Fitzgerald’s 1928: Hollywood’s First Choices

Hollywood Choices

Marlon Brando was offered the lead role in Lawrence of Arabia before Peter O’Toole.  Jack Nicholson turned down both the Brando and Martin Sheen parts in Apocalypse Now; Sheen was way down on a list of candidates that included Steve McQueen and Harvey Keitel. Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn were the original Thelma and Louise.  Barbra Streisand was an early choice for Sophie’s Choice,  which brought Streep an academy award.  

With two different football games on the screens at Fitzgerald’s, surrounded by talk of the week’s events, local and national, a guy at the bar told me about a surprising book which seems particularly relevant as this year’s awards season gears up.  So I read it, too…    

Before Marlon Brando made an offer no one could refuse, Frank Sinatra, Anthony Quinn, Ernest Borgnine and Lawrence Olivier were considered for the role of Don Corleone; only illness kept Olivier out of the running.  Redford, Beatty and Dustin Hoffman were up for the part of the Godfather’s youngest son, Michael.  Five directors were courted before Francis Ford Coppola.

Shirley Temple was sought before Judy Garland for The Wizard of Oz.  A premature press release announced Ronald Reagan as Rick in Casablanca before Humphrey Bogart got the role; and Dooley Wilson, who played Sam, could not play the piano.  Ten years before Born on the Fourth of July finally filmed, Al Pacino was slated for the Tom Cruise role.  

John Wayne, Frank Sinatra and Paul Newman each had the chance to make our day as Dirty Harry before Clint Eastwood.  Incredibly, Steve McQueen and Paul Newman were considered to play the In Cold Blood killers before it was wisely decided that unknowns were a better choice.  McQueen begged for the part of the Sundance Kid to no avail.  Madonna begged to be in Godfather III to no avail.  And Jimmy Breslin, the journalist, was seriously contemplated for the role of Popeye in The French Connection so memorably delivered by Gene Hackman who won an Oscar.   

Doris Day was offended when approached with the script to The Graduate; Ann Bancroft, who did take the part of Mrs. Robinson, was only six years older than Dustin Hoffman at the time.    

The first million dollar movie – Gone with the Wind – could have had Cary Grant in the role of Rhett Butler. Paulette Godard might have been Scarlett, except for another shade of red, as she was “living in sin” with Charlie Chaplin, a suspected communist at the height of Hollywood’s red scare.

Who could imagine a better job of casting than Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, the performance that both swore ruined their marriage?  Would it surprise you to know that the first names to surface for the roles were Ingrid Bergman and Carry Grant?

Find Hollywood’s First Choices, the latest addition to the Fitzgerald’s 1928 Wriiters’ Bookshelf here: