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Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for 100 LIVES

11 Movies That Could Have Starred George Clooney

Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for 100 LIVES
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for 100 LIVES

Today, George Clooney is one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. But that wasn’t always the case. Clooney—the son of anchorman/television host Nick Clooney, and nephew of singer/actress Rosemary Clooney—spent years toiling in what he considered the semi-obscurity that was television in the 1980s and early 1990s. After playing handyman George Burnett for 17 episodes of The Facts of Life and Wellman Plastics foreman Booker Brooks on Roseanne, his big break came with the role of Dr. Doug Ross on ER. But even in the years since then, not every role has worked out for Clooney, as evidenced by these casting tales.

1. THELMA & LOUISE (1991)

Clooney auditioned multiple times for the part of J.D., but lost the role to Brad Pitt. Clooney was so upset about losing the part that he went out of his way to not see the movie. “The funniest thing is, I didn’t watch that movie for a long time,” Clooney remembered 20 years later at a Telluride Film Festival Q&A in 2011. “I was really stuck doing a lot of bad TV at that time. And I had auditioned and auditioned, and it got right down to Brad and I, and he got it. And I just couldn’t watch that movie for a couple of years.” When Clooney finally saw the film, he concluded that Pitt "was really good in it, and I would have f***ed it up somehow.”

2. RESERVOIR DOGS (1992)

Quentin Tarantino had specifically asked for Clooney to audition after seeing him in the straight-to-video film Red Surf (1989), in which Clooney played a drug dealing surfer. The actor admitted that he blew it, saying: “I didn’t get it because I gave a bad audition.” It couldn’t have been too terrible; in 1996, Clooney got the opportunity to star alongside Tarantino in From Dusk Till Dawn, from a script by Tarantino.

3. DRACULA (1992)

Clooney told Esquire that he auditioned for Francis Ford Coppola in the voice of a Kentucky hillbilly (he was born and raised in Kentucky): "This goddamn Dracula thing's comin' in here, comin' down this here slide and blowin' up like a ball-a-fire!” Coppola called Clooney’s agent and asked if there was something mentally wrong with him.

4. GUARDING TESS (1994)

Guarding Tess starred Shirley MacLaine as a former First Lady and Nicolas Cage as an exasperated Secret Service agent. Clooney remembered auditioning for the film as a humbling lesson when he spoke to The New York Times in 2002: “You can't help it sometimes. I was on ER and I was trying to not just do TV. For years, before ER, I was very successful in television. I was making $40,000 a week, and still I could not get an audition for two lines in a movie called Guarding Tess. All along, I had thought of myself as a film actor doing television, but at some point you have to face reality: I was a TV actor.”

5. JACK FROST (1998)

Originally, the plan was for Clooney to star as the titular musician who dies in a car crash on Christmas and comes back to life as a snowman. But Clooney and director Sam Raimi dropped out, and Michael Keaton and director Troy Miller stepped in. Clooney left so late in the process that there wasn’t enough time for the snowman’s head to be completely changed to resemble Keaton instead of Clooney. "Once it became Michael Keaton, we didn't change the head completely," one of the movie’s puppeteers and designated ‘performance coordinator’ explained. “We did some signature things to the chin and to the lips because Michael Keaton has this little mouth and talks out of the front of his mouth."

6. WILD WILD WEST (1999)

Clooney signed up to play Artemus Gordon in the Barry Sonnenfeld-directed film alongside Will Smith. Kevin Kline ended up playing Gordon in the critically-panned movie. Clooney was diplomatic in his official explanation for why he changed his mind. “We knew going into this that to make it work would be a stretch, but the opportunity to work with Will [Smith] and Barry [Sonnenfeld] was too exciting to pass up. Ultimately, we all decided that rather than damage this project trying to retrofit the role for me, it was better to step aside and let them get someone else.”

7. SIDEWAYS (2004)

Writer/director Alexander Payne (Election, About Schmidt) met Clooney when he was casting for Sideways, a movie which was destined to star Thomas Haden Church as Jack, the unsuccessful actor, and Paul Giamatti as the writer/wine connoisseur Miles. Clooney wanted to play Jack. Payne liked Clooney, but didn’t think anyone would believe that “the most handsome and successful movie actor is the most loser TV actor. I didn’t want that to be the joke.” Clooney recalled Payne telling him he was under serious consideration before never calling. In 2011, Payne cast Clooney in The Descendants.

