Sir Michael Redgrave

  1. Noel Coward, The Astonished Heart, 1949.    Coward gave Redgrave the good news that he had the lead in a film of a Coward one-act play. Then, The Master went off to his Caribbean home – and blew up on his return. Directors changed and Redgrave was elbowed out as Coward told producer Sydney Box: “I could play  the part.  But, of course, Mike mustn’t lose  a penny.” He didn’t but he did notice how much Coward improved the script when he became the suicidal shrink. Not that it saved the film.
  2. Thomas E Breen, The River/Le fleuve, France-India-USA, 1951.  Among British names (Leo Genn, James Mason) juggled by the legendary French realisateur Jean Renoir for his final film  in English. Shot in India (with  an unwiedly triple-strip colour  camera), over six months, the editing took Renoir a full year.  (Dirk Bogarde on Redgrave: “Unspeakable.”)
  3. Sean Connery, Dr No, 1962.   

  4. Rex Harrison,  My Fair Lady, 1964.    
    To protect the  $5.2m  he paid for the rights, Jack Warner wanted star power – like Audrey Hepburn and Cary instead  of Broadway’s original Eliza Doolittle and Professor Higgins: Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison. Warner had  several other Professors in mind. From the inspired (Grant, Noël Coward, Peter O’Toole, George Sanders) to the plain stupid (Rock Hudson as a grumpy English gentleman?). Plus dowdy Michael Redgrave, who had the style but the box-office appeal of George Zucco.  (Who?)  (Exactly!) Refusing $1.5m, Grant declared:  Not only will  I not play it, but if you don’t put Rex in it, I won’t go see it.”

  5. Cyril Cusack, Fahrenheit 451, 1966.       As if he didn’t have enough pressures – first film in colour, first in English, a lingo he was far from confident with – French nouvelle vague icon François Truffaut also suffered four years of casting hurdles…. starting with Paul Newman as the fireman hero, Montag. When feeling Ray Bradbury’s story was too important to be shot in English(!), the réalisateur tried his past and future stars, Charles Aznavour, Jean-Paul Belmondo – and Oskar Werner as Montag’s boss. Producer Lewis Allen wanted Sterling Hayden in either role; or Redgrave, Albert Finney, Laurence Olivier, Peter O’Toole, Max Von Sydow. Producer Sam Spiegel even tried muscling in by promising Burton… bossing a Robert Redford loving Elizabeth Taylor! Enter: the head of the Cusack movie clan: actors Catherine, Maureen (his wife), Niamh, Sinéad Sorcha, producer Pádraig, director Paul… and son-in-law Jeremy Irons!
  6. Timothy Dalton, The Doctor and The Devils, 1985. After making Secret Beyond The Door, 1948, Redgrave wanted another  experience with director Fritz Lang – and insisted that The Rank Organisation buy the Dylan Thomas script for them. Laurence Harvey tried in 1965 but there had been too many cheap Burke and Hare bodysnatchers around. The sole scenario of Swansea’s self-styled “Rimbaud of Cwmdonkin Drive” holds the record delay between the completion and shooting – 37 years!

 Birth year: 1908Death year: 1985Other name: Casting Calls:  6