1. The First Compromise…
“You have a certain character in mind, certain settings. As you begin the execution of it – well, the thing you start with is the first compromise… The compromise of casting.”
– Alfred Hitchcock, London, April 21, 1966.
The films we see are rarely the films planned for us to see.
Tom Selleck as Indiana Jones…
Errol Flynn as Rhett Butler…
Shirley Temple skipping along the yellowbrick road…
Charlie Sheen as Batman…
Robin Williams as The Joker…
George Raft in Casablanca…
Joan Collins as Cleopatra…
Sylvester Stallone as Beverly Hills Cop…
Brigitte Bardot & Raquel Welch as Bond Girls…
and Sean Connery’s first successor
as 007 was nearly… Hans De Vries?
Stars and unknowns are kicked around in casting. Offers are made, deals struck – and broken. Changes begin. Every day. Due to unavailability, injury, sickness, pregnancy, death, rotten agents, grasping managers, avaricious spouses, a better offer with a better points elsewhere, film directors dropping out, casting directors dropping in, new (TV) stars emerging as veterans are fading, forgotten, unbankable – the other death.
Other reasons why some starts didn’t make certain films – as you will find out in this ultimate movie trivia site – include…
vengeance – when Barbara Stanwyck found out that Ava was sleeping with her husband, Robert Taylor, she used her clout to oust Ava from her next lead role. And took it over for herself… shoving Ava into a bit part. Youjust didn’t mess with Stanwyck!
jealousy from her her husband when Silvana Mangano’s new leading man was an old sweetheart – from her school days!
duck hunting… Clark Gable asked if they did. Burt Reynolds said No. Barry Coe said Yes. Who do you think got got that job?
lactating over her co-star’s bare chest… That was Jane Seymour. “That was a serious incident. I mean a puddle. His reaction was not good.”
agent error… Billy Zane loved a script called Taxman (tax man stumbles over Russian Mafia murders) and asked to meet the producers. His agent fixed it up – but with the producers of another film called Taxman (beautiful new tax inspector disrupts a town). Even with such differences – thriller v comedy – no one realised they weren’t talking about the same movie for… quite… some… time…. (Billy agreed to make the wrong film, anyway).
being a mess – but then, Bette Midler had just been assaulted in the hotel steamroom before her audition…
being too tall – Joanna Lumley and Robert Preston dwarfed their co-stars: Steve McQueen and Alan Ladd.
being too healthy – that was the reason Christina Ricci was not the last Lolita. Then again, she as also deemed: too heavy and… too emaciated!
ego – Warren Beatty rejected 75 scripts in 30 months, horrifying his agent, Charles K Feldman. “No other actor I’ve ever known could do this if for no other reason than egotism.”
refusing a fourway – that was Robert Stack rejecting an offer from intended co-star Ava Gardner, who then rejected him. From her film.
Oh and a certain Stephen Archibald lost a British film because he was… in jail!
Then, it’s back to the drawing board, out with the casting directories. These are never examined too much… When James Caan fell out of The Holcroft Covenant, his replacement was on the same page. Michael Caine. Same thing in the 30s, when the hunt fior the Bringing Up Baby hero got stuck in the Ms… Fredric March, Ray Milland, Robert Montgomery… before flicking back to G for Cary Grant.
What you see in this unique directory is what you never saw on-screen. The films the stars did NOT make… The movies that never were… Providing a new and often bizarre persepctive on treasured films… and stars.
In the mid-1940s, George Raft turned down nine roles – nine! – that made Humphrey Bogart the star he still is today, while most everyone says: George Whosis? In that legend’s re-make (Hollywood lives on re-treads), Richard Gere inherited five roles from John Travolta. While contiunual shadows, Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino, took about four roles each from one anothesr – Hoffman making by far the better choices.
The casting of a film remains the first and most intriguing news and/or rumour of each new production. Internet fans know what their pet stars are making next long before they have seen what they made last. The most famous casting saga of them all, Gone With The Wind, itself, became the stuff of movies, in both documentary and tele-film form.
Unless the name – for now – is Cruise, nothing is cut and dried about being cast in a film, much less keeping a role when having started to play it. As this site will prove…
Would the world have cared an uncensored damn if Gone With The Wind had matched Tallulah Bankhead and Ronald Colman? Or, Miriam Hopkins and Gary Cooper… Bette Davis and Errol Flynn?
Make your own choice. David Selznick did.
What about Mae West getting ready for her
close up, Mr. De Mille, in Sunset Boulevard?
