Peter Cushing

  1. Anton Diffring, The Man Who Could Cheat Death, 1959.     Cushing simply quit  the new take on Dorian Gray just before shooting  started He was ill, he said.  Hammer  Films disagreed…  and nearly took its biggest star to court. He apparently objected to  Hazel Court (his 1956 Curse of Frankenstein co-star) being topless when posing for Cushjng-cum-Diffring’s ageless sculptor. (Nudity  was virtually  unheard of in  British studios until  the 60s).  In the UK release, only Hazel’s  naked back was shown while she revealed all in the Euro-cut. She said that exposing her ample breasts to an all-male crew was as terrifying as it was exciting. 
  2. Guy Rolfe, The Stranglers of Bombay, 1959.      Hammer goes to India – for the story, not the (UK) locations (and re-used Horror of Dracula sets), to follow the 1830s’ fight by the British Army, er, no, the army of the all-powerful East India Company, against the thieves and killers of the Thugee Cult of Kali. Apparently, this was fist planned as another Cushing v Christopher Lee battle, as Captain Lewis and the Kali sect’s high priest.  But no… this proved to be a rare Hammer Film of the period minus either of its both horropr superstars.
  3. Jeffrey Hunter, King of Kings, 1961.  Pope John XXIII met producer Samuel Bronston and approved the script. – never knowing that scenarist Philip Yordan  saw Jesus as a cowboy…! “Christ was a loner. He’s not much different than my usual character. The Western character. It’s the same character. The man alone.” And, indeed, while Bronston looked over the English Cushing and Alec Guinness, Scottish Tom Fleming, Australian Keith Michel, Canadian Christopher Plummer and even Swedish Max Von Sydow (who became George Stevens’ Christ in 1964) , he signed Hunter, who had made 16 Westerns, including two for the guy who recommended him: John Ford. Hunter’s eyes pleased Bronson. “It was important that… Christ have memorable eyes.”  Despite being, at 35, closer to Christ’s age than per usual in Schmollywood epics, Jeff was soon found himself dubbed “I Was a Teenage Jesus”!
  4. Kerwin Matthews, Maniac, 1962.     Not often Hammer made such mistakes. This was a biggie. Using the paper-thin talent of Matthews instead of Cushing as the painter with a French mistress who has a homicidal husband. Director (and Hammer boss) James Carreras even wasted his locations.  Difficult to do that in Provence.
  5.  William Hartnell, Doctor Who, TV, 1963.
  6. Ralph Bates, Lust For A Vampire, 1970.    Once again, Peter  quit a Hammer production featuring female nudity. The actor, a true gentleman, disagreed with director Jimmy Sangster’s opinion – “If sexy is going to add to the box office takings then it’s OK by me.”However, and after the death o fhis cherished wife, Cushing did join the often naked Twins of Evil in 1971, with Playboy’s first twin Playmates, the Maltese sisters,  Mary and Madeleine Collinson.

  7. Andrew Keir, Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb, 1970.   
    A terrible first day’s shoot for Hammer Films…  Director Seth Holt was dying and Cushing’s wife became gravely ill with emphysema.  His secretary, Joyce Broughton, called him home: Helen needed constant care. He immediately quit the film after a day’s work. Keith took over – almost a Hammer rep player from his first featured role in The Lady Craved Excitement, 1950, to being the best (and only British) Professor Quatermass in the movies.  Helen Cushing died on January 14, 1971.  Distraught and impatient to join her in the afterlife, it was almost all he could talk about for the next 23 years).  “I lost the only joy in life that I ever wanted. She was my whole life and without her there is no meaning. I am simply killing time, so to speak, until that wonderful day when we are together again.” He returned to film-making later in ’71 in Hammer’s Twins of Evil. “He looked much more gaunt and frail,” noted his US biographer Christopher Gullo.

      Valerie Leon and Peter Cushing in Blood from the Mummy's Tomb  

    Peter Cushing and Valerie Leon – Egyptologist father and possessed daughter – during the first day’s takes before he quit when his beloved wife became fatally ill. © Hammer Films/EMI Films 1971.

