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Roles You Wish They Could Have Played


TomJH
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Ever play a casting game with yourself, in which you envision a particular actor or actress in a role and think, "Why the heck didn't they cast them in that part? It would have been a natural for them!"

 

An illustration of this for me is that of silent swashbuckling king Douglas Fairbanks as Marco Polo. What a great part for a larger-then-life adventurous screen presence like Fairbanks to have had in a massive big screen production. I suppose the closest that he came to this, in atmosphere, at least, was The Thief of Bagdad.

 

A few years ago I read that Polo actually had been under consideration by Fairbanks but, for whatever reasons, a project of that nature never did come to fruition for him. It wasn't until 1937 that Sam Goldwyn made a Marco Polo film, featuring a miscast Gary Cooper.

 

A second illustration of a casting role that never happened but should have . . . John Barrymore as Rasputin! This would have been MAGNIFICENT casting. Barrymore had already shown how magnetic he could be when cast two years earlier in a similar role as the fictional Svengali.

 

But when they finally did get around to casting John in Rasputin and the Empress he received the decidedly less interesting role of leading man because brother Lionel was to be a co-star, and a villain like Rasputin was a role he could play, unlike the leading man part.

 

Lionel would turn out to be a decent Rasputin in that film, but when I compare that performance to John's wondrous turn as Svengali there is no comparison, in my opinion. John's flamboyant villainy blows Lionel's lecherous Russian monk right out of the water. I strongly suspect the film world missed out on a great Rasputin when John, to accommodate his brother, allowed him to have the better role in that film.

 

svengali.jpg

 

John as Svengali. If only Rasputin could have been a part of his film resume, as well.

 

 

Does anyone have any illustrations of their own of their idea of dream casting that never happened?

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The young Robert Mitchum as Philip Marlowe. For all intents and purposes he played Marlowe in Out Of The Past, but it would have been nice to see him in an official adaptation when he was the right age.

 

James Garner or James Coburn as The Sundance Kid. They both turned the role down (along with Marlon Brando, Steve McQueen, and -- believe it or not -- Jack Lemmon). I really wish Garner could have played it -- it was perfectly suited to his reactive style.

 

The young David Niven as Flashman in Royal Flash

 

I wish Karloff could have repeated his Broadway role in Arsenic and Old Lace. Raymond Massey not only kills the Karloff jokes, but he's just plain bad

 

I wish James Dean could have lived, if only so he could have done The Left Handed Gun.

 

Jimmy Cagney in All The King's Men. He played a similar character in A Lion Is In The Streets, but that had a bad script. The real Huey Long had an everyman, hail fellow well met quality that Broderick Crawford lacks.

 

Basically any western star as The Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles. John Wayne was offered it, Gig Young started shooting it but was fired. Dan Dailey agreed to replace him then pulled out the next day. The part was written for a traditional action hero. Joel McCrea, William Holden, Chuck Connors, Doug McClure, Neville Brand... There were probably dozens of actors who could have played it. The casting of Gene Wilder makes no sense.

 

Peter Sellers worked about 5 weeks on Kiss Me Stupid, then had a near-fatal heart attack. Wilder hated Sellers and immediately replaced him with Ray Walston, who is the weak link in the finished film. Tony Curtis, Danny Kaye, and Tony Randall had been rumored for the role, and any would have been preferable to Walston. But here's one for the fantasies: What if the role could have been played by... Jerry Lewis?!? "Dean and Jerry -- Together Again!" would have made a priceless ad campaign.

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James Garner or James Coburn as The Sundance Kid. They both turned the role down (along with Marlon Brando, Steve McQueen, and -- believe it or not -- Jack Lemmon). I really wish Garner could have played it -- it was perfectly suited to his reactive style.

 

Actually, I like the thought of Garner as Butch Cassidy, where his adroit ability at humour could have come into play. The truth is he was versatile enough to have played either role.

 

Nice list, Richard.

