Hollywood Casting and Mis-Casting

(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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  • I haven't watched Prescription: Murder in some time, so this analysis may be a little off (and bearing in mind that the character of Columbo evolved from that appearance to and through the actual series, and may well have been re-written even in P:M when Crosby declined), but I imagine that Levinson and Link (in writing the role with Crosby in mind) were thinking of the Good Lieutenant in terms of an amiable guy who was smarter and/or more perceptive than he let on. Der Bingle could have played that on autopilot.

    I doubt, though, that he would have taken it in the direction Falk did. Falk's Columbo had a hidden edge to him that tended to slip out in the climactic scenes, and occasionally erupted into outright anger. (I'm lookin' at you, Nimoy.) Falk's Columbo was amiable ... but that didn't mean his demeanor wasn't also calculated, and sometimes an act.
  • It's been ages since I watched those - if I ever did another "re-watching TV" project, Columbo would be on the list.
  • There are any number of "what might have beens" in TV and movie casting. For example, Eric Stolz was famously removed from the lead in Back to the Future six weeks into filming and replaced by Michael J. Fox because the director felt Stolz was too serious and he wanted the comedic touch Fox delivered.
  • Actually, Falk wasn't the first actor to play Columbo. I had to look up the details at Wikipedia. The character was first played by Bert Freed in an episode of a TV anthology series, The Chevy Mystery Show. The episode was then turned into a stage play Prescription: Murder, and a TV movie version of the latter followed. Wikipedia's version is, the authors suggested Lee J. Cobb and Crosby for the TV movie but "Cobb was unavailable and Crosby turned it down".

    Apparently, Falk, (at the time) was younger than the authors had had in mind. He'd been played on stage by Thomas Mitchell, who turned 70 in 1962 and died later that year.
  • To bring things back to Leslie Nielsen, a big part of what made Airplane! work was the casting of Nielsen, Peter Graves, Robert Stack and Lloyd Bridges -- all known for playing grim, stone-faced authority figures in oh-so-serious dramas -- and planted them in a broad throw-everything-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks farce.

    Also, according to the IMDB Trivia entry for Airplane!, Bridges, Stack and Graves played similar roles in serious airplane disaster movies. And David Letterman tried out for the role that went to Robert Hays.
  • 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.
  • Stuart Townsend (Dorian Gray from League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) was cast as Aragorn in Lord of the Rings but apparently it wasn't working so they recasted the part with Viggo Mortenson. The rest, they say, is history.

    I also read that Mickey Dolenz from The Monkees auditioned for Fonzie on Happy Days. Cool or Uncool?
  • Frank Sinatra, Paul Newman and John Wayne were all offered the role of Dirty Harry before Clint Eastwood said yes.

    I guess the most infamous near-casting was Ronald Reagan as Rick in "Casablanca."

    And Richard Gere basically owes his career to John Travolta, who turned down (or backed out of) the roles that Gere took in "Days of Heaven," "American Gigolo" and "An Officer and a Gentleman."
  • According to the Snopes website, at a page here, it's not really true that Reagan might've appeared in Casablanca. The page argues that the press release on which the belief is based was probably an unfounded studio publicity ploy.

  • George said:
    And Richard Gere basically owes his career to John Travolta, who turned down (or backed out of) the roles that Gere took in "Days of Heaven," "American Gigolo" and "An Officer and a Gentleman."

    I think "An Officer and a Gentleman" would have been a lot better with Travolta. Gere is totally wrong for that role.
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