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Evening Standard, Getty Images
Evening Standard, Getty Images

10 Movies (and 1 TV Show) That Almost Starred Gene Hackman

Evening Standard, Getty Images
Evening Standard, Getty Images

With a career that spans more than 40 years, 100 on-screen credits, and two Oscar wins (plus an additional three nominations), Gene Hackman has earned the right to be picky. Though he officially announced his retirement from Hollywood in 2004, movie fans around the world have long hoped to see him make a comeback. In the meantime, and in honor of his 88th birthday, we’re looking back at 10 famous movies—and one beloved sitcom—he almost starred in.

1. THE GRADUATE (1967)

In 1967, longtime friends and one-time roommates Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman found themselves as co-stars in Mike Nichols’s The Graduate, with Hoffman cast as floundering recent college grad Ben Braddock and Hackman as Mr. Robinson, the husband of Hoffman’s much older lover. Though Hackman was older than Hoffman, it was by just seven years—which didn’t seem old enough, and led Nichols to get rid of Hackman and recast the role just a few weeks into filming. Nearly 20 years after the film’s release, in 1985, Hackman admitted to the Chicago Tribune that, “It still hurts. I was going to play Mr. Robinson, Anne Bancroft’s husband. But Mike Nichols didn’t think I was doing it well and so—one, two, three, I was fired. Mike’s a nice guy, but he’ll fire you without blinking an eye.”

Though Hackman admitted that getting the axe didn't do much to hurt his career—Bonnie and Clyde came out the same year and really helped to raise his profile—he said it was still “painful. Every time I look at the television schedule and see The Graduate coming on, or sometimes when I see Dusty [Hoffman], I think about it. And, you know, getting fired from The Graduate can stick with you."

2. ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST (1975)

If Kirk Douglas had his way, he would have played the role of R.P. McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest—just as he had on stage, when the book was adapted as a play in 1963. But by the time the film finally got off the ground with Miloš Forman as director more than a decade later, Douglas knew he was too old for the role, but had two specific actors in mind: Hackman and Burt Reynolds. Ultimately, the role went to Jack Nicholson, who won his first of three (and counting) Oscars for the film.

3. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977)

A photo of Gene Hackman, circa 1972
William Lovelace, Daily Express, Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Though it’s hard to imagine Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind without Richard Dreyfuss in the starring role of Roy Neary, he was far from Spielberg’s first choice. Spielberg had his eye on Steve McQueen, who reportedly said no because he couldn’t cry on cue. Spielberg then offered the part to a host of the biggest actors of the time—Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, and James Caan among them. They all passed, leaving the door open for Dreyfuss.

4. APOCALYPSE NOW (1979)

Five years after starring in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation, Hackman was the director’s first choice to play Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore in Apocalypse Now ... but there was a catch. “The Apocalypse Now situation was touchier because I have such regard for Francis Ford Coppola as a director,” Hackman told the Chicago Tribune. “But he wanted me to work for points (a percentage of the gross, rather than for a salary), which I don’t think I should do.” Instead, it was Robert Duvall who got to famously declare: “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”

5. ORDINARY PEOPLE (1980)

In 1980, Robert Redford made his directorial debut with the emotionally charged story of a family dealing with the death of their eldest son; Donald Sutherland and Mary Tyler Moore played the parents, and Timothy Hutton played the younger son (and won an Oscar for his efforts). But Sutherland’s role was originally going to be Hackman’s—until money got in the way. “I liked the script but couldn’t come to an agreement regarding the—how can I phrase it?—the compensation,” Hackman told the Chicago Tribune. "If I thought about it, I suppose I would have to have some regrets. So the thing to do is not think about it, don’t you think?”

6. BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985)

Gene Hackman arrives at the premiere of 'The Royal Tenenbaums' in 2001.
LUCY NICHOLSON, AFP, Getty Images

We’re not sure exactly how close Hackman got to landing the role of Doc Brown in Back to the Future, but in 2015, we learned that he was on the list of contenders to play the lovably mad scientist. Michael Klastorin and Randal Atamaniuk’s book, Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History, included a memo—dated August 21, 1984—that included more than 40 possible names to fill the role. Some of them are crossed out, some of them are bracketed, and some of them—like Christopher Lloyd and Gene Hackman—have a checkmark next to them, which seems like a good sign. (See a copy of the memo here.)

7. MISERY (1990)

Though the role of novelist-turned-captive Paul Sheldon in Misery might seem like the kind of part any actor would kill for (no pun intended), a long line of well-known actors said no to the film. In his book, Which Lie Did I Tell?, legendary screenwriter William Goldman recounted some of the names on that list, including Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Robert Redford, Harrison Ford, and William Hurt (who apparently told them no twice).

8. THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991)

Though Hackman has stayed mostly in front of the camera, in the 1980s he decided he wanted to see what it felt like to sit in the director’s chair and, along with Orion Pictures, purchased the movie rights to Thomas Harris’s The Silence of the Lambs for Hackman to both direct and star in. “It's one of the most cinematic books I've ever read,” Hackman said. “As I read it, the movie was clicking in my mind.”

Hackman planned to take the role of Jack Crawford, with John Hurt as Hannibal Lecter. But in 1989, on Oscar night, Hackman had a revelation: Sitting in the audience, where he was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for Mississippi Burning, Hackman realized that he didn’t want to follow up one unlikable character with another. So he sold his part of the rights to Orion, and still has yet to direct a film.

9. THE FUGITIVE (1993)

In 1989, Hackman and director Andrew Davis clicked while making The Package, in which Hackman played a Green Beret tasked with transporting a prisoner, played by Tommy Lee Jones, back to America. When the time came for Davis to begin casting for the role of Chief Deputy Marshal Sam Gerard in The Fugitive, he considered Hackman—and John Voight, too—but eventually opted to re-team with Tommy Lee Jones who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the film.

10. JACKIE BROWN (1997)

Gene Hackman attends the Next House ESPN The Magazine party in 2005 in Jacksonville, Florida
Evan Agostini, Getty Images

Jackie Brown may be the headliner in Quentin Tarantino’s adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s 1992 novel Rum Punch, but bail bondsman Max Cherry is integral to the twisty plot. And Tarantino had a pretty short list of possible contenders: Hackman, John Saxon, and Robert Forster. He went with Forster, which turned out to be a smart move, as the actor received the movie’s only Oscar nod.

11. THE BRADY BUNCH (1969 – 1974)

Remember that “beloved sitcom” we mentioned? Well, it’s none other than The Brady Bunch. Yes, you read that right. In his 2010 book, Brady Brady Brady, The Brady Bunch creator Sherwood Schwartz wrote that, “there were a number of men I wanted to interview [for the role of Mike Brady], including Gene Hackman. Paramount wouldn’t even okay Gene Hackman for an interview because he had a very low TVQ. (TVQ is a survey that executives use to determine the audience’s familiarity with performances. TV executives don’t admit to the existence of TVQs, but it is commonly employed in casting.)” Maybe it was all for the best—at least for Hackman. “The year after The Brady Bunch debuted, unknown Gene Hackman with no TVQ starred in The French Connection and won the Academy Award for Best Actor, and has been a major star ever since,” Schwartz added.

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The Muppets are Getting a Reboot (Again)
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Frazer Harrison, Getty Images

The Muppets have entertained audiences from television sets and movie screens. Now, The Hollywood Reporter reports the beloved characters are coming to your computer. Jim Henson's classic characters are being rebooted for Disney's new streaming service.

This isn't the first time Disney has attempted to repackage The Muppets for TV since acquiring the property in 2004. In 2015, a mockumentary-style show, simply titled The Muppets, premiered on ABC, but it was canceled after one season in light of underwhelming reviews. Disney is also producing a CGI update of the animated series Muppet Babies this March. Unlike that show, this upcoming series will star the original adult characters.