  8. Richard Greene, Tales From The Crypt, 1970.        The veteran horror star was due to play Ralph Jason, but said he was tragically better suited to Mr Grimsdyke… who “talked” to his dead wife via a ouija board.
  9. 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 James Mason,  Paul Scofield  plus  Hammer regulars Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.  They all passed on  the climax of being impaled on a flaming cross… Eric Porter took it over, then switched to another  Hammer vehicle:  Hands of the Ripper. 
  10. Joseph Cotten, The Abominable Dr Phibes, 1971.      Still too down over the  death of his wife to play Dr Vesalius – particularly as the titular Vincent Price was hunting for the Scrolls of Life in order to  resurrect his wife. (Price and Christopher Lee were born on May 27, Cushing on May 26).

  11. Edward Woodward, The Wicker Man, 1972.   A producer called Christopher Lee, who had reserved Lord Summerisle for himself, offered his friend the lead role of Police Sergeant Howie (bit of a comedown after Cushing’s police inspectors and, indeed, Sherlock Holmes!).  But he was, as usual, fully booked for the year. Laurence Olivier’s illustrious 1947 Hamlet was the first film to feature  Cushing and Lee.  Peter had the bigger role of Osric, while Lee was an uncredited Elsinore guard. In all, they made two dozen films together from Moulin Rouge and Alexander The Great  to their Hammer days of Cushing creating the Frankenstein  monster and chasing Lee‘s Count Dracula as Van Helsing.  Etc.
  12. Eddie Albert, The Devil’s Rain, 1974.  Gentlemen Cushing and Joseph Cotten were on the short list for Dr Sam Richards, totally opposed to the horror (or horrid) film’s Satanist #1 – of all people, Ernest Borgnine.
  13. Tom Baker, Doctor Who, TV,  1974-1981.
  14. Alec Guinness, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, 1976.
  15. Anthony Sharp, House of Mortal Sin (US: The Confessional), 1976.       Cushing passed on being, as Time Out put it, a crazed old Catholic priest terrorising a young girl after hearing her confession… He was too busy and not, as rumours insisted, hating the scenario. UK schlocker Pete Walker then offered Father Xavier Meldrum to Harry Andrews, Stewart Granger, plus (said Steve Chinball’s Walker book), Lee J Cobb and Richard Greene.  PS: Cushing starred in Walker’s final film, The House of Long Shadows, 1982.

  16. Philip Madoc, Doctor Who  #84: The Brain of Morbius, TV, 1976.  
    Forgiven! Twenty  years after refusing the role, and eight after his two Doctor Who cinema movies, Cushing was contacted by Aunty for the series again  Well, there was a definite touch of Frankenstein in the script which pointed  director Christopher Barry towards horror icons Cushing, Christopher Lee, Vincent Price for the mad scientist Solon constructing a body from spares on the planet Karn.  Next?  John Bennett, Alan Browning and the winning Madoc. Cushing , of course, was the Hammer Films star of Dracula and Frankenstein  (“If I played Hamlet, they’d call it a horror film”) who made two terrible  Doctor movies: Dr Who and the Daleks, 1964, and  Daleks’ Invasion Earth: 2150, 1965. (So ultra-bad that a third never happened). Doc1 William Hartnell was predictably miffed at being passed over for the big screen. Until seeing the first with Cushing as…  not a Time Lord but “an eccentric inventor” in moustache and glasses – and, of course, colour. Not enough to entice folks to pay for what they’d seen for free at home.  Aunty would try nine  more times  to  obtain Peter for a guest role!

  17. Daniel Massey, Warlords of the Deep, 1977.  Son of Hitler (sic!) going over-schedule meant Cushing had to withdraw  from this  role; of Atraxon. (not the main Atraxon;  nor was Cyd Charisse, for that matter!). Atlantiswas the original title, until Atlantis: The Lost Continent opened in ’61. And 7 Cities of Atlantis  and  Warlords of Atlantis were    also dropped when TV’s Man From Atlantis flopped,  ruining all Atlantis appeal!

