5 Famous Roles Obviously Written For A Different Actor
Settling isn't just for those of us looking to get hitched. It's also an important part of creating a movie or TV show when you can't get the cast you want. In both cases, the mature thing to do is learn to love the one you're with and appreciate them for their many wonderful gifts. What most people actually do, though, is dress them up like the person they wanted, squint their eyes, and try to live a lie.
Surprisingly often, the lie works out fine until someone comes along to burst your bubble and point out that it's all been a charade. Well, we're sorry and you're welcome.
A Character In The Fifth Element Was Written For Prince (Guess Which One)
The Fifth Element is a seminal sci-fi movie with one side character whom you either loved or wanted to hit with a hammer: flamboyant emcee Ruby Rhod, played by Chris Tucker. With over-the-top dance moves, extravagant outfits, and Escherian coiffure, Smokey from Friday was really trying to avoid being typecast.
Where in the hell would you get the inspiration for a character so flamboyant that he has a leopard-print musical instrument? How about the guy who presumably owns several?
Yep, Prince was the first choice to play Ruby Rhod. Renowned fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier drew up some concept art for Prince's proposed look, but the presentation didn't go so well. When describing the costume, Gaultier made the mistake of slapping himself on the ass while explaining that the backside would have a faux cul -- that's how French people say "fake ass," which is a surprisingly common phrase in French.
Prince didn't like that one bit and left immediately, because through Gaultier's accent, he thought faux cul was him saying "F-- you." Here's the artwork he was shown, fake ass and all:
Jurassic Park's Alan Grant Was Meant For Harrison Ford
One of the reasons Jurassic Park holds up so well is its use of practical effects in addition to CGI. Animatronics were used to achieve lifelike close-ups of giant dinosaurs, actors in raptor costumes created their iconic movement, and Sam Neill was used to simulate Harrison Ford. Everything about Dr. Alan Grant screams Harrison Ford except the "not being played by Harrison Ford" part. Not that they didn't try.
On the page, Dr. Alan Grant is an oddly specific character -- one who seems slightly familiar. Despite being a paleontologist, he isn't your typical ivory tower academic. He's a " barrel-chested," rough-and-tumble paleontologist " you wouldn't want to get in the way of." A colleague calls him "a digger," meaning the only thing that matters to him is being out on site, digging for an ancient find. When he's running for his life, we find out he's so good at derring-do that you'd think he was tenured by the Department of Jungle Survival.
Does that remind you of anyone? Say, a rough-and-tumble archaeologist who is only happy while running for his life through a jungle? Someone with a pretty dope hat?
The character is such a close match to Indiana Jones that we're surprised his friends don't call him "Shmindy." Not only that, but early concept art of Dr. Grant running from a T-Rex looks like the product of Bob Ross, a photo of Harrison Ford, and a microdose of LSD:
That couldn't more clearly be Harrison Ford if the kid had a speech bubble saying "You call him 'Dr. Jones!'"
Sadly, Ford was offered the part by Stephen Spielberg, but he turned the role down, implying that running from dinosaurs seemed too far-fetched (like sending Indiana Jones "to Mars," he said). This from a guy famous for melting Nazis' faces with Bible magic.
Sister Act Was Supposed To Be A Bette Midler Vehicle
If you're at all familiar with Sister Act, you probably know it as "that movie where Whoopi Goldberg is a singing nun." That's the whole joke, right? See, because nuns don't usually look or act like Whoopi Goldberg! What's next, Danny Devito as Arnold Schwarzenegger's twin? Hell, that's the whole point of the "sister" pun in the title.
If we told you the role was meant for someone else, you'd probably have to stop and think about what other "sisters" were even on Hollywood's "list of people allowed to star in comedies" at the time. If you guessed "basically none," you are sadly correct!