Laurence Olivier as The Godfather – or
even The Leopard?
Robert Redford as The Graduate?
Lena Olin as Catwoman.
Bette Davis as Mildred Pierce.
or Luke Skywalker as a teenage
heroine of Star Wars?
Surely we would have accepted
Albert Finney or even Marlon
Brando’s Lawrence of Arabia…
Anthony Hopkins as Gandhi…
or Ben-Hur enacted by a raw Italian
called Cesare Danova with
Stewart Granger as Messala?
At best, movie casting is inspiration, gut-level responses by one talent to another – by producers, directors, powerful agents; even co-stars make suggestions. At worst, it’s sheer computerology, dictated by cash registers or powerful agents (the same thing?).
As Hitchcock once suddenly and quite sourly, complained to me, casting is always the first compromise.
“Because there are so few stars around today. On Torn Curtain, , they said to me at Universal: ‘What about Julie Andrews?’ I said: ‘Fine – if you want her.’ ‘Well, she’s the hottest thing there is.’ And that’s how she came to get in the picture. Then, you start fixing things to accommodate Julie Andrews.”
“I love it, I’m going to do it. I’ll die to do this… wait for me, wait for me.” That’s how scenarist Richard Price remembers the enthusiasm of Tom Hanks for a 1990s version of the Jules Dassin film noir, Night and the City. “So we waited for him for a year and a half. And then he said… I’m not doing it!”
2. Concept… to Idea… to Project to Package
Woody Allen came close to explaining the inexplicable Hollywood IBM-thinking with an Annie Hall line about films evolving from Concept… to Idea… to Project. (He forgot the Package)
Names are first thrown into the mix at Concept stage. No talking to the talent involved. Sheer speculation. Much in the manner we may cast a favourite book ourselves – minus any thought for the economics or angst ahead. First printed casting news is often mere rumour. A Hollywood suggestions – or, indeed, bait. A Press agent plants an item to one of the Hollywood trade paper columnists: “A and B to make Film C for Company D.”
One in ten of such stories has an edge of truth (that Film C is due to made by Company D, is all!). Check on the alleged leaks with the stars involved – and they’ve never heard of the scripts! I remember asking George Segal about The Ski Bum, 1971…
“I met Jean Seberg and her husband Romain Gary, who wrote the book,” said Segal. “And the two words Ski Bum were mentioned, but that’s all I know about it.”
Enough interest from a studio can change Concept to Idea – usually happening far from the media glare, once agents barter with studios. “You can have my leading lady if my top writer can do the re-write: “Take my cameraman – but you gotta try my hot new composer from Finland.”
Once that Idea is backed by seed money, the Project is born. The next casting announcements have a ring of truth to them.
Even contracts – for what they are worth. Greek actress Irene Papas sued the makers of The Greek Tycoon, 1978, after losing her Maria Callas-like role to Italian starlet Marilu Tolo. And this after Papas had promoted the film – or rather, the Project – at the Cannes festival, thereby helping to win a budget and instant Package status.
As Papas found out, in order to survive the perilous route to becoming a Property, the Package requires constant re-wrapping, with a wary eye on which stars, themes, trends, genres, not to mention salaries, remain in or out. Any Project can spend five years or more in development hell before being translated – transmutated – into a Property: a final shooting script with “definite” cast and start date. Even then, a ton of contracts riddled with escape clauses and a budget full of percentage deals may not lead to a completed film.
“What’s hard is that the people attached to a Property get angry when it stalls out and blame you for hanging it up,” said Robert Redford, defending his reputation as Hollwyood’s most indecisive star about movie offers. He fights back against the Projecteers’ call to “Commit, commit, commit!” by telling them: “Back off and let the process take its course!”
Worse than Redford, was John Cusack… Producer Art Linsons got so choked waiting for Cusack to make up his mind about Point of No Return, 1993, that he finally informeed the actor’s agent: “As far as we’re concerned, yesterday John Cusack got hit by a bus!”
Over five years or more, much can happen to the original selection of stars – on all sides of the camera. They can die in any sense of the word: rise or fall on their respective career ladders, become too expensive – or even, too cheap (again in either sense of the word). New spouses or lovers can exert more influence than any agent or manager. These “artistic differences” (hah!) can cause casting changes (“we’ve decided to go younger!”) even after shooting has begun.
Time again to take partners for another round of The Casting Shuffle. Rarely, if ever with talent and art in mind, merely box-office gloss – and revenue.
