Robert Shaw

  1. Laurence Olivier, Bunny Lake Is Missing, 1965.     Odd to see Sir, later Lord Larry … as a humble Scotland Yard cop!  According to Dirk Bogarde, Shaw could only really do two things really well:   ”shout above wind and rain and stand with his feet apart.”
  2. Raf Vallone, Se tutte le donne del mondo… (Operazione Paradiso) [US: Kiss the Girls and Make Then Die], Italy, 1966.     The iconic Rome Rome producer Dino De Laurentiis thought it was dead easy to make a Bond film (pinching much of Moonraker,not made until 1979) and crush the 1967 releases of You Only Live Twice and the first Casino Royal.  (it was all Italy was doing doing at the time; one spoof featured Sean Connery’s brother, Neil). Bond filmsters Curd Jurgens and Robert Shaw were also up for  Ardonian, the wealthy industrialist planning  to render the world sterile and repopulate it via his harem. Also chased, Richard Harris had also been up for 007, himself, in Thunderball, and a copy, The Liquidator, played by another nearly-Bond, Rod Taylor.  This is among Quentin Tarantino’s favourite films. Yeah, that bad. 

  3. Richard Harris, Camelot, 1966.  
    For his last hurrah after 45 years running Warner Bros, head bro Jack L Warner – having learned his lesson the hard way by ruining My Fair Lady – wanted the original Broadway stars to reprise their 1960 roles of King Arthur and Guenevere. Richard Burton was not keen (or not for the money being offered).  Nor was Julie Andrews, certainly not after the way Jack Warner dumped her from My Fair Lady (even though that led to her Mary Poppins Oscar).  “OK, we’ll take Liz, as well,” said Warner.  And why not their mate, Peter O’Toole, as Lancelot.  However, Elizabeth Taylor was not going where Burton was not going…  He regretted spurning the crown and headed a 1980 stage tour, before quitting due to health issues. His replacement on stage, as on screen, was Richard Harris.  Other royal contenders had been, Marlon Brando, Rock Hudson, Peter O’Toole, Gregory Peck and Robert Shaw (Henry VIII in A Man  For All Seasons). Harris first heard about the film when making Hawaii with Julie Andrews (the very reason she refused the musical, she did not get on with Harris). The Irishman pushed hard for the role, Including this do-the-math note to Warner: “Height of Vanessa Redgrave: 5 feet 11 inches. Richard Burton: 5 feet 10 inches. Richard Harris: 6 feet 2 inches”!   He even paid for his own  screen test, directed by Nicolas Roeg! Harris later  paid $1m for the Camelot rights for his stage your, making more millions  than even  from his Harry Potter years.

  4. George Kennedy, The Boston Strangler, 1967. Change of the cop Phil DiNatale hunting the Tony Curtis in the titular role which ruined his career, dwindling ever downward into such garbage as Lobster Man From Mars, Tartzan in Manhattan, The Mummy Lives and Christmas in Connecticut directed by… Arnold Schwarzenegger. “I can’t find time to do everything I’m asked to do.” In this case because of…
  5. Barry Foster, Ryan’s Daughter, 1969.   Robert Bolt composed a new take on Flaubert’s Madame Bovary for Sarah Miles and handed themselves to David Lean.  Hmm, sajd Lean, go away, try another take – no Bovarys and no France. Hence the film made in Ireland plus a stunning South African beach… with Robert Shaw first offered the role of Peter O’Leary. Three years  later, Shaw was co-starring with the wayward Rosey Ryan, herself  – Sarah Miles – in The Hireling.
  6. Clive Revill, A Severed Head, 1969. Novelist Iris Murdoch’s game of musical beds among London’s bourgeoisie had a weak script killing an impressive  cast.  (Brando had been invited to join). Ian Holm’s wine expert has a wife, Lee Remick, cheating with his best friend, Richard Attenborough’s shrink (already involved with Claire Bloom), plus a mistress (Jennie Linden) being stolen by his brother Clive Revill. It just might have worked better with producer Elliot Kastner’s dream team (in above order): Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor (of course), Marlon Brando (the psychologist was originally American), Anouk Aimée, Julie Christie, Robert Shaw. (He also considered Laurence Harvey and Leslie Caron as the shrink and his friend’s wife).
  7. Richard Attenborough, A Severed Head, 1970.      “And I dearly wanted to do both.” The actor-novelist was set as Martin Lynch-Gibbon, no less, when Fox had the rights to Iris Murdoch’s trenchant book – before Columbia made it so achingly dull.
  8. Freddie Jones, Antony and Cleopatra, 1972.    “He’d be excellent, of course,” felt Charlton Heston, “though [Pompey] is too small for his current eminence.” According to Dirk Bogarde, Shaw could only really do two things really well:   ”shout above wind and rain and stand with his feet apart.”
  9. John Philip Law, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, 1973.      For some odd reason, Shaw fought hard to play Sinbad but Columbia Pictures didn’t agree but kept the peace (as in we-may-need-him-later… and they did for The Deep, 1976) by making him The Oracle Of All Knowledge – anonymously with heaps of make-up, his voice electronically twisted and no credit! Universal did better – gviing him his own Swashbuckler in 1975. Because they wanted him back for Black Sunday, 1976.
  10. Richard Burton, Brief Encounter, 1974.     Thanks to The Sting, Shaw was hot. So what to do? Re-make the David Lean classic, Brief Encounter (but why?) with Sophia Loren (oh, that’s why) – or be the shark-hunter.Shaw thought the books was shit until instead of $50,000 for the re-hash, Universal promised $100,000 for four weeks. Given the vagaries of the sea and Bruce the mechanical shark, it proved an exceedingly long month… Burton rightly thought it impossible to “compete against the ghosts of the memorable performances” by Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson, 1945. Sophia Loren persuaded him “in that gentle imperious voice which turns my stomach into a bag of butterflies.” So, he dyed his hair, put on lifts and fought the ghosts. And lost.