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Great topic, Tom. I wanted to follow up on LawrenceA's musings about roles John Garfield might have played had he not died so young. Lawrence mentioned that Garfield would have been the right age to play Don Corleone in The Godfather. That's an intriguing possibility. I have always wished that Anthony Quinn had played Don Corleone instead of Marlon Brando, but Garfield would have been great, too.

 

John Garfield would also have been fantastic in the Van Johnson role in The Caine Mutiny, which could use the intensity and anguish Garfield would have brought to the part.

 

More than one reviewer of The Loved One wished that James Fox had been cast in the role played by Robert Morse, a fine comic actor but definitely not an Englishman. Maybe Robert Morse could have taken Fox's role in Thoroughly Modern Millie as compensation.

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Great topic, Tom. I wanted to follow up on LawrenceA's musings about roles John Garfield might have played had he not died so young. Lawrence mentioned that Garfield would have been the right age to play Don Corleone in The Godfather. That's an intriguing possibility. I have always wished that Anthony Quinn had played Don Corleone instead of Marlon Brando, but Garfield would have been great, too.

 

John Garfield would also have been fantastic in the Van Johnson role in The Caine Mutiny, which could use the intensity and anguish Garfield would have brought to the part.

 

 

 

Speaking of Garfield, he had been sent an early (pre-Budd Schulberg) script for On the Waterfront before the plans to work with him disappeared. The thought of Garfield as Terry Malloy is quite fascinating.

 

I love Treasure of the Sierra Madre, as you may be able to tell from my avatar, but Garfield had once been under consideration for the role of Curtin, the part finally assigned to Tim Holt. Holt is fine in the role but I have to wonder if Garfield wouldn't have brought more to the part.

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If John Garfield were to have played Don Corleone, he would have had to add to the one-note actor that he was. The Don would need subtly that Garfield didn't have. Garfield would have fit in as another player in the movie, but not the Don IMO. Look at Garfield as a concert violinist, he came across the same as his tough guy roles, not commensurate at all with the likely demeanor of virtuoso violinist. Did he not have the range? He was miscast in Humoresque.

 

John Garfield seems a sort of prototype for Marlon Brando. Garfield is gritty but doesn't rise to MB's level. But who did, MB was a trailblazer in acting techniques and gave us something we hadn't really seen before. But I agree, he might have taken on Terry Malloy, I could see that. It's hard to think that anyone would out-Brando Brando as Malloy, though

 

==.

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More than one reviewer of The Loved One wished that James Fox had been cast in the role played by Robert Morse, a fine comic actor but definitely not an Englishman. Maybe Robert Morse could have taken Fox's role in Thoroughly Modern Millie as compensation.

 

This reminds me that I wish Ralph Fiennes had been on the scene and old enough to play Denys Finch Hatton in Out of Africa, my favorite Meryl Streep movie. Robert Redford is the one weak link in the film, trying less to sound English than Morse did in The Loved One (Morse actually tried and was somewhat successful in the role, I think).

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If John Garfield were to have played Don Corleone, he would have had to add to the one-note actor that he was. The Don would need subtly that Garfield didn't have.

 

I have to ask you, Iafitte, if you have seen Garfield's final performances, above all his second last film, The Breaking Point? He was maturing as an actor, no longer the chip on the shoulder rebel from society. He brought a sensitivity and vulnerability to the part with an even greater depth of feeling than before, I think, an acknowledgement that his character was no longer the self assured tough guy he once thought himself to be. He beautifully conveyed an inner turmoil that resulted in fear for his character.

 

Unlike Bogart's cynical leading man portrait of the same role in To Have and Have Not (a very different film in so many ways), Garfield's was a very human portrayal of doubts and insecurities. A viewer might want to be super hero Bogart but he could identify more with Garfield.

 

John Garfield was no one note actor, in my opinion. He was growing as a performer at the time of his death. If he could have had roles of depth to test his talent there's every reason to believe that his best work as an actor may well have laid ahead of him. This is, of course, because of his early death, merely sad speculation, but, based upon his memorable work in The Breaking Point and Force of Evil, I think there is a basis for it.

