polonious soliloquy in Hamlet: “This above all: to thine own self be true…” As John Wayne could have told you; he could recite the entire play. With rather more pauses than Olivier…!
  12. Roger Livesey, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, 1943.     Winston Churchill was outraged by the “defeatist” script, refused Olivier leave from the Fleet Air Arm and banned any military co-operation. So,  all uniforms, guns, trucks had to be…  stolen.  “We could have been shot for it,” said director Michael Powell, “but nobody minded.”
  13. Gregory Peck, The Paradine Case, 1946.    Like Alfred Hitchcock, Larry lost interest when Garbo refused.“I don’t think that [Peck] can properly represent an English lawyer,” said producer David O Selznick, who wanted Ronald Colman or Olivier and felt the result was not what it should have been.True. Hitch was never happy with any of the stars imposed by Selznic -Peck, Louis Jourdan, Alida Valli – but gave in to finish his contract with the over-bossy DOS.
  14. Walter Pidgeon, If Winter Comes, 1947.     Gone With The Wind producer David O Selznick bought the morality tale in 1939 for Howerd and Joan Fontaine – or Laurence Olivier and his wife, Vivien Leigh. They all passed. So did DOS, selling his rights in 1940 to UK producer Alexander Korda… who did the same to MGM, which wanted Robert Donat and Greer Garson as the feuding Sabre couple. Finally, it was Pidgeon and Angela Lansbury… on, for the historic first time, non-flammable film.
  15. Ronald Colman, A Double Life, 1947.   How to get the hicks into Shakespeare.  Get Garson Kanin  and his wife, Ruth Gordon, to pen a script about an actor being taken over by his role.  And that is Othello, who you might recall, slays his wife in a jealous fit….  The Kanins  wrote it  – of course! – for the finest Shakespearian around.  Olivier.  He was busy. (And next time, when  MGM chased him for the   Kiss Me Kate musuical was  based on The Taming of the Shrew). Two other options, after Olivier, were  Cary Grant or Ronald Colman, Cary was wary of the Bard section. As was  Colman.  He took a chance. And won an Oscar.
  16. Joseph Cotten, Portrait of Jennie, 1948.     Producer David Selznick ran through various partners for his beloved Jennifer Jones.  Larry came a poor third to Cotten and Gregory Peck.
  17. José Ferrer, Cyrano de Bergerac, 1950.     Olivier planned it as a cultural follow-up to Henry V. He did Hamlet, instead, and was knighted during shooting. Ferrer almost owned Cyrano: have nose, will travel. As well as this Oscared performance, he played Cyrano on stage in 1946, for TV in 1949, and 1955 plus in a French costume romp in 1964.
  18. Gregory Peck, Captain Horatio Hornblower, 1951.      John Huston was writing the script in 1940 as producer Wolfgang Reinhardt pushed for William Wyler to direct – “he has changed radically from his former practises of being over-schedule, budget and his slowness with actors.”  But there was a real war out there… Vivien Leigh was named as Hornblower’s wife – a role cut from Peck’s version.
  19. Robert Taylor, Ivanhoe, 1951. Taylor was first attached  in…1938!  Opposite Clark Gable as King Richard).  The title was a place not a person:  the gallant Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe. And a sort of rehearsal for Quentin Durward in 1955.  Both mini-epics were by  the 19th Century author  Sir Walter Scott, both were made by MGM, both had  Richard Thorpe directing Taylor. Difficult to separate one from the other. Except Ivanhoe was first planned in 1935 (!) with Fredric March as the hero saving his sovereign… then, Errol Flynn… then, Laurence Olivier… then, Stewart Granger.   March’s king was unbelievably aimed at Gary Cooper. Yup!
  20. Mel Ferrer, Scaramouche, 1952.      He missed out of the most memorable of all Hollywood sword-fencing duels – filmed in some 115 shots.

