Michael York

  1. Michael Parks,The Bible, 1966.     A Glasgow passport photographer came to the rescue when York, touring with the National Theatre, was asked to urgently send a full body shot to John Huston’s casting director in Rome.  “Braving old-fashioned looks and goose-pimples, I stripped down to my underwear and sheepishly adopted a suitable Mr Universe stance.” “Interessantissimo,” said producer Dino DeLaurentiis. The Italian stage-screen director Franco Zeffirelli wanted more than a photo in 1966 – York had to audition in Rome for The Taming of the Shrew.  With a lousy photo, he lost.  With a test, in person, he won Lucentio.
  2. Roberto Bisacco, Romeo and Juliet, 1968.       Zeffirelli offered him Paris or Tybalt – and promised shooting would not clash with his swinging London thriller,The Strange Affair. As Juliet’s fiery cousin, Tybalt, he’d only be needed in Italy for two weeks. Actually, three “magical, unforgettable” months!
  3. David Hemmings, Barbarella, 1968.       While Tybalting in Rome, French réalisateuRoger Vadim offered a cameo in his over-stuffed sf frolic. York, however,was due on the beat as a London copper called Peter Strange. Antonio Sabato (from Grand Prix) took over and Vadim dropped him and re-shot the sequence as soon as Mr Blow Up blew into Rome.

  4. Hiram Keller, Fellini Satyricon, 1968.     
    Fellini met York in London, but he was tied to Lawrence Durrell’s Justine.  Said the maestro: “Now I know you can’t do the role, I know that no one else could possibly do it.” He changed his mind.  He had to…  And  looking as if they’d just sprang  free from  Hair,  American Keller and the  British Martin Potter became  Encolpio and Ascilto, making screen debuts as student pals on the  razzle in first century Rome Yes, maestro, said Rome’s media, “but  why not Italian unknowns and, anyway… Why so many  foreigners in the film?  “Because,” Fellini said, “there are no Italian homosexuals!”

  5. Ryan O’Neal, Love Story, 1970.
  6. Edward Woodward, The Wicker Man, 1973.    The director wanted York, the writer voted David Hemmings, andthe producer thought only of Woodward. Christopher Lee didn’t care who the cop was, as he had one of his all-time great roles as Lord Summerisle. And he played itfor free. And the film’s negative ended up as landfill under a British motorway…
  7. Simon Ward, All Creatures Great and Small, 1975.     Too busy when asked to enact the 1930s memoirs of best-selling veterinarian James Heriot (aka James Alfred Wight) opposite Anthony Hopkins. (Cast and crew called it, All Creatures Grunt and Smell).
  8. Robert Duvall, The Seven Per Cent Solution, 1976.   York discovered author and future film-makerNicholasMeyer as a publicist fresh out of university.  Impressed by his first scripts and plays, York recommended Meyer to his agent…and was “chagrined” at having to turn down Dr Watson.
  9. Keith Carradine, The Duellists, 1977.    Chosen and then summarily discarded (along with Michael Moriarty) from UK director Ridley Scott’s first feature.
  10. Jon Finch, Death On The Nile, 1978.    Attached, briefly, to the second star-stuffed hommage to Agatha Christie.Yawn!  York had also suffered first, Murder on the Orient Express, 1974. Yawn-yawn!