 

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I've always thought that Melinda Dillon would have been perfect as Honey in Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf. She could easily present the timid wife and then gradually show the manipulative nature of her character with great skill.

Another actress that I think could have pulled it off is Barbara Harris, another actress with a clean, non-showy technique.

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I've always thought that Melinda Dillon would have been perfect as Honey in Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf. She could easily present the timid wife and then gradually show the manipulative nature of her character with great skill.

Another actress that I think could have pulled it off is Barbara Harris, another actress with a clean, non-showy technique.

 

I assume you know that Melinda Dillon originated the role of Honey on Broadway. 

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To continue the thread of who played the role on Broadway, and I wish they played the screen version, too:

 

Carol Channing in Hello, Dolly

 

Gwen Verdon in Sweet Charity and Chicago

 

Shirley Booth in Summertime (and author Arthur Laurents would agree with me on that one, as great as the great Kate was).

 

Janice Paige in The Pajama Game

 

Uta Hagen in The Country Girl

 

Uta Hagen in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf

 

Laurette Taylor in The Glass Menagerie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Peter Sellers worked about 5 weeks on Kiss Me Stupid, then had a near-fatal heart attack. Wilder hated Sellers and immediately replaced him with Ray Walston, who is the weak link in the finished film. Tony Curtis, Danny Kaye, and Tony Radall had been rumored for the role, and any would have been preferable to Walston.

 

What I never understood, is why Jack Lemmon was not offered the role, either originally or to replace Sellers. He had done most of the last several Wilder films, all commercial blockbusters, and they hadn't had a falling out.  He would've been perfect, as it was the sort of frantic, manic performances he did so well.  And there would have been added bite in that he would have had his real wife, Felicia Farr, playing his reel wife,and sleeping with Dino to boot.

 

PS....I believe I read that originally, Billy Wilder wanted to have Marilyn Monroe play the Kim Novak part.  But then she died, and he put it on the backburner for a bit.

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Errol Flynn turned down starring in King Solomon's Mines. Wish he hadn't. He'd have been a great Allan Quartermain.

 

Speaking of which, even though he played the role briefly in the terrible League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, I wish that Sean Connery had had the opportunity to play Quartermain in a serious adaption of King Solomon's Mines.

 

And sticking to film adaptions of the novels of H. Ryder Haggard, it would have been fun to have seen Maria Montez in the title role of a lavish adaption of She. Montez might not have been anyone's idea of a good actress but she was always well cast, bringing a touch of the sexy and exotic, in splashy costume productions.

 

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She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed

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I've always thought that Melinda Dillon would have been perfect as Honey in Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf. She could easily present the timid wife and then gradually show the manipulative nature of her character with great skill.

Another actress that I think could have pulled it off is Barbara Harris, another actress with a clean, non-showy technique.

It's also intriguing to consider what another actress who played Honey on Broadway would have been like in the film version: Eileen Fulton, best known as Lisa on As the World Turns. At one time, while acting on her show and also playing the girl in The Fantasticks off-Broadway, Eileen Fulton was also playing a couple of matinees each week as Honey. I would guess that she definitely brought out Honey's manipulative side, though I've never read an account of her performance.

 

Although I think Melinda Dillon is a better actress than Sandy Dennis, Dennis' somewhat unusual face registers more strongly on screen. However, Dennis' jitterings, twitterings, flutterings, and stutterings are more than I can take. Neither her best friend nor her worst enemy could ever accuse Sandy Dennis of having "a clean, non-showy technique." Barbara Harris is an interesting alternative, too.

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Speaking of a Billy Wilder movie...

 

Robert Mitchum, Lizabeth Scott and Spencer Tracy instead in his DOUBLE INDEMNITY.

 

(...although I have to admit I'm not sure Mitchum would've carried off that whole blonde wig look) ;)

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There was this terrific novel written by Elia Kazan in the 60's - it was called 'The Arrangement'.

