(So as not to further drag the "Leslie Nielsen" thread further off course...)

The Commander said:

"We watch something like, say, Columbo, and think to ourselves, of course Peter Falk was the perfect actor for the part."


I'd always heard that the part of Columbo was originally written for Bing Crosby. With respect to "der Bingle", I just can't imagine what it would've been like with him in the part.

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George said:
It's impossible to know how someone will work out in a role until they actually play it.

Marvel objected to the casting of Robert Downey as Tony Stark, because they thought he was "too old" (at 42). Now it's hard to imagine anyone but Downey in the role.

If you're old enough, you'll recall the fanboys' horror when Michael Keaton was cast as Batman. ("Where's the square jaw??") But he worked out pretty well, too.

I well remember that; there was a petition protesting the choice at the comics shop I frequented at the time.

The thing is, Tim Burton was deliberately casting against type. He figured that, first, somebody who dresses up in costume to fight crime is by definition not right in the head. So, by that logic, he shouldn't cast the expected leading-man type, the tall, barrel-chested, square-jawed, brutally handsome, manly man; instead, as he saw it, the role called for someone more nebbishy who became fierce when outfitted as the hero.

I can't say I agree with this reasoning, but there it is.
And I remember the furor when Val Kilmer, a far more heroic looking actor, replaced Keaton in Batman Forever. The same people who said Keaton could never be Batman now (then?) were saying no one but Keaton could play him!
We've discussed recently somewhere that Tom Selleck was almost Indiana Jones. I think it still would have been a good movie but I'm glad that Harrison Ford got the role. I read somewhere that the scene in the market in Raiders where Indy confronts the guy with the sword, taht it was supposed to be a drawn out fight. I believe it was Harrison Ford who suggested that Indy would just shoot the guy. If Tom Selleck was in the movie would it have been a big fight or would he have had the same suggestion as Harrison Ford? We'll never know.

Along the same lines there were many actors who auditoned for the main roles in Star Wars. I recently read that Christopher Walken was nearly cast as Han Solo. How weird would that have been? I think Kurt Russell also auditioned for the role, which would have been pretty similiar to Harrison Ford, I think. Again though in Empire it was Ford's idea allegedly to say " I know" when Princess Leia confesses her love for him during the carbonite scene. That is a classic scene and very true to the character. Would we still remember is as fondly if someone else was in the role and responded with "I love you" as it was intended?
I prefer the MAD version myself.

Leia: "I love you!"

Han: "So do I!"

Leia (estatic): "He loves me!"

Han: "No, I mean I love me, too!"
Bringing this around to the hobby that we all share, I am thinking of Lyle Waggoner, who screen-tested for the part of "Batman/Bruce Wayne" for the television programme. (I just checked---Waggoner's test is still available for viewing on YouTube.)

I was familiar with Adam West from his guest appearances on earlier shows, such as Maverick. I recall how he had come across as wooden and very intense, like he was doing something from John Steinbeck, rather than William Orr.

At first blush, one would think that Waggoner had the edge over West. Waggoner had a better physique and the dark-haired, handsome features that one associated with Bruce Wayne. The problem, though---and it's more evident from a viewing of his Batman screen test---is that he lacked gravitas. He delivered a competent performance (and that's not a left-handed compliment; to be able to perform in front of a camera and look suitable at all takes skill), but he never quite delivered the seriousness the scene called for.

Lest one writes that off as Waggoner deliberately playing it less heavy because of the sartorical element in Batman, I recall that he had the same slightly light-weight quality when he portrayed Steve Trevor in Wonder Woman. But where he didn't quite fit even comic-book drama, he was perfect for the comedy of The Carol Burnett Show.

On the other hand, Adam West actually lessened his grimness a bit when he played Batman/Bruce Wayne, but even so, he was still stolidly straight-laced. And in doing so, he brought to the show the same quality that, as CK pointed out a couple of times, made Leslie Nielsen work so well in Police Squad---playing it totally serious while the satire manifested around him. It was that contradistinction that underscored the humour.

And the other thing that CK pointed out about Nielsen is also true about West: West is never as enjoyable to watch when he tries to be funny, or when he takes his woodenness over the top.
Jason Marconnet said:
We've discussed recently somewhere that Tom Selleck was almost Indiana Jones. I think it still would have been a good movie but I'm glad that Harrison Ford got the role. I read somewhere that the scene in the market in Raiders where Indy confronts the guy with the sword, taht it was supposed to be a drawn out fight. I believe it was Harrison Ford who suggested that Indy would just shoot the guy. If Tom Selleck was in the movie would it have been a big fight or would he have had the same suggestion as Harrison Ford? We'll never know.

Along the same lines there were many actors who auditoned for the main roles in Star Wars. I recently read that Christopher Walken was nearly cast as Han Solo. How weird would that have been? I think Kurt Russell also auditioned for the role, which would have been pretty similiar to Harrison Ford, I think. Again though in Empire it was Ford's idea allegedly to say " I know" when Princess Leia confesses her love for him during the carbonite scene. That is a classic scene and very true to the character. Would we still remember is as fondly if someone else was in the role and responded with "I love you" as it was intended?

You raise a good point; part of what makes a movie isn't just what's in the script, but what comes out in the acting, ideas that spring up on set, like Harrison Ford just shooting the bad guy in Raiders of the Lost Ark instead of getting into a sword fight -- I understand at the time Ford had a bout of, shall we say, intestinal distress, and wanted to get the scene over with, and quick. But that idea worked for the character and the scene.

