Billy Crystal

  1. John Ritter, Three’s Company, TV, 1977-1984.     Lost the role of a guy pretending to be gay to share an apartment with two babes  – yet won the first comic gay character  in USTV history, in Soap, the same year, 1977-81
  2. Robert Downey Jr,  Chaplin,  1992.      Among  Sir Richard Attenborough’s  early choices before Downey’s test “just burst off the screen… with this extraordinary ability, at just 26, to convey real maturity, be believable as a man 20, 30, 40  years his senior – and  this was something I sprang on him during the test without any warning. He had no script, no preparation, nothing.”  When filming  began,  Billy was Chaplining into his own actor-writer-director debut, Mr Saturday Night. Totrally without charm.
  3. Dustin Hoffman, Hero, 1992.     UK director Stephen Frears was keen but Billy was  still directing himself – and screenwriter David Webb Peoples always fancied Hoffman.
  4. Nicolas Cage, Honeymoon In Las Vegas, 1992.     “Maybe a little bit too old,”  felt Andrew Bergman.  Besides, Bergman had  turned down helming Billy’s City Slickers.  He never, apparently, forgave him.
  5. Tim Allen, Toy Story, 1992.     Not necessarily Crystal sharp, Billy passed on voicing Buzz Lightyear. “Biggest mistake of my life,”  he confessed about the 2005 release. CUT to phone ringing at the Crystal residence.   His wife answered and told him. “It’s John Lasseter.” CUT to Billy grabbing phone and and shouting: “Yes!” That’s how he became Mike Wozowski in Monsters, Inc,  1999.
  6. Nicolas Cage, It Could Happen To You, 1994.     Plot is a headline: COP GIVES WAITRESS $2M TIP.  Another rejection of an Andrew Bergman scenario.
  7. Michael Lerner,  The  Road To Wellville,  1994.  In Alan Parker’s First XI list, when Bill Murray was too slow to agree.
  8. Steve Martin, Sgt Bilko,  1995.     Michael Keaton passed, Billy balked, Martin pounced and Phil Silvers turned over in his grave… especially when  they added his daughter, Cathy, to the mess.
  9. Robin Williams, The Birdcage, 1995.  Plan A for the Mike Nichols re-tread of the enormous 1978 French hit, La Cage aux folles, was  Steve Martin as  the gay cabaret  club owner and Robin Williams as his drag queen wife!  (They starred in the Nichols’ Broadway version of Waiting for Godot, in 1988).  When Martin dropped out, Williams suddenly had, er, doubtfires, about being jn drag again so soon.  H: e wanted to be the husband.  Nichols chose Broadway star Nathan Lane for the wife. Williams still dithered and Nichols suggested Billy Crystal to Lane – who replied “I love Billy Crystal!” Robin returned. Rapidly. As if he’d overheard the exchange,
  10. Whoopi Goldberg, Eddie, 1996.      One Oscarnight host replaces another – in  a basketball number first  prepared for Billy  and  Rick Moranis. 

  11. John Cusack, America’s Sweethearts, 2000.      Ace critc Roger Ebert saw this as a new take on Singin’ in the Rain. (Much closer to the UK’s 1954 Simon and Laura). His revuiew even listied who plays which 1951 rôle. Such as Crystal as Donald O’Connor. Oh really ! Before becoming the Hollywood flack, Crystal co-wrote, produced and almost directed himself as the ex-husband and current co-star of Catherine Zeta-Jones’ egomaniacal movie queen – or Jean Hagen and Gene Kelly according to Rog.
  12. Albert Brooks, The In-Laws 2002.     Donald Petrie wanted Billy opposite Michael Douglas in the re-make – the third time Crystal rejected a Andrew Bergman script. 
  13. Will Ferrell, Bewitched, 2004.   For inexplicable reasons, Hollywood kept trying to make a movie out of the 1968-1972 ABC sitcom about a good-looking witch and her klutzy hubby.  In 1993, Penny Marshall assembled a knockout cast. Meryl Streep as Samantha, Robin Williams as Uncle Arthur, Shelley Winters as Gladys Kravitz. And the Dagwoodish husband being played, alternately, by Crystal and Jerry Seinfeld… as a nod to how Dick Sargent replaced  an ailing Dick York  after 170 episodes as the tele-Darrin in 1969. 
  14. Christopher Walken, Hairspray, 2006.     Director Adam Shankman thought about an off-the-wall Billy or the British Jim Broadbent as John Travolta’s  husband, a Baltimore novelty shop owner. Hence, the light-up bow-ties. They had a showshopper dance number, “You’re Timeless To Me.” Not easy with Travolta’s fat suit.
  15. Matt Lucas,  Gnomeo and Juliet, 2010.  He’s already done Shakespeare. Oh yes he had! First Graverigger in Kenneth Branagh‘s 1996  Hamlet, no less.  So Crystal was in the frame (with Christopher Mintz-Plasse) for Benny, Gnomeo’s best palin this red vblue garden gnomes’ take on Shakespeare  (voiced by Patrick Stewart)  with, of course, producer Elton John’s songbook – Benny and the Jets, of course. Also considered for Benny (aka Benvolio, of course) was  Christopher Mintz-Plasse.Billy would hjave improved upon such Bard jokes as included  houses numbered 2B and Not 2B and  some paste called… but you’re ahead of me…  The Taming of the Glue.  The chubby Lucas was one of the stars of the BBC’s Little Britain comedy sketch shows, 2003-2006.
  16. Sacha Baron Cohen, Les Miserables, 2011.    Crystal, Rowan Atkinson, Ricky Gervais, Steve Martin, Robin Williams…  For some reason, it was only comics (oh, and Geoffrey Rush) seen for Victor Hugo’s  despicable Thénardier. 
  17. Johnny Depp, Into The Woods, 2013.  


 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  16