8. A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION (2006)

In Garrison Keillor’s introduction to the published screenplay, he wrote that Robert Altman (MASH, Gosford Park) opted for the public radio host and Lake Wobegon creator over Clooney. “I put in the announcer, pulling his pants on, trying to tell a story of how he got into radio and being interrupted by others. I wrote the part for George Clooney, who I thought was interested and who moviegoers would have enjoyed watching put his pants on, but Mr. Altman had let me know that he had cast me in the role.”

9. ARGO (2012)

Clooney ended up winning his second Oscar (the first was for Best Supporting Actor for 2005's Syriana) for producing 2013's Best Picture, but he had initially intended to star as CIA agent Tony Mendez, before scheduling conflicts with The Ides of March (2011) forced him to hand the project over to Ben Affleck. "I was doing Ides of March and gave [Argo] to Ben because we were ready to shoot," Clooney told the New York Post's Page Six.

10. THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

While director Steven Soderbergh was still involved with the film adaptation of the 1960s spy series, Clooney was forced to drop out because he needed back surgery. Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch) ended up behind the camera.

11. BATMAN TRIUMPHANT

Because Batman & Robin (1997) was a critical and commercial failure, the intended next installment in the superhero series was canceled. Clooney had signed on for Triumphant; however, he said he approached Adam West (star of the original Batman TV series) at the 2015 New York Comic-Con and apologized for “ruining” Batman, and for the nipples on his Batsuit.

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11 Screenwriters Who Hated Their Own Movies
John Phillips, Getty Images
John Phillips, Getty Images

Even the most successful screenwriters don’t always get what they want after a film is completed. Here are 11 scribes who didn't hold back when it came to reviewing their own films.

1. QUENTIN TARANTINO // NATURAL BORN KILLERS (1994)

During the early 1990s, Quentin Tarantino sold his screenplay for Natural Born Killers to Oliver Stone and used the money to fund his debut film, Reservoir Dogs, which was released in 1992. Two years later, Stone released the film with Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis in starring roles.

While it was a box office hit, Tarantino despised the production because of the changes and alterations to much of his original content. "I hate that f*cking movie," Tarantino told The Telegraph in 2013. "If you like my stuff, don't watch that movie."

Years after its release, the producers of Natural Born Killers sued Tarantino when he tried to publish the original screenplay as a book, as he had done with his original script for True Romance. The producers believed that Tarantino forfeited his rights when he sold it to them, but a judge ruled in Tarantino's favor.

2. PAUL RUDNICK // SISTER ACT (1992)

During the late 1980s, playwright and novelist Paul Rudnick tried his hand at screenwriting between stage productions. He pitched Sister Act to Touchstone Pictures, which is owned by the Walt Disney Company, with Bette Midler in mind for the lead role. Though Midler passed on it, Whoopi Goldberg signed on to play the lovable lounge singer pretending to be a nun.

After months of rewrites and tedious studio notes, Rudnick was not happy with the final screenplay because it was nothing like what he originally wrote or intended the film to be. In fact, he was so unhappy with the movie that he asked Disney to remove his name and use the pseudonym “Joseph Howard” instead.

“Good or bad, it was no longer my work, so I asked to have my name removed from the credits,” Rudnick wrote in The New Yorker in 2009. “The studio was unhappy with that, and I got a series of urgent calls offering me a videocassette of the final cut and asking me to watch it and reconsider. I refused, because, even if the movie was terrific, it wasn’t my script ... Disney agreed that I could use a pseudonym, pending its approval.” He continued, “I can’t vouch for the original film, for one reason. Sister Act may very well be just fine, but I’ve never been able to watch it."

3. KURT SUTTER // PUNISHER: WAR ZONE (2008)

Before Marvel’s The Punisher made a comeback as a TV series on Netflix in 2017, Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter was hired to write a sequel to The Punisher starring Thomas Jane and John Travolta. In 2007, Sutter started writing a new script and wanted to ground the antihero in a grittier reality and move the character from Florida to New York City.