Disney has yet to announce a premiere date or even a premise for the new streaming show. Audiences can expect to see it sometime after the Netflix competitor launches in fall of 2019.

The Muppets will be accompanied by streaming versions of other classic Disney properties. Series based on Monsters Inc. (2001) and The Mighty Ducks (1992) as well as film reboots of The Parent Trap (1998) and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989) are all expected to appear exclusively on the streaming service.

[h/t The Hollywood Reporter]

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15 Educational Facts About Old School
DreamWorks
DreamWorks

Old School starred Luke Wilson as Mitch Martin, an attorney who—after catching his girlfriend cheating, and through some real estate and bitter dean-related circumstances—becomes the leader of a not-quite-official college fraternity. Along with his fellow thirtysomething friends Bernard (Vince Vaughn) and newlywed Frank (Will Ferrell), they end up having to fight for their right to maintain their status as a party-loving frat on campus.

The film, which was released 15 years ago today, marked Vaughn’s return to major comedies and Ferrell’s first major starring role after seven years on Saturday Night Live. Here are some facts about the movie for everyone, but particularly for my boy, Blue.

1. THE IDEA ORIGINATED WITH AN AD GUY.

Writer-director Todd Phillips was talking to a friend of his from the advertising industry named Court Crandall one day. Crandall had seen and enjoyed Phillips's movie Frat House (1998) and told his director buddy, “You know what would be funny is a movie about older guys who start a fraternity of their own.” After being told by Phillips to write it, he presented Phillips with a “loose version” of the finished product.

2. SOME OF THE FRAT SHENANIGANS WERE REAL.

While Crandall received the story credit for Old School, Phillips and Scot Armstrong received the credit for writing the script. Armstrong put his own college fraternity experiences into the script. “We were in Peoria, Illinois, so it was up to us to entertain ourselves," Armstrong shared in the movie's official production notes. "A lot of ideas for Old School came from things that really happened. When it was cold, everyone would go stir crazy and it inspired some moments of brilliance. Of course, my definition of ‘brilliance' might be different from other people's.”

3. IVAN REITMAN HELPED OUT.

Ivan Reitman, director of Stripes and Ghostbusters, was an executive producer on the film. Phillips and Armstrong wrote and rewrote every day for two months at Reitman’s house, an experience Phillips described as comedy writing “boot camp.”

4. THE STUDIO DIDN’T WANT VINCE VAUGHN.

Vince Vaughn in 'Old School' (2003)
DreamWorks

It didn’t seem to make a difference to DreamWorks that Phillips and Armstrong had written the role of Bernard with Vince Vaughn in mind—the studio didn't want him. After his breakout success in Swingers, Vaughn had taken roles in dramas like the 1998 remake of Psycho. “So when Todd Phillips wanted me for Old School, the studio didn’t want me,” Vaughn told Variety in 2015. “They didn’t think I could do comedy! They said, ‘He’s a dramatic actor from smaller films.’ Todd really had to push for me.”

5. RECYCLED SHOTS OF HARVARD UNIVERSITY WERE USED.

The film was mainly shot on the Westwood campus of UCLA. The aerial shots of the fictitious Harrison University, however, were of Harvard; they had been shot for Road Trip (2000).

6. VINCE VAUGHN FANS MIGHT RECOGNIZE THE CHURCH.

In the film, Frank gets married at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Pasadena, California. Vaughn and Owen Wilson were in that same church two years later for Wedding Crashers (2005).

7. WILL FERRELL SCARED MEMBERS OF A 24-HOUR GYM.

Frank’s streaking scene was shot on a city street. As Ferrell remembered it, one of the storefronts was a 24-hour gym with Stairmasters and treadmills in the window. “I was rehearsing in a robe, and all these people are in the gym, watching me. I asked one of the production assistants, ‘Shouldn’t we tell them I’m going to be naked?’ Sure enough, I dropped my robe and there were shrieks of pure horror. After the first take, nobody was at the window anymore. I took that as a sign of approval.”

