How Your Favourite Film Could Have Looked – Near Casting Choices in ’80s Movies – Part II

21 Jul

It’s fascinating to see what movies almost looked like had certain casting decisions actually happened.  As we saw in Part I of this post, plenty of our favourite ’80s films were very nearly completely different (Charlie Sheen as the Karate Kid anyone?) and in Part II we have a further look at the actors who were almost cast in some of the best ’80s films of all time.  Spoiler alert: Steven Segal does not make an appearance.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

One of the great high school adventures of all time, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off follows the title character as he skips school with his girlfriend and best friend to enjoy everything spring time Chicago can offer a group of teens – all without getting caught by his parents or his suspicious principal, Ed Rooney.

To pull that off, Ferris had to be smart, creative, and extremely likeable, and Matthew Broderick pulled that off perfectly, even adlibbing some of Ferris’s funniest moments.  However, he wasn’t the first person to be offered the role; that was Johnny Depp.  Due to scheduling conflicts, though, Depp had to turn down the offer.  Jim Carrey and Michael J. Fox, among others, were considered, but Broderick ultimately got to play the wannabe sausage king of Chicago.  Danke schoen Johhny!

Johnny Depp wishes he could rock a shower mohawk like this

Johnny Depp wishes he could rock a shower mohawk like this


Along with skipping school, another schoolboy fantasy is to be all grown up and able to do what adults can.  That’s exactly what Josh Baskin got to do as the protagonist in Big.  The instant adult version was played by Tom Hanks, who was director Penny Marshall’s first choice for the part, but it almost never happened.

Initially Hanks had to decline the offer due to commitments to filming Dragnet.  After looking at other options, Marshall offered the part to Robert De Niro.  It might have been a different film; instead of dancing on giant floor pianos and grossing out his best friend with silly string, Josh would have become an organised crime lord.

De Niro actually accepted the offer, so the above could have happened, but his asking price of $6 million was too much and the offer was withdrawn.  In the end Marshall waited until Hanks – and his more palatable $2 million fee – was available, and the film went on to become the first film directed by a female to gross over $100 million.  Now that’s big.


Just one look at his films tells you that Tim Burton is a quirky guy.  A guy with scissors for hands?  That’s not weird!  His quirkiness isn’t just limited to his directorial style though, as evidenced by this near casting choice.

Back before the days when every single Burton film starred Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, Burton had one person and one person only in mind to play Betelgeuse, and it wasn’t Michael Keaton.  When he pictured the eccentric ‘bio-exorcist’ in his mind’s eye, Burton apparently envisioned a swinging, happening, Las Vegas crooner.  He envisioned Sammy Davis Jr.  The fact that the Rat Pack member was most popular in the ’50s and ’60s, and was 63 years old at the time didn’t seem to bother him.  It did bother the studio, however, who stepped in and exorcised that thought from Burton’s mind, leaving the role wide open for Keaton.  That’s showbiz, baby!

Beverly Hills Cop

Beverly Hills Cop was the movie that took the rapidly on the rise Eddie Murphy and rocketed him into superstardom.  Not only did that almost not happen, the movie itself was almost very different entirely.

Initially Beverly Hills Cop was an action film, with Sylvestor Stallone set to star.  The story was to follow Axel Foley – who was from east Los Angeles, not Detroit – as he got transferred to Beverly Hills.  Stallone, among others, tinkered with the script but ultimately passed on it (although it’s said he used some of the plot to develop Cobra).  The studio then looked to Mickey Rourke to take it over but that never eventuated.

In the end, to our eternal gratitude, the script was reworked and Murphy brought on board.  The best part about it is that when there were gaps or problems in the reworked script, it allowed Murphy to adlib some of the funniest moments of that movie, such as the ‘super-cops’ monologue.  Don’t believe me?  Watch John Ashton (Sgt. Taggart) closely at about the 55 second mark and you’ll see what I mean.


One of my favourite ’80s films, Ghostbusters is unique, hilarious, and boasts a great cast.  But the question, ‘Who ya gonna call?’ almost resulted in a completely different answer, as the cast originally intended was vastly different to the end product.  In fact, the movie itself almost looked quite different.

Originally Dan Akroyd’s vision was of a film set in the future where the ‘Ghost Smashers’ (seriously!) were an on-call emergency response team like fire fighters or paramedics.  Their proton packs had wands on the end of them, and by the conclusion of the film there were ‘Ghost Smasher’ franchises all across the United States – and not a marshmallow man in sight.

Who ya gonna call?  Ghost Smashers!  Wait...what?

Who ya gonna call? Ghost Smashers! Wait…what?

The problem with that script is that to actually turn it into a film would have cost way too much money, so Dan Ackroyd enlisted Harold Rambis to come in and help rewrite it.  He suggested making it a tale of how the team got started, and set it in the present.

The other problem was this: it was always Ackroyd’s intention that Ghostbusters be another buddy flick with him and his good mate John Belushi as Peter Venkman, with the third and final member of the team Winston, to be played by Eddie Murphy.  Needless to say that’s quite a different line up than what actually eventuated.

Belushi, of course, sadly died in 1982, meaning the role of Venkman was up for grabs.  Then Eddie Murphy pulled out to do Beverly Hills Cop, a decision he probably didn’t regret given Beverly Hills Cop was the only film to out-gross Ghostbusters in 1984.  So when Ramis helped Ackroyd rewrite the script, it started taking on a whole new flavour.  The character of Dr Egon Spengler was drafted, and Winston Zeddmore’s role was reduced.

When it came to casting, Ackroyd was the only person left standing from the initial plan.  Michael Keaton was offered the chance to play either Venkman or Egon, but turned the opportunity down.  In relation to Egon, the pair decided that Ramis was the man for the job and, thankfully, after Chevy Chase passed, Bill Murray was signed on to play Venkman and completely own it.

They weren’t the only near casting choices.  John Candy was to play Louis Tully, but he consistently wanted to make changes to the character – making him German with a pair of schnauzer dogs.  When his changes weren’t considered he quit, leaving Rick Moranis to fill the void.  Finally, Gozer was to be played by Paul Reubens, aka Pee-Wee Herman, before he too pulled out.

Talk about a completely different cast.  Just goes to show that casting a film is as dangerous and chancy as crossing the streams.

If you enjoyed this Hesaidwhatnow? post check out these posts: 

How Your Favourite Film Could Have Looked – Near Casting Choices in ’80s Movies – Part I

How Your Favourite Film Could Have Looked – Near Casting Choices in Blockbuster Movies

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