 

While I was reading it, the central character whose name was Eddie Anderson - and whose name had been changed from its original Greek identification - quickly took on the appearance and speaking voice of Jason Robards Jr. in my mind.

 

When I heard that Kazan had decided to make a movie of it, I naturally assumed that Robards would be cast - so totally perfect was he for the role. I mean he was born to play that role.

 

But Kazan wanted Brando - and while I adore Brando, he was nowhere near as right as Robards. In the end, Brando pulled out and the part went to Kirk Douglas - a massive miscast if there ever was one. The movie flopped miserably and that miscasting has always been the reason in my estimation. Had Robards played the part it would have been one of the modern classics.

 

I'll always believe that. I read that novel 3 times.

 

My girlfriend - who had read 'The Arrangement' first and recommended it to me - was watching the movie 'Any Wednesday' on TV at my parents' home and at a scene where Jason Robards was sitting in the back seat of a taxi , I said to her "Carol, whaddaya think - would that actor there make the perfect Eddie Anderson?"

 

To which she responded with rare enthusiasm "Oh, yeah" with eyes widened. She too saw the perfection. Born to play that part. But didn't.

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Speaking of a Billy Wilder movie...

 

Robert Mitchum, Lizabeth Scott and Spencer Tracy instead in his DOUBLE INDEMNITY.

 

(...although I have to admit I'm not sure Mitchum would've carried off that whole blonde wig look) ;)

 

Oh, I dunno . . .

 

vlcsnap-2011-08-31-22h29m12s142.png

 

Not bad, if you like your women kinda big.

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Peter Sellers worked about 5 weeks on Kiss Me Stupid, then had a near-fatal heart attack. Wilder hated Sellers and immediately replaced him with Ray Walston, who is the weak link in the finished film. Tony Curtis, Danny Kaye, and Tony Radall had been rumored for the role, and any would have been preferable to Walston.

 

What I never understood, is why Jack Lemmon was not offered the role, either originally or to replace Sellers. He had done most of the last several Wilder films, all commercial blockbusters, and they hadn't had a falling out.  He would've been perfect, as it was the sort of frantic, manic performances he did so well.  And there would have been added bite in that he would have had his real wife, Felicia Farr, playing his reel wife,and sleeping with Dino to boot.

 

PS....I believe I read that originally, Billy Wilder wanted to have Marilyn Monroe play the Kim Novak part.  But then she died, and he put it on the backburner for a bit.

 

I've wondered that about Lemmon myself. My only guess is there may have been some unpublicized disagreement between them, such as Lemmon wanting too much money.

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Speaking of a Billy Wilder movie...

 

Robert Mitchum, Lizabeth Scott and Spencer Tracy instead in his DOUBLE INDEMNITY.

 

Completely disagree on Keyes, EGR was perfect. Also prefer Stanwyck to LS.

 

Mitchum is too cynical from the get-go for Walter. Fred M's all-American boy-next-door makes an excellent sap.

 

But I've sometimes wondered about another Paramount contract player in the role. What if Bing Crosby had played Walter? Not that Paramount would have ever done such a thing, what with Bing minting them money in musicals and comedies. Bur how might his career have gone?

 

 

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To continue the thread of who played the role on Broadway, and I wish they played the screen version, too:

 

Zero Mostel, Fiddler On The Roof

 

Cliff Gorman, Lenny

 

Not Broadway or an original production, but perhaps the stage performance I most wish I could have seen: an LA little theatre production of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, starring Warren Oates as McMurphy (1966). Jack Klugman, who saw this as well as Kirk Douglas on Broadway, said it was the best McMurphy ever. Douglas IMHO was totally wrong for the role -- he's a straightforward schemer. Nicholson doesn't quite seem right either -- he's not bad, but he's always been essentially the cleaned-up, acceptable Warren Oates.

 

Oates, with his hillbilly thuggery and causeless rebelliousness crossed with childlike petulance and impetuousness, might have been perfect. IMHO he seems to have been born to play the role. But Douglas owned the film rights, and would not release them during Oates' brief period of semi-stardom.

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