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11 Famous Actors and the Big TV Roles They Turned Down

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Dana Delany as Carrie Bradshaw? Cosmo Kramer as Monk? Here's a look at 11 actors who passed on some of TV's most popular shows.

1. Bridget Fonda as Ally McBeal

Calista Flockhart wasn't David E. Kelley's first choice for the lead on his series Ally McBeal; he originally offered the role to Bridget Fonda. Fonda decided to stick with films and turned him down. There were no hard feelings, though, as Kelley kept her in mind two years later when he was casting the comedy/horror flick Lake Placid.

2. Michael Richards as Adrian Monk

As Seinfeld was winding down its nine year run in 1998, the major networks were salivating to sign the series' stars to new projects. ABC pictured Michael Richards as a bumbling Inspector Clouseau-type detective and pitched a premise purchased from Disney Studios about a cop suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Richards, however, disliked the pilot script; he felt that the character of Adrian Monk didn't offer enough comedic possibilities for him to work with, so he passed on the project. With Richards' veto, ABC lost interest in the show and eventually sold the rights to cable's USA Network. Monk went on to become USA's highest-rated show and Tony Shalhoub won three Emmy Awards for his portrayal of the title character.

3. Dana Delany as Carrie Bradshaw

Sex and the City creator Darren Star first offered the role of Carrie Bradshaw to his friend, Dana Delany. Delany had previously won two Emmy Awards for her portrayal of the compassionate nurse Colleen McMurphy on China Beach, but she was still smarting from the negative reviews she'd gotten for playing a dominatrix in the 1994 film Exit to Eden. She told Star that the public would never forgive her if she talked about sex onscreen again, so the part went to Sarah Jessica Parker.

4. Paul Shaffer as George Costanza

According to Paul Shaffer's memoir, We'll Be Here for the Rest of Our Lives, Jerry Seinfeld personally left a message stating that the role of George Costanza on his upcoming pilot was Shaffer's if he wanted it. But Shaffer was preoccupied with his other work and said he never got around to returning Seinfeld's call.

5. Stephen Tobolowsky as Tim Taylor's Sidekick

Tim Allen's Home Improvement sidekick was originally Glen, not Al. When the series was first being cast, Stephen Tobolowsky—you might remember him from such roles as Bob Bishop on Heroes and Sandy Ryerson on Glee—was hired to co-host the fictitious Tool Time with Tim, but a previous commitment prevented him from appearing in the pilot episode.

Richard Karn, a struggling actor who was making ends meet by managing an apartment building, happened to meet Home Improvement's casting director while attending traffic school and finagled an audition. Karn was invited to be Tobolowsky's "placeholder" in the pilot, and then was asked to film a second episode when the series was picked up and Stephen was still off working on a different project. The studio audience reacted favorably to Karn, so when Tobolowsky ultimately bowed out of the project, "Glen" was out and "Al Borland" was in.

6. Bonnie Hunt as Jamie Buchman

Talk show host Bonnie Hunt was offered the role of Jamie Buchman on Mad About You, but she decided against it. Nevertheless, she is still frequently asked to autograph photos of Helen Hunt (who is no relation to her), and Bonnie's mom is often complimented on the success of her "other" daughter.

7. Jayne Mansfield as Ginger Grant

Blonde bombshell (and mother of Law & Order: SVU star Mariska Hargitay) nixed the role of sexy Ginger Grant on Gilligan's Island, stating "I am a movie star."

8. & 9. Ken Howard & Blythe Danner as McMillan & Wife

When ABC decided to turn the 1949 film Adam's Rib into a TV series, they cast Ken Howard (Ann Landers' son-in-law) and Blythe Danner (Gwyneth Paltrow's mom) in the roles originally played by Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. The show only lasted 13 episodes, but Howard and Danner had such good onscreen chemistry (many viewers thought they were married in real life!) that they were offered the leads in the NBC series McMillan and Wife. Neither was interested in being part of the "wheel" format of NBC's mystery movies, and the parts went to Rock Hudson and Susan St. James instead.

10. Paul Giamatti as Michael Scott

As Bill Carter reported in the New York Times back in 2006, NBC executives had a strong favorite for the role of Michael Scott on the American adaptation of The Office—Paul Giamatti. He wasn't interested, and the network eventually offered the role to Steve Carell.

11. Polly Bond as Miss Kitty

Of the many reasons actors give for turning down a role, "they offered too much money" is probably not in the top 10. Or even top 1,000. But that was the reasoning behind Polly Bond's decision to refuse the part of Miss Kitty on Gunsmoke. The former Polly Ellis had recently married Tommy Bond, a former child actor most famous for playing "Butch" on The Little Rascals. Tommy was working on the production side of a local TV station at the time, and the Gunsmoke salary would've put Polly in a situation where she was out-earning her husband, which she felt would strain their fledgling marriage. Amanda Blake went on to play Miss Kitty for an amazing 20 seasons, and Polly and Tommy Bond remained happily wedded for an amazing 54 years.

