Would They Still be Making ‘Omen’ Movies If the Original Had Starred Dick Van Dyke?

Horror movies could use more pratfalls
Would They Still be Making ‘Omen’ Movies If the Original Had Starred Dick Van Dyke?

Damien might just be the ultimate nepo baby. The son of Satan has been the focal point of multiple Omen movies, from the terrifying original film to the less-than-terrifying Omen IV: The Awakening, which was all about Damein’s evil daughter. You can tell they were running out of ideas by that point because one character gets walloped to death by a possessed wrecking ball.

Now Damien’s conception is the subject of a prequel film, The First Omen. Judging from the trailer, it’s a legit horror flick, and not just a spooky sex tape as one might assume.

Of course, the franchise all began with the classic 1976 Richard Donner film, which memorably starred legendary actor Gregory Peck as the adoptive father of the world’s evilest child not named “Kevin McCallister.” But one can’t help but wonder if The Omen would have reached the same heights of popularity if the filmmakers had been able to cast their original choice for the role of patriarch Robert Thorn, this guy:

Yup, beloved pop-culture icon Dick Van Dyke was approached to star in The Omen. This plan fell through, not because producers feared that he would ruin their movie with an awful cockney accent, but because Van Dyke turned the part down, reportedly because of the film’s content. And he later regretted it.

“My god, that was stupid,” Van Dyke told The Telegraph in 2013. “Gregory Peck got the part, but at that time there was a lot of violence in it — people impaled on things. I was pretty puritan at the time, a goody-two-shoes.” 

Van Dyke said that he felt a responsibility to his fans, and didn’t think it was a great idea to suddenly appear in a movie where he literally tries to murder a small child: “I felt I’d put myself in a position where the audience trusted me. I turned down several things for that reason — either taste or violence or sex or something.” Although, to be fair, by that point he had already starred in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, aka the scariest movie ever made.

Actually, Van Dyke may not have been a bad choice for The Omen, come to think of it. Part of the reason why Peck was such an inspired choice for the role is because he’s known for playing one of the most idealized dads in movie history: Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. Casting Rob Petrie from The Dick Van Dyke Show as the Antichrist’s pop would have been just as subversive, if not more so.

And it’s not like Van Dyke wasn’t a capable dramatic actor, as evidenced in movies like Carl Reiner’s The Comic, and Diagnosis: Murder, a show that is no doubt playing at least one retirement home this very second. But perhaps it’s for the best that Van Dyke didn’t star in The Omen, seeing as the production was rumored to be cursed. Had the set contained even a single ottoman, it could have been fatal.

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