5 Ding-Dong Ways Actors Got Iconic Roles

Actors are supposed to get major movie roles by auditioning for them, crossing their fingers for the best, then repeating the process a few more times until they finally get the part, but hundreds of others have their dream shot down ... right? Well, sometimes the casting process is a much more insane and convoluted one, like how ...

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5
Sofia Coppola Almost Had To Make Stalking Bill Murray Her Full-Time Job To Get Him For Lost In Translation

Sofia Coppola wrote Lost in Translation with Bill Murray in mind from jump street -- he was Bob in her mind, and that was that. Which was a problem because Murray is famously reclusive and getting in touch with him about your movie is a feat of wits and endurance, and that's before even trying to get him to say "Yes." But Coppola says that putting obstacles in her way only makes her more dedicated to reaching her goal, which turned out to be a very fortunate personality trait as getting in touch with Bill Murray became a full-time job for five whole months.

Focus Features
They should make a movie about that ... if they can get Bill Murray to star.
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She finally got a meeting thanks to a mutual friend, screenwriter Mitch Glazer, who showed Murray the treatment for Lost in Translation. Murray showed his interest not, as you might expect, by setting up a meeting, but by inviting her to a dinner, he was having in Manhattan with friends. At that meeting, she and Murray spoke for hours but only brought up the movie once; yet that was enough, apparently, since he said he'd be happy to do it. It all sounded great, but there was only one problem: he didn't want to sign a contract.

That was yet another classic Murray move, apparently. Like a house cat, he just shows up if he decides to, which is not something you want to hear when you're trying to convince people to finance your production. Ideally, you'd love to be able to say, "Yes, Mr. Murray has signed an agreement that he'd star in the movie," rather than, "He said over dinner that he was really excited to do it ... but that might have been about getting dessert." Coppola was understandably pretty rattled, but previous Murray director, Wes Anderson, told her Bill would definitely be there if he said he would. And somehow, despite all reason, the money people were convinced enough that Lost in Translation secured $1 million for pre-production. That meant they had everything all set but still had to wait to see if Bill Murray would show up in Tokyo.

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Of course, he provided absolutely no advance notice. They only found out for sure that he'd be in the movie one week before filming started, when producer Ross Katz met him at the airport and then phoned Sofia Coppola, saying, "The eagle has landed!" Which should now be your life goal for how you want to be introduced when arriving at work.

4
Peter Weller "Bullshitted" And Mimed His Way Into Playing RoboCop

Peter Weller was a Paul Verhoeven fan before he even got cast in RoboCop. He'd watched all of Verhoeven's earlier films, which made him sure that RoboCop wouldn't be just a dumb robot movie (as his agent had warned him about). When he met Verhoeven, Weller told him he was sure that RoboCop would be a movie with a small, relatable plot that uses a sweeping, operatic tale as a background -- because all of Verhoeven's films are like that. That was on the money, and Verhoeven was so floored by how well Weller seemed to understand him that he invited him to audition.

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The problem was, Weller -- as he says -- doesn't do auditions. He's half-dyslexic, and it takes him a while to get a sense of what's written on a page of the script. Fortunately for him, though, he's also a great dancer and a gifted bullshitter -- skills that would prove vital to getting the lead role in RoboCop. Weller BS-ed his way into a career in Hollywood, claiming that he's only done about four auditions total and used the same approach here. When he got to the audition, he told everyone flat-out, "Listen, guys, I'm not going to audition." Then Paul Verhoeven asked him if he could mime. 

Orion Pictures
"Your 'pulling a rope' and 'trapped in a box' look good.  Now show us 'Shooting a dick off.'"
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Verhoeven also wanted Weller to move through the room. While Weller hadn't yet worked with Moni Yakim, his movement coach for RoboCop, his dancing chops were enough -- after he'd moved through the room as requested, Verhoeven said, "Okay." Apparently, they were happy with just that, so Weller waited for an offer.

In the meantime, he took a meeting with legendary producer Dino De Laurentiis about a King Kong reboot (which became King Kong Lives). The first thing De Laurentiis told him was "Peter Weller, Peter Weller. How much money you want not to do this fucking robot movie?" But it looks like whatever Dino offered wasn't enough because the RoboCop offer came through two hours after that meeting ended, and Weller took it.

