6 Crazy Auditions That Landed Actors Their Famous Roles
Talent, hard work, being on the executive producer's Christmas card list -- these are the ways most people land major acting roles. But because Hollywood is a pinball machine with bumpers of randomness and insanity, sometimes famous parts go to actors (even great ones) for all the wrong reasons. For example ...
Rory McCann Got Cast As The Hound Because He Was Pissed Off At His Sister
In the midst of snow zombies, fire-breathing dragons, and the cross-continent jetpacks some of the characters have acquired, it can be easy to overlook the human element of Game Of Thrones. The show's talented cast has found ways to make its impossible stakes and heartbreaking schemes still feel relatable, like the decisions are being made by human beings and not script-driven robots. How did they find actors who could bring such a down-to-earth quality to fantasy characters? Through disastrous auditions.
One of the show's most iconic characters, Sandor "The Hound" Clegane, is played by Rory McCann, who in real life is very sweet and mild-mannered. He was also a struggling actor paying his rent with landscaping and painting bridges, so when he signed up to audition for the Hound, he never thought he would get it. And according to McCann, he only won the part because *silly trombone noise* his sister printed off the wrong audition speech.
McCann's sister only managed to print the first few lines instead of the whole thing. So, when McCann showed up to the audition, he saw that everyone else was preparing a long, intense speech about how the Hound's face was burned -- something he didn't even know his character suffered from. McCann had to ask for his audition to be postponed so he could learn what he was doing, and by the time he had to perform, he was basically method acting the entire thing.
"When I walked into the room, I knew I had to go crazy, so I unleashed all this," McCann admitted. His seething anger impressed the room so much that he got the part. McCann, however, still thinks this was a "fluke." Seeing as how the Hound has been one of the most compelling characters throughout the entire series, he's either being modest or his sister has been intentionally breaking his favorite mugs and calling to tell him before each important scene.
Kit Harington, who plays Jon Snow, owes his audition success to a similar bit of coincidental misfortune. The night before he went in to read for the part, Harrington popped by a depressingly busy McDonald's with his girlfriend and ended up sitting next to a couple they didn't know. When his tablemate called his girlfriend an "ugly pig," Harrington upped his chivalry quotient by calling the dude out -- probably overcompensating for the fact that he brought a date to a McDonald's.
The two ended up getting into a fight, and Harrington auditioned for Jon Snow with a fresh black eye. Harrington now thinks the shiner helped him look tough enough to lead the Night's Watch -- when in reality it was a petty skirmish that probably involved people hurling McNuggets at each other.
Harrison Ford Landed The Part Of Han Solo While Fixing A Broken Door
If it wasn't for that infamous earring, we'd all assume that Harrison Ford actually is Han Solo. It's such perfect casting that it's hard to imagine anyone else as the infamous scoundrel. But despite having cast Ford before, George Lucas didn't even consider letting him audition for the role...until he saw him hanging out on a porch in his tool belt.
As we've mentioned before, Ford made ends meet as a carpenter while trying to make it as an actor. Ford thought his big break had come when he got a part in Lucas' American Graffiti, but afterward, he couldn't get any acting jobs and went back to carpentry. It's like what Jesus would have done if that whole messiah gig hadn't worked out.
Ford eventually got a job installing a door for Francis Ford Coppola, where he again ran into George Lucas, who was in the midst of casting for his new little indie, Star Wars. Instead of immediately recognizing that Ford would be a perfect Han Solo (who, to be fair, had originally been conceived as a giant green monster), Lucas gave Ford a small job as an audition partner when casting potential Princess Leias for old times' sake. Ford, a diehard professional, threw himself into the job, giving it his all during every audition. Eventually, Lucas realized that Ford himself should be given the part. If he could fix that door by then, of course.
Interestingly, Lucas and Ford had a slight misunderstanding about all of this that wasn't cleared up until this year. Speaking at a panel for the 40th anniversary of the movie, Lucas implied that Ford was merely pretending to work on a door in order to land an audition -- which Ford, who serves as humanity's cranky uncle, took issue with. He stated: "I wouldn't sit out front and wait for you, George. I love you, but I don't wait out front."
To be fair, this is how Lucas cast all of his important roles. Before they were cast, Mark Hamill was a local window washer, Sir Alec Guinness was unclogging the production office's toilets, and Jar-Jar Binks was the nagging specter of Lucas' own insecurity as a filmmaker.
Ryan Gosling Was Cast In The Notebook Because He Was "Not Handsome"
Grown-up child actors have it rough in Hollywood. Not everyone stays as charming and lovable as they were at seven -- just look at Lassie. But this worked in favor of one former child actor, who was able to make the transition into stardom exactly because he grew up ugly. We are of, course, talking about ol' lazy-eyed, crooked-nosed Ryan Gosling.
Before he wouldn't shut up about jazz but after he was done hamming it up on kids' TV, Gosling was a young actor struggling to be taken seriously. But his fortunes changed when he was offered the leading role in The Notebook. For those of you pretending not to have seen it, The Notebook tells the story of an old-timey couple falling in love despite obstacles that include class and Hitler. The movie became a huge hit, and a big part of that is owed to Gosling's breakout handsomeness. The movie's poster even looks like the cover of one of those Harlequin novels tucked in the back of your mom's nightstand.
So presumably, Gosling was cast because of his matinee idol good looks and all-around dreaminess, right? Apparently not. According to Gosling, it was pretty much the opposite reason. He recalls being invited to director Nick Cassavetes' house, where Cassavetes then told him: "I want you to play this role because you're not like the other young actors out there in Hollywood. You're not handsome, you're not cool, you're just a regular guy who looks a bit nuts." To reiterate, the man chosen to cast the most desirable romantic lead ever told this dude that his greatest charm was being an average-looking weirdo:
So if the director wanted a not-handsome, sort-of-nuts-type of guy, why not give, say, Steve Buscemi a call? Clint Howard was probably free. Sure, it may not have been who Nicholas Sparks fans envisioned in the role, but it would have been a greater victory for all us bug-eyed normies than being told that looking like Ryan "Eight Pack" Gosling means you're a six at best.