  18. Charles Gray, The Legacy, 1977.  Failing to be Harry Liebnecht, immolated in Jimmy Sangster’s literal horror – with Hollywood leads, of course (Katharine Ross, Sam Elliott) in an English country house, of course – were the obviously much relieved Cushing (of course), Harry Andrews, Bernard Archard, Michael Gough (the future Batman’s man, Alfred), Patrick Troughton (the second Doctor Who, 1966-1969), Peter Vaughan. Plus two Donalds: Houston and Pleasence. Gray was totally mis-cast. Better German accents would have from the also listed Peter Arne, Anton Diffring, Christopher Lee and Herbert Lom. Elliott (who wed Ross in 1984) warned the Associated Press: “I wouldn’t rush out to see it. It’s about 15 years behind its time.”   

  19. Maximilian Schell, The Black Hole,1978.   One Swede, three Germans and six Brits were discussed for Dr Hans Reinhardt – heading a mission aboard the US spaceship, Palomino, to find habitable spots in space. Max von Sydow; Anton Diffring, Curd Jürgens, Hardy Krüger; plus Harry Andrews, Peter Cushing, Jeremy Kemp, Hardy Kruger Christopher Lee, Herbert Lom, Donald Pleasence and Patrick Troughton. This was Disney’s first attempt at science fiction – and a PG rating.  Never got it right until buying Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise.  In 2014. Cushing knew better, of course. He had accepted Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope…  in 1976!!

  20. Donald Pleasence, Halloween, 1978. 
    The Hitchcock fan auteur John Carpenter searched high and low for his shrink, Dr Sam Loomis. Peter O’Toole and the Hammer horrors, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee versus Charles Napier, Lawrence Tierney, Abe Vigoda.  The $300,00 shoestring budget couldn’t afford any of them! Same for Lloyd Bridges, David Carradine, Kirk Douglas, Steven Hill, Walter Matthau… even such off-the-wall surprises as John Belushi, Mel Brooks, Yul Brynner, Edward Bunker, Sterling Hayden, Dennis Hopper, Kris Kristofferson… and Dick’s brother, Jerry Van Dyke.  Pleasence later said he only made tthe film bercause his daughter told him to!  She’d ween Assault on Precinct 13… Her also tol;d Carpentegr he hadn’t read the scripy, nor Loomis. “Only later,” said Carpenter, “after [we] became close friends, did I realise he was finding out how much I loved the movie I was making.”  Incidentally, Loomis was named after John Gavin’s Psycho character; his screen lover was Janet Leigh, mother  of Carpenter’s heroine, Jamie Lee Curtis. So it flows.


  21. Daniel Massey, Warlords of Atlantis,  1978.       Freddie Francis said of Cushing in 1992: “There’s not an actor in this world who can speak rubbish like Peter and make it sound real.”

  22. Trevor Howard, Meteor, 1979.      Also in the loop for Sir Michael Hughes in the last of the disaster movies (a $22m bummer) were: Howard, Cushing Harry Andrews, Ian Bannen Michael Hordern, Gordon Jackson, John Mills, Kenneth More, Anthony Quayle… and four UK knights: Sirs John Gielgud, Alec Guinness, John Mills and Ralph Richardson. (Hordern was knighted in 1983, and Quayle in 1985)
  23. Bill Fraser, Doctor Who #110: Meglos,  1980.    Change of General Grugger in the second Season18 serial. One Whovian legend states that Fraser only agreed to be Grugger if the general could kick Doc4’s robotic  dog, K9. Permission was given!  And, indeed, Fraser later turned up in the  1981 pilot for the dog’s never made spin-off, K9 and Company.  (IMDb states that Fraser actually gave Cushing his first professional  acting gig).
  24. John Fraser, Doctor Who #115: Logopolis, TV, 1981.       Age apparently, didn’t matter. The Monitor was 60 but producer John Nathan-Taylor’s usual suspects ranged from Harry Andrews at 77 to Hywel Bennett at…37! Plus Maurice Denham, 72; Marius Goring, 69; Peter Cushing, 68; Bernard Archard, Michael Gough, 65; Nigel  Stock, 62; Geoffrey Bayldon, 57; William Lucas, 56; Frank Finley, 55; Barry Foster, Frank Windsor, 54; John Fraser, 50; Peter Wyngarde, 48. This was the episode that Brian Epstein would not let The Beatles appear in. But he OKed Top of the Pops footage of Ticket To Ride.
  25. Nigel Stock, Doctor Who #122: Time-Flight, TV, 1982.        After several invites, Nigel Stock finally joined the Whoverse – when winning Professor Hayter from Cushing, Bernard Archard, Geoffrey Bayldon, John Carson, Maurice Denham, Michael Gough and William Lucas… in The Case of the Missing Concorde!
  26. Leonard Sachs, Doctor Who #123: Arc of Infinity, TV, 1983.    Suggested for the third appearance of The Doctor’s mentor – Borusa, President of the Time LordsCouncil. The 20th season opener was Sachs’ first TV drama since 1975. And it showed. He kept forgetting his lines  and  Doc5, Peter Davison (and several suits) suggested substituting him with Bernard Archard. Producer John Nathan-Turner kept the faith.  When Cushing was unavailable to be  Borusa in Doctor Who: The Movie, the president was axed.