  21. George Sanders, Ivanhoe, 1952.     Stewart Granger and Olivier were also due for MGM’s Walter Scott  book. Not that Metro had the rights.
  22. Louis Calhern, Julius Caesar, 1952.  MGM’s plans – with a titular Larry were delayed due to title rights. But then Metro had been waiting since 1934 – when it preferred Romeo and Juliet – and 1946, when Edward Small held the title. He sold it to David Selznick, who kept it to his chest for a long time.
  23. Howard Keel, Kiss Me Kate, 1953.      “Can’t sing? We’ll dub him,” said producer Jack Cummings.  This has to be the first and only time that Olivier  and his sometime lover, Danny Kaye, were up for the same role… in the musical inspired by the rows between the venerated Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontaine during their 1935 Taming of the Shrew in New York. Director George Sidney and Kathyrn Grayson, however, insisted on a fourth partnership of Keel and Grayson.
  24. Peter Finch, Elephant Walk, 1953.    Too busy wrapping up The Beggar’s Opera and when his wife, Vivien Leigh, said her co-star would be Finch, “the penny dropped… with the knell of a high-pitched chapel bell.” (Their affair was no longer secret). Larry had to go to Ceylon – to fly her home after a mental  breakdown.  Elizabeth Taylor took over the role. 
  25. James Mason, A Star Is Born,  1953.
  26. Richard Burton, The Robe, 1953.  Finding the lead hard to cast, director Henry Koster gave some thought to ageing Roman tribune Marcellus Gallio (the man ordered to crucify Jesus Christ)…  to suit Olivier. The Fox suits preferred Tyrone Power – and gettjng him to sign a new studio contract.  Power passed!
  27. Robert Mitchum, Night of the Hunter, 1954.      For his one and only film as a director, Charles Laughton sought – perhaps obviously – Olivier for the murderous Harry Powell. “Why,” said Olivier, “would I want to be directed by someone like Laughton…?”  After talks with the inevitable, the scared and dis-interested (John Carradine, Gary Cooper and Olivier), Laughton had a brainwave… He called Mitchum and warned him: “The role is of an irredeemable shit!” “Present,” said Mitchum.
  28. Richard Burton, Désirée, 1954.  Long before Brando and Simmons, the Fox studio had planned the Oliviers as Napoleon and the fiancee that got away. Daisy Rae as Brando insisted on calling her.

  29. Richard Burton, Prince of Players, 1954.     
    The role: John Wilkes Booth, the actor brpther of the Booth  who who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln in 1865. Brando refused the script: a hodge-podge of classic stage roles and not the  study he wanted of Booth’s life. Said Brando:  When Fox couldn’t get a top-rate actor like Laurence  Olivier or me,  they settled for . . . a third -rate performer with even worse skin.”  Burton wasn’t any happier. “I remember the high hopes I had of that film and my disappointment at its indifferent reception,” his diary reported.  The original script by Moss Hart was very goodbut a year later when I actually did it, it had been murdered by [head Fox Darryl F Zanuck] and his hacks.

  30. Kenneth More, Reach For The Sky, 1955.     “When your hero actually exists,” commented director Lewis Gilbert,“getting the casting right is even harder then usual.”Olivier agreed, saying the role was impossible and maybe the WWII legless fighter ace Douglas Bader should play himself. Not a good idea; he was far more unpleasant than the jovial More. (At 17, Gilbert had acted opposite Olivier in The Divorce of Lady X, 1937).
  31. John Gielgud, Around The World In 80 Days, 1956.    Producer Mike Todd sweetalked people into some 43 cameos – from Frank Sinatra to Edward R Murrow, Buster Keaton to Marlene Dietrich… Larry, however, drew the line at being the manservant sacked by Phileas Fogg and replaced by Passepartout. Gielgud butled his way tro an Oscar Iin Arthur, 1980.
  32. Mel Ferrer, War and Peace, 1956.      Not all London producer Alexander Korda’s dreams panned out. Orson Welles was set to direct his script and play Pierre – opposite Viv and Larryas Natasha and Andrei.Years later, Welles – embittered about those who succeeded where he failed – said the first two scenes of Olivier’s 1983 King Lear for the BBC, were“the worst things I ever saw in my life.” Not connected, of course,to the fact that Welles could never raise money for his Lear.
  33. Kenneth More, The Admirable Chrichton, 1956.       Another butler…!  Producer Alexander Korda could never interest Olivier or Rex Harrison in playing the ultimate butler (played by Bing Crosby in 1934) and finally signed his Chrichton during the weekend he died, 1956.

