Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Sometimes The Second Choice Is Better Than The First

I forget what I was watching last night but I had the thought that we all get sometimes when watching a television show or movie and that is what if someone else were to be cast in that role? I am not talking about the characters being replaced on a show like Charlie Sheen taking over for Michael J. Fox or Joe Mantegna replacing Mandy Patinkin. I am thinking more about the iconic roles. It is something to think about.

First let’s start off with a couple of warm up ‘nearly cast’ moments:

  • Sean Connery was originally offered the role of Gandalf in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy but declined.
  • Bette Midler turned down the role of Annie Wilkes in the movie adaptation of Stephen King’s novel ‘Misery’. Kathy Bates would ultimately win an Oscar for the role. I guess it was too large a leap from Beaches to Misery.
  • Another notable decline was when Will Smith was offered the role of Neo but turned it down. I guess he picked the wrong pill.  
Some movies would have been completely different:

  • When casting the movie The Godfather, studio executives wanted to cast a well know actor in the role of Michael Corleone. Specifically, they wanted someone like Warren Beatty or Jack Nicholson to fill the role. It is for this reason that director Francis Ford Coppola nearly got fired for his choice of Al Pacino who was an unknown commodity at the time.
  • Mickey Rourke won critical acclaim for his portrayal of Randy the Ram in 2008's The Wrestler. He can thank Nicholas Cage for ultimately deciding that he wouldn't be able to get into the right shape by the time filming was to start. Cage actually initially accepted the role and even began research by attending wrestling events.
  • Back to the Future would have been a completely different cinematic experience had the role of Marty McFly not been completely reshot when Michael J. Fox became available. While Fox was the original choice for the role, a scheduling conflict (he was starring in the television show ‘Familiy Ties’ at the time) originally prevented him from playing the iconic role. The producers turned to Eric Stoltz and his method acting ways to fill the role but ultimately decided after 5-6 weeks of filming that he was not the right person for the job and persuaded Fox to come aboard. The movie was reshot and the rest is history.
  • The movie Ghostbusters has a number of re-casted parts. If John Belushi had not passed away, he would have played Dr. Peter Venkman as the part was ultimately written for him. The roles of Winston Zeddmore and Louis Tully were also written for specific actors namely Eddie Murphy and John Candy. It would have been quite the interesting movie if those three actors filled the screen.
  • After an impressive audition, Kurt Russell nearly got the part of Han Solo. Nick Nolte and Christopher Walken also auditioned for Han Solo, Cindy Williams and Jodie Foster were considered for Princess Leia, and Robby Benson screen tested and nearly got the part of Luke Skywalker.
  • While many actors have played the role of Batman, there is an even longer list of those who were nearly cast to play the role of the caped crusader. Before agreeing on Michael Keaton for the role, Warner Bros. wanted, at varying times Alec Baldwin, Tom Hanks, Bill Murray and Pierce Brosnan. Frankly, they all would have been better than George Clooney and, most likely, Val Kilmer. While Tim Burton’s ultimate decision to cast Keaton was met with shock by the movie-going public it turned out, he was a perfect Bruce Wayne/Batman. On a side note, Robin Williams has been the first choice for two Batman villains (Joker, Riddler).
  • Early in his career, Tom Selleck had a difficult career decision to make. He had two offers in front of him. One for a television show called Magnum P.I. and the other for a starring role as Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. While Selleck became a television star and has had a very successful career, he had never been able to successfully cross the divide and become a box office star. For those of you scoring at home, this makes 2 come from behind victories for Harrison Ford.
  • From two successful second chances to two missed opportunities. Molly Ringwald had a bright future ahead of her after a string of hit movies in the 80’s including “Pretty in Pink”, “Sixteen Candles”, and “The Breakfast Club” but she soon found out that it is not so easy to transition into truly adult movie roles. Of course, it didn’t help that she turned down the roles of Vivian in “Pretty Woman” and Molly in the movie “Ghost”. Things may have been quite different if she had taken on those types of career defining roles.
There are many more ‘what if’ type of casting moments but there are also the WTF kind of casting considerations that we can all be thankful they never happened the way they originally supposed to. Consider these choices:  

  • John Travolta gave two roles to Tom Hanks. In 1994 Travolta chose to star in Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction" which meant he had to turn down the role of Forrest Gump. Of course, if Michael Madsen had accepted the role of Vincent Vega, Travolta wouldn’t have had a conflict and Hanks may have never won the Oscar. Years later, he also turned down a role in ‘The Green Mile’ which again went to Hanks. You would think that after that kind of generosity they would be bosom buddies.
  • Mel Gibson was offered, and turned down the title role of Maximus in the 2001 Best Picture Academy Award winner “Gladiator”.
  • O.J. Simpson was originally offered the role as The Terminator but producers later reconsidered the offer when they deemed him ‘too nice’.
Can you imagine that trifecta of feces? Those iconic movie roles could have been lost to mediocrity had the casting gone as originally planned. It just goes to show that change is sometimes good and no matter how crazy of a ‘what if’ scenario you come up with they will, most likely, not even come close to the near misses of reality.