  27. Patrick Stewart, Lifeforce, 1984.
  28. Aubrey Morris, Lifeforce, 1984.  
  29. Frank Finlay, Lifeforce, 1984.

  30. Maurice  Denham , Doctor Who #136 The Twin Dilemma, TV, 1984. In his debut, Doc6 Colin Baker suddenly recognises Professor Edgeworth as an old friend – Azmael, master of Jaconda, whom he last saw two regenerations ago.  He has now kidnapped  the titular twinset.  Romulus and Remus Sylveste and has joined the slug-like  creature  Gastropod Mestor’s plan to explode the sun of planet Jaconda and rule. What a busy debut!

  31. Terence Alexander, Doctor Who #139: The Mark of the Rani, 1984.      Joss Ackland, Harry Andrews, Bernard Archard, Robin Bailey, George Baker, Ian Bannen, Geoffrey Bayldon, John Carson, Peter Cushing, Allan Cuthbertson, Frank Finlay, Robert Flemyng, Michael Gough, Dinsdale Landen, TP McKenna, Donald Pickering, Peter Sallis, John Standing, Patrick Stewart, Peter Vaughan… and the Z Cars cops James Ellis and Jeremy Kemp – were the 23 contenders for Lord Ravenworth (employer of George Stephenson, no less). Standing was the  most  suitable, being the fourth baronet in his family’s line.

  32. Laurence Payne, Doctor Who #140: The Two Doctors, TV, 1984.  Never giving up, the Beeb asked Cushing to play  the biogeneticist Dastari, aiming to steal  the secrets of time travel from the genetic  make-up of Doc2 Patrick Troughton. Neve4r fear, Doc6 Colin Baker and his travelling rug, Nicola Bryant, rushed to the rescue.  After two previous  re-appearances  (in the tenth birthday’s The Three Doctors  and  the 20th anniversary’s The Five Doctors)  this proved to be  Troughton’s farewell to his role – he died, at 67, in 1987. 

  33. Patrick Macnee, Waxwork, 1987.  Cushing, Michael Gough, Christopher Lee and Donald Pleasence were the inevitables in London auteur Anthony Hickox’s mind for  Sir Wilfrid – in a horror trip unleashig havoc with wax models  of the Marquis De Sade, The Mummy, The Werewolf… and allowing Miles O’Keefe to be the only actor to portray both Tarzan and, as here, Dracula.  I still have the tee-shirt.  It lights up in the dark.  More than the movie ever did. 

  34. Anton Diffring, Doctor Who #150: Silver Nemesis, TV, 1988.      Naturally Pinewood’s Nazi  was on the list for  the Nazi De Flores in the 25th anniversary episode starring Doc7 Sylvester McCoy. Also shortlisted were Harry Andrews, Bernard Archard, Peter Cushing, Frank Finlay Robert Flemyng, Michael Gough, Charles Gray, Christopher Lee, Herbert Lom, Donald Pleasence and Peter Vaughan. Despite it being a big birthday episode for one of the UK’s major exports, any  filming at Windsor Castle was banned and, therefore, Windsor was played by Arundel Castle.  Although baffled by the script, and in poor health, Diffring accepted what proved his final rôle in order to be in London for  the Wimbledon tennis. He then returned to his French home and was dead within a year. By sheer  coincidence, Diffring had played another role intended  for Cushing in the #1 on this page – The Man Who Could Cheat Death, 1959.
  35. Wayne Pygram, Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, 2005.



 Birth year: 1913Death year: 1994Other name: Casting Calls:  35