They coulda been con­tenders ...

Try to imag­ine The Wizard of Oz with Shirley Tem­ple, Casablanca with Ron­ald Rea­gan or Ti­tanic with Matthew McConaughey. Joe Grif­fin on the also-rans of movies

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Music -

JUST as theatre can be beau­ti­ful be­cause ev­ery per­for­mance is unique, one of the ap­peal­ing as­pects of cin­ema is its per­ma­nence. Har­ri­son Ford is In­di­ana Jones. Casablanca is unimag­in­able with­out Bog­art and Bergman.

But what if first choice Tom Sel­leck had played Indy? Would Ford be guest­ing on Friends? Would Sean Con­nery be an icon if David Niven hadn’t asked for too much money to play James Bond? One imag­ines that, even if Tom Cruise hadn’t made Top Gun, his am­bi­tion and ca­reer choices would prob­a­bly have made him fa­mous re­gard­less, but no­body re­ally knows.

There are other con­sid­er­a­tions. Would Heath Ledger have been so fa­tally ex­hausted had Adrian Brody beat him to role of The Joker in The Dark Knight? Would Brad Pitt have left Jen­nifer Anis­ton had he been act­ing op­po­site pro­ducer’s choice Ni­cole Kid­man in Mr and Mrs Smith? Would Paul Ho­gan still be a star had he not turned down Ghost?

Of­ten the fate of the very film’s ex­is­tence rests in the ac­tor’s de­ci­sion. Paul Thomas An­der­son has ad­mit­ted that had Daniel Day Lewis not been in­volved in There Will Be Blood (open­ing this week), the film may not have se­cured fi­nanc­ing.

It’s not enough for an ac­tor to be tal­ented and loved by the pub­lic. They must be able to pre­dict what films will hit or miss, based on a pitch, a meet­ing, and a script. It can make the dif­fer­ence be­tween hav­ing the ca­reer of Matt Da­mon or Ben Af­fleck.

Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger, once the big­gest star in the world, boasted that he had a “good nose”. He knew, for ex­am­ple, to play the mono­tone vil­lain in­stead of the hero in The Ter­mi­na­tor, which led to a decade of hits.

No­body can blame Colin Farrell for want­ing to work with Oliver Stone and Michael Mann. It was just bad luck that Alexan­der and Mi­ami Vice turned out to be so dis­ap­point­ing. Sim­i­larly, time will tell whether Ryan Gosling (star­ring in this week’s Lars and the Real Girl) made the right choice by drop­ping out of Peter Jack­son’s The Lovely Bones.

Of­ten, as you’ll see be­low, the scraps from the ta­ble of one ac­tor can be the ca­reer-defin­ing role of an­other.

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