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John Lithgow


  1. Warren Beatty, Reds, 1981.    Beatty planned a biopic of such epic proportions that producing was more than enough for him. No way could he star and/or direct.  He thought of Lithgow as John Reed, author of the ultimate account of the Russian Revolution,Ten Days That Shook The World, and among the very few Americans buried in the Kremlin.
  2. Kelsey Grammer, Cheers, TV, 1982-1993.    The character of radio shrink Dr Frasier Crane was penned for Lithgow.  He didn’t want it.  “I just said: No. I barely even remembered that [offer]. It was like swatting away a fly . I just wasn't going to do a series.” Two years later, Lithgow began his five years 3rd Rock from the Sun - while Grammer was starting to continue Dr Crane in a new series, Frasier, 1996-2001.
  3. Harold Ramis, Ghostbusters, 1983.     Who ya gonna call..? The paranormal was, said Dan Aykroyd, his family’s business. That and having stayed in a house haunted by Mama Cass Elliott inspired his dark, futuristic update of such 40s’ comedies as Bob Hope’s Ghost Breakers and the Bowery Boys as Ghost Chasers -  penned for John Belushi, Eddie Murphy and himself. Dan was actually writing a line for John when hearing about his shock death.. (He said  Slimer was John‘s ghost). Murphy was busy (policing Beverly Hills!) as the script was totally respun and/or improvised.  When Jeff Goldblum, John Lithgow, Christopher Lloyd and Christopher Walken passed on Dr. Egon Spengler, Ramis (the chief re-writer) decided he’d  be best do it his way.  Without ever smiling! 
  4. Christopher Lloyd, Back To The Future, 1985.     A possible Doc Brown - but he lost the film and, indeed, the series.  Far too tall opposite Michael J Fox.  And almost anyone else!  Also in the frame: Jeff Golblum, John Lithgow,  Dudley Moore, James Woods. Why accept/refuse roles? “A hundred reasons," said Lithgow. "The role, the writing, the people involved, the fun factor, the dough, the attention paid, but mostly what your gut tells you.”
  5. Brian Cox, Manhunter, 1985.      In Hollywood director Mlchael Mann’s mix for the first Hannibal Lecter… Or, Lektor in this version. So were Brian Dennehy (who recommended Cox), director William Friedkin and Mandy Patinkin. Gene Hackman was almost the second in Silence of the Lambs, 1989… when Lithgow was considered again,  second  choice  after Anthony Hopkins.
  6. Jeff Goldblum, The Fly, 1986.    “Be afraid, be very afraid!”  Lithgow auditioned for Seth Brundle. Richard Dreyfuss and Michael Keaton passed.  The promise of five hours (and 5 lbs) of prosthetic make-up as the Brundlefly didn’t delight them.   Mel Gibson fled for Lethal Weapon.
  7. Brad Dourif, Child’s Play, 1988. Lithgow was said to be in the same frame as Jessica Walter and the winning Dourif -  for the voice of the soon-to-be notorious killer doll, Chucky.  (Mark Hamill was the new voice in 2019).
  8. Jack Nicholson, Batman, 1988.
  9. Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs, 1989.
  10. Gary Busey, Predator 2,1990.      Director  Stephen Hopkins wanted Lithgow as FBI agent Peter Keyes. Producer Joel Silver gave him Busey.  Film flopped. Enormously. Just as Predator 1 star Arnold Schwarzenegger told Silver it would.  They never worked together again.  Truth hurts.

  11. Anthony Hopkins, Nixon, 1995.     Unlike Hopkins, Lithgow is not abeliever of less is more!“I’m a big man,”he told me, “and I kinda like big behaviour.”
  12. Eric Roberts, Doctor Who (The Movie), TV, 1996.      
  13. James Woods, Hercules, 1997.      Lithgow and Jack Nicholson came close, but  Woods conquered all as the voice of Hades.  And played it again every time Disney called him.
  14. Ian McKellen, The Prisoner, TV, 2009.     Thanks to a great Dexter arc as the Trinity Killer, Lithgow managed to avoid being #2 in  the blissfully short (dead after six episodes) re-hash of the  UK TV  classic. (His serial killer lasted 12 weeks!).  Jim Caviezel was the substitute Patrick McGoohan.  Or then again, not! 
  15. Will Arnett, Horton Hears A Who, 2007.   Lithgow and Christopher  Walken fwre also in tje frame for voicing  Vlad Vladikof in the fourth toon from Blue Sky Studios, home of the Ice Age franchise. Jim Carrey voiced the elephant, his first toon gig. “A 15-minute picture locked in an 85-minute narrative,”complained The Guardian critic Philip French.
  16. Jeffrey Wright, The Good Dinosaur, 2009.    The one that got away… . The role. And the film. Only Frances McDormand of the original voice cast survived a ton of necessary changes in the toon that began in 2009, was continually respun, only titled in 2014, and finally released with Wright taking over Poppa Henry, the father of the Apatosaurus family. Of course, by then it was much better, just not really up to Pixar’s usual, skyscraper-high standards.
  17. Michael Massee, Rizzoli & Isles, TV, 2010-2013.     Main villain of this latest take on Cagney & Lacey was jailed serial killer, Charles Hoyt, planning  to kill his nemesis, Boston PD  Detective Jane  Rizzoli before he dies of cancer … Hoyt was aimed at the usual oddballs: Brad Dourif, Robert Englund (aka Freddie Krueger), Michael Ironside,  John Lithgow. Plus a few surprises like Mark Hamill (helluva switch from Luke Skywalker!), old RoboCopper Peter Weller and, somewhat stupidly, Paul Ruebens  - Pee-Wee Herman as a vengeful killer. That would have his dumbest move since  going  to the XXX South Trail Cinema. In his Sarasota  home town in Florida, on July 26, 1991.









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