That's why Bette Midler was originally supposed to star in the film. That makes sense in part because she was known as a singer and in part because "Clearly Jewish woman pretending to be a nun" was considered even more hilarious as a fish-out-of-water story. But while substituting Whoopi for Bette probably made for better comedy, doing it without altering the script at all inadvertently produces some weird results. Like Whoopi's talk about "you people" being "so ... Catholic" taken on a different meaning coming from star famous for Beaches.
Then there's the scene in which criminals are searching for Whoopi's character, Deloris, in a casino. One distinct characteristic that separates Deloris from the others is that she's the only black nun. That either makes the ruthless mobsters weirdly too PC to use this information ...
... or else raised in some kind of post-racial utopia where such a thing wouldn't even be used for someone's physical description.
Either way, not thinking through those rewrites probably makes us like those mobsters more than intended.
Cousin Vinny Was Supposed To Be Played By A Huge, Imposing Tough Guy
Vincent LaGuardia Gambini is one of history's most beloved fictional big-city lawyers who have also released awful albums of lounge music. For sure top 20. But it's debatable whether or not the character would have endured long enough to get a terrible album opportunity without the performance of the legendary Joe Pesci.
Who else could have pulled off this audacious wisecracking character? If you were thinking Andrew Dice Clay, you'd be absolutely 100 percent wrong, but you'd also be on the same page as the filmmakers. Yes, the original plan was for the "Diceman" to star as the smart-ass cousin, esquire. 20th Century Fox's deal with Clay didn't end up working out, costing him the iconic role and sparing us the inevitable addition of "scandalous" nursery rhymes.
But Pesci wasn't exactly next in line. In fact, the description of Vinny from the original screenplay makes it pretty clear which of the actors from Goodfellas screenwriter Dale Launer envisioned for the role:
It should come as no shock that his top pick for his "unquestionably tough" leading man was Robert De Niro. In case you're wondering why, here's a side-by-side comparison of Dice Clay, De Niro, and Pesci from their last starring roles prior to My Cousin Vinny -- you decide which one of them would be the least helpful in a gang fight.
The studio heads, clearly great judges of character, rejected the idea of De Niro because they didn't think he was funny. Their counteroffer was Danny DeVito, but they eventually landed Pesci instead (who, come to think of it, is the exact midpoint between Robert De Niro and Danny DeVito). And Marisa Tomei landed herself an Oscar for convincing us that her being in a relationship with him was the slightest bit believable.
The Sheriff In Blazing Saddles Was Supposed To Be Richard Pryor
If you were writing Blazing Saddles in 1973 -- about a black sheriff in the Old West who uses his razor-sharp wit to run intellectual circles around a hopelessly racist town -- you would have one obvious choice: Richard Pryor. And if that same character had to also pull off vaudevillian gags without disrupting the tone of the movie, you'd definitely want master performer Richard Pryor. And even if you were too dense to notice all of that, you know who wouldn't be? Your co-writer, genius comedian Richard Pryor.
That's exactly why Blazing Saddles stars the incredible comedic performance of ... Cleavon Litte?
Yeah, it turns out Pryor's habit of bringing Courvoisier and cocaine to script sessions made the studio more than a little nervous, and so they refused to insure him. That meant he couldn't star in the movie he and Brooks wrote specifically with him in mind.
Even though he couldn't appear onscreen, Pryor is still all over the movie in its racially charged humor, and even in the casting of his replacement. Brooks wasn't keen on picking a new lead, and quit until Pryor convinced him to cast Little instead. Little did an incredible job (hey, Pryor knew what he was talking about). Still, it's hard to imagine anyone except Richard Pryor delivering Bart's famous closing line the way it was initially scripted:
That also would have been the first time Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor appeared on screen together. Blazing Saddles is one of the greatest comedies of all time anyhow, but it'll be difficult to watch it again without wondering what could have been with Sheriff Pryor riding into Rock Ridge. Sorry, and you're welcome.
For more dirty secrets of Hollywood casting, check out 7 Characters Clearly Designed For (Different) Famous Actors and 8 Insane Early Roles Famous Actors Don't Want You To See.
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