Rod Steiger


  1. Ernest Borgnine, Marty, 1954.
    A year after the iconic TV hit, Burt Lancaster and his production partner Harold Hecht bought the rights (allegedly to lose money to cut their taxes!). They asked Steiger to repeat his role as Bronx butcher Marty Pilletri (written by Paddy Chayefsky for his pal, but blacklisted actor Martin Rtitt – and named after him). And Steiger collided with the the contract barrier. “All right, to do Marty I’ll sign a seven-year contract. But who chooses my parts?”  “We do.”  “No, you don’t! I have the right to sleep with whom I pleaseIf I’m going to make to maketa mistake, it’s going to be something I chose. You just can’t take that right from any human being. And I lost  the picture.” And the Oscar,  but  got his own in 1968 for a filme he chose…In The Heat of the Night. Lancaster and Hecht always maintained they never wanted Steiger – as the public would never pay to see the same Maty they’d seen for free on TV.  The following year saw Borgnine and Steiger co-starreing in a sagebrush Othello– renamed Jubal.

  2. James Dean, Giant, 1955.
  3. Paul Douglas, The Solid Gold Cadillac, 1956.    He lost his audition. More like that he was a Star Power victim when the film’ star, Judy Holliday, insisted on her ex-Broadway co-star as they had been cheated out of re-teaming for the film of their stage hit, Born Yesterday, in 1950.
  4. Rock Hudson, A Farewell To Arms, 1957.    Impressed by his Oklahoma! role, it was now producer David O Selznick talking contracts – and diets. Lose 30 lbs or else. “I told him that I must have the right to chose my own mistakes,” Steiger told his British biographer, Tom Hutchinson. “His face fell. He couldn’t believe anyone would refuse him. Neither could my agents!” This would have been a huge error. The film flopped and ended Selznick’s career. And nearly Hudson’s.
  5. Dean Martin, Rio Bravo, 1958.
  6. John Gavin, A Breath of Scandal, 1960.   Austrian princess Sophia Loren needed an actor as her US lover. Instead, husband Carlo Ponti produced the wooden Gavin. Almost a match for the original, His Glorious Night, John Gilbert’s first talkie, 1929, it proved a dullard end to the Pontis’ Paramount deal.
  7. Robert Mitchum, Cape Fear, 1962.   Among the choices for the snakelike Max Cady until Gregory Peck (star and producer) agreed another star was required, not a character actor. “This is not a job to me,” he’d say. “This is my life.”
  8. Karl Malden, Blue, 1967.  Steiger quit the Silvio Nartizzano Western – because Robert Redford did. They became Karl Malden and Terence Stamp.  Proving, alongside Narizzano, that not everyone   can make a Western. Properly.
  9. Kirk Douglas,The Arrangement,1968.  Elia Kazan had written a novel, a continuation, in fact, of his America, America – “the first thing I  ever wrote that was intended as a novel.”  Now he wanted to film it.  A bad idea. As his natural first choice, Marlon Brando, quickly understood.  OK, he’d ‘take a stab at it.” Instead, he split for Italy’s Queimada mish-mash – using as an excuse, Martin Luther King’s assassination:  he could not go ahead with the film in such circumstances. Kazan thought it was a con. And it was. Otherwise Kazan would recognise that Brando  (also!)  was no longer what he had been.  Project was iced until Kirk Douglas, George C Scott, Rod Steiger showed interest and Charlton Heston did not. (That is to say, he did not play losers!)  Reviews were wholly negative. “The best of it is too interesting,” said the LA Times, “and the worst of it is too atrociously bad.” vowed never to make another Hollywood film. And he didn’t until his sad/bad finale, The Last Tycoon, 1976.
  10. George Segal, No Way To Treat  A Lady, 1968. With his Oscar behind him, Rod simply swopped roles, becoming the gay serial killer, not the cop. “Doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.”

  11. Groucho Marx, Skidoo, 1968. “It takes two to Skidoo,” said the poster for the bowel-movements  of producer-director-ogre Otto Preminger dropping acid and shooting a “writing sample” rather than a script about the generation he had no idea about  – that of his son, Erik Lee Preminger.  Otto then disgustingly berated 78-year-old Groucho after choosing him to play God (in his painted moustache). Presumably, Groucho needed the money.  Alfred Hitchcock (!), Zero Mostel, Anthony Quinn, Frank Sinatra, Rod Steiger did not. Nor the former US Senate Minority Leader from Pekin, Illinois, Senator Everett Dirksen.

