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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Great Performances We Missed

The NY Daily News recently published a story on great roles that actors passed up. For example, Cary Grant was asked to play James Bond. Jack Nicholson turned down the role of Michael Corleone in the Godfather films. Mel Gibson passed on Gladiator. Will Smith was originally recruited to play Neo in The Matrix. Molly Ringwald passed on the Julia Roberts role in Pretty Woman.

All right, maybe "famous roles" would be a better description.

Some of the casting misses would have been very, very interesting. For example, John Travolta would have brought a leaden confusion as Forrest Gump, Drew Barrymore would have brought an amoral sassiness as what's her name in Showgirls*, and Madonna would have totally tanked in the Sharon Smith role in Casino. The one I almost wished had come off: Christopher Walken as Han Solo in Star Wars. SNL once imagined that screen test, courtesy of Kevin Spacey.

Let's face it, the film industry just doesn't cast with enough imagination. They never have. For example, they spent years casting Scarlett O'Hara and who did they finally decide on? Vivien Leigh. Well, of course they did. However, wouldn't the role have been far more interesting with Betty Hutton in the part? Or better yet, Margaret Dumond, with Groucho as Rhett Butler?

In that spirit, allow me to offer some alternate casting suggestions for some famous roles in film history. As you read each one, take a moment to close your eyes and imagine the actor or actress giving the role their unique take. You can thank me later for the privilege!

  • Orson Welles as George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy
  • Jim Carrey as Charles Chaplin in Chaplin
  • Dame Judy Dench as Sabrina Duncan in Charlie's Angels
  • James Stewart as Dracula in Dracula
  • Jennifer Love Hewett as Julia Child in Julie and Julia
  • Bette Davis as Little Lloyd Sherman in The Littlest Colonel
  • Crispin Glover as Richard Nixon and Russell Brand as David Frost in Frost/Nixon
  • Boris Karloff as Jeff Smith in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
  • Yeardley Smith as Katherine Hepburn in The Aviator
  • Marlon Brando as Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • Fatty Arbuckle as Little Lord Fauntleroy in Little Lord Fauntleroy
  • Denzel Washington as Sherman Klump in The Nutty Professor
  • Sir John Gielgud as Joe Gideon in All That Jazz
  • Edward G. Robinson as Rufus T. Firefly in Duck Soup
  • Esther Williams as Taylor in Planet of the Apes
  • Robin Williams as Buzz Aldrin in The Right Stuff
  • Eartha Kitt as Dr. Strangelove in Dr. Strangelove
  • Danny DeVito as Chewbacca in Star Wars
  • Tom Hanks as Audrey the man-eating plant in The Little Shop of Horrors
  • Michael Caine as WALL-E in WALL-E
  • Goofy as Deputy Dawg in all those Deputy Dawg cartoons
  • Dustin Hoffman as Godzilla in Godzilla vs. King Kong
  • Tom Cruise as a stick of gum in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • Keira Knightley as Brad Pitt's mustache in Inglourious Basterds
You get the idea.

*I didn't see the film. Just reading about it made me naseous.

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