Paul Scofield

  1. Cyril Cusack, Gone To Earth, 1950.    Legendary UK director Michael Powell always wished to work with Scofield. Yet all producer David Selznick could say after seeing his screentest was: “Is he queer?” No! But exit Scofield… A great pity, said Powell, feeling the role could have made the public warm to, even love   the remote actor.
  2. James Mason, Julius Caesar, 1952.    John Gielgud said Scofield was starring with him in Much Ado About Nothing, when director Joseph Mankiewicz flew to London to sweetalk Gielgud out of his fear of films and into Cassius. Immediately struck by Scofield (who had not yet made a film), Mankiewicz first saw him as Brutus…
  3. Marlon Brando, Julius Caesar, 1952. …then as Marc Antony. Producer John Houseman felt Scofield was more intellectually than sexually charismatic and remembered Brando’s speech over Paul Muni’s flag-covered body on-stage in A Flag Is Born… Scofield’s test was cancelled as MGM agreed $40,000 for a Brando in his first and only Shakespeare on stage or screen. So, yeah, he was apprehensive but “sick to death of being thought of as a blue-jeaned slobbermouth… Women I go to bed with want Stanley Kowsalski – not me.” (Ditto for his male lovers).
  4. Kenneth Haig, Saint Joan, 1957.    Quit the role of Brother Martin at the last minute.
  5. Anthony Steel, Luna de Miel (Honeymoon), Spain/UK, 1959.    Michael Powell tries again… After failing to get Scofield and Moira Shearer off the ground in The Loving Eye, he lost them again, making do with Ludmilla Tcherina and… “Good God… not Anthony Steel, the archetypal British shit… already grooming himself for the English baronet in The Story of O.”
  6. Rod Taylor, The Time Machine, 1960.  Impressed by producer George Pal’s version of War of the Worlds,  the HG Wells Estate offered him any other story. While making tom thumb  in London, he wanted a middle-aged Brit as his time travewller  – James Mason, David Niven or Paul Scofield – before going younger with Taylor. Pal wanted Rod again for the promised sequel, Return of the Time Traveller, not to mention Country of the Blind – they never happened. Plus The 7 Faces of Dr Lao and Power, which Taylor never fancied.
  7. John Mills, The Singer Not The Song, 1961.    US director Roy Ward Baker said he was forced into making the film – minus his   choices for the   Spanish priest and bandito: Scofield and Marlon Brando. Rank was   interested only in winning Dirk Bogarde’s OK for a new contract.
  8. Stacy Keach, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, 1967.     Directors changed as frequently as actors chasing the role of a deaf mute – cruelly called Singer.  José Quintero/Montgomery Clift, Sidney Lumet/Warren Beatty,  Joseph Strick/George Peppard   Quintero also wanted  Scofield as  the   alcoholic and suicidal bum called Blount,  transformed  by his encounter  with Singer.
  9. Peter O’Toole, Goodbye Mr Chips, 1969.   For the musical version of the 1938 classic which won British Robert Donat an Oscar for his portrayal of the gentle schoolmaster, Mr Charles Edward Chipping, almost every  possible Brit was contacted. From Albert Finney to Peter  Sellers, by way of Richard Harris, Christopher Plummer,and Paul Scofield. Mrs Chips was important, too, and the couple went from Cary Grant-Audrey Hepburn or  the Doctor Dolittle‘s Rex Harrison-Samantha Eggar to Camelot’s Richard Burton-Julie Andrews or  Burton-Lee Remick…or surprise, surprise, Elizabeth Taylor. Plus Burton-Petula Clark, except he turned down “a singer!” (What was Julie Andrews?).  Finally, gloriously, the Chips became Pete ‘n’ Pet.
  10. Chief Dan George, Little Big Man.  1969.  “Today is a good day to die.” Despite walk-ons from General Custer, and Wild Bill Hickok, the main characters in Thomas Berger’s novel (!) history of the West  were the on-screen narrator Jack Crabb (the world’s oldest man at 121)  and his mentor, the chief of the Cheyenne nation, Old Lodge Skins.  Known for his activism on behalf of native Americans on and off-screen, Marlon Brando was, perhaps, unsurprisingly offered the role. He passed.   Next? Richard Boone, even Paul Scofield.  They passed.  They all agreed with Berger’s opinion in his book that Caucasians were rarely believable as native Americans. And then, well you can almost still hear some smart alec suit saying “What about the guy did Othello a few years back?” And sure enough Laurence Olivier was contacted!  Words escaped him. Finally, Penn did the right thing and, superbly, native Canadian Chief Dan George – actor, musician, poet  and head of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation in North Vancouver – won instant glory, plus the first Oscar nomination for any of his people.   

  11. Robert Mitchum, Ryan’s Daughter, 1970.    When he refused the new work by Robert Bolt – who wrote Paul’s most shining, Oscar-winning hour, A Man For All Seasons, 1966  – director David Lean suggested going against type. Uninterested, as per usual, Mitchum said he  was actually planning on committing suicide. “Well,” said Bolt, “if you just finish working on this wretched little film and then do yourself in, I’d be happy to stand the expenses of your burial.”(In the 50s, director Michael Powell had  planned The Edwardians for  Scofield and Mitcum).
  12. Peter Finch, Sunday Bloody Sunday, 1970.Director John Schlesinger first called up Ian  Bannen to replace Alan Bates  when he was delayed on The Go-Between.  It soon became obvious that the Scot couldn’t hack playing a gay medic and, worse, having to kiss co-star Murray Head. Paul Scofield was contacted but Finchey came to the rescue –  losing an Oscar due (everyone said) to the gay kiss that  Bannen felt would have  ruined his career. In  fact, he later said his career never recovered from being unable to cope with the script. Until Sean Connery (keen on succeeding him here) asked Bannen to join him in The Offence, 1972., one of his 206 screen roles in 45 years.
  13. Jon Finch, Macbeth, 1971.    Scofield’s version, with Sir Peter Hall, fell through, allowing director Roman Polanski to mount his version with rabbit droppings from Playboy.  He met Finch on a plane – exactly what he required.   A young and very charismatic  Mac.  A – younger cast, in fact.  The play, said Polanski, was usually stuffed with geriatrics: Macbeth as an old gansger,  his wife as the fourth witch. Not on his watch. 

