Snatching fame from the Jaws of obscurity
Sometimes second choices get the choice roles
By BRUCE WESTBROOK
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle
Steven Spielberg knew what he wanted: a grizzled, nail-hard tough guy to play shark hunter Quint in 1975's Jaws.
So naturally he turned to Lee Marvin. The Oscar-winning star of action films such as The Dirty Dozen
had just the right chiseled face and angry edge.
Only one problem: Marvin wasn't interested.
So Spielberg sought his second choice: Sterling Hayden. He had played deranged Gen. Jack D. Ripper in Dr. Strangelove
and corrupt cop Capt. McCluskey in The Godfather
Another problem: Hayden wasn't available.
producers Richard Zanuck and David Brown stepped in. They pitched Robert Shaw, an actor who had served them well in 1973's best-picture Oscar winner The Sting.
Shaw was that film's fierce, indomitable gang boss, and he had played a rock-hard Russian spy in From Russia With Love
, warring on a train with Sean Connery's 007 in one of the series' best fights.
Shaw had the chops — and finally he got the Jaws
job. He may have been Spielberg's third choice, but he became part of history as Jaws
made the then-biggest summer-film splash in Hollywood history.
Such tidbits arise in The Making of Jaws
, a two-hour look at the film's creation on a two-disc 30th-anniversary Jaws
DVD, new in stores this week. It also reveals that future Oscar winner Richard Dreyfuss wasn't Spielberg's first pick to play marine biologist Matt Hooper in Jaws.
A big fan of Texas-made The Last Picture Show
, Spielberg had considered that film's Jeff Bridges and Timothy Bottoms, then offered the part to Jon Voight, who turned it down.
Spielberg also looked elsewhere to cast Police Chief Martin Brody before settling for Roy Scheider, fresh from The French Connection.
Despite so many runners-up in roles, Jaws'
casting chemistry proved crucial. While hunting a great white shark near a New England coastal town, Shaw, Scheider and Dreyfuss bonded magnificently, comparing scars and drunkenly singing songs in the night before battling a monster in the light.
We'll never know how Jaws
might have played without those three, but we do know they're not alone as fall-back choices. Hollywood history is filled with plum parts that could have gone other ways. Here are just a few:
• Spielberg first wanted Tom Selleck to play Indiana Jones in 1981's Raiders of the Lost Ark
, but Selleck was committed to his Magnum, P.I.
TV series. Nick Nolte reportedly turned down the role before it went to Harrison Ford, who stumbled into a franchise, starring in two additional Indiana Jones movies.
• Before an unknown Dustin Hoffman was cast in 1967's The Graduate
, director Mike Nichols considered matinee idol Robert Redford to play dazed scholar Benjamin Braddock. But Redford didn't screen-test well, so Charles Grodin got the part — then backed out.
• Jeff Goldblum was a snug fit for the obsessive, twitchy scientist in 1986's remake of The Fly.
But Michael Keaton got the part first, then turned it down.
• Peter Jackson began filming his Lord of the Rings
trilogy with Irish actor Stuart Townsend in the key role of Aragorn. After several days, Jackson realized Townsend, then 28, was too young for the part, and he quickly cast Viggo Mortensen, then 40. Sean Connery also rejected the role of Gandalf, which went to Ian McKellen.
[font=verdana, arial, helvetica, sans-serif]Associated Press
[/font][font=verdana, arial, helvetica, sans-serif]New Line
[/font][font=verdana, arial, helvetica, sans-serif]Sean Connery, left, turned down the role of Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Ian McKellen made the trilogy's Gandalf role his own.
• Director Billy Wilder first wanted Charlton Heston to star in 1953's Stalag 17
, then wound up with William Holden, who won a best actor Oscar for the role.
• Before Sharon Stone became a sensation in 1991's Basic Instinct
, Julia Roberts was offered the femme fatale part but turned it down.
• Forget Halle Berry's Catwoman
fiasco of last year. Also forget Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether and Eartha Kitt, who played Catwoman for the '60s Batman.
No one has filled the feline role better than leather-wrapped, whip-cracking Michelle Pfeiffer in 1992's Batman Returns.
Yet she was a second choice, after first pick Annette Bening became pregnant.
• Although known for gangster roles, James Cagney was first cast as the title hero of 1938's The Adventures of Robin Hood —
but left its studio. Errol Flynn then got the part.
• Future Beverly Hillbilly
Buddy Ebsen played the silvery Tin Man early in production of 1939's The Wizard of Oz.
But when Ebsen became ill from aluminum dust in his makeup, Jack Haley got the part.
• All-time box-office champ Titanic
almost set sail with Gwyneth Paltrow and Matthew McConaughey in the romantic roles of Rose and Jack. Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio then got the parts.
[font=verdana, arial, helvetica, sans-serif]20th Century Fox
[font=verdana, arial, helvetica, sans-serif]Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet will always be remembered as the doomed lovers in the megahit Titanic.
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[font=verdana, arial, helvetica, sans-serif]Associated Press photos
[font=verdana, arial, helvetica, sans-serif]Matthew McConaughey turned down the Titanic role of Jack. Gwyneth Paltrow was originally chosen for the role of Rose in Titanic.
• Martin Landau was offered the Spock role on TV's Star Trek
but declined, so it went to Leonard Nimoy. William Shatner was the third choice as Captain Kirk, behind Lloyd Bridges and Jeffrey Hunter.