Or problems that need to be resolved, like the mechanical shark in Jaws that didn't work half the time, so its appearances on screen are limited -- but that actually helped build suspense.

Another example: Jack Nicholson initially was to have a small role as The Joker in the first Batman movie -- but c'mon, it's Jack Nicholson! His part got bigger and bigger as they went on.
While we're on Batman, I'd like to mention the most recent film, Dark Knight. I don't know if other actors were in consideration for the role of the Joker or not. I know before the film was released many people weren't so sure of the casting of Heath Ledger, now it seems like it was a no-brainer.

After this Summer we'll have some new roles to discuss. There were several actors up for the role of Captain America but it ultimately went to Chris Evans. One of the choices was John Krazinky from the Office. There were also a few options for Green Lantern which went to Ryan Reynolds. One of those options was Bradely Cooper from the Hangover. I guess after viewing these films if we'll lament the choices they went with or praise them.

Another film, the Wrestler. I heard the choices were running between Sylvester Stallone and Nicholas Cage. I'm very greatful that the film's creators went with Mickey Rourke.
Not a big role really, but one I thought would have been really neat was that Sergio Leone wanted the three leads from The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly (Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, and Eli Wallach) to be the three men waiting for Charles Bronson's character in Once Upon A Time In the West. Eastwood wasn't available at the time of filming so it was scrapped.

There was also the two roles that Humphrey Bogart got in Maltese Falcon and High Sierra that George Raft turned down, which turned Bogart into a star.


Jason Marconnet said:
Another film, the Wrestler. I heard the choices were running between Sylvester Stallone and Nicholas Cage. I'm very greatful that the film's creators went with Mickey Rourke.

Yeah ... I haven't seen it, but I can believe Mickey Rourke was hungry for that role in a way Sylvester Stallone and Nicolas Cage couldn't have been.
Jason Marconnet said:
While we're on Batman, I'd like to mention the most recent film, Dark Knight. I don't know if other actors were in consideration for the role of the Joker or not. I know before the film was released many people weren't so sure of the casting of Heath Ledger, now it seems like it was a no-brainer.

After this Summer we'll have some new roles to discuss. There were several actors up for the role of Captain America but it ultimately went to Chris Evans. One of the choices was John Krazinky from the Office. There were also a few options for Green Lantern which went to Ryan Reynolds. One of those options was Bradely Cooper from the Hangover. I guess after viewing these films if we'll lament the choices they went with or praise them.

Another film, the Wrestler. I heard the choices were running between Sylvester Stallone and Nicholas Cage. I'm very greatful that the film's creators went with Mickey Rourke.

It's difficult for me to weigh in on modern actors in modern super-hero films. For one thing, I'm not familiar with most of them. Heath Ledger was a name that meant no more to me than the name of the mechanic who services my car, and I wouldn't have recognised Ledger---sans Joker make-up---if he had walked past me on the street.

For the other thing, I have seen very few super-hero-based films that were made since the end of the serials.

Though I probably don't have to, I want to make clear here that neither of my reasons is an implied indictment of those who do see the films or enjoy watching modern actors. Not at all. "Art is subjective" and horse races and all that. As the Romans said, suum quique.

It's largely a generational thing, I guess. For example, I did see the first Iron Man film---because, believe it or not, the Good "the only comic books I have read are Ritchie Rich and Tales of the Crypt" Mrs. Benson wanted to see it. Try as I might, I could not see Robert Downey as Tony Stark. Because my perspective of the character was from the Silver Age, and Downey did not, in either appearance or portrayal of the character's attitude, fit my perspective.

Now, that's not an empirical criticism of the film. I understand that, to appeal to modern audiences, the production has to go with a more contemporary depiction. I'm just saying that I can't warm to it.

Some of the posts here have mentioned the various actors who have portrayed the Batman in the films since the '80's. I've seen parts of the Michael Keaton Batman film and most of The Dark Knight (again, because, incredibly, the GMB wanted to see it). And I experienced the same dissonance in buying into those screenplays.

At the same time, a couple of nights ago, I caught The Mask of Fu Manchu (MGM, 1932) on television, and the moment Charles Starrett came on the screen, I kept thinking "There's Bruce Wayne."

So, I guess I'm at least a half-century out of sync with the modern age, and I don't suppose there is enough time left in life for me to catch up.
I don't know if I'm the only one who feels this way, but I always felt the exact same cast that made the Batman TV series in the 60's would've been fine to do a "serious" version of Batman had it been decided to do so.

Particularly - Burgess Meredith is the Penguin to me. Everyone else is just someone playing the Penguin.
The Baron said:
I don't know if I'm the only one who feels this way, but I always felt the exact same cast that made the Batman TV series in the 60's would've been fine to do a "serious" version of Batman had it been decided to do so.

Particularly - Burgess Meredith is the Penguin to me. Everyone else is just someone playing the Penguin.

I've never thought of it that way, but I could see it happening.

However, I have heard the view expressed, more than once, that Frank Gorshin, although cast as The Riddler, perfectly captured The Joker. That was brought home to me one day when I was watching a Batman rerun (for a time, the American Life channel carried the show) featuring Gorshin. The plot had to do with The Riddler and his henchmen breaking into a museum in disguise; The Riddler himself was dressed, sans mask, as George Washington.

My son wandered into the room, took one look at the screen, and asked me, "Is that The Joker?"

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