However, after Jane dropped out of the project, Marvel Studios wanted to start over with a new sequel that felt more like the comic book version of Frank Castle instead of the more realistic idea that Sutter envisioned. The end result was so far removed from what Sutter had written that he asked for his name to be removed from what would turn into Punisher: War Zone.

“I threw away the first draft written by Nick Santora and did a page one rewrite,” Sutter wrote of the project in 2008. “I changed the locations, the characters, the story. I dropped Frank in a real New York City with real villains, real cops, real relationships. To me, the Punisher deserved more than the usual comic book redress. It shouldn’t just follow the feature superhero formula. Apparently, I was the only one who shared that vision.”

4. AND 5. LANA AND LILLY WACHOWSKI // ASSASSINS (1995)

During the mid-1990s, Lana and Lilly Wachowski sold the screenplays for Assassins and The Matrix to producer Joel Silver for $1 million per film. Assassins was the first to go into production, and Richard Donner signed on to direct with Sylvester Stallone and Antonio Banderas attached to co-star.

Although Assassins was one of the hottest unproduced screenplays at the time (you can read the Wachowskis' original version here), Donner didn’t like the darker tone and artsy symbolism, so he hired screenwriter Brian Helgeland to do a page-one rewrite to make it into a standard action thriller instead. The Wachowskis were not happy with the decision to tone down their screenplay, so the siblings wanted their names to be taken off the project, but the Writers Guild of America denied their request.

“The film was not really based on the screenplay,” Lana said in a 2003 interview. “The one thing that sort of bothered us is that people would blame us for the screenplay and it’s like Richard Donner is one of the few directors in Hollywood that can make whatever movie he wants exactly the way he wants it. No one will stop him and that’s essentially what happened. He brought in Brian Helgeland and they totally rewrote the script. We tried to take our names off of it but the WGA doesn’t let you. So our names are forever there.”

If there’s a silver lining to this story it’s that the experience with Assassins led the Wachowskis to want more control over their work—so they decided to become directors; they made their directorial debut with Bound in 1996.

6. BRET EASTON ELLIS // THE INFORMERS (2008)

Although Bret Easton Ellis co-wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation for The Informers, from his own novel, the final cut was not exactly how he envisioned it. Ellis was upset that the tone of the story went from dark humor to something more melodramatic. He blamed Australian director Gregor Jordan for The Informers's missteps.

“You need [a director] who grew up around here,” Ellis said. “You also need someone with an Altman-esque sense of humor, because the script is really funny. The movie is not funny at all, and there are scenes in the movie that should be funny that we wrote as funny, and they’re played as we wrote them, but they’re directed in a way that they're not funny. It was very distressing to see the cuts of this movie and realize that all the laughs were gone. I think Gregor was looking at it as something else. I think we had this miscommunication during pre-production that it’s not supposed to be played like an Australian soap opera.”

In 2010, Ellis again commented on the woes of The Informers during a Q&A at the Savannah College of Art and Design, saying: “That movie doesn't work for a lot of reasons but I don't think any of those reasons are my fault."

7. KELLY MARCEL // FIFTY SHADES OF GREY (2015)

In early 2013, Universal Pictures acquired the film rights to E.L. James's bestselling novel, Fifty Shades of Grey. The studio envisioned a new film franchise and hired Saving Mr. Banks screenwriter Kelly Marcel to adapt the book. While the movie studio promised Marcel creative freedom to explore the book’s characters and themes, the author had the final approval over the screenplay, director, and cast. James was unhappy with Marcel’s work and wanted the movie to be more like her novel.

“I very much wanted to do something different with the screenplay, and when I spoke to the studio and the producers and made that quite clear, they were very enthusiastic about that and kind of loved the things I wanted to do,” she explained on the Bret Easton Ellis Podcast in 2015. “I wanted to remove a lot of the dialogue. I felt it could be a really sexy film if there wasn’t so much talking in it.”

Marcel didn’t return to write the film's sequels, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed, and never even bothered to watch the original. “My heart really was broken by that process, I really mean it,” Marcel said. “I just don’t feel like I can watch it without feeling some pain about how different it is to what I initially wrote.”

