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  #1  
Old 09-03-2009, 11:20 PM
Eonwe Eonwe is offline
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Stories of famous actors who failed the audition?

I have a friend who's feeling a little down and I'd like to cheer her up after having not made the cut for an audition.

Are there any well known stories of famous people who were turned down at some audition just to make it big later? Like, the Beatles were famously rejected, were they not?
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  #2  
Old 09-03-2009, 11:30 PM
Cat Fight Cat Fight is offline
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Harvey Keitel auditioned for the Actors Studio and eight years in a row before being accepted. Now he's on its board.
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  #3  
Old 09-03-2009, 11:31 PM
Nonsuch Nonsuch is offline
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The Beatles were rejected by Decca records after submitting to a recording test, yes.

I imagine every great actor has been turn down for numerous roles, but I can't think of a standout example.
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  #4  
Old 09-03-2009, 11:31 PM
astorian astorian is offline
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The most famous story involves Fred Astaire. Supposedly, the studio exec who evaluated his first screen test wrote, "Can't act. Can't sing. Skinny. Balding. Dances a little."

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/ar...953197,00.html
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  #5  
Old 09-03-2009, 11:33 PM
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"Can't sing, can't act. Can dance a little."

Fred Astaire's RKO screen test results. (allegedly.)
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  #6  
Old 09-04-2009, 10:20 AM
Kizarvexius Kizarvexius is offline
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Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds were buddies back when they started out in Hollywood. The two had attended an audition together and the casting director had sent them both packing, telling Clint that he was ugly and Burt that he couldn't act. Once outside, Clint turned to Burt and said "well, at least I can act." Burt shot back, "yeah, but I can learn to act. You'll always be ugly."
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  #7  
Old 09-04-2009, 10:58 AM
xizor xizor is offline
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I remember reading that a few people who tried out for the Monkees and got rejected became big later.
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  #8  
Old 09-04-2009, 11:26 AM
Crotalus Crotalus is offline
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Originally Posted by xizor View Post
I remember reading that a few people who tried out for the Monkees and got rejected became big later.
I have read that Stephen Stills was one of these.
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  #9  
Old 09-04-2009, 11:52 AM
JThunder JThunder is offline
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Paul Williams auditioned for the original Mickey Mouse Club and was rejected. He later became a bigger force than any of them with the possible exception of Annette.
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  #10  
Old 09-04-2009, 12:05 PM
GrandWino GrandWino is offline
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I have read that Stephen Stills was one of these.
As was Charlie Manson.
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  #11  
Old 09-04-2009, 12:09 PM
kunilou kunilou is offline
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In addition to not hiring the Beatles, Decca records fired Buddy Holley. Their A&R man called Holley "the biggest no-talent I ever worked with."

The Grand Ole Opry firesd Elvis Presley after one performance.

Not a performer, but a script: MGM turned down Gone With the Wind.
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  #12  
Old 09-04-2009, 12:21 PM
Horatio Hellpop Horatio Hellpop is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kizarvexius View Post
Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds were buddies back when they started out in Hollywood. The two had attended an audition together and the casting director had sent them both packing, telling Clint that he was ugly and Burt that he couldn't act. Once outside, Clint turned to Burt and said "well, at least I can act." Burt shot back, "yeah, but I can learn to act. You'll always be ugly."
Actually, the issue with Clint was his big ol' Adam's Apple.
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  #13  
Old 09-04-2009, 01:39 PM
cochrane cochrane is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xizor View Post
I remember reading that a few people who tried out for the Monkees and got rejected became big later.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Crotalus View Post
I have read that Stephen Stills was one of these.
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Originally Posted by HelloNinja View Post
As was Charlie Manson.
No, HelloNinja. It was an urban legend. Manson was in prison from 1961 to 1967. The Monkees auditions were in 1965, so he couldn't possibly have attended.
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  #14  
Old 09-04-2009, 01:51 PM
Cat Fight Cat Fight is offline
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Not an actor, but Judd Apatow's resume is littered with canceled shows and failed movies.
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  #15  
Old 09-04-2009, 02:45 PM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
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Originally Posted by kunilou View Post
Not a performer, but a script: MGM turned down Gone With the Wind.
Not really. David Selznick was reluctant at first due to the high price (the highest to that point for an unknown author), but liked the book and eventually purchased the movie rights a few weeks after it was published. AFAIK, MGM never had a chance to bid on it. Selznick later partnered with MGM because he needed to use their star, Clark Gable.