  11. Melvyn Douglas, Le Locataire (UK/US: The Tenant), France, 1975, Taking over from such people as Oskar Werner and  US director Jack Clayton, Roman Polanski journeyed to Ireland to talk Shaw into  playing his Paris landlord.  Their meeting – as proved by Shaw’s absence from  the awful film – did not go well.  (Shaw was 48, Douglas, 74). The  film late became known as the end of his Apartment Trilogy (oh really!), after Repulsionand Cul-de-sac.  Except they were quite good.
  12. James Coburn, The Last Hard Man, 1976.  Charlton Heston felt it’d be a good film “especially if we can get Connery.”  They didn’t. It wasn’t.
  13. Alan Bates, The Mayor of Casterbridge, TV, 1978.     Seeing himself as the Lear-like Michael Henchard, Shaw ordered a script from ex-TV scenarist John Hopkins. And the brave British film industry rejected the Thomas Hardy classic – again. (Joseph Losey had tried to interest Rank in 1954). With a Dennis Potter script, BBC-TV made it a memorable seven-part serial.

  14. Richard Burton. The Wild Geese, 1978.      When Burton initially refused (not keen on glorifying mercenaries), Shaw was seen as the logical replacement.
  15. Richard Harris, The Wild Geese, 1978.     Shaw was with Michael Caine and Burt Lancaster in the mix for Janders, but too busy fighting another conflict in Force 10 From Navarone.

  16. Michael Caine, The Jigsaw Man, 1983.      Producer Benjamin Fisk’s first choice as the KGB’s top British spy, Kim Philby – thinly disguised as Sir Philip Kimberly in a film that took too long to start (Shaw was dead before shooting began in 1981) and even longer to complete due to low funds.
  17. Walter Matthau, Pirates, 1986.      Director Roman Polanski’s first replacement for Jack Nicholson in 1975, after Shaw had made Universal’s Swashbuckler.  
  18. Alan Bates, A Prayer for the Dying, 1986.   The 70s’ plan was to shoot Jack Higgins’ book where it happened – in Leeds, UK. With Edward Dmytryk directing Lee Marvin or Robert Mitchum as IRA hitman Martin Fallon. Plus  Shaw as the priest who witnessed a murder.  “An almost obscene exploitation of the situation,”  said Chicago critic Roger Ebert.   “The plot is worthy of Batman.”
  19. Donal McCann, The Dead, 1987.     The final film of the great US director   John Huston: “James Joyce was and remains the most influential writer in my life.” Indeed, Shaw nearly made it in 1970, when Joseph Losey planned James Joyce’s The Dubliners with Shaw and Trevor Howard.

 Birth year: 1927Death year: 1978Other name: Casting Calls:  19