Saturday, February 24, 2007


Sometimes, if you’re a movie geek, you just suddenly find yourself in recasting mode. It comes with the territory. You’re watching a performance – maybe an acclaimed, expertly played one – yet something in you just senses the part clicking a little ( or a lot) better with another performer onboard. You play out the movie in your head till finally your (recast) version’s as real as the actual one. Then you start wishing other people could see THAT movie.

Apologies to those whose names actually appeared on the credits. Your paycheques have been cashed, your nominations and awards are irrevocable, your laurels remain intact. Someday (for better or worse) technology will probably make infinite recasting feasible. For now, indulge me. Play these alternately populated versions in your head. And I suspect you’ll soon be thinking of the films you’d recast.

P.S. Although, of course, the whole thing’s a flight of fancy, I’ve imposed one rule as a concession to reality. The substitutes must have been more or less contemporary to the project at hand. Hence, no Catherine Zeta-Jones in “Gone with the Wind” or Betty Grable in “Chicago”. Other than that, the sky’s the limit. It’s an open casting call.

1 comment:

Vertigo's Psycho said...

Love these "Recasting" postings. More, more!

A couple "what ifs" I've pondered over the years. . .

Tuesday Weld as Mayella Ewell in To Kill a Mockingbird- Watch Weld display incredible dramatic ability as a southern belle in the following year’s Soldier in the Rain, then think of how fascinating she could have been in the pivotal role of the girl who cries rape in the 1962 classic.

Stella Stevens as Honey in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?- I’ve always thought Stevens had a lot to offer on film, but never got that one part to cement her reputation outside of the “sexpot” mode. I enjoy Sandy Dennis’ hyper-kinetic, dynamic, and showy interpretation (no one’s upstaging her, the Burton-Taylor legend be damned), but I think Stevens as Honey would’ve been quieter and more touching, lending a grace note to the loud, violent proceedings surrounding her.

Some castings that were considered and, in some cases, almost took place:

Shirley Temple as Veda in Mildred Pierce. Could Temple have pulled off a cast-against-type role once in her career? Well, she was a pro, and watching her attempt to play Pierce’s underhanded, selfish, and downright vicious daughter opposite the equally-iconic Joan Crawford would have at least dropped many jaws (then and now), and possibly could have paved the way for a more interesting screen career for Temple as an adult star.

William Holden as Guy Haines in Strangers on a Train. I’ve read Hitchcock wanted him, and Holden’s natural, instinctive gifts as a screen actor would have made him a compelling, heroic counterpoint to Robert Walker’s ingeniously creative playing of the disturbed Bruno Anthony.

Joan Crawford as Karen Holmes in From Here to Eternity. Reading the book, one can easily understand why Crawford was originally slated for the role, before departing the film over a wardrobe dispute- bad move, Joan. In James Jones’ novel, Karen is one hard-nosed, world-weary dame, perfectly suited for Crawford at that stage in her career.

Piper Laurie as Lulu Bains in Elmer Gantry. Shirley Jones claims director Richard Brooks wanted Laurie for her Oscar-winning role. Jones' is a florid, fun and frenzied performance, as she challenges an electrifying Burt Lancaster for the spotlight in their florid scenes together, but Laurie would have made Lulu's heartbreak real.

Dorothy Malone as Lois Farrow in The Last Picture Show- I love Ellen Burstyn in her career establisher, but I’ve had a thing for Malone for years, ever since I witnessed her vamp her way to an Oscar so memorably in Written on the Wind. She badly needed a career boost at this late date in her career (1971), and this role certainly would have put her back in the spotlight. Also, (playing her mother) Malone would’ve matched up physically and temperamentally with Cybill Shepherd very, very well. Bogdanovich wanted a lesser-known name, though.

And it's been mentioned by others (Pauline Kael among them) but Marilyn Monroe was the Holly Golightly of Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's, and she could have reached a career high if she'd been allowed to play the role in the film (on the DVD commentary, producer Richard Shepherd can't seem to get past Monroe's sexy onscreen image, giving her gifts little credit as he admits he blithely dismissed her as a viable choice for the role during the casting of the picture).