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14 Deep Facts About Valley of the Dolls
The Criterion Collection
The Criterion Collection

Based on Jacqueline Susann's best-selling 1966 novel (which sold more than 30 million copies), Valley of the Dolls was a critically maligned film that somehow managed to gross $50 million when it was released 50 years ago, on December 15, 1967. Both the film and the novel focus on three young women—Neely O’Hara (Patty Duke), Jennifer North (Sharon Tate), and Anne Welles (Barbara Parkins)—who navigate the entertainment industry in both New York City and L.A., but end up getting addicted to barbiturates, a.k.a. “dolls.”

Years after its original release, the film became a so-bad-it’s-good classic about the perils of fame. John Williams received his first of 50 Oscar nominations for composing the score. Mark Robson directed it, and he notoriously fired the booze- and drug-addled Judy Garland, who was cast to play aging actress Helen Lawson (Susan Hayward took over), who was supposedly based on Garland. (Garland died on June 22, 1969 from a barbituate overdose.) Two months after Garland’s sudden demise, the Manson Family murdered the very pregnant Tate in August 1969.

Despite all of the glamour depicted in the movie and novel, Susann said, “Valley of the Dolls showed that a woman in a ranch house with three kids had a better life than what happened up there at the top.” A loose sequel, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls—which was written by Roger Ebert—was released in 1970, but it had little to do with the original. In 1981, a TV movie updated the Dolls. Here are 14 deep facts about the iconic guilty pleasure.

1. JACQUELINE SUSANN DIDN'T LIKE THE MOVIE.

To promote the film, the studio hosted a month-long premiere party on a luxury liner. At a screening in Venice, Susann said the film “appalled” her, according to Parkins. She also thought Hollywood “had ruined her book,” and Susann asked to be taken off the boat. At one point she reportedly told Robson directly that she thought the film was “a piece of sh*t.”

2. BARBARA PARKINS WAS “NERVOUS” TO WORK WITH JUDY GARLAND.

Barbara Parkins had only been working with Judy Garland for two days when the legendary actress was fired for not coming out of her dressing room (and possibly being drunk). “I called up Jackie Susann, who I had become close to—I didn’t call up the director strangely enough—and I said, ‘What do I do? I’m nervous about going on the set with Judy Garland and I might get lost in this scene because she knows how to chew up the screen,’” Parkins told Windy City Times. “She said, ‘Honey, just go in there and enjoy her.’ So I went onto the set and Judy came up to me and wrapped her arms around me and said, ‘Oh, baby, let’s just do this scene,’ and she was wonderful.”

3. WILLIAM TRAVILLA BASED THE FILM'S COSTUMES ON THE WOMEN’S LIKES.

Costume designer William Travilla had to assemble 134 outfits for the four leading actresses. “I didn't have a script so I read the book and then the script once I got one,” he explained of his approach to the film. “I met with the director and producer and asked how they felt about each character and then I met with the girls and asked them what they liked and didn’t like and how they were feeling. Then I sat down with my feelings and captured their feelings, too.”

4. SUSANN THOUGHT GARLAND “GOT RATTLED.”

In an interview with Roger Ebert, Susann offered her thoughts on why Garland was let go. “Everybody keeps asking me why she was fired from the movie, as if it was my fault or something,” she said. “You know what I think went wrong? Here she was, raised in the great tradition of the studio stars, where they make 30 takes of every scene to get it right, and the other girls in the picture were all raised as television actresses. So they’re used to doing it right the first time. Judy just got rattled, that’s all.”

5. PATTY DUKE PARTIALLY BLAMES THE DIRECTOR’S BEHAVIOR FOR GARLAND’S EXIT.

During an event at the Castro Theatre, Duke discussed working with Garland. “The director, who was the meanest son of a bitch I ever met in my life ... the director, he kept this icon, this sparrow, waiting and waiting,” Duke said. “She had to come in at 6:30 in the morning and he wouldn’t even plan to get to her until four in the afternoon. She was very down to earth, so she didn’t mind waiting. The director decided that some guy from some delicatessen on 33rd Street should talk to her, and she crumbled. And she was fired. She shouldn’t have been hired in the first place, in my opinion.”

6. DUKE DIDN’T SING NEELY’S SONGS.

All of Neely’s songs in the movie were dubbed, which disappointed Duke. “I knew I couldn’t sing like a trained singer,” she said. “But I thought it was important for Neely maybe to be pretty good in the beginning but the deterioration should be that raw, nerve-ending kind of the thing. And I couldn’t convince the director. They wanted to do a blanket dubbing. It just doesn’t have the passion I wanted it to have.”

7. GARLAND STOLE ONE OF THE MOVIE'S COSTUMES.

Garland got revenge in “taking” the beaded pantsuit she was supposed to wear in the movie, and she was unabashed about it. “Well, about six months later, Judy’s going to open at the Palace,” Duke said. “I went to opening night at the Palace and out she came in her suit from Valley of the Dolls.”