  34. Alec Guinness, The Bridge on the River Kwai, 1956.    
    When David Niven asked his opinion about playing James Bond in Casino Royale, Oliver commented: “Don’t ask me for advice… I advised myself not to do River Kwai!”  
    He threw away the $250,000 offer in order to film his stage hit, John Osborne’s The Entertainer. Said producer Sam Spiegel: “You should have seen Larry’s face, when I showed him what Alec had done with it.” Even so, Kwai director David Lean next wanted Larry to play Lod Mountbatten in his (aborted) Gandhi.

  35. Michael Redgrave, The Quiet American, 1957.      Larry and Monty – that’s who auteur supreme Joe Mankiewicz wanted for his Graham Green adaptation.He got them… later.Olivier in Sleuth, 1972;Clift in Suddenly Last Summer, 1959. Redgrave did not enjoy Murphy and his loaded .45s that much, either. He kept asking Joe if he could get Murphy to blink  – “occasionally.”
  36. Burt Lancaster, Separate Tables, 1957.     Larry was booked to direct the Olivers in all four roles. Then, Burt Lancaster, producing, decided he wanted to play one of them. So, the Oliviers  quit. Larry decided it was impossible to direct the boss!  Vivien Leigh’s roles went to Deborah Kerr and Rita Hayworth, the wife of co-producer James Hill.
  37. David Niven, Separate Tables, 1957.     During the musical chairs caused by producer-star Burt Lancaster, Niven was already replacing Germany’s OW Fischer in My Man  Godfrey when called to substitute  Olivier as Major Pollock. Niven won an Osacr. Lancaster did not.  Nor did his ego. 
  38. Anthony Franciosa, La maja desnuda/The Naked Maja, Italy, 1958.  Larry, Kirk Douglas, Gregory Peck – Rome could not find  a plausible Goya..  Fresh  out from Broadway, Franciosa found co-star Ava Gardner far more naked  in his own bed… until his wife, Shelley Winters  threatened  to out a contract out on her. “I grew up in Brooklyn,” Shelley reminded him, “with Murder Inc as my playmates.”
  39. Michael Redgrave, The Quiet American, 1958.     Auteur Joseph Mankiewicz’ dream team was Olivier and Montgomery Clift. When Monty bowed out, Larry was not keen on sharing a movie with Audie Murphy. 29 – Anthony Franciosa, La maja desnuda/The Naked Maja, Italy, 1958.  Larry, Kirk Douglas, Gregory Peck – Rome could not find  a plausible Goya..  Fresh  out from Broadway, Franciosa found co-star Ava Gardner far more naked  in his own bed… until his wife, Shelley Winters  threatened  to out a contract out on her. “I grew up in Brooklyn,” Shelley reminded him, “with Murder Inc as my playmates.”
  40. Karl Malden, Parrish, 1959. As if Sir Larry could be interested in one of the Warner Bros  teenage soaps.  The first director, Joshua Logan, saw  him as the father of young Parrish. He also thought of the missus, Vivien Leigh, and Clark Gable as the parents yet, strangely enough, never Viv and Larry.  Lohan also wanted Warren Beatty and Jane Fonda as the teen couple. When he couldn’t get any of them, he  passed the gig to Delmer Daves, who  promptly dropped Pop and booked Claudette Colbert (in her last movie at 56) as Mom… with Malden as her love interest at 48. 

