John Travolta (left) lobbied hard to play Meadows in The Last Detail (1973) and was considered a sure bet for the part until the last minute when Randy Quaid (right) was cast. Quaid was nominated for an Academy Award.

Casting Director: Lynn Stalmaster

Beverly Hills Cop (1984) was initially written for Sylvester Stallone (left), but when he had to drop out, Casting Director Marion Dougherty suggested Eddie Murphy for the role. The script, initially written as more of an action film, was rewritten as a comedy and all the supporting roles were recast.

Casting director: Marion Dougherty

John Lithgow (left) just couldn’t see himself as the Joker in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989), so he turned down the role which ultimately went to Jack Nicholson.

Casting director: Marion Dougherty

Scores of Hollywood leading men were tested to play Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate (1967) from Robert Redford to Steve McQueen. But director Mike Nichols totally reconceived the part and settled on the unknown Dustin Hoffman, who didn’t possess leading man looks.

Hoffman, who had previously been scheduled to play Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder, left) in Mel Brooks’ The Producers (1968), had to drop out to star in The Graduate with Brooks’ wife, Anne Bancroft.

Casting Director: Lynn Stalmaster

When Marion Doughtery suggested Danny Glover for the role of Murtaugh in Lethal Weapon (1987), the director Richard Donner immediately responded, “But he’s black,” to which Dougherty replied: “So?” Donner expressed deep apology for his response and Glover went on to star in the film.

Casting director: Marion Dougherty

After starring in several Hollywood flops, Mel Gibson had given up acting and moved to Australia to be a rancher. Marion Dougherty, tracked him down and convinced him he should return to make one more film, Lethal Weapon (1987).

Casting director: Marion Dougherty

Clint Eastwood (left) was the initial choice for Superman (1978), but after the casting director reflected on the need for the actor to play not just Superman but also Clark Kent, a then unknown actor named Christopher Reeve (right) was cast.

Casting Director: Lynn Stalmaster

Co.Create

Casting Decisions That Changed History (Or Could Have)

Can you imagine John Lithgow as the Joker or The Graduate without Dustin Hoffman? Both almost happened! Casting By tells the story of the casting directors that shaped film.

The role of the casting director is often overlooked in Hollywood. But now the profession is getting the spotlight in a new documentary, Casting By, which premieres tonight on HBO. It tells the story of the birth of the casting profession, in the late 1950s led by two of the first casting directors Lynn Stalmaster and Marion Doughtery. For his casting work on The Thomas Crown Affair, Stalmaster was the first person to receive the "casting by" credit that became standard in main title credits ever after. Yet, casting directors, who just last week were given an official branch in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, are not eligible to be nominated for Academy Awards. While every film is a collaborative effort, without casting directors, movies we all know and love might look quite different. A casting director has the power to pluck an unknown actor from obscurity and turn them into a star, to revive the career of a has-been, or to change the tone and direction of a movie altogether. In the slide show above, seven casting decisions that almost didn’t happen that gave us unforgettable movie roles and moments.

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