8. A SNEAK PREVIEW OF THE FILM HID THE TITLE.

Fox held a preview screening of the film at San Francisco’s Orpheum Theatre, but the marquee only read “The Biggest Book of the Year.” “And the film was so campy, everyone roared with laughter,” producer David Brown told Vanity Fair. “One patron was so irate he poured his Coke all over Fox president Dick Zanuck in the lobby. And we knew we had a hit. Why? Because of the size of the audience—the book would bring them in.”

9. IT MARKED RICHARD DREYFUSS'S FILM DEBUT.


Twentieth Century Fox

Richard Dreyfuss made his big-screen debut near the end of Valley of the Dolls, playing an assistant stage manager who knocks on Neely’s door to find her intoxicated. After appearing on several TV shows, this was his first role in a movie, but it was uncredited. That same year, he also had a small role in The Graduate. Dreyfuss told The A.V. Club he was in the best film of 1967 (The Graduate) and the worst (Valley of the Dolls). “But then one day I realized that I had never actually seen Valley of the Dolls all the way through, so I finally did it,” he said. “And I realized that I was in the last 45 seconds of the worst film ever made. And I watched from the beginning with a growing sense of horror. And then I finally heard my line. And I thought, ‘I’ll never work again.’ But I used to make money by betting people about being in the best and worst films of 1967: No one would ever come up with the answer, so I’d make 20 bucks!”

10. THE DIRECTOR DIDN’T DIG TOO DEEP.

In the 2006 documentary Gotta Get Off This Merry Go Round: Sex, Dolls & Showtunes, Barbara Parkins scolded the director for keeping the film’s pill addiction on the surface. “The director never took us aside and said, look this is the effect,” she said. “We didn’t go into depth about it. Now, if you would’ve had a Martin Scorsese come in and direct this film, he would’ve sat you down, he would’ve put you through the whole emotional, physical, mental feeling of what that drug was doing to you. This would’ve been a whole different film. He took us to one, maybe two levels of what it’s like to take pills. The whole thing was to show the bottle and to show the jelly beans kinda going back. That was the important thing for him, not the emotional part.”

11. A STAGE ADAPTATION MADE IT TO OFF-BROADWAY.

In 1995, Los Angeles theater troupe Theatre-A-Go-Go! adapted the movie into a stage play. Kate Flannery, who’d go on to play Meredith Palmer on The Office, portrayed Neely. “Best thing about Valley of the Dolls to make fun of it is to actually just do it,” Flannery said in the Dolls doc. “You don’t need to change anything.” Parkins came to a production and approved of it. Eventually, the play headed to New York in an Off-Broadway version, with Illeana Douglas playing the Jackie Susann reporter role.

12. JACKIE SUSANN BARELY ESCAPED THE MANSON FAMILY.


By 20th Century-Fox - eBayfrontback, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The night the Manson Family murdered Tate, the actress had invited Susann to her home for a dinner party. According to Vanity Fair, Rex Reed came by The Beverly Hills Hotel, where Susann was staying, and they decided to stay in instead of going to Tate’s. The next day Susann heard about the murder, and cried by the pool. A few years later, when Susann was diagnosed with cancer for the second time, she joked her death would’ve been quicker if she had gone to Tate’s that night.

13. PATTY DUKE LEARNED TO EMBRACE THE FILM.

Of all of the characters in the movie, Duke’s Neely is the most over-the-top. “I used to be embarrassed by it," Duke said in a 2003 interview. "I used to say very unkind things about it, and through the years there are so many people who have come to me, or written me, or emailed who love it so, that I figured they all can’t be wrong." She eventually appreciated the camp factor. “I can have fun with that,” she said. “And sometimes when I’m on location, there will be a few people who bring it up, and then we order pizza and rent a VCR and have a Valley night, and it is fabulous.”

14. LEE GRANT DOESN’T THINK IT’S THE WORST MOVIE EVER MADE.

In 2000, Grant, Duke, and Parkins reunited on The View. “It’s the best, funniest, worst movie ever made,” Grant stated. She then mentioned how she and Duke made a movie about killer bees called The Swarm. “Valley of the Dolls was like genius compared to it,” Grant said.

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How to Perform the Star Wars Theme—On Calculators
Star Wars © & TM 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
Star Wars © & TM 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

The iconic Star Wars theme has been recreated with glass harps, theremins, and even cat meows. Now, Laughing Squid reports that the team over at YouTube channel It’s a small world have created a version that can be played on calculators.

The channel’s math-related music videos feature covers of popular songs like Luis Fonsi’s "Despacito," Ed Sheeran’s "Shape of You," and the Pirates of the Caribbean theme, all of which are performed on two or more calculators. The Star Wars theme, though, is played across five devices, positioned together into a makeshift keyboard of sorts.

The video begins with a math-musician who transcribes number combinations into notes. Then, they break into an elaborate practice chord sequence on two, and then four, calculators. Once they’re all warmed up, they begin playing the epic opening song we all know and love, which you can hear for yourself in all its electronic glory below.

[h/t Laughing Squid]

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