  41. Charles Laughton, Sotto dieci bandiere (UK/US: Under Ten Flags, Italy-US,1959.   The Hollywood dailies insisted that Olivier and James Mason were  “slugging it out” (!) to be the Royal Navy admiral responsible for finally sinking the continually disguised German surface raider, Atlantis, which sank 22 Allied ships vessels during a non-stop,  665 day mission. This was the second of two fascinating WWII dramas made by Paramount in Italy that year, the other being Jovanka e le altre (US: Five  Branded Women). 
  42. Anthony Quinn, Heller In Pink Tights, 1960.       Carlo Ponti, Sophia Loren, George Cukor circled their wagons around him, but Larry never did make a Western. , George Cukor (furious when the final cut was not his) wanteLarry as the stage impresario Tom Healy.  Oh no, said the suits, rushing Quinn into the Louis L’Amour tale of a stage troupe battling Indians, lawmen, creditors and clichés in the 1880s. The two men did not get on. Quinn had also been Sophia Loren’s lover in Paramount’s Black Orchid, the year before. (No relation to the Fox musical refused by Marllyn Monroe in 1954, The Girl in Pink Tights).
  43. Edmond Purdom, Salambo (US: The Loves of Salambo),  France-Italy,  1960.      Thinking bigger than his pocket, producer Charles Brackett dreamt of Gina Lollobrigida, Harry Belafonte,  the Spartacus trio:  Larry, Charles Laughton, Peter  Ustinov.  Oh, everyone except Bugs Bunny.
  44. James Mason, Lolita, 1960.
  45. Maurice Evans, Macbeth, 1961.      With everything ready to go, Olivier failed to win Hollywood or Pinewood finance (and Mike Todd died before backing him) for a fourth Shakespeare venture because Richard III, 1955, had failed to make a profit.  He had won his finest reviews for the 1956 stage version at Stratford-upon-Avon but Evans did The Scottish Play next, after Orson Welles in 1948. Film  critic Paulibner Kael   found it  tragic that the movie industry prevented such a great talent from  making “such a potentially significant film.”
  46. Burt Lancaster, Judgment At Nuremberg, 1961.  Lancaster was a surprisingly good substitute for the great Larry as  the main defendant Dr Ernst Janning, on trial with other German judges for  knowingly sending innocents to certain death in the Nazi concentration camps during WWII.  Olivier had passed. Or his ego had…   “He was courting his soon-to-be-wife [Joan Plowright] and he didn’t want to play an older guy,” reported scenarist Abby Mann. “At least, that was part of what he said.”  A major disappointment for Spencer Tracy. They had been firm friends for more than 20 years. Tracy helped Olivier find the necessary Midwestern accent for Carrie, 1951, but they never  managed to work together.

  47. Peter O’Toole, Lawrence of Arabia, 1961. 
  48. Alec Guinness, Lawrence of Arabia, 1961. 
  49. Anthony Quinn, Lawrence of Arabia, 1961. 
  50. Burt Lancaster, Il gattopardpo (The Leopard), Italy-France, 1962.  Italian maestro Luchino Visconti wanted Brando, Olivier or Russia’s Ivan The Terrible, Nikolai Cherkasov,  as Don Fabrizio Corbera, Prince of Salina. No, no, growled the Fox suits.  But you can have your choice of Gregpry Peck, Anthony Quinn or Spencer Tracy.  In that case, said the maestro, I’ll have Burt Lancaster…  because of Judgment at Nuremberg (where he had also played the role aimed at Olivier).  Visconti chose Burt again for Gruppo di famiglia in un interno (Conversation Piece), 1974. “Each time I was  playing Visconti,” said the cowboy.
  51. Mel Ferrer, Scaramouche, 1962.      Larry missed out of the greatest Hollywood sword fight. Well, he was  ten years older than Ferrer, who was  closer in age  to co-star Stewart Granger.
  52. Rex Harrison, Cleopatra,1963.

  53. Marcello Mastroianni, 8½, Italy-France, 1962.    
    Seemed a logical move to have an genuine director (and actor, too, for a mighty plus)to portray a director who had not thje foggiestidea what his next film was about…They met in New York and Federico Fellini found Olivier to be too theatrical, too English,too full of himself and his talent.   In short, one monumental ego was enough on the Cinecitta set. Besides “the dear, the perfect “Marcellino” was Fellini’s other half. “the kind of friend you only find in English novels: faithful, devoted, wise.Working with my old Snaporaz is a joy.”