  12. George C Scott, Patton, 1969.

  13. George C Scott, The Hospital, 1971.   Sue Mengers began her superagent’s career with “one of my greatest failures” – not getting director Arthur Hiller’s film for Steiger. (Writer Paddy Chayefsky and Steiger had a stormy history dating back to Marty on TV, 1953). “George C Scott had turned it down and the United Artists executives said: Sue, close the deal.” Instead, she held out for “let’s say, an extra $50,000” to match Steiger’s previous film… as Chayefsky flew to Spain where Scott was filming and got his OK. “Never ever blow a deal on money.” said Mengers. “Rod was a gentleman  about it.”  He had, after all, won his Oscar for  In The Heat of the Night Oscar by snapping up that role from Scott. Next time he backed off a role offered them both, it was Scott winning the Oscar – for  Patton, 1970
  14. Marlon Brando, The Godfather, 1971.
  15. Burt Lancaster, Scorpio, 1972.   Steiger and Ryan O’Neal were producer Walter Mirisch’s first suggestions for the CIA hit manand his successor… and would be assassin.They became Lancaster and… a Frenchman working for the CIA: Alain Delon!
  16. Lee Marvin, The Iceman Cometh, 1973.  A decade before John Frankenheimer’s brilliant version of Eugene O’Neill’s four-hour  classic – with Lee Marvin as the titular Hickey – The Pawnbroker team of Rod Steiger and director Sidney Lumet had come close to pulling off their version.
  17. Topol, Gailielo, 1975.   Paramont paid $100,000 to Bertold Brecht’s widow for the rights in 1967.Took director Joseph Losey longer to finally adapt his 1946 Broadway triumph for the screen, beating Italian stage-screen director FrancoZeffirelli’s planswith Steiger.
  18. Charles Durning, An Enemy of the People, 1976.  What on earth was going on here…?  Well, ego, of course. Why else would Steve McQueen – known for telling such potential co-stars as Stella Stevens, “I don’t need competition” – set himself up for the chop  with such a vanity project as  a  1882 Ibsen play, way beyond his style, scope  and  talent.   Steve was a movie star. Not a great actor.  He would tear dialogue scenes out of a script, not have nothing  but them all over the place. He still asked SteIger (and Charlton Heston, Nicol Williamson) to play his brother.  They  knew better than to agree.
  19. Edward Woodward, Breaker Morant, Australia, 1979.   The producers wanted aninternational name. Aussie director Bruce Beresford went, instead, forthe star of the great UK TV series, Callan,1967-1972. He was perfection – even if Noel Coward once said of him: “Edward Woodward… Edward Woodward… sounds like a fart in the bath.”
  20. Maximilian Schell, The Chosen, 1981.     The UN debates the Palestine partition. Andtwo Orthodox Jewish pals in Chaim Potok’s best-seller suffer their fathers.An immigrant Rabbi and Tzaddic (a messenger from God) and a college professorand Zionistactivist.Director Jeremy Kagan gave the roles to Schell and Steiger. And Schell agreed when Steiger asked to swop roles!
  21. Richard Burton, Nineteen Eighty-Four, 1984. 
    Director Michael Radford fought hard to film the Orwell classic in the titular year – andwas six weeks into shooting before he found his interrogator, O’Brien. “Burton was always on the list,” Radford told the Den of Geekl website, “but I didn’t really want a drunk around the place. Sean Connery ummed and aahed… Rod Steiger’s face-lift had gone wrong… Paul Scofield broke his leg… And I said we’d better just go for Burton and hope for the best.

 So we helicoptered the script to Haiti, and he got on board another helicopter and came straight out… He was great, he became completely teetotal.” In his final role.  The picture is dedicated to him, even though one scene took him 41 takes to get right.

  22. Burgess Meredith, King Lear, 1987.    The contract  for bilious auteur Jean-Luc Godard to tackle Shakespeare was signed (an hour after it had  been mooted) on  large napkin at the Majestic Hotel bar during the 1985 Cannes festival.  The film was just as ridiculous. Marlon Brando  passed (he’d made enough rotten movies) and the modern-day Lear. Following Mailer’s suggestion that “The Mafia is the only way to do King Lear,” Godard asked was then offered by Jean-Luc Godard and the Go Go twins, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, to Dustin Hoffman, director Joseph Losey, Lee Marvin and Orson Welles.  Godard invited Steiger by  mail, on October 15, 1986…   “Sure,  if you shoot near my home in  Malibu!” Enter, swiftly,  grizzly Buzz Meredith. Godard had forgotten  the perfect US choice: Robert Mitchum.
  23. Peter Bowles, Sauf votre respect (Try This One For Size), France-US, 1989. The role was an up-date of Komarovsky, his Doctor Zhivago Russian playboy. And he was right in avoiding the first in a short-lived French cinema series of James Hadley Chase thrillers that not even Bond director Guy Hamilton could save.
  24. Robert Prosky, Far And Away,1991.“I’m glad that [it] was such a rotten movie: it fitted its director.” Coming out of a paralsying depression, Steiger agreed to audition.Director Ron Howardwanted him video-taped – in a wig. “I hated that.Because those tapes usually form part of the after-dinner entertainment on the Bel-Air circuit, so that guests can see stars making fools of themselves. But what could I do?I desperately needed the work. But Howard – the cocksucker – insisted that I be video-taped.” He never forgave Howard for that humiliation.“It showed me he had no respect for me or my work.He was just using me. I hope I gave him some fun for his dinner parties. I know, sure as God, I didn’t have any – fun, that is.” Chicago critic Roger Ebert reported the role was such “a mass of contradictions and character tics that it’s hard to see if anybody’s at home.”
  25. James Woods, Hercules, 1997.    The directors had no idea who should voice Hades.  “Why don’t you ask Jack?”suggested their Philoctetes, Danny Vito. Jack was keen. For his nomal fee – between $10m and $15m. Disney offered… $500,000.  Hence talks began with Steiger,David Bowie, James Coburn, Willem Dafoe, Phil Hartman, Michael Ironside, Michael Keaton, Martin Landau, Broadway’s Terrence Mann, Ron Silver and  Kevin Spacey,. Then, John Lithgow got the gig and recorded it all. Next thing he knew, Jimmy Woods was adlibbing Hades to glory with Robin Williams/Aladdin bravura.  And made it a growth industry with the TV series and  various video games. 
  26. Lars Eidinger SS-GB, TV, 2017.   “Soon to be a major motion picture” screamed the cover of Len Deighton’s what-if-Hitler-won novel in 1978. Because producer Harry Alan Towers (more usually into horror and soft-core sex) planned a UK-Canada co-production. Financing collapsed. ”Soon” became 39 year later… and a mini-series  by 007 scenarists  Neill Purvis andd Robert Wade… with the German Eidingert inheriting Steiger’s ’78 role of Oskar Huth.   Paradoxically, of ten reviews found on IMDb, six are German.





 Birth year: 1925Death year: 2002Other name: Casting Calls:  26