Gunther From Friends Was An Extra Hired For His Coffee Experience
We all remember Friends, the sitcom about six 20-somethings dealing with work, love, and the inability to befriend a single minority. But besides a great and memorable main cast (and Phoebe), there was only one supporting character who really stood out: Gunther, the awkward manager of Central Perk, a man who forever hovered in the background looking like a ventriloquist dummy going through a midlife crisis.
But despite showing a masterful ability for deadpan/saddo comedy, the actor behind Gunther, James Michael Tyler, got the role not through his acting skill at all. He landed the job thanks to his coffee skills. While working as a barista, Tyler showed up for an audition for extras with "coffee experience" -- which is all of them. The producers then "asked if he knew how to operate a cappuccino machine," and told him that his character would only be credited as "Coffee Guy"-- because "Bleached Blonde Weirdo" was a little too mean to put on a call sheet.
For the first season and a half, Tyler's Coffee Guy silently skulked in the background of the Central Perk set like a ghost whose unfinished business was cleaning oversized cups. Tyler's main job on set was to pretend to be operating the cappuccino machine, since it was too loud to turn on. Hiring a dude who knows how to do that instead of just hiring an actor is a quite high level of verite for a show that pretends a fry cook and a waitress can afford a two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan.
Then one day, one of the show's creators asked if Tyler had any acting experience, paving the way for Gunther to say a line or two, and eventually adopt a serial-killer-like obsession with Rachel. But his unexpected fame did come at a price: his hair. When Tyler had gotten the role as an extra on Friends, he had recently bleached his hair (this was a thing people did in the '90s that psychiatrists still can't explain). But then the producers kept asking him back week after week, meaning that he accidentally saddled himself with the whole "Eminem hosting a morning show" look for an entire decade.
Shane Black Was Cast In Predator Because They Wanted Him To Rewrite The Script
The original cast of Predator was a who's who of movie tough guys, from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Carl Weathers to Jesse Ventura, who acts throughout like he thinks he's in a documentary. One notable exception is the character of Hawkins, who looks less like a championship bodybuilder and more like a guy whose contraband is a waifu pillow and some wicked D&D dice.
While you might not recognize the face, Hawkins is played by famed writer and director Shane Black, who at the time had made a name for himself with the script for Lethal Weapon. So why does Black show up in an action movie surrounded by body types rarely seen outside of an American Gladiators rerun? According to the movie's director, they wanted him to take an on-set rewrite job, but Black refused. So in a Machiavellian scheme where the ultimate goal was to slightly improve a killer dreadlocked amphibian movie, the producers cast Black. That way they had him on set, where he couldn't help but "contribute" to the story.
However, when Black showed up, he refused to do an all-out rewrite of the screenplay. Their plan foiled by basic professionalism, they realized they had hired some snarky weed to play tough next to Schwarzenegger, and decided to simply kill him off in the first seven minutes. So in a way, they did get Black to change the plot.
In an odd twist, Black is now writing and directing the next Predator film. We look forward to watching a bunch of '80s producers in combat vests and no pants get sent into a jungle to get killed by the Predator in the first six minutes.
The Leads For The Omen And The Exorcist Were Hired Due To Pure Hilarity
With the exception of the Hieronymus-Bosch-esque landscape of malevolence that is a trip to Chuck E. Cheese's, it's hard to envision little kids as the embodiment of Satan. But in creating some of the great horror movies, filmmakers were tasked with finding little tykes who could successfully pass as antichrists.
When casting The Omen, director Richard Donner had to find a kid creepy enough to play Damien, who's part young boy, part unholy monster, and part Morrissey publicity photo. While there was presumably no shortage of stage parents lining up their kids for a crack at playing a creepy devil child, finding the right one was another matter. So how did Donner settle on actor Harvey Stevens? Easy: Stevens was the only one who immediately struck him in the crotch.
Donner wasn't immediately convinced Stevens was the right kid for the unholy job, but at the insistence of his producer, he brought the boy in for another audition. However, unbeknownst to anyone else, Donner wanted to see how Stevens would perform in the scene wherein Damien had to fight his own mother. So when the audition started, Donner challenged the boy to a fight and told Stevens to "come at him" -- which was apparently an acceptable thing to say to a child actor in the 1970s. Before the director realized what he'd done, the young actor was charging at him, clawing his face and hitting him square in the groin. After the audition, Donner told his producer to dye Stevens' hair black and get him a contract, presumably in a falsetto voice.
The team making The Exorcist had a similarly daunting task when casting Regan, a preteen girl possessed by an ancient demon with a penchant for violence, profanity, and getting kinky with religious symbols. Director William Friedkin had a hard time finding a stage kid who had "swearing like a sailor" on her resume, and was about to give up on his search when in walked 11-year-old Linda Blair and her mom. At first sight, Blair was like all the other precious darlings Friedkin had rejected, but when he asked her if she knew what her part was all about, Blair calmly responded by listing all the bad things her character does, like how "she pushes a man out of a window and hits her mother in the face and she masturbates with a crucifix." Taken aback by her candor, Friedkin asked her if she knew what masturbation was. Blair answered: "It's like jerking off, isn't it?" He then asked if she'd ever "done that" -- to which the 11-year-old replied "Sure, haven't you?" Friedkin hired her on the spot.
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What the Hell Did I Just Read: A Novel of Cosmic Horror, the third book in David Wong's John Dies at the End series, is available now!