  11. David Meyer, The Tempest, 1979.  York was among UK directing legend Michael Powell’s ideas  for King Alonso’s son, Ferdinand,  during a 25 year obssession  about filming the Shakespeare play. According to Dominic Nolan in The Greatest Movies You’ll Never Seebook, Derek Jarman felt he’d inherited Powell’s dream. Hah! He made a (typically) homoerotic job of it  in 1979.  New York Times critic Vincent Canby was unimpressed: “Funny if it weren’t very nearly unbearable.”
  12. Vittorio Gassman,The Nude Bomb, 1979.   Nine years after the end of the spy send-up series created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, the film arrives. Minus any input from Brooks, Henry or even the ravishing Agent 99, Barbara Feldon.  But a queue for the chief villain: Kabir Bedi, Jonathan Millr, Omar Sharif,… and York, who found funnier espionage as Mike Myers’s boss in the Austin Powers franchise,. 1996-2001.
  13. Rod Mullinar, Breaker Morant, Australia, 1980.    Before Aussie film-maker Bruce Beresford’s let’s-go-international production went rather more (correctly) Australian.
  14. Harry Hamlin, Clash of the Titans, 1980.    Until  Hamlin decided he should work with Laurence Olivier –  rather than Richard Burton in Timespell – strongest  candidates for Perseus  had been  Richard  Chamberlain, Malcolm McDowell, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Michael York. Hamlin and co-star Ursula Andress fell for one another and had a son, Dimitri, in 1980. Roger Ebert likened their flm  to a Greek mythological retread of Star Wars. With Perseus doing  yioung  Skywalker.
  15. John Howard, The Club, Australia, 1980.     Director Bruce Beresford called York back for the high-price imported soccer star hooked more on drugs than teamanship.York passed, reasoning that “an authentic ensemble – and a stronger personal interest – was essential for a story about one of Australia’s greatest passions – football.” As with Love Story, he visited the set.
  16. Jacques Dutronc, Malevil, France, 1981.      When first planned in 1976.
  17. Ray Sharkey, Regina Roma, 1982.     Shot in Rome instead of Louisiana.
  18. James Woods, Once Upon A Time In America, 1984.     Italy’s magic maestro Sergio Leone said York was physically perfect for his gangster epic – “pity he’s English!” Annoyed at such short-sightedness, York agreed to stepson Rick McCallum’s idea of shooting a test to prove that “actors are supposed to act.” McCallum, producer of Dennis Potter’s classics – Pennies From Heaven and The Singing Detective –  arranged an elite crew: cinematographer Conrad Hall, editor Richard Marks, director John Schlesinger! “Our secret little film is one of my favorites ” said York. He worked on a Bronx accent – “Fordy thousan’dahlahs, ya dumb schmuck!” – for an improvised scene between two hoods, “immortalised on 35mm stock and despatched to Leone.” And it won him over. For a wee while.
  19. Robert  Lindsay, Much Ado About Nothing, TV, 1984.   Losing Leone and Shakespeare in the same year – not good!.   BBC producer Cedric Messina had the idea of taping all of Shakesperare’s 37 plays. He met with a surprisinbg amount of resistance from colleagues (“The Bard never works on the telly!”) until Aunyt BBC decided to kick off with Much Ado About… quite a lot, as it happened.  First, it was shot for £250,000, with Penelope Keith and Michael York as Beatrice and Benedick, directed by Donald McWhinnie. Then, it quite simply disappeared…and the Beeb announced the first play would be Romeo and Juliet – the one everyone knows.” There much ado about re-shoots, one actor’s “heavy accent” – more like the same suits which  applauded the idea felt the first entry was failure, ; just hadn’t worked. Romeotook over in 1978 and Ado was totally re-made by Alvin Rakoff helming Cherie Lunghi and Robert Lindsay cor the seventh and final season – in 1984..!   The first version has never been seen.
  20. David Soul, Appointment With Death, 1987.  Or: Save The Cannon Group!  The Go Go Boys – Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus –  were facing bankruptcy… They had, somehow, won the rights to the Agatha Christie book and hoped  for an instant co-production deal with ILord) John Brabourne and Richard Goodwin, producers of the EMI Christies: Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile, Murder Under the Sun andThe Mirror Crack’d. Never happened! Director Michael Winner (who kept quiet about cheaper shooting in Israel) managed to win an EMI-ish cast: Lauren Bacall, Carrie Fisher, John Gielgud (”a rather absurd part,” he saic),  Piper Laurie, Hayley Mills, Winner’s current  lover Jenny Seagrove, TV’s Starsky and Hutch cop, David Soul and (the highest paid, $450,000) Peter Ustinov in his third and final  outing as Hercule Poirot.  But Winner  lost… PIerce Brosnan,  Ava Gardner Michael York and an ill Laurence Olivier. “Another loser from Winner,” said Film Review. The SOS failed.  Cannon was bankrupt by 1990. 
  21. Tim Robbins, Erik The Viking, 1988.    There was a flurry of names run up various flagpoles to be Erik, from York to Nicolas Cage and Michel Plain to… wait for it… Harrison Ford!!!   In his 1991 autobiography, York recalled one review describing him “as attractive as a Yorkshire sheepdog, which he somewhat resembles.”
  22. Wadeck Stanczak, Cellini: A Violent Life, Italy, 1991.     Four days before due to fly to Italy in 1969, the Benvenuto Cellini biopic was  cancelled  –  until  made  by  Verona director Giacomo Battiato as an Italo-Franco-German tele-series 21 years later.
  23. Jim Byrnes, Highlander, TV, 1993-1998.     Not only did the actors’ names change  – from McCallum and Michael York to the unknown Byrnes from St Louis – so did the character from Ian to Joe Dawson. Hey, how many US Ians do ya know?
  24.  Bruce Boxleitner, Babylon 5, TV, 1994-1998.    Among the several candidates for Captain John Sheridan, the 2258 commander of what’s left of  five space stations…Also in the sframe: Barry Bostwick, James Earl Jones, A Martinez, Michael Moriarty – and two Welsh guys:  Roger Rees and John Rhys-Davies.  York guested in one 1996 episode – #57: A Late Delivery From Avalon –  as a guy believing he was King Arthur.
  25. Eric Roberts, Doctor Who (The Movie), TV, 1996.    


 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  25