  54. Dick Van Dyke, Mary Poppins, 1963.    OK, chimney sweep Bert had to sing and dance it up. But he also had to be at home with a Cockney accent. Only a few US stars could manage that. Sadly, Van Dyke was not among them. Nor were Fred Astaire, Cary Grant or Danny Kaye…UK author PL Travers didn’t like how books were Hollywoodised and took 25 years to accept Walt Disney’s plan for her governess. She then felt the result “vulgar and disrespectful” – and, like most Brits, loathed Van Dyke’s Bert. But then she knew nothing about cinema, having suggested the august (and aged) Alec Guinness, Rex Harrison, even Laurence Olivier: To sweep, or not to sweep… Plus Richards Burton and Harris, Peters O’Toole and Sellers. (Only Sellers made sense). Disney wanted Stanley Holloway – busy reprising his My Fair Lady stage role. Loving the movie but feeling miscast, Van Dyke nominated Jim Dale (a Disney star in the 70s) and agreed with Travers about Ron Moody… who would have frightened not only the horses but the kids, as well.

  55. Richard Burton, Beckett, 1964. Sir Larry was in early talks to reprise his Broadway role of   the titular, murdered Archbishop of Canterbury – opposite another Larry, Laurence Harvey, as King Henry II. (Larry One would hardly  have accepted such a teaming!). However, director Peter Glenville managed to land Burton and Peter O’Toole for the screen version of the Jean Anouilh play.   (The French stage Becket, Gérard Philipe, died during rehearsals in 1959). Poor Olivier was just not a box-office attraction anymore…  Except on-stage.  For that was the year I witnessed his Othello at the UK’s National Theatre in London – with Frank Finlay Maggie Smith as Iago and Desdemona. Stuuuupendous! They all appeared in the 1965 film version, winning the most Oscar acting nominations of any Shakespeare film. What was that about not being box-officed anymore…?!

  56. Robert Morley, The Loved One, 1964.  “The motion picture with something to offend everyone…”  Or it  would have been if Spanish legend Luis Buñuel had managed to  make it with Alec Guinness in  the mid-1950s. Instead, the newly Oscared UK director Tony Richardson made a mess of  Evelyn Waugh’s 1948  satire on the American funeral home business. Oh, it had  had a great cameo aimed at Sir  Larry – Sir Ambrose Ambercrombie, arrogant leader of the Brit contingent in (old) Hollywood, an amalgam of George Arliss and C Aubrey Smith    Jerry Lewis was offered another role (twins, in fact).  Imagine that – Jerry Lewis and Laurence Olivier  inhabiting the same film!  Never f happened. Alas.
  57. James Mason, Lord Jim, 1965.      He was initially announced for Gentleman Brown but the locations put him off: Cambodia, Hong Kong, Malaysia.  A long way – and a long time – from home.

  58. John Huston, The Bible… in the Beginning, 1965.      God..  as a voice-over. Who better suited for that than a director.  Better still,  the director!  Huston also played God talking to Noah.  And Noah talking to God.  No wonder Time magazinefamously compared the result to being swallowed by a whale.

  59. Paul Scofield, A Man For All Seasons, 1966.      Larry wanted to put “the new  Olivier” in his place by recreating Scofield’s stage triumph as Sir Thomas More, standing up to Henry VIII.  “Not playing Thomas More will probably end up one of my main regrets,” he said of the “cracking” script by Robert Bolt,  future husband  of His Nibs’ secret  lover,  Sarah Miles.

  60. Rock Hudson, Seconds, 1966.    
    Kirk Douglas owned the rights and felt assured of an Oscar if he tackled both versions of the mid-aged banker seeking a whole new life  and identity – after plastic surgery.  Director John Frankenheimer felt one man only could play both parts.  He took the script to London and Olivier agreed. Paramount did not.  To  Frankenheimer’s horror, the suits insisted on… a bigger nameAnd, well, at the time, Hudson was the biggest star in America. He rightly insisted he  could only be “the new man.” Fine, OK, Randolph would be  the old man. He nearly wasn’t when  Team  Hudson figured Rock could win an Oscar if he played both ages.  He didn’t. (He couldn’t!). The film – totally against type for Hudson and his fans – flopped. Doris Day wasn’t in it! Frankenheimer said  it was the only film he knew of that “went from failure to classic – without ever being a success.”

