Cool Hand Luke was supposed to played by Telly Savalas? Sammy Davis, Jr. tabbed as Beetlejuice? Yes, these were the actors who didn’t win the starring role despite being seriously considered to play the part. (You can see them here.)
We continue the Photoshop fun for the fourth time here, re-imaging posters as if the original casting choices actually did nab coveted film roles made famous by another actor or actress—along with the back story of why it didn’t come to fruition.
Breakfast At Tiffany’s
“Marilyn was my first choice to play Holly Golightly.” That’s a direct quote from Truman Capote, who sold the film rights of his novella to Paramount Studios. But even though Capote thought her perfect for the role Marilyn Monroe’s acting coach Lee Strasberg advised her against it. Signing on to portray a prostitute—no matter how kind-hearted—would not be advantageous to her career. Marilyn took his advice and declined the offer (opting to act in The Misfits), prompting Capote to fume that “Paramount double-crossed me in every way and cast Audrey.”
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Screenwriter Dale Launer: “I got a call… Apparently, Jagger and Bowie wanted to do a movie together, and Jagger suggested that I write it.” He proposed they remake the David Niven-Marlon Brando film, Bedtime Story. Difficulties for Launer started right away, from being told that it was “imperative that Jagger and Bowie sing…” to nonsensical script revisions to securing the film rights. In the end the Jagger-Bowie tandem bowed out wanting “a more serious project.” David Bowie remembered it this way: “There was [a movie] written for us, but it never got to us and became that Michael Caine-Steve Martin movie Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. How ‘bout them apples! Mick and I were a bit tweezed that we lost out on a script that could have been reasonably good.”
Father Of The Bride
Producer Pan Berman gave his account of the Father of the Bride casting in Spencer Tracy: A Biography by James Curtis. At a party Jack Benny had cornered Dore Schary (MGM production head), offering himself up for the role of Stanley T. Banks, the titular character. Schary agreed, “Great, marvelous, we’d love to have you, you’ve got it,” and later told of his good fortune to Berman. But Berman had his doubts, preferring Spencer Tracy instead. A screen test confirmed Berman’s fears: Benny was terrible. Schary then passed the buck; even though Berman was a close, dear friend to Benny it was he who had to deliver the bad news. “Jack didn’t talk to me for ten years after that.”
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Casting the eponymous role was daunting and seemingly endless, with Natalie Portman, Ellen Page, Kristen Stewart, Jennifer Lawrence, Keira Knightley, Anne Hathaway, and Emma Watson among conceivable candidates. Director David Fincher: “We flew in people from New Zealand and Swaziland and all over the place… We saw some amazing people. Scarlett Johansson was great. It was a great audition, I’m telling you. But the thing with Scarlett is [that] you can’t wait for her to take her clothes off!” In the end it was the movie’s casting director who suggested Rooney Mara (who was in Fincher’s The Social Network) for the part of Lisabeth Salander.
Heaven Can Wait
In the 1978 version of Heaven Can Wait lead character Joe Pendleton is an NFL quarterback who dies before his number is actually up. That wasn’t how director Warren Beatty originally planned it, though. He wanted to remake 1941’s Here Comes Mr. Jordan, and in that movie the protagonist is a boxer. Beatty told Muhammad Ali the part was his. Warner Brothers offered Ali a $250,000 contract to play the lead. But before Ali accepted he wanted his mentor Elijah Muhammad (African American leader of the Nation of Islam) to give his OK. He didn’t. An athlete dying and returning in the body of another man was contrary to Muslim beliefs. When the disappointed Ali turned it down Beatty rewrote the boxer as a quarterback and decided to play it himself.
Meet The Parents
This movie originated as a 75-minute indie film back in 1992. Many industry insiders liked the low budget flick but thought it could be expanded into a true Hollywood vehicle. As such, Universal Studios acquired the rights and Jay Roach expressed his interest in directing the film. Universal turned him down. They were already in talks with Steven Spielberg and Jim Carrey. It was rumored at the time that Christopher Walken was approached for the family patriarch role but turned it down. After they all bailed Roach pleaded “Please, let me have it back!” He got his wish. De Niro signed on despite having reservations about the part, feeling he was “pushed into it.” Stiller came on board after toning down the physical comedy aspects that were in the script when Carrey was still a Focker.
The Philadelphia Story
From Me: Stories of My Life by Katharine Hepburn: Howard Hughes bought the movie rights for me. I met [MGM studio boss] L.B. Mayer one night. He said, “I would like to talk to you.” I said, “Fine.” So I went over to the office and he said that he would like to buy it. He then asked me what I wanted for it. I said “What interests me is who I play with… I want it cast.” He said, “Who do you want?” I said, “Give me Tracy and Gable.” He said, “I don’t think they’ll do it.” I said, “I presumed that they probably wouldn’t, but ask them.” He did and they said that they wouldn’t do it. Then he said, “I can give you Jimmy Stewart, because we have control over him.” Then he added, “I’ll give you a hundred and fifty thousand dollars to get anyone else you want or can get.” We got Cary Grant for the $150,000 for three weeks’ work.
Wikipedia reported that the film’s producers “considered Jeff Goldblum to play [Howard] Stern, as well as Julia Louis-Dreyfus being Stern’s wife, Alison. Stern decided he should play himself and Louis-Dreyfus later backed out because she wanted to spend time with her family.” This was confirmed during the March 21, 2012 edition of Howard Stern’s radio show. Howard stated that after he demanded yet another script revision for his autobiographical film Paramount had threatened to cast Goldblum. Co-host Robin Quivers opined “It would have been a funny film. [But] not a good film,” while Stern groused “I didn’t think it was so nice. It was insulting.”
If director Howard Hawks had his druthers it would be Gary Cooper in the starring role of Thomas Dunson, and Cary Grant as gunslinger Cherry Valance. But Grant flat out didn’t relish the idea of playing second fiddle. Montgomery Clift declined as well. But Hawks wanted him badly, so after much persistence (and a huge payday) Clift relented. As Michael Munn related in his book John Wayne: The Man Behind The Myth, Hawks said “Cooper didn’t want to do it. He thought that Dunson’s ruthless nature didn’t suit his screen image. It was Charles Feldman, Duke’s agent, who convinced me that Duke would be ideal for the part.” Dunson’s demeanor didn’t faze Wayne; what did bother him was playing an “old man.” Hawks convinced him otherwise.
Director Billy Wilder knew he needed a star for the role of J.J. Sefton. The studio bosses were keen on Charlton Heston. Wilder didn’t think a hard-bitten con man was the right style for the normally upstanding roles Heston was used to playing. (And others feared he was a bit too much “larger-than-life” and would overwhelm the character.) Wilder wanted William Holden. He sent Holden to see the Broadway play. He found it dull, and the character too cynical, selfish, and one-dimensional; Holden walked out after the first act. Undaunted by Holden’s rejection Wilder persisted, telling him to wait for his rewrite of the character. In Wilder’s new script Sefton transformed from garden variety con man to a complex character, going from heel to hero. After reading it Holden changed his mind.