Monday, August 1, 2011

"Basil's Very Little Known 'Facts' " Hollywood casting of movies

A post on my favourite other blog, The Kill Zone, got me thinking about how Hollywood casts its movies.

And now it's time for "Basil's Very Little Known 'Facts' "

The Magnificent Seven: The script for the famous western was based on Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai. In the initial readings the intention was not to make it a real “Western” per se, but more of a musical comedy along the lines of Oklahoma meets Abbot & Costello in the days of Blade Runner (yes, Blade Runner had not yet been written, but the ideas were there nonetheless).

The original casting included Bud Abbot in the part of the samurai leader Shimada, Lou Costello as the young untested warrior Okamoto, Larry Fine as Katayama the skilled archer, Lee Marvin as the tough Kyzo, Curly Howard as Hayadashi the comedic warrior, Jonathan Winters as the lieutenant Shiroji, and Milton Berle as the counterfeit samurai with the heart of a warrior Kikuchiyo.

It all fell apart early on when Abbot refused to get a samurai top knot haircut and kept insisting on putting his arms around the pretty girls. Costello got jealous and tried to prove his manhood by learning to use his katana sword for real. Several very expensive set pieces were destroyed before his midnight practice sessions were halted. Add to that Moe Howard's frustration at not being offered a part with his former stooges (Larry had actually specially requested that Moe be left out to give his hair and nose a break from the regular season abuse, something which Moe did not learn until much later in life and to which he responded by saying, “Why I oughta...”). Curly actually felt very much at home in Samurai garb and started to philosophize to no end about how he had probably been one in a former life, and had ruled a vast portion of ancient Japan, and how the word 'Nyuk' can actually be found in historical texts of the Japanese language.

Jonathan Winters at first started off playing his part very well. So well as a matter of fact that he was very nearly at the point of being typecast as the tough albeit slightly chubby hired gun in future westerns. Such aspirations were shot down though, literally when upon seeing an ethnically-Japanese crew member he thought he recognized from WW2 the former Marine had a violent flashback and nearly beheaded the man with a prop sword prompting a security guard to shoot him with a prop gun causing him to suddenly collapse into a sobbing heap then start emulating an alien invasion using only two chopsticks, a Japanese fan, and bowl of noodles.

Between those antics and Milton Berle's constant arrival on set dressed as a Geisha instead of a Samurai Lee Marvin (also a former Marine) finally just quit the whole show and stormed off muttering something about “I may have survived getting my ass shot off in Saipan, but there's no way in hell I'll survive these morons!”.

So there you have it, what might have been had Hollywood had its way on casting that time.

That also got me thinking, if my books were to be optioned for movies who would fill the roles? Any ideas out there?
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