  61. Cyril Cusack, Fahrenheit 451, 1966.     As if he didn’t have enough pressures – first film in colour, first in English, a lingo he was far from confident with – French nouvelle vague icon François Truffaut also suffered four years of casting hurdles…. starting with Paul Newman as the fireman hero, Montag. When feeling Ray Bradbury’s story was too important to be shot in English(!), the réalisateur tried his past and future stars, Charles Aznavour, Jean-Paul Belmondo – and Oskar Werner as Montag’s boss. Producer Lewis Allen wanted Sterling Hayden in either role; or Finney, Olivier, Peter O’Toole, Michael Redgrave, Max Von Sydow. Producer Sam Spiegel even tried muscling in by promising Burton… bossing a Robert Redford and loving Elizabeth Taylor! Enter: the head of the Cusack movie clan: actors Catherine, wife Maureen (his wife), Niamh, Sinéad, Sorcha, producer Pádraig, director Paul. And even a son-in-law. Jeremy Irons!
  62. Maurice Evans, Planet of the Apes, 1967.
  63. Ron Moody, Oliver!, 1968.       When Lewis Gilbert was “was born to direct it, ”the A List names fell like confetti…  Olivier, Peter O’Toole, Peter Sellersfor Fagin – and Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor as Bill Sykes and Nancy. Then, poor Gilbert was snared by a contractual obligation at Paramount (Harold Robbins’trashy Adventurers) andCarol Reed made Lionel Bart’s musical.

  64. Chief Dan George, Little Big Man, 1969. 
    The most surprising role ever offered to the world’s  greatest  Shakespearean actor… Despite walk-ons from General Custer, and Wild Bill Hickok, the main characters in Thomas Berger’s novel (!) history of the West  were the on-screen narrator Jack Crabb (the world’s oldest man at 121)  and his mentor, the chief of the Cheyenne nation, Old Lodge Skins.  Known for his activism on behalf of native Americans on and off-screen, Marlon Brando was, perhaps, unsurprisingly offered the role. He passed.   Next? Richard Boone, even Paul Scofield.  They passed.  They all agreed with Berger’s opinion in his book that Caucasians were rarely believable as native Americans. And then, well you can almost still hear some smart alec suit saying “What about the guy did Othello a few years back?” And sure enough Laurence Olivier was contacted!  Words escaped him. Finally, Penn did the right thing and, superbly, native Canadian Chief Dan George – actor, musician, poet  and head of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation in North Vancouverwon instant glory, plus the first Oscar nomination for his people… for beautifully intoning, among other lines, the one pinched by Star Trek’s Klingons: “Today is a good day to die.”

  65. Christopher Lee, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, 1970.  Chris Lee’s heart sunk when writer-director Billy Wilder said he was also seeing Olivier for the same role – of Holmes’ brother, Mycroft. “What’s he seeing me for?” To give him the part!
  66. Marlon Brando, The Godfather,1971.
  67. Alec McCowen, Frenzy, 1971.    “A good colourful crime spree is good for tourism…” Once upon a whimsy. it was to be Inspector Olivier suspecting David Hemmings as a serial killer, with Vanessa Redgrave among his victims.  Not when Alfred Hitchcock started his 52nd and penultimate film – his first in Britain for 16 year.
  68. Gene Wilder, Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex * But Were Afraid To Ask, 1971.    What a nerve! The acting legend was Woody Allen’s second choice (second!) for the What is Sodomy? chapter (sodomy!) which was more about bestiality (bestiality!) as Wilder was in love witha sheep…All based on the best-selling sex manual (150m copies sold in 52 countries). The author, Dr David Reuben hated it, but then Woody’s parody was his revenge on Reuben for stealing one of his Take The Money And Run jokes on TV.  Johnny Carson: “Is sex dirty?”  Reuben: “It is if you’re doing it right.”
  69. Alec Guinness, Brother Sun, Sister Moon, 1972.     Too ill for the latest opus of Italian stage-screen director Franco Zeffirelli. Guinness was never a Larry fan:“He would make a point of stressing a line, or just a word – something at any rate that didn’t warrant the stress. He would distort meaning for effect.”
  70. Trevor Howard, Ludwig,  -Italy, Monaco-West Germany, 1972.  Visconti wanted Oskar  as Richard Wagner, and Oskarr wanted to work with Visconti. But after long research, Werner declined: “I hate Wagner! He was pompous, phoney, schmaltzy – a genius of kitsch.“  Alec Guinness and Laurence Olivier also passed and Trevor Howard, the most English of Englishmen became the most German of German composers.