And yet, given all these multifarious reasons why E and F, rather than A and B, end up making Film C for Company D (or Corporations J or K by now), if there is one thing that movie stars hate to discuss – more than salaries, lovers, sexual prowress and wigs – it’s the roles that got away.
They are the cinematic equivalent of cancer. You don’t ask them about it – you wait for them to tell you. And they will. If you… just… wait!
The secret is to never probe directly – although “Is there a film you wanted to make but couldn’t” regularly appears among the top five questions at any European Press conference. The answer always fudges the issue. Gene Hackman, for one, begs off – “not to protect myself but other people’s feelings.”
As in most areas of life, patience is the necessary virtue – andbefore you know it, without any prompting, stars (Hackman included) and, certainly directors (like Richard Donner, John Frankenheimer, Joel Schumacher – thank you, guys!) open up and relate one or two incidents about not knowing a good script when they see one!
“Actors may not be very good judges of scripts,” admitted Gregory Peck. “We all have lapses in judgment. You can misjudge any potential for greatness because someone else’s vision is going to be added to it. Even that is unpredictable.”
Or, as Hedy Lamarr put it: “There are a lot of ifs and buts in being an actor.”
Back in her days of the studio system era, the tycoons held all the strings. And pulled them so hard, they could yank Bette Davis or Joan Crawford out of films and punish Clark Gable for some sin against them by sending him into some no-hope Poverty Row film. (It proved to be It Happened One Night, 1934, and won him something the mighty MGM had never swung for him – an Oscar!)
Not even tycoons knew a good script when they saw one.
These incidents were rarely revealed in print – at the time. Not until the cottage industry of stellar tell-all biographies and autobiographies evolved. (I’ve developed an instinct for opening such books at the exact, right pages).
In this site, however, they all talk… in anecdotes culled from my own interviews across 40 years… and from newspaper and magazine interviews and books by innumerable colleagues on the movie beat.
(Fullest possible acknowledgments and bibliography on the Acknowledgements page).
From the first talkie to this monh’s releases, almost every star (many unknowns and a good few surprises) is covered in alphabetical order – and to avoid undue repetition, certain Special Movies merit in-depth treatment (from All About Eve to Zorba The Greek by way of Gone With The Wind and all – yes, ALL – the Bond, Exorcist, Godfather, Lord of the Rings and Star Wars films. But, excuse me, just two of the Rocky movies).
The anecdotes come directly from the stars who said No – the replacements who said Yes – or from the directors, producers, writers and other insiders involved.
Some stars may be suprised to read of certain films they did not make, never realising they had ever been considered for them. (Studios, like agents, do not reveal all). However, and saving for a low percentge of error, all examples have been fully researched and cross-referenced.
And so, within this directory, you will find stars losing Oscars as well as roles… how James Dean tested for Oklahoma…
Why a row over fashions had Lana Turner flouncing out of Anatomy Of A Murder…
that Peter Ustinov should have been Inspector Clouseau… while Peter Sellers craved to be Fagin…
…even more than John Wayne ached for Patton
And for ther first time, the full story of why Anthony Michael Hall did not wear Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket…
who was first sought for…
Aragorn, Batman, Zaphod Beeblebrox, Ben-Hur, Pike Bishop, Rick Blaine, Caligula, Candy, Peachy Carneham, Butch Cassidy, the Corleones, Diry Harry, Dorothy, Maggie Fitzgerald, Gandalf, Gandhi, TE Lawrence, Hannibal Lecter, Lestat, Randle P McMurphy, Scarlett O’Hara, 007, Mr Orange, Bonnie Parker, Patton, Robert E Lee Prewitt, Rambo, Kilgore, Ron Kovic, Superman, Luke Sykwalker, Tarzan, Tootsie, Wolverine, Zorba.
which British producer rejected Sean Connery and Julie Christie “just B-movie actors”…
why Annette Bening lost Catwoman
how David Niven was nearly Hopalaong Cassidy…
which star died on the set just like his father
and why Betty Grable lost Guys and Dolls.
(She broke her appointment with producer
Sam Goldwyn… because her dog was ill!)
More than the ultimate in movie trivia, here is exactly the kind of history that Hollywood deserves. Back to front, upside-down, inside out, full of flashbacks, close-ups, tracking shots
In short: a fascinating, flip-side view of the movies… as we never saw them!
And best summed up
in a confession from Tony Curtis:
“Marilyn played the role I wanted.”