Saturday, February 24, 2007

What Might Have Been... Vol. I

I’ve been compiling a listing of actors who were considered for and/or turned down certain movie and TV roles, which I’ll feature from time to time as I unearth them.  It’s fascinating to see how popular history would have been altered in unfathomable ways if certain critical choices hadn’t been made by casting directors and/or the actors themselves.

For starters, could you possibly imagine Gene Hackman as Mike Brady on "The Brady Bunch"?  It almost happened, but they chose Robert Reed over Gene, a move that I’m sure the Hack Man is eternally grateful for!  If Hackman was Mike Brady, chances are he wouldn’t have done French Connection in ’71, and so on down the line, his career path would have been different.  Just as well anyway, since Robert Reed was apparently far more comfortable with being "busy with three boys of his own."  Sorry, I’m SO bad…

—Carroll O’Connor was nearly cast as The Skipper on "Gilligan’s Island".  While I can kinda-sorta picture him in that role, I’m glad he didn’t get it because 1) Alan Hale made the perfect Skipper, and 2) I doubt seriously if O’Connor would ever have been Archie Bunker after doing "Gilligan"—no one else from that show ever got any serious roles again.  I can’t even begin to imagine anyone besides Carroll O’Connor playing A. Bunker, can you?

Before Harrison Ford got the part of Han Solo in Star Wars, Burt Reynolds turned it down.  Kurt Russell and Nick Nolte were also considered for it, but were turned down.  Singer Terri Nunn of the band Berlin also auditioned for Princess Leia before being aced out by Carrie Fisher, and William Katt of "Greatest American Hero" fame was up for Luke Skywalker at one point.  I think George Lucas made the right choices, there…

Nolte was also considered for Clark Kent/Superman before Christopher Reeve got the signature role of his career.  Just as well—there was no place for Nolte to stash his flask in those blue tights!

—It’s entirely possible we might have had Crosby, Somebody Else and Nash.  Singer Stephen Stills auditioned for "The Monkees" and was rejected.  He was good buds at the time with one Peter Tork, and told him about the audition, and Pete went down and gave it a shot, and the rest is history.

John Travolta has made as many bad career moves as he has good ones.  He turned down the leads in American Gigolo and An Officer & A Gentleman—roles that both went to Richard Gere, and he turned down the lead in Splash that went to Tom Hanks.  Travolta’s a lucky bastard, tho—he keeps resurfacing just when you think his career is toast.

Phoebe Cates was rejected for a role, but gained a husband in the process.  She read for the role of Chloe in The Big Chill that went to Meg Tilly, but met her future husband Kevin Kline during her audition, much to the chagrin of my good friend Tom, who was fairly obsessed with Miss Cates back in the day!  Can’t say I blame him, either.  Sadly, her career never did recover from that Drop Dead Fred excrement.

Molly Ringwald passed on lead roles in both Ghost and Pretty Woman.  I truly wish she’d have taken the latter one—the world may have been spared from the totally underwhelming talents of Julia Roberts!

And of course, there’s the legendary tale of how Buddy Ebsen lost out on being the Tin Man in The Wizard Of Oz because he was allergic to the silver face make-up.  He thought his career was totally screwed, but fate intervened in 1961 and he moved in next to Mr. Drysdale and became forever-known as Jed Clampett.

—Singer Gordon Lightfoot once dated the infamous Cathy Smith, the woman who later shot up actor John Belushi with that lethal dose of cocaine and heroin in 1982.  Luckily, Gord came to his senses and dropped the bitch like a bad habit.  Eerie coincidence--Lightfoot shared the same stage with Belushi on "Saturday Night Live" in 1976.

—Actor Carl Weathers once played briefly for the Oakland Raiders in the late '60s.  Had his football career been more successful, he might never have been Apollo Creed in the Rocky flicks...

—Here's a couple that aren't really "what-might-have-beens", but are kinda interesting, anyway.  Even though the movie was a bomb, was there not a more brilliant piece of Hollywood film casting than Shelly Duvall as Olive Oyl in Popeye?  You’ll rarely find such a dead ringer for a cartoon character than her!...By the way, Shelly Duvall and Robert Duvall are NOT related—I always assumed they were father and daughter...Also, Carol Channing and Stockard Channing aren’t related either, as I once assumed—the latter took her last name from her first marriage, and Stockard is actually her maiden name. Be my guest—impress your friends with some trivia!

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