There were several drafts of the scripts that were eventually rejected and the final shooting script wasn't completed until shooting had begun.

Not an actor, but author Lawrence J. Peter had The Peter Principle rejected by a very large number of publishers until he had an appearance on a TV talk show where the talked about it. After that, the publishers lined up to publish it and it was a massive best seller.
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  #16  
Old 09-04-2009, 03:06 PM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
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I also should mention this, which might help:

A friend of mine, an aspiring writer, had a sister who was trying to break into theater in New York. Her sister once told her that she could never be a writer because she couldn't handle the rejection.

My friend pointed out that actors get rejected all the time, but her sister said essentially, that the rejections are far less a comment on your ability. You may fail an audition because you have black hair and the producers want a blonde, or because you're taller than they'd like or because they find your accent is not quite right -- all factors that you have no control over. With acting, the rejection quite simply can be that, though you're great at what you do, you weren't the physical type the producers were looking for.
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  #17  
Old 09-04-2009, 03:36 PM
astorian astorian is offline
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Originally Posted by RealityChuck View Post
I also should mention this, which might help:

A friend of mine, an aspiring writer, had a sister who was trying to break into theater in New York. Her sister once told her that she could never be a writer because she couldn't handle the rejection.

My friend pointed out that actors get rejected all the time, but her sister said essentially, that the rejections are far less a comment on your ability. You may fail an audition because you have black hair and the producers want a blonde, or because you're taller than they'd like or because they find your accent is not quite right -- all factors that you have no control over. With acting, the rejection quite simply can be that, though you're great at what you do, you weren't the physical type the producers were looking for.

Or, more basically, in show biz, there are a LOT of talented people competing for a limited number of gigs.

ANY decent role in a play or movie is going to attract dozens or hundreds of talented people who are capable of playing the part well. If you're not an established star, the odds will almost always be against you. NOT because you aren't good, just because you're not UNIQUELY good.

VERY rarely is a casting director going to tell an applicant, "Quit show biz, now. You suck. You have no future." More likely, he's going to say, "Not bad, but you're not exactly what we need." Or "That was fine, but we've seen someone we like a little better." If you're a performer, you're likely to hear those words a LOT.

Being rejected, for ANY job in ANY career field, hurts. And rejection is bound to happen more often if you're in a highly competitive field like show biz. If you know you're talented, the only question is, how long are you willing to do menial jobs and live in relative poverty until you get your big break (which, of course, may NEVER come)?

So, while it might offer the OP's friend some small comfort to point out that the Beatles' audition tapes were rejected by several record companies, the main things the OP's friend has to ask herself are:

1) Am I really good at what I do? Am I genuinely talented? If you're not sure, stop here.

2) Am I tough enough to endure repeated rejection? Because that comes with the territory, I'm afraid.
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  #18  
Old 09-04-2009, 04:36 PM
Shoeless Shoeless is offline
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On my Season 1 DVDs of "NewsRadio", in the commentary on the pilot episode they talk about how the guy they hired to play the electrician/technician really wasn't a good fit with the rest of the cast and they decided to let him go at the last minute. They hired some other guy for the part for the pilot and then Joe Rogan got the regular gig when the series was picked up.

