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Gabriel Solera/Getty Images

13 Movies That Almost Starred Ben Stiller

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Gabriel Solera/Getty Images

The progeny of comedy legends Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, Ben Stiller first made a name for himself with the critically acclaimed—but quickly cancelledThe Ben Stiller Show. After directing and appearing in Reality Bites and The Cable Guy, starring in There’s Something About Mary brought Stiller into Hollywood's spotlight.

Having clout as an actor, writer, director, and producer, a ton of projects have naturally been presented to and created by the multifaceted filmmaker, but Stiller couldn’t do them all. The recent news that he had turned down directing Good Will Hunting wasn’t even a big surprise (nor was his regret in not taking the job). In honor of his 50th birthday, we're looking back at several film roles that Stiller was set to play, but that never came to be.

1. MONKEYBONE (2001)

Ben Stiller was going to play Stu Miley, the live action cartoonist who gets trapped in a universe he created. Director Henry Selick told The A.V. Club that Stiller wanted to bring in his own writers, so the role went to Brendan Fraser instead. "It actually would have been better to go with Ben and his writers," admitted Selick. "There's a lot of variables looking back, what-ifs. But who knows. I learned my lesson that in the live-action world, you have to earn the support of people over a very, very long time. And in animation, I already have the support."

2. CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND (2002)

The part of Chuck Barris, Gong Show host and purported assassin, was offered to Stiller, Mike Myers, and Johnny Depp. Sam Rockwell took the gig.

3. ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY (2004)

Stiller made a cameo in the movie as the Spanish news anchor in the infamous local news brawl scene, but in the first draft of Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s script, he was listed as the suggested actor for Brian Fantana. Paul Rudd ended up rocking the 'stache and Sex Panther cologne.

4. CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (2005)

Among others, Stiller was considered for Willy Wonka in Tim Burton's adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic. Johnny Depp got the part. Years later, SNL guest host Ben Stiller appeared in a parody of the film, where Andy Samberg (as Wonka) offered him deli food instead of candy.

5. THE TV SET (2006)

Stiller was set to play Lenny, a network president who clashed with David Duchovny’s character, a scriptwriter trying to get a TV show off the ground. Interestingly enough, Sigourney Weaver ended up playing Lenny instead. Writer-director Jake Kasdan later realized that Weaver was the right choice all along.

6. BLADES OF GLORY (2007)

Originally, the part of Chazz Michael Michaels was to be played by Stiller, who loved the idea for the movie. As it turned out, by the time production was scheduled, Stiller had just made Dodgeball and decided he didn’t want to make two sports movies in a row. Will Ferrell took his place.

7. MEGAMIND (2010)

Originally titled Oobermind, Stiller was attached to portray the titular villain. Once again, Will Ferrell ended up replacing Stiller. Stiller still voiced the archivist Bernard, and his production company Red Hour Films brought the project to DreamWorks’ attention in the first place.

8. MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS (2011)

The adaptation of Richard and Florence Atwater’s children’s book was developed by Stiller and director Noah Baumbach. Stiller was going to play the lead as a publicist who had to deal with both client Peyton Manning’s career-threatening injury and, naturally, a bunch of penguins. Baumbach dropped out, followed by Stiller, which led the way for Jim Carrey and director Mark Waters to take over with a different, Peyton-less script.

9. ALOHA (2015)

Cameron Crowe’s movie was announced back in 2008 as Deep Tiki, with Stiller and Reese Witherspoon ready to star. By the time Aloha was released in May of this year, Bradley Cooper played the lead, a military contractor who runs into a lost love in Hawaii.

10. WHAT MAKES SAMMY RUN?

Based on the 1941 book by On the Waterfront screenwriter Budd Schulberg, Stiller and Permanent Midnight writer Jerry Stahl wrote an adaptation in the 1990s. Stiller was to set to star and direct the tale of Sammy Glick, a man who cons his way into running a major movie studio. With constant resistance from movie studios who considered the book too anti-industry, and Stiller’s busy schedule, he gradually became too old to play the lead.