  14. Robert Hardy, Demons of the Mind, 1971.  Hammer Films’ horrors were  running out of steam. Its  new (indeed almost last) villain, Baron Zorn, was also aimed at Dirk Bogarde, James Mason and either of the studio’s stalwarts: Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Eric Porter took it over and was then switched to another Hammer vehicle:  Hands of the Ripper. And so Hardy (who would later play Winston  Churchill a record six times) had  the messy honour of  being  impaled on a flaming cross…In what proved his final film, Mason substituted an injured Scofield in The Shooting Party, 1984. 
  15. Topol, Follow Me! (US: The Public Eye), 1972. For  the screen version  of Peter Shaffer’s 1962 one-act play, The Public Eye, top Brits  Bogarde, Jayston and  Paul Scofield were  up for the third wheel  – the meek husband hiring Israeli star Topol to follow his possibly unfaithful spouse, Mia Farrow – in director Carol Reed’s final film. Chicago critic Roger Ebert shredded poor Jayston. “He has the cinematic charisma of an introverted snail…   Having made the last czar of Russia uninteresting in Nicholas and Alexandra now pulls off the feat of making an uninteresting character MORE uninteresting.
  16. Max von Sydow, The Exorcist, 1972. 
  17. Albert Finney, Murder on the Orient Express, 1973.  Agatha Christie’s favourite adaptation… Director Sidney Lumet – with final cut for the first time, following his Serpico triumph – said that like Dame Agatha, it was about nostalgia. He wanted Hollywood 30s’ glamour and once his mate, Sean Connery, agreed to be Arbuthnot, the rest rushed in. Lauren Bacall. Ingrid Bergman, John Gielgud, Anthony Perkins, Vanessa Redgrave (who would play Agatha in 1977), Richard Widmark and Albert Finney as Hercule Poirot, himself, instead of the otherwise engaged Alec Guinness and Paul Scofield – probably put off by the final tour-de-force whodunnit-speech of eight pages or 27 minutes and 57 seconds!  As Albie was in a West End play, he was collected each morning by an ambulance and the long make-up transformation into Poirot started inside and ended at Bray Studios… while he slept in his pajamas! 
  18. John Wayne, Rooster Cogburn, 1974.   Scofield in a Western…?    The idea was fair – a sequel  to True Grit.  But if Wayne proved too ill, what would be the point of someone else in his titular Oscar-winning rôle? Marlon Brando topped producer Hal Wallis’ eye-patch  list of Eastwood, Richard Burton, Gene Hackman, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, George C Scott and some of Duke’s old co-stars: Kirk Douglas, Charlton Heston, Rock Hudson, Robert Mitchum, Gregory Peck.. Pus four of Katharine Kate’s previous co-stars – Charles Bronson, Burt Lancaster, Peter O’Toole, Anthony Quinn – and as she continued trying to pick guys she’d never  worked with before… Warren Beatty, Henry Fonda, Laurence Olivier, Ryan O’Neal, Paul Scofield, Henry Winkler (!). (McQueen turned down her Grace Quigley in 1983).   Kate wrote that embracing Duke “was like leaning against a great tree.”
  19. John Houseman, The Paper Chase, 1975.    After everyone – Scofield, Melvyn Douglas, Gielgud, James Mason – passed, director James Bridges had the great idea of coaxing Houseman into his third film only in 35 years.  A stage and radio producer, Houseman founded the Mercury Theatre Players with Orson Welles and here he won what always evaded Welles – an Oscar.At 73.
  20. Alan Bates, Nijinsky, 1980.    No balletomane but a ballet admirer, Scofield was set as Diaghilev opposite Nureyev in Tony Richardson’s stillborn 1979 project which later became Harry Saltzman’s final production.

  21. James Mason, The Shooting Party, 1984.     Broke an ankle on first day when a horse-drawn brake overturned with six of the cast aboard. Although still shooting BBC-TV’s Dr. Fischer of Geneva, Mason filled in on what proved his final film.
  22. Richard Burton, Nineteen Eighty-Four, 1984.   Director Michael Radford fought hard to film the Orwell classic in the author’s chosen time span – April-June 1984.  Even then, Radford  was six weeks into shooting before he found his interrogator, O’Brien. “Burton was always on the list,” Radford told the Den of Geek website, “but I didn’t really want a drunk around the place. Sean Connery ummed and aahed… Rod Steiger’s facelift had gone wrong…  Scofield broke his leg… And I said we’d better just go for Burton and hope for the best.

 He was great.” In his final role.  Scofield got back to Orwell by voicing Boxer in the second  cartoon version of Animal Farm, 1999. 
  23. Albert Finney, Nostromo, TV, 1997.    He survived all of director David Lean and writer Christopher Hampton’s casting switches. “I’d written Monygham with him in mind, with his voice very much in my ear.” Lean’s dream became Alastair Reid’s subdued mini-series.
  24. Leslie Phillips, Venus, 2005. “I think he is genuinely crazed. It’s like dealing with a six-year-old. He is clearly under the illusion that he is a genius. Alas, his last good film was 20 years ago.” Notting Hill director Roger Michell’s diary notes about Peter O’Toole’s final film. “He made the whole process… as miserable as possible from practically the first moment.” He interferred with the script – and casting, barring Holm from the role of, ironically, Ian. (O’Toole called him Ian Gnome). “Does he simply not like Ian, or is he jealous, or feels that he will steal the picture from him?” wrote Michell, who had wanted Scofied in the role. That was before he was even discussing replacing O’Toole with Jim Broadbent, Michael Caine, Michael Gambon or John Hurt.   “Don’t see the point of juggling yoghurt with this mad fucker any longer.”







 Birth year: 1922Death year: 2008Other name: Casting Calls:  24