The actor that didn't make the cut was Ray Romano, who later hit it big with "Everybody Loves Raymond".
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  #19  
Old 09-04-2009, 04:49 PM
Don Draper Don Draper is offline
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Lisa Kudrow was originally hired to play Roz on "Frasier", but didn't have good chemistry with Kelsey Grammar, so they ditched her for Peri Gilpin. Dunno if there is still footage of her, but there are still photos of Kudrow in the radio station sound booth.
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  #20  
Old 09-04-2009, 04:59 PM
TJVM TJVM is offline
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With the possible exception of the very biggest stars, I don't think it's uncommon for actors to get rejected even after they're successful. I recently read an interview with Sarah Jessica Parker about her upcoming movie with Hugh Grant, and she said that she'd auditioned or screen tested for a number of prior Hugh Grant movies but had never gotten the part.
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  #21  
Old 09-04-2009, 05:08 PM
Bosstone Bosstone is offline
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This is a fictional piece, but it's based on personal experience. Vin Diesel has a short film called Multi-Facial about a budding actor auditioning for multiple roles. It's not a bad little piece.
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  #22  
Old 09-04-2009, 08:26 PM
Horatio Hellpop Horatio Hellpop is offline
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Three people who auditioned but didn't make the final cut for the first season of SNL: Bill Murray, Andy Kaufman, Billy Crystal. Kaufman, though brilliant, didn't have a huge amount of range and was ultimately better suited as a frequent featured player. Crystal, whose negotiations with the show went on until just before the first show aired, really seemed to be part of an earlier generation's traditions. Murray's pock-marked face was kind of a hard sell, and he didn't really gel as a cast member until a couple months into his first season a year later. They all survived.
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  #23  
Old 09-04-2009, 11:23 PM
Equipoise Equipoise is offline
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Have her look at George Clooney's IMDB page. That ought to cheer her right up. Besides all the failed TV shows (including a series set in a Chicago hospital called E/R) there's this in the Trivia section:

Quote:
Auditioned five times for Ridley Scott for the role of J.D. in Thelma & Louise (1991), a role that ultimately went to future friend Brad Pitt and catapulted Pitt to super-stardom.
And this:

Quote:
He auditioned for the role of Mr. Blonde/Vic Vega in Reservoir Dogs (1992), but was turned down.

Even after being a star, he couldn't get some breaks:

Quote:
Sought the role of Jack in Sideways (2004). However, the film's director, Alexander Payne, felt that he was too big a star, and turned him down in favor of Thomas Haden Church.
Here are a couple of nice quotes:

Quote:
"See, the first thing about actors is, you're just trying to get a job; and you audition and audition and you finally get them. And you still consider yourself an auditioning actor. I auditioned for One Fine Day (1996), I wasn't offered that. So you're still in that 'Hey, I'm just trying to get a job' thing. Then, you get to the point where, if you decide to do it, then they'll make the film. That's a different kind of responsibility, and it usually takes a couple of films to catch up. And then you have to actually pay attention to the kind of films that you're making."
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I didn't become really successful until I was in my thirties. I can still remember sitting on the closet floor of my buddy's house, completely broke. My friends would want to go out to dinner, to get a hamburger, and I couldn't afford to go. They had the money to pay, but I didn't want them to pay. That happened a lot. At one point, I remember my buddy Brad loaning me a hundred dollars. He's now running our production company. I'm still paying that debt off, you know?
(an interesting tidbit I'd never heard before, his salary as an actor in Good Night And Good Luck was $1.00!)
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  #24  
Old 09-04-2009, 11:52 PM
lissener lissener is offline
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When I was in college, a friend of mine who was also an aspiring writer gave me a few of his short stories. I worked in a book store, and had a few indirect contacts, through my boss, with a few publishers' reps. My friend asked me to do him a favor and take a look and tell him what I thought, and pass it on to a couple of the publishers' reps if possible.

I read the stories, I gave them to my boss to read them, and we both agreed: some potential, but really not ready to be published yet. Which is what I reported back to my friend, David Sedaris.
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  #25  
Old 09-05-2009, 12:04 AM
Diogenes the Cynic Diogenes the Cynic is offline
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A still unknown Robert DeNiro auditioned for the original Godfather as Sonny Corleone. He was rejected for being too scary "too chilling" Coppola said, and James Caan got the part. When it was time to do the sequel and they needed someone to play the young Vito, Coppola remembered that intense, scary guy that had auditioned for Sonny.

Last edited by Diogenes the Cynic; 09-05-2009 at 12:05 AM..
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  #26  
Old 09-05-2009, 12:29 AM
Zebra Zebra is offline
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Harrison Ford got turned down quite a bit before making it big. After appearing in films and television he had to support himself by being a carpenter. He appeared in Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round as a bellhop in 1968. He didn't American Graffiti till '73.

All actors get rejected. It is something they just have to cope with if they want to be an actor.


