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The Book of Lists: Horror
Six Stars Who Turned Down Famous Horror Movie Roles
1. Bela Lugosi as the Monster in Frankenstein (1931): Coming off the title role in the hit 1931 film version of Dracula, Bela Lugosi seemed like the natural choice to star as the creature in Frankenstein. While make-up tests with Lugosi were indeed conducted and shot, ultimately he did not play the role, although accounts differ as to why. Lugosi claimed that he "read the script and didn't like it. So I asked to be withdrawn from the picture." However, Jack Pierce, the film's makeup designer, was quoted as saying that the star "had too many ideas of his own that didn't correspond with those of the producer, Carl Laemmle. Lugosi thought his ideas were better than everybody's." Whatever the case, the part went to a forty-four-year-old character actor named Boris Karloff, and the rest is horror history.
2. Shirley MacLaine as Chris MacNeil in The Exorcist (1973): Author William Peter Blatty used his friend Shirley MacLaine as the inspiration for Chris MacNeil, the movie star whose daughter Regan is a victim of demonic possession, right down to giving the character a similar last name. When MacLaine signed a deal with producer Lew Grade, she tried to interest him in making the film version of The Exorcist. However, the producer made a lowball offer on the hot material, which was declined, and MacLaine ended up starring in another supernatural thriller, The Possession of Joel Delaney (1972). After other major actresses were considered by Blatty and director William Friedkin, the role eventually went to Ellen Burstyn,who earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. In an odd side-story, MacLaine has long maintained that the image on the novel's dust jacket cover was a distorted photograph of her daughter Sachi that was taken by Blatty, although the author has repeatedly denied this claim.
3. Sterling Hayden as Quint in Jaws (1975): The legendary star of The Asphalt Jungle and Johnny Guitar was selected by director Steven Spielberg to play the crusty shark hunter Quint in the adaptation of Peter Benchley's bestseller. (Lee Marvin was also briefly considered.) However, Hayden was in the midst of legal problems due to unpaid taxes, and his salary would have been subject to a levy by the Internal Revenue Service. Although several ideas were considered to circumvent the problem, none were deemed viable and Hayden ultimately passed. Veteran actor Robert Shaw (who called the script "shit") took the role and delivered what many consider the single finest acting moment in the film: Quint's monologue about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis.
4. and 5. Gene Hackman and Michelle Pfeiffer as Dr. Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs (1991): Orion Pictures acquired the film rights to the bestselling Thomas Harris novel The Silence of the Lambs in 1988 because Gene Hackman expressed interest in directing and writing the movie version. He also planned to star as serial killer Dr. Hannibal "the Cannibal" Lecter (the role had previously been played by Brian Cox in Michael Mann's 1986 film Manhunter). By mid-1989, Hackman had dropped out of the project, and Jonathan Demme took over as director. Demme offered the role of FBI trainee Clarice Starling to Michelle Pfeiffer, with whom he had worked on the comedy Married to the Mob. Pfeiffer found the material too dark and declined. When The Silence of the Lambs was finally made, Anthony Hopkins played Lecter and Jodie Foster played Starling. Both won Academy Awards for their performances.
6. Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling in Hannibal (2001): The massive success of The Silence of the Lambs virtually assured a sequel—however, it took Thomas Harris more than a decade to deliver one. When the novel Hannibal appeared in 1999, many readers were angered by the outré plot, which featured an ending that had Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter running away together as lovers. Among the outraged fans was Jodie Foster, who felt the novel's conclusion "betrayed" Clarice (director Jonathan Demme and screenwriter Ted Tally, both Oscar winners for Lambs, also passed; Ridley Scott was hired as director, and David Mamet and Steven Zaillian wrote the script). Foster later added: "Clarice meant so much to Jonathan and me, she really did, and I know it sounds kind of strange to say, but there was no way that either of us could really trample on her." Many actresses, including Hilary Swank and Cate Blanchett, were considered for the role, which ultimately went to Julianne Moore, who said: "Of course people are going to compare my interpretation with Jodie Foster's . . . but this film is going to be very different." It was. And, despite modifying the controversial ending, the movie proved as polarizing to fans as the novel.
Ray Bradbury's Five Horror Films That Most Influenced Him as a Youth
A native of Waukegan, Illinois, Ray Bradbury is the author of The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, The October Country, Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Illustrated Man, and countless other classic works of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. He has also been the recipient of numerous awards, including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2002, and the National Medal of the Arts in 2004.
The following was dictated to Del Howison on September 16, 2007, at Ray Bradbury's home in Los Angeles, California.
1. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923): I was three years old when I saw this film. It made me want to be a hunchback.
2. The Phantom of the Opera (1925): I was five years old when this came out. It made me want to be Lon Chaney.
3. The Lost World (1925): It made me fall in love with dinosaurs. I've loved them all my life. I wrote all kinds of things about them. John Huston read something I wrote about them and it caused him to hire me to write the screenplay for Moby Dick.
4. King Kong (1933): I fell for Fay Wray. She's the best. Years later my friend Ray Harryhausen got to go up to the top of the Empire State Building with her. That's something, isn't it?
5. The Mummy (1932): The one with Boris Karloff. I wanted to be a mummy strolling out of a tomb.The Book of Lists: Horror. Copyright © by Amy Wallace. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.