  71. Robert Shaw, The Sting, 1973.    Top of co-producers Tony Bill and Julia Phillips’ English list for the Newman and Redford’s stingee..Paul Newman handed his copy of the script to Shaw in Britain.  “Delicious, when do I start?”
  72. Art Carney, Harry & Tonto, 1974.    Not often Olivier and ex-lover Danny Kaye were up for the same role. And the Oscar goes to…. And I was there, shocked like everyone else, when Carney, the TV favourite, beatFinney, Hoffman,Nicholson and Pacino at the first and only Oscarnight I attended: April 8, 1975.
  73. John Wayne, Rooster Cogburn, 1974.     Sir Larry… in a Western!   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 of Eastwood, Richard Burton, Gene Hackman, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, George C Scott and some of Duke’s old co-stars: Kirk Douglas, Charlton Heston, Rock Hudson, Robert Mitchum, Gregory Peck.. Pus four of Katharine Kate’s previous co-stars – Charles Bronson, Burt Lancaster, Peter O’Toole, Anthony Quinn – and as she continued trying to pick guys she’d never worked with before… Warren Beatty, Henry Fonda, Laurence Olivier, Ryan O’Neal, Paul Scofield, Henry Winkler (!)… (McQueen turned down her Grace Quigley in 1983).   Kate wrote that embracing Duke “was like leaning against a great tree.”
  74. George Burns, The Sunshine Boys, 1975.    After Jack Benny died, all kinds of names were considered by Neil Simon.Larry was not such a wild notion. Think: Archie Rice in retirement.
  75. Charles Vanel, Alice ou la derniere fugue, France, 1976.     Nouvelle vague icon Claude Chabrol had loftier aims for his nightmarish tale of a young wife leaving her husband, crashing her car and finding in….the hereafter. Or close by.  He wanted Shirley MacLaine and Olivier as God – or, maybe, Death…   Another veteran, Charles Vanel, took over opposite the finest performance by Kristel, aka Emmanuelle.

  76. Gregory Peck, MacArthur, 1977.  
     “I shall return,” said, famously, General Douglas MacArthur in WWII. ”I shall not,” said Cary Grant. Retired really meant retired. But nobody believed him! Also on Patton producer Frank McCarthy’s (very) short list were Marlon Brando, Charlton Heston and, of course, George C Scott (“too close to Patton”)..  Plus, .incredibly, both Grant and John Wayne up for the same role as….  Laurence Olivier!   At one point Universal announced Steven  Spielberg as director of McCarthy’s final production. He’d run out of generals.   Three years later, Olivier was MacArthur in Terence Young’s Inchon, 1979. Why?  “The answer is simple; money, dear boy.  [His salary: $1m]. I’m like a vintage wine. You have to drink me quickly before I turn sour. I’m almost used up now, and I can feel the end coming… I’ve got nothing to leave my family, but the money I can make from films. Nothing is beneath me if it pays well. I’ve earned the right to damn well grab whatever I can in the time I’ve got left.”

  77. David Niven, Candleshoe,1977.    Change of butler at the country seat of Helen Hayes, somewhere in a Disneyfied UK, meant no meeting of TheFirst Lady of the American Theatre andBritain’s Finest!
  78. Winston Ntshona, Wild Geese, 1978.    Larry made the sequel instead – as Rudolf Hess. Sir Laurence (later Lord Olivier) was knighted in twocountries: Great Britain and Denmark; a feat accomplished by only one other actor: Derek Jacobi.
  79. Melvyn Douglas, Being There, 1979.      “He didn’t like the idea of being in a film with me masturbating,” said Shirley MacLaine. And told her she shouldn’t be in it, either!He was not so prudish in his private, bisexual life.
  80. James Mason, Murder By Decree, 1979.    Peter O’Toole as Sherlock Holmes with Olivier as Watson,  became Christopher Plummer and Mason – who based his good doctor on bumbling President Gerald Ford.