A friend of mine was a first generation America with his parents born in the Philippians. He was constantly told he was 'too Asian'. Finally once he was auditioning for the role in Miss Saigon. He was told he 'wasn't Asian enough'.
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  #27  
Old 09-05-2009, 02:35 AM
Jaledin Jaledin is offline
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David Niven's classic life story (The Moon's A Balloon) is, until the last third or so of the book (? His books kind of run together in my mind ?), pretty much the story of failure after failure. Since most of his early career made of fail seems to have been due to his (to hear him tell it) outrageous ineptitude, I don't know if it would hearten a young actor or not.
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  #28  
Old 09-05-2009, 03:14 AM
Argent Towers Argent Towers is offline
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Regarding Sideways - Christ, am I glad they went with Thomas Haden Church for that role. Going with Clooney would have turned the whole thing into a movie about a suave ladies' man and his neurotic sidekick, and taken the focus off of Giamatti's character; instead, with Church in the role, it was about two guys who were equally neurotic but just in different ways. One of them was addicted to alcohol, the other was addicted to the conquest of women. I love Haden Church's character Jack because he reminds me so much of my own dad; I've seen that movie many times and each time I really feel like I know that character. And it works perfectly because it's an unknown and not a big-name star like Clooney.

I've read the book and I think that film is one of the closest and best-executed book-to-film adaptation.

Similarly, Meet the Parents was originally going to star Jim Carrey in Ben Stiller's role. But this would have been totally lame; Stiller plays the "shlub" so much better than Carey could, despite the latter's acting ability, and Carey generally comes off as too likeable. Stiller's "Greg Focker" was just not that likeable; he was a real weaselly jerk, with no confidence or spine, poor posture, phony kinetics, and a really nervous style of delivery. No way could Jim Carrey have pulled off that role.
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  #29  
Old 09-05-2009, 07:47 AM
Scarlett67 Scarlett67 is online now
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<slight hijack>

Quote:
Originally Posted by Argent Towers View Post
I've read the book [Sideways] and I think that film is one of the closest and best-executed book-to-film adaptation.
(title of book added to quote for clarity)

Really? What did you think of the part of the book where
SPOILER:
Maya slept with Raymond because Jack paid her to do so?

Mr. S and I were both disgusted by that. We didn't think that character would ever, ever do such a thing. (Tessa/Stephanie, though . . . what a whore.) Otherwise, we enjoyed both the book and the movie. Agree about Thomas Haden Church in the role. Clooney would have ruined it.

</sj>
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  #30  
Old 09-06-2009, 08:04 AM
JozefKafka JozefKafka is offline
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When James Mason was an architecture student at Cambridge in the late 1920s, he tried out for the theatre group. The upperclassman in charge rejected him b/c he was not committed to acting. Mason left in a huff.

The upperclassman was Alistair Cooke.

Clark Gable was turned down by Warner Bros b/c "his ears are too big".

In 1986 Phil Hartman tried out for announcer -- not host, announcer -- on the new Hollywood Squares. He was turned down. This made him available when Saturday Night Live held a casting call a few weeks later. Hartman: "I sometimes wonder where'd I be if I'd gotten that announcing job..."
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  #31  
Old 09-06-2009, 09:16 AM
Bijou Drains Bijou Drains is offline
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Billy Crystal ended up on SNL in 84, he was famous for his Fernando Lamas skits.
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  #32  
Old 09-06-2009, 10:30 AM
Spoons Spoons is offline
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Originally Posted by lissener View Post
When I was in college, a friend of mine who was also an aspiring writer gave me a few of his short stories. I worked in a book store, and had a few indirect contacts, through my boss, with a few publishers' reps. My friend asked me to do him a favor and take a look and tell him what I thought, and pass it on to a couple of the publishers' reps if possible.

I read the stories, I gave them to my boss to read them, and we both agreed: some potential, but really not ready to be published yet. Which is what I reported back to my friend, David Sedaris.
Somewhat similarly, I had a short story published in a literary anthology back in the early-to-mid 1980s. I got a call from a friend who wanted to arrange a meeting between me and a filmmaker he knew--seems the filmmaker had picked up a copy of the anthology, read my story, and wanted to make a movie out of it. I went to the meeting, more out of curiosity than anything else, but it would be good to see my friend again. The filmmaker turned out to be a man with a strange name I had never heard of. I wasn't impressed with his plans to film my story--if indeed, he really was a filmmaker, which I doubted--so I didn't grant him permission to film my story.

