Originally Starring 5

An actor lands a film role. That’s where it all begins, right? Not for Originally Starring. For us that’s the end. We want to know what happened before that (and make some Photoshop magic along the way). For instance, Betty Hutton stars in Annie Get Your Gun. Great. But did you know that long before she arrived on the scene Judy Garland was cast, already pre-recorded half a dozen songs for the film, and was in the middle of filming? So what happened? Funny you should ask…

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Annie Get Your Gun

Annie Get Your Gun

For a movie that ended up winning an Academy Award and a Golden Globe it sure started out badly—as bad as you can imagine. Star Howard Keel broke his leg on the second day of shooting no thanks to director Busby Berkeley’s incompetence. Now with his energies focused entirely upon the fragile Judy Garland the situation got even worse. Buzz bullied & berated Judy. She retaliated by showing up late (if at all), doing more drugs than ever, and repeatedly trying to get Berkeley fired. She eventually did get her wish: Chuck Walters took over the disastrous production. But alas, Garland, lost & listless, was replaced too, by Betty Hutton. Hutton didn’t fare so well either. In a 2000 interview Hutton said her fellow cast was hostile towards her, and that she wasn’t even invited to its premiere in New York City!
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The Deer Hunter

The Deer Hunter

Let’s hear from Michael Smith, president of the Roy Scheider fan club and an extra in Jaws 2: “Roy Scheider signed a three-picture deal with Universal after Jaws. His first role was to reunite with William Friedkin to do Sorcerer (1977). His second role was to be Michael in The Deer Hunter (1978). Two weeks into production, Roy got the finished script and disagreed with the ending. Roy reasoned that this guy would not go half way around the world to find his friend, only to have him kill himself. Well, the good old ‘creative differences’ had reared their ugly head, and Roy walked.” Robert De Niro liked the script just fine.
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Dracula

Dracula

The book Dracula Starring Lon Chaney – An Alternate History for Classic Film Monsters has a fascinating account of the ill-fated courtship between producer Carl Laemmle Jr. and horror icon Lon Chaney. Both he and his father (Universal Studios founder) Carl Sr. coveted Chaney for the role, going so far as to order a screenplay written specifically with Chaney in mind—despite him not being under contract to Universal. Chaney himself actively lobbied for the part (knowing switching studios to get the sought-after role would be highly advantageous) by proactively doing two separate make-up tests as Dracula. But it was not to be. Shocking news shut down pre-production: Apparently Chaney had been battling cancer for years, and ultimately succumbed to it on August 26, 1930.
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Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

As he worked on the screenplay John Hughes said that he had Matthew Broderick (“clever, smart, and charming”) in mind for the titular character. But there was due diligence on the studio’s part to consider other bright young talent for the role of Ferris Bueller, including Rob Lowe, John Cusack, Jim Carrey, Tom Cruise, Robert Downey Jr. and Michael J. Fox. Also included in that dreamy 80s Teen Beat lineup was Johnny Depp. While being interviewed on “Inside the Actors Studio” Depp said that he was offered the part of Ferris but was unavailable for it—graciously adding that Broderick did a great job.
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Junior

Junior

In 1988 Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito starred as Twins. It was such a hit that they were reportedly going to reteam for another mismatched-duo film, Suburban Commando (1991 – which would end up starring Hulk Hogan and Christopher Lloyd). They passed on that opportunity opting instead to work together again in Junior (1994). Film site NotStarring.com reports that Junior’s pregnant male protagonist role of Dr. Alex Hesse was written for Hulk Hogan, but that he was about to win the World Championship Wrestling (WCW) title and didn’t want this film to make that title a joke.
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The Man Who Fell To Earth

The Man Who Fell To Earth

Nicolas Roeg has quite the penchant for casting musicians as his leads. The first film he directed was Performance (1970), which stars Mick Jagger. In 1980 Roeg made Bad Timing starring Art Garfunkel. Four years before that Roeg was prepared to cast Peter O’Toole as the lead in The Man Who Fell to Earth. It is unclear whether Roeg offered him the part (with O’Toole turning it down) or even if it was submitted to O’Toole at all since at that time he was in ill health from alcoholism. In any event Roeg’s mind was made up after television watching one night. He came across the BBC documentary David Bowie: Cracked Actor and was mesmerized. Roeg thought that Bowie had an ethereal quality, perfect to play the space alien aka Thomas Jerome Newton.
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Mata Hari

