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Written by / 3/19/2014 / 3 Comments /

7 FILM ROLES THAT ALMOST WENT TO SOMEONE ELSE

Almost: Lee Majors
Alright: Jon Voight
MIDNIGHT COWBOY: Lee Majors is cool, mellow, and, especially in his bionic years, downright awesome, but let's face facts, his acting style can be a bit on the mellow side, which fits on television, but he never made the big screen transition for a reason... So then, originally cast as naïve Texan Joe Buck, who travels to New York City to become a gigolo, Lee's good looks and the Stetson hat would have fit just fine, but thankfully Jon Voight, an intense young method actor, took the lead: And while Dustin Hoffman's crippled sidekick headlined and ultimately stole the show, the Oscar winning masterpiece truly belonged to Voight, whose movie career was just beginning: As for Majors, co-starring on the Western television series THE BIG VALLEY at the time, he's not the last actor held back by a television contract...

Almost: Tom Selleck
Alright: Harrison Ford
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK: Like Lee, there’s nothing wrong with Tom Selleck: he’s handsome, likable, laidback and has universal appeal…

But he was signed onto MAGNUM P.I. and wound up in Hawaii instead of circumnavigating the globe in the now legendary adventure yarn that spawned, for better or worse, three more in the franchise: Sure, Tom was built for the part, but with a somewhat whiny voice and an everyman demeanor more befitting television than motion pictures, we can thank God that Harrison Ford, who gained fame as Han Solo in producer/writer George Lucas’s STAR WARS, was able to play the intrepid archeologist in George and Steven Spielberg’s action classic. Meanwhile, Tom attempted making up for lost RAIDERS with two pulpy time-period flicks, HIGH ROAD TO CHINA and LASSITER.

Almost: Danny DeVito
Alright: John Rhys-Davies
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK: One can imagine Tom Selleck as Indy much more than Danny DeVito as Sallah... Yikes!

The lovable sidekick, Sallah, helps Jones traipse through Cairo, saves him from bad date poisoning, digs for the Ark, jovially croons after a lady's kiss, and was thankfully played by larger than life character actor John Rhys-Davies, who peaked director Steven Spielberg's attention on the TV miniseries SHOGUN: Danny, held under contract for the sitcom TAXI, went on to play a similar middleman in another adventure, ROMANCING THE STONE, a far more befitting character for the pint-sized funnyman.

Almost: Roy Schieder
Alright: Robert DeNiro
THE DEER HUNTER: Yes, it's true, JAWS is the personal favorite movie of this particular film fanatic, and Roy Scheider’s performance as Chief Brody, as well as his iconic "We're gonna need a bigger boat" improvised line, was sublime and topnotch… And he was also fantastic before and after the shark in two William Friedkin films, THE FRENCH CONNECTION and SORCERER… But during DEER HUNTER pre-production, Roy and director Michael Cinemo saw things differently, and this is this, and that was that... A true blessing, because imagining him in Robert De Niro’s role as Michael is absolutely unfathomable, not because of what Roy would have added, but what we wouldn't have gotten otherwise: For De Niro brought a quirky, lonesome edge to the rogue, rugged outdoorsman who winds up turning tables during a Russian roulette Vietnam sequence, pulling off emotions that no other actor could possibly equal. And back home, can you imagine Roy matching Robert's expression when he looks at John Cazale's new mustache? Didn't think so...

Almost: Rip Torn
Alright: Jack Nicholson
EASY RIDER: Director and actor Dennis Hopper was sued when, on David Letterman, he recalled a situation where he pulled a knife on Rip Torn (which would fit his name), originally cast as the Southern lawyer George Hanson in the independent road trip odyssey EASY RIDER…

Or was it Rip who pulled the knife? Well with that kind of reefer madness going on during  the "turbulent 1960's," God only knows what really went down... Or if it happened at all: Thankfully, not only was a struggling b-movie actor cast in the pivotal role, but we were introduced to Jack Nicholson, and he never left the spotlight. And while Rip Torn is incredibly talented, what might have been a rousing performance became an offbeat, scene-stealing mascot: one of the greatest in counter culture cinema.

Almost: Kirk Douglas
Alright: Richard Crenna
FIRST BLOOD: It would be very difficult if downright impossible to imagine anyone besides Richard Crenna delivering the classic body bags line, so perfectly suited for the Sylvester Stallone action flick…

Based on a more realistic and liberal minded novel, with John Rambo a completely unhinged, lethal war machine, killing hundreds of lawman on his trail as opposed to merely setting traps, Kirk Douglas was on board and there are even promotional posters, including one shown above, with Kirk's stalwart image as the tough but tender Colonel Trautman: An severely idealistic Douglas wanted the movie to end like the book, which would lead to no more sequels while holding firmly to a 70's style Left-Bent, as this book was thrown around Hollywood for a decade... But Stallone probably already had a franchise in mind... And so, literally at the last moment, Crenna stepped in and delivered!

Almost: Eric Stoltz
Alright: Michael J. Fox
BACK TO THE FUTURE: Last, and certainly not least, here's the epitome of a close call, or more of a second chance, since, like Harvey Keitel in APOCALYPSE NOW, the scenes were already being filmed and production was under way...

In this case it took director Robert Zemekis and writing partner Bob Gale to realize that Eric Stoltz, while a capable actor who'd provide terrific dramatic roles later on, just didn’t have the comedic timing that would work as Marty McFly in the time travel comedy adventure. And if you look at the two pictures of each actor's expressions in the same scene, you might notice how Fox goes one step further: While Lee Majors, Tom Selleck and Danny DeVito lost their big screen opportunities due to TV contracts, Michael J. Fox, who was chosen to replace Stoltz and was beyond perfect for the part, also had a series… And thankfully for us, FAMILY TIES allowed Michael the (big) break... the rest is cinematic history! AND COMING SOON: ACTRESS NEAR CAST ROLES...
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3 comments:

  1. Your opinion matters as much as anybody else I guess unfortunately don't agree with you except in a few cases. I am tired of people who think they know it all like you,

    ReplyDelete
  2. nice hit and run piece there, linda. well, if you can't see lee majors being not as good an actor as jon voight, you must be the type of person who has lee majors as your profile picture and can't see the truth past fan-colored glasses. "I am tired of people like you who think they know it all like you." great sentence! take your meds.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Well Mr Tate acting is always a matter of personal taste. I can't stand Jon Voight but love watching Mr Majors because of all the little things he does to make his characters believeable. Two different styles I prefer one and you prefer the other but that does make me wrong and you right. I also love watching Tom Selleck I can watch him all day long and I have. Don't like Jon Voights stlyle but that does not mean he is not a good actor it is just a matter of who you personally like I prefer Lee Majors

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