That was how I turned down Atom Egoyan....
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  #33  
Old 09-06-2009, 10:47 AM
ShibbOleth ShibbOleth is offline
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That was how I turned down Atom Egoyan....
I'd smack you for that but I'm sure you've beat yourself up over that plenty already.
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  #34  
Old 09-06-2009, 11:28 AM
Spoons Spoons is offline
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I'd smack you for that but I'm sure you've beat yourself up over that plenty already.
Many, many times.
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  #35  
Old 09-06-2009, 12:09 PM
DooWahDiddy DooWahDiddy is offline
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Eric Stoltz was the original Marty McFly, and they even began filming (what I wouldn't give to see that footage). It just wasn't working though (according to the DVD commentary, "He just wasn't getting the kind of humor we were going for"), so they got Michael J. Fox, even though he was doing "Family Ties" at the same time.
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  #36  
Old 09-06-2009, 03:03 PM
Bijou Drains Bijou Drains is offline
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Star Trek Voyager had a different actress for a few weeks of taping but she was fired and replaced by Kate Mulgrew. This article mentions she quit rather than got fired.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genevi%C3%A8ve_Bujold
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  #37  
Old 09-06-2009, 03:15 PM
TWDuke TWDuke is offline
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I've seen DVDs that included the actual audition/screen-test footage of well-known actors who weren't cast - and of course I can't think of a single example.

As to actors who were let go after filming had started, Stuart Townsend was replaced by Viggo Mortensen in the "Lord of the Rings" movies. Since Mortensen is a full 14 years older than Townsend, it seems to be an honest case of the filmmakers deciding to go with a different type rather than a reflection on Townsend's ability.
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  #38  
Old 09-06-2009, 03:21 PM
zamboniracer zamboniracer is offline
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Harrison Ford got turned down quite a bit before making it big. After appearing in films and television he had to support himself by being a carpenter. He appeared in Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round as a bellhop in 1968. He didn't American Graffiti till '73.
I don't know if this story is apocryphal, but I thought I heard Ford once say on an interview that after he'd been doing carpentry on the side for a while he went on an audition for an acting part playing a carpenter and was rejected because his carpenter movements weren't authentic enough to please the director, even though they'd been plenty authentic enough to support him as a carpenter.

Last edited by zamboniracer; 09-06-2009 at 03:22 PM..
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  #39  
Old 09-06-2009, 03:29 PM
astorian astorian is offline
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Vin Diesel has often been coy about his ethnicity, but it's pretty widely known he's mostly black and Italian.

And yet, he's regularly been turned down for Italian roles because he looked too black, and he's also been turned down regularly for black roles, because he didn't look quite black enough.
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  #40  
Old 09-07-2009, 01:06 AM
DMark DMark is offline
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Ron Howard, after doing the Andy Griffith Show, spent years trying out for roles and got nuthin' because he had been type-cast after that television show.

In an interview I read, he said he was so depressed at not finding work that he and a friend came up with the idea to do a porn called, "Opie Gets Laid".

They were actually working on the porn film idea when he got the script, and offer, for a role in American Graffiti.
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  #41  
Old 09-07-2009, 01:13 AM
Equipoise Equipoise is offline
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Originally Posted by JozefKafka View Post
In 1986 Phil Hartman tried out for announcer -- not host, announcer -- on the new Hollywood Squares. He was turned down. This made him available when Saturday Night Live held a casting call a few weeks later. Hartman: "I sometimes wonder where'd I be if I'd gotten that announcing job..."
Alive, probably. He met his wife, the one who murdered him, a year later.
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  #42  
Old 09-07-2009, 02:45 AM
Koxinga Koxinga is offline
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Originally Posted by Equipoise View Post
Alive, probably. He met his wife, the one who murdered him, a year later.
Had just the same thought.

Quote:
Vin Diesel has often been coy about his ethnicity, but it's pretty widely known he's mostly black and Italian.

And yet, he's regularly been turned down for Italian roles because he looked too black, and he's also been turned down regularly for black roles, because he didn't look quite black enough.
I don't know much about Vin Diesel, but I don't know why this would be surprising. Same for the guy mentioned upthread who was "too Asian/not Asian enough" -- if an actor deviates from the archetypes for two different ethnicities but falls somewhere in the middle, then duh, he doesn't fit either archetype.