Mata Hari

Polish-born actress Pola Negri made many hugely popular films in Germany—so many, in fact, that Hollywood feared that Berlin would become the film capital of the world. In order to turn the tide Hollywood basically bought out Negri, convincing her to come to America in 1922. A bevy of European actors followed quickly in trailblazer Negri’s footsteps, including Swedish sensation Greta Garbo. The two became Silent film goddesses, and before long both were looking to conquer the talkies. Negri’s first choice was to portray German spy Mata Hari. She was delighted to learn that a biopic was in production. The bad news was the lead was already cast: Greta Garbo! Relegated to also-ran status, Negri settled for A Woman Commands as her first sound film.
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Midnight Run

Midnight Run

From Robert De Niro: Portrait of a Legend by John Parker: Paramount, who had initially taken an interest in [director] Martin Brest’s production, wanted to put another major-league star alongside De Niro. Interestingly, they argued that De Niro was not a strong enough draw to carry a $30 million picture on his own. Their production executives suggested that the Charles Grodin character [Jonathan “The Duke” Mardukas] should be changed to a woman, and that Cher should be offered the part, thus providing the opportunity to interject some sexual overtones into what was really a film about male bonding. Brest was not amused by the idea, and rejected it.
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Oh, God!

Oh, God!

Carl Reiner, Larry Gelbart, Mel Brooks, and Woody Allen all were writers for Sid Caesar’s classic television shows. Gelbart envisioned a reunion of sorts while developing his screenplay. In a televised interview with Gelbart he states “I wrote Oh, God! initially with the idea of directing it, with Mel Brooks playing God and Woody Allen playing what would become the John Denver role [grocery store manager Jerry Landers]. Mel Brooks was very willing to play God—that’s second nature to Mel!—but Woody was not interested, he was doing another movie which he felt was dealing with the Almighty [Stardust Memories].” While the planned unification did not work out in toto, Reiner was tapped to direct.
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The Public Enemy

The Public Enemy

Hard to imagine anyone else but Jimmy Cagney smooshing a grapefruit into Mae Clarke’s puss, but according to multiple sources that wasn’t how it was originally meant to be. Dashing Edward Woods was hired by Warner Bros to portray the Tom Powers character, with James Cagney as his best bud, Matt Doyle. While in rehearsals director William Wellman got a glimpse of Cagney’s charisma and star power and decided to reverse their roles. Supposedly, the studio assured Woods it would atone for the switch by giving him plum assignments in the future. Though he was given top billing in the end credits their promise never came to pass; Woods was soon a forgotten actor.

  • Brian

    Harrison Ford in JFK.
    George Raft in Maltese Falcon,Double Indemnity,and Casablanca.

  • Wayne P.

    Warner Bros. studio originally had planned to cast Ronald Reagan, Ann Sheridan and Dennis Morgan for the three lead roles in Casablanca, so the story goes. Thank God, they changed their minds and we were left with Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Paul Henreid instead!

    • Randeroo

      I’d heard that Reagan and Sheridan were never seriously considered, just that their names had come up while kicking around names for the leads. Aside from Bogart, the other actor the studio wanted for the Rick role was Clark Gable, and for Ilsa, Hedy Lamarr.

      • jpp452

        Didn’t know that Lamarr was considered. If she had any chemistry at all with Bogart, she would have been better in the role than Bergman.

  • Brian

    James Dean in Somebody Up There Likes Me.(Jimmy was to do a TV version of The Corn Is Green)
    James Cagney in Adventures Of Robin Hood
    Deanna Durbin in Top Of The Morning..

    • Bruce Reber

      Dean was rumored to have been set to star in SUTLM, but he had his fatal car crash and the role of Rocky Graziano went to Paul Newman. As for Cagney as Robin Hood – I just can’t picture him running around in tights with a bow and arrow. I can hear him now – “I’m Robin Hood, I steal from the rich and give to the poor, you dirty rat!”

      • jppicur

        As a song-and-dance man, Cagney would have been graceful. But his accent was against him. And I don’t think it would be believable that he could toss Little John (Alan Hale) off a log, either. Not without the aid of citrus juice, at least.

  • Brian

    Humphrey Bogart,In Of Mice And Men,Dillinger,and Manpower.
    Errol Flynn in Lolita.(Note James Mason was great,but could Errol have been just a bit better?)
    Bette Davis and Errol Flynn in Gone With The Wind.

