Sir Tom Courtenay

  1. Alan Bates,  A Kind of Loving, 1962.    UK director John Schlesinger’s first feature after many award-winning documentaries. Would he test Tom?   “Yes. And I knew it was as much a test for me as for him. They wanted to know if I could handle actors, technicians, a film crew.” He could – minus  Courtenay.   On ice for Schlesinger II:  Billy Liar.
  2. Philippe Leroy, 55 Days at Peking, 1962.   Change of Juliard in the fifth and final epic cfrom producer Samuel Bronston. This one ruined his company.
  3. Richard Attenborough, Seance a Wet Afternoon, 1963.   Bryan Forbes (the UK’s sharpest writer-producer-director at the time) dallied with changing the novel’s couple – a clairvoyant and her weak husband – to a gay male couple. Courtenay was all in favour. Alec Guinness was not.  Well, he said he’d get back to Forbes about it. Never did. Attenborough and Kim Stanley made the chiller.
  4. Max von Sydow, Hawaii, 1966.    Homesick. “When I finished King Rat in Hollywood, they made me one of the biggest offers I could imagine.  Incredible!”
  5. Brian Cox, The Year of the Sex Olympics, TV, 1968.   Tom quit for a Hamlet that won his worst reviews while Nigel Kneale’s sf tale became another cult (after Quatermass)  predicting TV reality crap like Big Brother by some 31 years.
  6. Jean-Pierre Cassel,  L’armée des ombres (US: Army of Shadows), France-Italy, 1969.  For the greatest film about the French Resistance – and indeed his own masterpiece – auteur Jean-Pierre Melville was considering Courtenay (or Alan Bates) as François, the youngest member of Lino Ventura’s cell.   Bates had already made a French film, Courtenay 
  7. John Castle, Antony and Cleopatra, 1971.    Actor-producer-director Charlton Heston grabbed Mark Antony for himself  and failed to win  over Tom, his first choice for Octavius Caesar, the future Emperor Augustus.  John Castle later played his own grandson, Postumus, in the BBC’s I, Claudius in 1976.  That was a masterpiece series. Heston’s film was, sang The Guardian critic Derek Malcolm:  “The Biggest Asp Disaster in the World.”
  8. Robert Powell, Jesus of Nazareth, 1977.  “Never thought it suited me.”  He was happier on stage.
  9. Ian Holm, All Quiet on the Werstern Front, TV, 1979.   Passed the role to Holm, although neither of them seemed  right for the cruel German Army training officer training officer, Himmelstoss.  Courtenay had already made his anti-war film, King & Countryday, 1964. Back in  the , he d would have been a shoo-in for the lead of this (pretty decent) re-make. 
  10. Ben Kingsley, Gandhi, 1981.   Producer-director Richard Attenborough went through Brando and  all the other UK possibilities: Alec Guinness, Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt…. even Dirk Bogarde!! Then, playwright Harold Pinter nominated the unknown Kingsley (born Krishna Bhanji).


 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  10