11. UNTITLED ROLLING STONES PROJECT

Stiller and Judd Apatow were hired by Mick Jagger to make a concert film in conjunction with their 1994 album Voodoo Lounge. Stiller and another actor would play two Stones fans following the band across America. Thinking that they spotted a potential band assassin, they would attempt to warn the band before the would-be killer parachutes on stage and reveals he’s one of Jagger’s illegitimate kids. Brad Pitt showed serious interest but decided to make Se7en instead. The project ended up not happening.

12. GHOSTBUSTERS III: GHOSTBUSTERS IN HELL

Harold Ramis discussed Ben Stiller starring with Ramis, Aykroyd, and Rick Moranis in a potential sequel back in 2006, based on a script by Aykroyd. The film would have seen the Ghostbusters travel through a portal—and end up in hell.

13. DALLAS

20th Century Fox had tried to get a movie made of the classic TV series. Stiller replaced John Travolta in 2007 as the lead, J.R. Ewing, and changed the script so it was a comedic “behind the scenes” version of the series. Eventually Dallas returned as a TV series again, this time on TNT.

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David Lynch's Amazon T-Shirt Shop is as Surreal as His Movies
Dominique Faget, AFP/Getty Images
Dominique Faget, AFP/Getty Images

David Lynch, the celebrated director behind baffling-but-brilliant films like Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive, and Twin Peaks, is now selling his equally surreal T-shirts on Amazon.

As IndieWire reports, each shirt bears an image of one of Lynch’s paintings or photographs with an accompanying title. Some of his designs are more straightforward (the shirts labeled “House” and “Whale” feature, respectively, drawings of a house and a whale), while others are obscure (the shirt called “Chicken Head Tears” features a disturbing sculpture of a semi-human face).

This isn’t the first time Lynch has ventured into pursuits outside of filmmaking. Previously, he has sold coffee, designed furniture, produced music, hosted daily weather reports, and published a book about his experience with transcendental meditation. Art, in fact, falls a little closer to Lynch’s roots; the filmmaker trained for years at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts before making his mark in Hollywood.

Lynch’s Amazon store currently sells 57 T-shirts, ranging in size from small to triple XL, all for $26 each. As for our own feelings on the collection, we think they’re best reflected by this T-shirt named “Honestly, I’m Sort of Confused.”

Check out some of our favorites below:

T-shirt that says "Honestly, I'm Sort of Confused"
"Honestly, I'm Sort of Confused"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt with a drawing of a sleeping bird on it
"Sleeping Bird"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt that says Peace on Earth over and over again. The caption is pretty on the nose.
"Peace on Earth"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt with an image of a screaming face made out of turkey with ants in its mouth
"Turkey Cheese Head"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt with an odd sculpted clay face asking if you know who it is. You get the idea.
"I Was Wondering If You Know Who I Am?"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt with an image of a sculpted head that is not a chicken. It is blue, though.
"Chicken Head Blue"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt with a drawing of a lobster on it. Below the drawing, the lobster is labeled with the word lobster. Shocking, I know.
"Lobster"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt with an abstract drawing of what is by David Lynch's account, at least, a cowboy
"Cowboy"

Buy it on Amazon

[h/t IndieWire]

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9 Things You Might Not Know About Maurice Sendak
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Maurice Sendak's books were shaped by his own childhood: one marked by the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, the concentration camp deaths of most of his extended family, and parents consumed by depression and anger. When Sendak started illustrating and writing for children, he vowed that he wouldn't write stories of sunshine and rainbows, because that's not real life. In honor of what would have been his 90th birthday, here are a few other things about Maurice Sendak's real life you may not have known.

1. HE DESIGNED F.A.O. SCHWARZ'S WINDOW DISPLAYS.

Sendak and his brother visited Manhattan’s F.A.O. Schwarz in 1948 to try to get the company to purchase their handmade, fairytale-inspired wooden toys. Though the toy store declined to purchase the brothers’ work for reproduction, they were impressed with Sendak’s artistic eye and asked him if he’d be interested in a job dressing windows. He worked at F.A.O. Schwarz for three years while taking classes at the New York Art Students League.

2. WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE WAS ORIGINALLY TITLED WHERE THE WILD HORSES ARE.

The book was intended, of course, to feature fillies, foals and mares. Editor Ursula Nordstrom adored the title, finding it poetic and beautiful, but there was one problem: Sendak couldn’t draw horses. When he told his editor that the whole horse thing wasn’t going to work out, he recalls her “acid tone[d]” response: “Maurice, what can you draw?”

“Things,” he said, and "things" he drew.

Side note: Ursula Nordstrom was also the editor of a few classics like The Giving Tree, Goodnight Moon, Harold and the Purple Crayon and Charlotte’s Web among others. Not a bad resume.

3. THE “THINGS” SENDAK ENDED UP CREATING WERE INSPIRED BY HIS IMMIGRANT RELATIVES AND THE WAY HE VIEWED THEM AS A CHILD.

“They were unkempt; their teeth were horrifying. Hair unraveling out of their noses.” Though the monsters were modeled after his family, they weren’t named after them; in fact, the things had no names in the book. They finally received monikers when Wild Things was made into an opera. “We had to have names to tell [the actors] when they were screwing up. They had Jewish names: Moishe, Schmuel. But the names were dropped after the opera. They never had names until they became movie stars.”

4. MOST OF HIS EXTENDED FAMILY DIED IN CONCENTRATION CAMPS.

It wasn't until he was older that Sendak realized how lucky those immigrant relatives were to be alive—and how lucky he was. Most of his extended family died in concentration camps, which his father discovered the day of Sendak's bar mitzvah. He attended the happy event anyway. When unknowing guests burst into "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" when Mr. Sendak walked through the door, Maurice knew something horrible had happened by his father's expression. "My father's face was vivid, livid, and I knew I had done something very bad, that I had made him suffer more than he had to. This 13-year-old ersatz man."

5. EVEN IF WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE HADN'T BEEN SUCH A HIT, YOU PROBABLY WOULD HAVE KNOWN SENDAK’S WORK ANYWAY.

Prior to the success of his own books, Sendak illustrated the popular Little Bear series by Else Holmelund Minarik.

6. ONE OF HIS BOOKS IS FREQUENTLY BANNED.

Though many parents and libraries initially protested that Where the Wild Things Are was too scary for children, it was his later book, In the Night Kitchen, that landed on the American Library Association’s frequently challenged and banned books list. It features a little boy named Mickey, who is nude throughout most of the story, likely because he’s dreaming. “Have you never had a dream, yourself, where you were totally naked?” he said, when Stephen Colbert asked him about the nudity. (Colbert: “No.” Sendak: “I think you’re a man of little imagination.”) Because of Mickey’s full frontal and some of his nude antics in the book (he jumps into a milk bottle, for instance, and later slides down it), critics have deemed it inappropriate for children. It was #24 on the ALA’s frequently banned books from 2000-2009.

7. HE WAS DEEPLY AFFECTED BY THE LINDBERGH BABY KIDNAPPING.

Sendak believed that the Lindbergh baby kidnapping very much affected his childhood, his work and his views on life in general. Though he was only 3.5 years old when the tragedy occurred in 1932, he says he vividly remembers the whole thing, including hearing Mrs. Lindbergh’s tearful voice pleading with the kidnappers via radio to rub camphor on her infant’s chest because she didn’t want his cold to get worse. “If that baby died, I had no chance. I was only a poor kid, okay? [When the Lindbergh baby was found dead,] I think something really fundamental died in me.”

8. SENDAK HATED EBOOKS.

Waiting for a sweet Where the Wild Things Are app for the iPad so your kids can explore the book in a new way? Don’t hold your breath. To say that Sendak disliked eBooks is an understatement: "F*** them is what I say; I hate those e-books. They cannot be the future ... they may well be. I will be dead, I won’t give a s***!”

9. HE NEVER CAME OUT TO HIS PARENTS.

Sendak never told his parents that he was gay. “All I wanted was to be straight so my parents could be happy,” he told The New York Times in 2008. “They never, never, never knew.” His partner of 50 years, Eugene Glynn, passed away in 2007.

This post originally appeared in 2011.

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