    • Bruce Reber

      Lolita was made in 1962 – Flynn died in 1959. But it would have been interesting to see.

  • Rusty3659

    Betty Hutton was brilliant in Annie Get Your Gun and should’ve received an Oscar nomination. Instead, she was demoralized so badly that it destroyrd here.

  • Jo

    As much as I loved Judy Garland I think she would not have been a good Annie Oakley and that Betty Hutton was a far better choice and did a superlative job in the role and fit the part much better. It is sad however that Betty Hutton was shunned and treated badly by her co stars and all of them (who are all gone now) should have been ashamed of their actions. Garland lost the role because of her personal problems which was a known fact and Hutton came in a fit in like a glove. She was a trooper to the end.

  • Rob in L.A.

    Re “Midnight Run”: The story I heard was that Universal and Martin Brest agreed that if the director could sign one of a certain number of A-list actors as Walsh, then he could cast anyone he wanted as Mardukis. De Niro was one of the actors on the A-list list, and once Brest signed him for Walsh, the director let it be known that he wanted Charles Grodin to play the Duke. Universal tried to persuade Brest to sign another A-lister for the role, even suggesting changing the part to female and casting someone like Bette Midler. Fortunately, Brest stuck to his guns, and Grodin gave a terrific performance as Mardukis.

  • BernardS

    Here are some more suggestions for you to play your photoshop magic on the final movie poster ad :
    Vivien Leigh in “Elephant Walk”
    Tyrone Power in “Solomon and Sheba”
    Rock Hudson in “Ben Hur”
    Audrey Hepburn in “Diary of Anne Frank”
    or how about recasting the musicals with the original Broadway stars :
    Ethel Merman in “Annie Get Your Gun”
    Mary Martin in “South Pacific”
    Gertrude Lawrence in “The King and I’
    Julie Andrews in “My Fair Lady”
    Gwen Verdon in “Sweet Charity”
    Angela Lansbury in “Mame”

    Mind boggling but …a lot of fun for you to tinker..

  • Bruce Reber

    Here are my Originally Starring movie posters:
    Frank Sinatra in “On The Waterfront”
    Steve McQueen in “Rebel Without A Cause”
    Sean Connery in “The Thomas Crown Affair” (1968)
    Burt Lancaster in “Spartacus”
    Anthony Quinn in “Ben Hur”
    Laurence Olivier in “Lolita” (1962)
    Kirk Douglas in “The Lost Weekend”
    Humphrey Bogart in “Out Of The Past”
    George Raft in “The Maltese Falcon” (1941)
    Edward G. Robinson in “High Sierra”
    Robert Redford in “The Graduate”
    John Garfield in “White Heat”

    • Benric

      I think Steve McQueen was virtually unknown at the time ‘Rebel Without A Cause’ was shot…

      • mike j

        being that I saw rebel without a cause at the time, we hardly new of James Dean, as he was also a unknown. In fact the scene that he fought with his father , most of us watching thought it was pretty impossible at that time. Our fathers would have beat the s-t out of us, and that was the reaction from the audience watching it. Of course times have changed now and that might be accepted in todays world. The whole movie itself was pretty impossible. Living as a teen ager in Chicago at that time, things did not happen that way. not at all , not at all. Maybe McQueen might have brought some stronger reality to that movie.

  • MikeyParks

    I have “Annie Get Your Gun” DVD with some bonus footage of Judy Garland in the title role. Judy was listless and flat. She looked like she mailed in her performance. IMHO the production was lucky to lose her. Betty Hutton made that role sparkle!

    • http://www.moviefanfare.com/ Jason Marcewicz

      You could be right, Mikey, to say that “the production was lucky to lose her.” Sure, Judy was fragile mentally & physically at that time. But it was Berkeley’s incompetence and mistreatment of Garland that made her shortcomings even worse. And that begs the question: Would a director (say, Vincente Minnelli) who treated Garland with “kid gloves” have been able to coax a better performance from her? (We know that she was still a capable actress, ie A Star is Born–1954.)

      • MikeyParks

        I love Judy; nobody could have pulled off “Harvey Girls,” or any number of other roles as well. Who knows what might have been, but my feeling is that Betty was born for that role. Who else could have delivered the line “Are you sure you can read?” the way Betty did?