Now, if Paula Abdul had been rejected from a role for not looking at all Jewish -- that would be irony.

Last edited by Koxinga; 09-07-2009 at 02:47 AM..
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  #43  
Old 09-07-2009, 08:46 AM
TV time TV time is offline
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Virtually every major actress in Hollywood and New York (including Bette Davis, Lucille Ball, Paullette Goddard, Talulla Bankhead, Joan Crawford, etc.) auditioned for the Scarlett O'Hara role in Gone With The Wind and didn't get it. Then this English chick showed up.

Roy Rogers (then singer Leonard Sly) thought his acting career was over until Gene Autry had a fight with the studio head about salary and went on strike thus opening the door for Rogers.
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  #44  
Old 09-07-2009, 11:32 AM
Le Ministre de l'au-delà Le Ministre de l'au-delà is offline
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Professional singer checking in here - if I'm getting one job for every 10 auditions I do, I'm doing pretty well. The rejection rate is higher for actors, and for dancers it's excruciating.

Staying the course in a performing arts career in the face of these kind of odds can be a real challenge - of the 20 people with me in a professional level program at the (then) Banff School of Fine Arts in 1982, only 2 of us are still performing professionally as soloists on a regular basis. One other has formed his own company and divides his time between church organist, choir director, university professor and performer in shows which he himself organizes.

It's a calling more than a job, really. I'm hoping your friend might find that of some comfort.
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  #45  
Old 09-07-2009, 05:45 PM
adhemar adhemar is offline
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Not exactly the same thing but Charlie Chaplin lost in a Charlie Chaplin look alike contest. So some days you aren't even the best at being yourself much less cast as someone else.
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  #46  
Old 09-07-2009, 08:09 PM
Koxinga Koxinga is offline
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Originally Posted by adhemar View Post
Not exactly the same thing but Charlie Chaplin lost in a Charlie Chaplin look alike contest. So some days you aren't even the best at being yourself much less cast as someone else.
If that happened to Meryl Streep the universe would implode, or something.
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Old 09-07-2009, 08:53 PM
Jackmannii Jackmannii is offline
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Originally Posted by Nonsuch View Post
The Beatles were rejected by Decca records after submitting to a recording test, yes.
They also were turned down by two EMI labels before being signed by another EMI division, Parlophone.

Decca got some revenge later, when The Who were rejected by EMI and then signed with Decca.
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Old 09-07-2009, 09:46 PM
furlibusea furlibusea is offline
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Originally Posted by Le Ministre de l'au-delà View Post
Professional singer checking in here - if I'm getting one job for every 10 auditions I do, I'm doing pretty well. The rejection rate is higher for actors, and for dancers it's excruciating.

Staying the course in a performing arts career in the face of these kind of odds can be a real challenge - of the 20 people with me in a professional level program at the (then) Banff School of Fine Arts in 1982, only 2 of us are still performing professionally as soloists on a regular basis. One other has formed his own company and divides his time between church organist, choir director, university professor and performer in shows which he himself organizes.

It's a calling more than a job, really. I'm hoping your friend might find that of some comfort.
Hey, I was at Banff in 1982 in the Theatre Crafts and Design program. I wonder if I know you. We hung out some with the opera singers because theirs was the only program that was there as long as ours.
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  #49  
Old 09-08-2009, 08:38 PM
Nonsuch Nonsuch is offline
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Originally Posted by adhemar View Post
Not exactly the same thing but Charlie Chaplin lost in a Charlie Chaplin look alike contest. So some days you aren't even the best at being yourself much less cast as someone else.
In a related vein, a young actress named Gloria Swanson auditioned for Charlie Chaplin when both were signed to the Essanay film company. Her audition was stiff and Chaplin gave her a minor role in one film and never used her again. Swanson admitted years later she didn't want to get stuck playing comedies and deliberately tanked the audition.
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Old 09-09-2009, 11:16 PM
Sam Stone Sam Stone is offline
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Christopher Walken was passed over for the Han Solo Part in Star Wars...

And Walter Matthau never made it as Obi-Wan Kenobi.

More seriously, apparently Kurt Russell was turned down for the part of Han Solo, if that youtube clip is to be believed.
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