Orion Pictures
Nobody suggested a RoboCop/King Kong crossover, and cinematic history is poorer for it.
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3
R. Lee Ermey Filmed Himself Ranting At Actual Marines Because Stanley Kubrick Thought He Was "Too Nice"

R. Lee Ermey joined the production of Full Metal Jacket as a technical adviser, but he was after more: he wanted to be in the film too. You might think that by being a real-life drill sargent, he would be a natural choice to play the movie's drill sergeant, but Stanley Kubrick disagreed and thought Ermey was "too nice." He'd seen Ermey in an older movie, Boys in Company C, and Ermey's persona just didn't work for him. "You're just not mean enough," Kubrick told him. This deeply insulted Ermey because he considered himself "One of the foulest sons of bitches in the world." So he needed to show Kubrick how awful he really was.

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Mission accomplished.

Ermey rounded up a bunch of marines who were auditioning to play extras and then filmed himself unloading insults on them. Kubrick instantly changed his mind and told Ermey he's "a genius for this part." Plus, he had someone type up all the insults Ermey had come up with off the cuff -- which resulted in either 45 or 250 pages, depending on which source you read, still either way, it's the work of truly exceptional emotional evisceration.

But Ermey wasn't ready to play the drill sergeant yet. That audition tape wasn't enough for Kubrick: he asked Ermey to undergo rehearsals that'd make him even nastier on-screen. Ermey had to keep spitting his insults at breakneck speed while Kubrick's assistant Leon Vitali threw oranges and tennis balls at him, and Ermey had to catch them and throw them back -- and he had to do it 20 times. If he slurred his lines, dropped words, or slowed down, he'd have to start over. Which helps explain why he acts the way he does in the movie.

Warner Bros.
Also, he probably never played tennis or ate oranges again.
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2
Free Booze Got Matthew McConaughey A Role In Dazed And Confused

In the early '90s, when Matthew McConaughey was a film student at UT Austin, he showed up one night at a Hyatt hotel in Austin with a date. The only reason he went to that specific hotel was that the bartender was a classmate of his, so he could get him free drinks. At some point in the evening, the bartender pointed out legendary casting director Don Phillips, who was sitting nearby, so McConaughey went over to talk to him.

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He and Philips apparently hit it off because, in an extremely un-Wooderson move, he ditched his date -- giving her cab fare -- for the guy who could launch his career. McConaughey and Philips got so loud that management eventually kicked them out of the hotel. Which worked out fine because McConaughey got a meeting with Richard Linklater out of it. Linklater really liked McConaughey and eventually cast him in Dazed and Confused. As McConaughey says, if he hadn't met Philips at the Hyatt that night, he's not sure what he'd be doing with his life. Which just goes to show -- it's not what you know, it's what your bartender knows.

Gramercy Pictures
But "You just gotta keep on networkin' man, N-E-T-W-O-R-K-I-N-G" wouldn't have been as catchy.
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1
Bruce Willis Starred In Die Hard Because Eight Other People Said "No" And An Actress Got Pregnant

Today, the first thing that springs to mind with Bruce Willis is the Die Hard franchise, just like Arnold Schwarzenegger with The Terminator or OJ Simpson with The Naked Gun. But in the '80s, Willis was just a funny TV actor. He was on Moonlighting -- a comedy-drama about two thirsty as hell private detectives that featured basically no action. It's not just that Willis wasn't the studio's first choice for an action movie; it's that he was barely in the top ten.

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The first choice, more weirdly, was Frank Sinatra. This was for weird legal reasons -- Die Hard was a loose sequel to 1968's The Detective, which starred Sinatra, so Ol' Blue Eyes had to get first dibs. Predictably, he passed. The studio was counting on that, but not on the cascade of rejections that followed. Their next choice, Schwarzenegger, turned it down because he wanted to get into comedy (he did Twins next). So they started going down the list of bankable '80s action stars: Harrison Ford, Sly Stallone, Don Johnson, Mel Gibson, Richard Gere, Burt Reynolds, and the sentient ashtray Nick Nolte. They even got to Richard Dean Anderson, AKA MacGyver, who also shot them down.

20th Century Studios
Though, having to fight terrorists with nothing but a dirty tank top and improv weapons does sound like a job for MacGyver.
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Then they got to the guy playing a private detective on a funny TV show, and he said no, too. The one difference is that Willis wanted to do it but couldn't: there was no way he could take three months off from filming Moonlighting to make a movie. Luckily for Willis' career and the rest of us collectively, that's when his co-star, Cybill Shepherd, announced she was pregnant, which meant Moonlighting would have to shut down for 11 weeks -- just enough time to make Die Hard. It was absolutely perfect timing, really. As Willis said, "If I had got Cybill pregnant myself, I couldn't have planned it better." Which is a comment douchey enough that karma decided to curse Willis to be as bald as a baby for his remaining days.

Top image: Focus Features, Gramercy Pictures

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