William Devane

  1. Alex Ricco, The Godfather, 1971.

  2. Martin Sheen, The Missiles of October, 1974.
    “Yeah, that’s the part that really made me. Before I played JFK, I was third guy through the door on Mission: Impossible,”  Devane told Alex Simon.    “Martin Sheen was going to play Bobby Kennedy if Hal Holbrook played JFK. If Hal didn’t do it, Marty didn’t want to do Bobby… and they can’t find anyone who will play JFK. This is 1974, so people are afraid of being typecast. They decided to hire me and the network responded: Are you nuts?” [Laugh] So I thought that was it.”  That night, however, Devane was seen by one of the  networks suits  as the defence attorney  in a TV movie, directed by Stanley Kramer – Judgment: The Court-Martial of the Tiger of Malaya. “And suddenly I was back in… I’m an Irish-American and I grew up in an Irish-American neighborhood. So one, it’s an honor to play the guy, but from the point of view of my background, it’s an incredible responsibility I’d better get this right so I can go back home to my local bar and have a fuckin’ beer. So I left my family in the Valley, rented a hotel suite in Century City and prepared there. I covered the walls with photos of JFK. I wore the back brace. I walked with a book on my head. I did all those exercises daily. My friend John Pleshette taught me the Boston accent during MacBird [when he played RFK on-stage]. I never worked harder on a part, ever. And we did it like a play. [Director]  Anthony Page kept telling me to play Katharine Hepburn, because he felt I was more of an alpha male, whereas JFK had a strong feminine side, especially compared to Bobby. Yeah, that’s the part that really made me. Before I played JFK, I was third guy through the door on Mission: Impossible.” 

  3. Tony Bill, Shampoo, 1975.       “As originally written,” remarked Bill Devane, “the guy was really cruel, he punched women out. He punched Goldie Hawn out!   [Pause].   Tony looks like a smaller version of Warren Beatty.”
  4. Richard Jordan, Logan’s Run, 1976.    Schedules  prevented  Devane from playing Francis  in the dystopian drama, circa 2274… when life must end at 30.  (21 in  the book).  Producer Saul David immediately called up Jordan to join Michael York, Jenny Agutter and Petetr Ustinov – also booked by David for a Gulliver’s Travels that never travelled.
  5. Walter Matthau, The Bad News Bears,1976.      “Michael Ritchie didn’t particularly care for me.   He thinks I’m a heavy. That picture didn’t need a star but it would have made me a star.”   The   sequel   didn’t… when he  coached  The Bad News Bears In Breaking Training, 1977.

  6. Roy Scheider, Marathon Man, 1976.
    “I had the most interesting part,” Devane told me in London. “I’d tested for the brother, didn’t get it and wasn’t going to do the movie.   Then,  Dustin Hoffman told me: ‘Listen, John Schlesinger thinks this is  gonna be an ensemble movie. But it’s not – it’s going to be about me.  There isn’t enough room in this picture for me and my  brother.     So my brother’s part is going to get cut.   And your part will remain intact because you have all the information.   So take the part!   Also, it will help you to be in a   movie with me.’   And he was right.   The brother’s part was cut, mine remained intact and   I met a lot of interesting people.”   He still wound up in Knots Landing (aka Son of Dallas!) for a full decade.

  7. Bruce Dern, Coming Home, 1978.      A lost opportunity for the America’s most wasted actor, although   he has played most everything from JFK to JFK’s father-in-law, plus top miltary, medical and political heavyweights.  
  8. Harrison Ford, Blade Runner, 1981.  UK wiz Ridley Scott spent a long time sniffing out the perfect Deckard.  From top notchers Sean Connery, Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman (the first choice was keen… on making it a totally different character, of course), Robert Mitchum, Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino…  to such excellent journeymen as Devane, Robert Duvall, Peter Falk, Frederic Forrest, Scott Glenn, Tommy Lee Jones, Raul Julia, Nick Nolte, Christopher Walken. Martin Sheen was too exhausted after Apocalypse Now. In sheer desperation, choices lowered to Cliff Gorman, Judd Hirsch. Even the Virginian Morgan Paull stood a chance, having played Deckard in Scott’s tests of potential Rachaels. (He was given Holden for his pains). Plus Arnold Schwarzenegger, not yet seen as Conan, much less Terminator.  And for probably the last time in such an illustrious list,  the fading star of Burt Reynolds.
  9. Ted Danson, Cheers, TV, 1982-1993.    NBC saw scores of potential twosomes for Sam and Diane. From Devane and Lisa Eichhorn to Julia Duffy and Fred Dryer. None matched the chemistry of Danson and Shelley Long.
  10. Rowan Atkinson, The Witches, 1988.   All the Americans in director Nic Roeg’s mix for the mice-hunting hotel manager Mr Stringer – William  Devane, Andy Garcia, Edward James Olmos, even  director Robert Rodriguez – had to bow to, Rowan Atkinson. A double-whammy year for him as it also marke3d the birth of his accident-prone  Mr Bean.
  11. Christopher Walken, Pulp Fiction, 1993.


 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  11