  81. Burt Lancaster, Atlantic City, 1979.    Difficult to see Lord Larry as a former cellmate of Bugsy Siegel called Lou. But there he was among Paris auteur Louis Malle’s choices  (Henry Fonda, James Mason, Robert Mitchum, James Stewart) for the an aging numbers runner involved with an oyster-bar waitress and an ex-Betty Grable lookalike.  The producers refused Olivier, a great insurance risk at the time. Made after the chagrin of losing his 20-year-old dream project, Victory, Malle’s little gem was won five  Oscar nominations in 1982. The bookies  expected Burt to collect his second Academy Award.  Except Jane Fonda had been drumming up support for her On Golden Pond co-star.  And he won.  Fella named Henry Fonda.
  82. Sylvia Sidney, The Shadow Box, TV, 1980.    Paul Newman directed the ABC tele-film of Michael Cristofer’s Pulitzer Prize winning play because (a) his daughter Susan Kendall Newman and her documentray film-maker business partner, Jill Marti, had bought  the rights and (b) wanted to play whichever woman she wanted in the cancer hospice drama.   Until hubby changed her mind, she went for the most drab lady… Melinda  Dillon’s  self-sacrificing  daughter of crabby mother Sylvia Sidney… which Newman wanted to respin for Olivier!
  83. John Gielgud, Brideshead Revisited, TV, 1981. For Britain’s most expensive TV drama, the ill Lord Larry was given his pick of Lord Marchmain or Edward Ryder. His Lordship went for His Lordship and later agreed he’d made a mistake. “Ryder was the better part.” Or, it was when Gielgud played him.
  84. Alec Guinness, Lawrence of Arabia, 1981.      When Olivier bowed out, Guinness  took over as Prince Faisal bin Hussein bin Ali al-Hashimi, future king of Syria and Iraq – in the  third of his five films for David Lean during  1947-1983.  Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, The Bridge on the Rivcr Kwai, Doctor Zhivago, A Passage To India.

  85. Edward Fox, Gandhi, 1982.       Larry was announced for General Dyer in 1980.
  86. Peter  Harlowe, Gandhi, 1981.     Before  David  Lean had to abort his version of the Mahatma’s life, Olivier was scheduled to portray the last viceroy of India, Lord Mountbatten. 

  87. Trevor Howard, The Missionary, 1982.     He had never heard of Monty Python but wanted $1m to be the curmudgeonly Lord Ames in Michael Palin’s love child,“Mish.” Bye-bye!  Maggie Smith was not sad to see him go.She told scenarist-star Michael Palin that Larry had an odd sense of humour: “ie none.”
  88. Ian McDiarmid, Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi, 1982.
  89. Albert Finney, Under The Volcano, 1984.   The ideal team, for Spanish director  Luis Buñuel in 1965 was Olivier and Jeanne Moreau. But another Buñuel star, Zachary Scott, held the rights. Firmly.

  90. Ken Barker, Doctor Who #142: Revelation of the Daleks, 1985.   Lord Larry and Who… Get out! Infamous producer John Nathan-Taylor actually offered the MacGuffin cameo of The Mutant to the nation’s greatest stage star… as if the Time Lord and the Theatrical Lord actually needed one another.
  91. John Gielgud, Appointment With Death, 1987.   For he first time in his 83 years, Sir John inherited a role first offered to…Olly Reed!. “A a rather absurd part in an Agatha Christie,” he wrote to Irene Worth. “Peter Ustinov and Betty Bacall are to be in it and possibly Michael York, so it might be fun, even with that vulgar, but quite funny director, Michael Winner.” It was worse…. During  a scene between Gielgud and  Ustinov, in his third and final outing as Hercule Poirot, a band played  “The Liberty Bell March” – aka  the Monty Python  signature tune. Says it all!   Well, Lauren Bacall said more. None of it good.
  92. Robert Eddison, Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, 1988.
  93. Richard Dreyfuss, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, 1990.   Inevitable idea for The Player when John Boorman plannedto film Tom Stoppard’s play in 1970.