8. FERRELL REALLY WAS NAKED.

Ferrell justified it by saying it showed his character falling off the wagon. “The fact that it made sense was the reason I was really into doing it, and why I was able to commit on that level," Ferrell told the BBC. "If it was just for the sake of doing a crazy shot, then I don't think it makes sense.” Still, Ferrell needed some liquid courage, and was intimidated by the presence of Snoop Dogg.

9. ROB CORDDRY WAS NOT NAKED, BUT HE STILL HAD TO SIGN AWAY HIS NUDITY RIGHTS.

Old School marked the first major film role for Rob Corddry, who at the time was best known as a correspondent for The Daily Show. He had a jewel bag around his private parts for his nude scene, but his butt made it into the final cut. He had to sign a nudity clause, which gave the film the right to use his naked image “in any part of the universe, in any form, even that which is not devised.”

10. SNOOP DOGG AGREED TO CAMEO SO HE COULD PLAY HUGGY BEAR IN STARSKY & HUTCH.

Phillips admitted to essentially bribing the hip-hop artist/actor, using Snoop Dogg’s desire to play the street informant in the modern movie adaptation of the classic TV show (which Phillips was also directing) to his advantage. “So when I went to him I said, 'I want you to do Huggy Bear,' he was really excited. And I said, 'Oh yeah, also will you do this little thing for me in Old School a little cameo?' So he kind of had to do it I think."

11. SNOOP WANTED TO HANG OUT WITH VINCE VAUGHN ON SET, BUT NOT LUKE WILSON.

Snoop Dogg in 'Old School' (2003)
Richard Foreman, Dreamworks

Vaughn and his friends accepted an invitation to hang out in Snoop Dogg’s trailer to play video games on the last day of shooting. Vaughn recalled seeing Luke Wilson later watching the news alone in his trailer; he had not been informed of the get-together.

12. WILSON WAS TEASED BY HIS CO-STARS.

Vaughn, Wilson, and Ferrell dubbed themselves “The Wolfpack”—years before Phillips directed The Hangover—because they would always make fun of each other. A particularly stinging exchange had Ferrell refer to Legally Blonde (which Wilson had starred in) as Legally Bland. Wilson said it didn’t make him feel great. Wilson retorted by telling Ferrell that "the transition from TV to the movies isn't a very easy one, so you might just want to keep one foot back in TV just in case this whole movie thing falls through!"

13. TERRY O’QUINN SCARED HIS SONS INTO THINKING THEY WERE TRIPPING.

Terry O’Quinn (who went on to play John Locke on Lost the following year) agreed to play Goldberg, uncredited, in what was a two-day job for him. He neglected to inform his sons he was in the movie, and when they saw it, one of them called their father. “I got a call from my sons one night, and they said, ‘What were you doing in Old School? We didn’t even know you were in it!’ They said, ‘We’re sitting there, and the first time we see you, it’s, like, in a reflection in a window. And when we saw it, and we both thought we were, like, tripping or something!’”

14. THE EARMUFFS WERE IMPROVISED.

Before filming, Vaughn worked with Ferrell to figure out their characters' backstories and how they knew each other; he credited that with helping him figure out who Bernard was, which led to several ad-libbed moments. “The earmuff scene where he swears in front of the kids, and then I tell the kid to earmuff, that all is off the cuff. But that stuff is a lot easier to do when you know who you are and your circumstances, and who your characters are,” Vaughn explained.

15. FERRELL AND VAUGHN DIDN’T LOVE A SCRIPT FOR A SEQUEL.

Armstrong had written Old School Dos in 2006, which saw the frat going to Spring Break. Ferrell said that he and Vaughn read the script but felt like they would just be “kind of doing the same thing again.” Wilson, on the other hand, was excited over the new script.

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