Here is a random selection of what I regard as serious casting errors: Laurence Olivier as Richard III (or any Shakespearean role), Al Pacino in ‘The Godfather’, Paul Scofield in ‘A Man for All Seasons’, John Cleese in ‘Fawlty Towers’ and Marlon Brando in ‘Whoops, Apocalypse Now’. How much better all these plays, films and TV shows would have been if somebody more suited to the character had played the role.
Conversely, it is also puzzling – and often amusing – to contemplate what would have happened if the original choice for roles had agreed to take up the offer. Can you imagine, instead of Daniel Day-Lewis, Vinny Jones playing Lincoln? Bruce Forsyth in ‘Twelve Years a Slave’? How about Monty Python’s Terry Jones as evil SS commander Amon Goeth (in a role masterfully played by Ralph Fiennes) in ‘Schindler’s List’? Or Ricky Gervais as Alan Turing in ‘The Imitation Game’? Yet, incredibly, these were the producers’ first choice in each case. Clearly the Hollywood execs had their eyes firmly fixed on the box office rather than taking the time to consider who would actually best fit the bill.
To the public, it may seem strange that Bruce Forsyth was up for a role which subsequently went to Michael Fassbender. But this can often happen due to numerous factors – such as if the actors share the same agent, are available to work during the same period and command approximately the same fee. All these factors are usually out of the public view but play a crucial role behind the scenes.
As well as ‘Twelve Years a Slave’, Forsyth was also in the frame for Fassbender’s other hit movies, ‘Hunger’ (about an IRA hunger striker) and ‘Shame’ (about a sex addict obsessed with his sister). In fact, he initially agreed to appear in ‘Shame’, and some early scenes were even completed, but then another series of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ was commissioned and Bruce withdrew from the project.
Toast’s tips on avoiding typecasting
1 If you find yourself constantly playing knights in armour in films or plays set in medieval times, it may be because you are wearing suits of armour to auditions. Check your wardrobe before setting out.
2 Similarly, to avoid unwelcome typecasting, constantly change your image and make sure your publicity photo is regularly updated by your agent. Seven or eight different hairstyles a year is recommended, and if you are a man, experiment with different moustache variations – even ‘Hitler’ ones. (Obviously this will work to your advantage when auditioning to play Hitler.)
3 If you are a woman but feel more suited to male roles, consider sex-assignment surgery. It’s a drastic step, but the move earned Dustin Hoffman an Oscar nomination for ‘Tootsie’ in 1982.
4 Try to find parts in productions which deliberately set out to turn perceived ideas of casting literally on their head. For instance, Alan Parker’s ‘Bugsy Malone’, where middle-aged gangsters were played by children, and Neil Jordan’s ‘Interview with the Vampire’, which cast non-vampires in many of the leading roles.
5 Avoid typecasting in real life by re-inventing yourself in dramatic fashion. Faking your own suicide by leaving your clothes on a deserted beach and ‘disappearing’ before re-emerging to start a new life in a distant country can often dispel feeling of staleness, boredom or dissatisfaction.
‘Toast on Toast: Cautionary Tales and Candid Advice’ by Matt Berry and Arthur Mathews is out on Thu Oct 22, published by Canongate.
Hungry for more Toast? Read the entire first chapter of ‘Toast on Toast’
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