8. JOE ESZTERHAS // JADE (1995)

During the 1990s, screenwriter Joe Eszterhas was the toast of Hollywood after Basic Instinct became a smash hit. His screenplays would sell for upwards of $4 million apiece, with Paramount Pictures acquiring the film rights to Jade for $1.5 million after Eszterhas turned in a mere two-page outline. However, after William Friedkin signed on to direct, the screenplay was completely changed with Friedkin doing an uncredited rewrite. Eszterhas was not happy that his work was butchered.

"I stared in disbelief," Eszterhas wrote in his autobiography, Hollywood Animal, about watching Jade for the first time. "I watched entire plot points and scenes and red herrings that weren't in my script. I heard dialogue that not only wasn't mine but was terrible to boot."

9. GORE VIDAL // CALIGULA (1979)

Although he was paid $200,000 for the screenplay for Caligula in 1979, novelist and screenwriter Gore Vidal was not happy with Penthouse Magazine founder and film producer Bob Guccione after he changed the film from a political satire to a $17 million piece of mainstream porn. Vidal was also very unhappy with the film’s director, Tinto Brass, with whom he had several clashes during production. Guccione sided with Brass and kicked Vidal off the set, while Vidal requested that his name be taken off the project altogether.

Eventually, Brass also walked off Caligula after butting heads with Guccione; Brass, too, asked for his name to be taken off the movie. The end result was Brass receiving a bizarre “Principal Photographer” credit, while Vidal got an even stranger “Based on an Original Screenplay by Gore Vidal” attribution.

“When I asked to see the first rushes, I was told by the Italian producer, ‘But, darling, you will hate them!,'" Vidal told Rolling Stone in 1980. "To which I said, ‘If Gore Vidal hates Gore Vidal's Caligula, who will like it?’ This was never answered. I quit the picture. Meanwhile, the director told the press that nothing of my script was left, except my name in the title.” Vidal later continued, “I threatened legal proceedings to remove the name. Finally, it was agreed that I would get no credit beyond a note that the screenplay was based upon a subject by Gore Vidal. But a fair amount of damage has been done.”

10. GUINEVERE TURNER // BLOODRAYNE (2005)

Screenwriter Guinevere Turner is mostly known for her thoughtful, character-driven movies like American Psycho, Go Fish, and The Notorious Bettie Page. She was even a staff writer and story editor on the hit Showtime TV series The L Word during the mid-2000s. With such an impressive resume, it was a little surprising that German director Uwe Boll, who is known as one of the worst directors of all time and the “schlock maestro” of movies like Alone in the Dark and Postal, commissioned Turner to write the film adaptation of the video game BloodRayne in 2005.

Turner wrote the screenplay in a few weeks and turned in a first draft to Boll, who was really excited about her work and decided to film it right away. However, he only ended up filming about 20 percent of the script and let the actors "take a crack at it" with improv and ad-lib work.

To no one’s surprise, BloodRayne turned out to be terrible, while Turner later said she was the only one “laughing out loud” during its premiere at Mann’s Chinese Theater in Los Angeles. “It’s like a $25 million movie, and it blows! I mean, it’s like the worst movie ever made,” she admitted in the Tales From The Script documentary.

BloodRayne was later nominated for two Golden Raspberry Awards for Worst Director and Worst Picture.

11. J.D. SHAPIRO // BATTLEFIELD EARTH (2000)

In 1997, John Travolta commissioned screenwriter J.D. Shapiro to adapt Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s 1982 novel Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000 for the big screen. Shapiro wrote a darker version of the novel, which resulted in him getting fired from the project altogether for refusing to change its tone.

However, much of what he wrote ended up in the final movie, so Shapiro ended up with a writer’s credit, much to his dismay. Battlefield Earth was released in the year 2000 and went on to be known as the worst movie of the decade. Shapiro even penned an open letter to apologize for his involvement.

"Let me start by apologizing to anyone who went to see Battlefield Earth,” he wrote in the New York Post in 2010. “It wasn’t as I intended—promise. No one sets out to make a train wreck. Actually, comparing it to a train wreck isn’t really fair to train wrecks, because people actually want to watch those."

Although Shapiro hated Battlefield Earth, he was a good sport about its failure. He even showed up to accept a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Screenplay in 2001.

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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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