The Most Befuddling Casting Choices in Film History

January 10, 2013 § 2 Comments

There are some roles that certain actors were born for: Marlon Brando as Don Corleone in The Godfather, Gregory Peck as Captain Ahab in Moby Dick, Clark Gable as Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind, Woody Allen as Woody Allen in every Woody Allen movie ever made. But every decade or so, there comes a movie with a casting choice so brain-liquifyingly bizarre that it makes you wonder whether the casting director is even actually from this planet. Here are a few of those.

#5. Henry Fonda as Pierre Bezukhov

Best known for his stirring performance in 12 Angry Men and his buck-toothed, prepubescent-voiced representation in cartoons, one thing Henry Fonda is NOT known for is being physically large. Yet this is exactly the sort of man he plays in the 1956 film War and Peace. Several times in Tolstoy’s novel, Pierre is likened to a bear, and he is always described as large and heavyset. Of course, he’s also constantly described as awkward and uncomfortable, which I can totally see in Fonda, but the physical characteristics are exactly opposite of the descriptions in the original novel. You may call this nitpicking, and you’re probably right, but I still find it an irritating choice.


Pictured: The Hulk

(For a much better casting choice and, indeed, a much better adaptation, go for Voyna i Mir [1968], starring Sergei Bondarchuck. However, you’ll have to call in sick; it’s seven hours long.)

#4. Orson Welles as Othello

Now, if we’re honest with ourselves, we realize that Orson Welles and Shakespeare sort of go hand in hand. He’s got the booming voice and intimidating demeanor that characterize so many of the Bard’s most famous soliloquizing superheroes. But there’s one role that he just can’t play.


Before political correctness. Also tact.

Oh. I guess I should say shouldn’t.

Othello is one of Shakespeare’s most affecting tragedies, a powerful tale of jealousy and backstabbing (and face-smothering). It’s also posed a problem for many white actors over the years because, well, Othello is black. He’s written that way. But Welles, in his typically “I’m-the-master-artist-and-no-one-can-question-me” fashion, decided that his unmistakable whiteness was not an obstacle, and he went on to play the part with just a little help from the offensive makeup department.

(For an interesting and racially-accurate take on Othello, check out the jazzy revamp All Night Long [1961].)

#3. Marlon Brando as Sakini


All he needs is a sandwich board that says, “Eat at Super Asia Buffet!” to complete the look.

Marlon Brando, along with legend Anthony Quinn, was one of the few ethnically ambiguous actors of the twentieth century. He played Emiliano Zapata, Mark Antony, and Napoleon Bonaparte within a two-year span. Heck, he was even Superman’s dad (for the record, I’ve never seen an extraterrestrial patriarch played more convincingly)! But, as Orson Welles has shown, there are just some things ya can’t fake.

In the charming comedy The Teahouse of the August Moon, Brando plays an interpreter and native villager, and it’s a difficult role to analyze. On the one hand, it’s evident that Brando (a notorious Method actor) has put a lot of work into accurately emulating the speech patterns and mannerisms of the average Japanese male. On the other hand, it’s a white guy trying to be taken seriously (well, semi-seriously; it is a comedy) as a Japanese guy, which–no matter how hard you try–just doesn’t quite work. While it’s an admirable effort, to the casual viewer it’s just a few “Fa-ra-ra’s” away from exactly the slanty-eyed stereotype that I’m sure dear old Marlon was trying to avoid.

On the third hand (still not sure where it came from), when the film was first released, there were reports that moviegoers demanded a refund because they were promised Marlon Brando but he never appeared onscreen. So, I suppose there’s something to be said for his achievement after all.

#2. John Wayne as Genghis Khan

Wait a second. What?

It’s true. The year was 1956, and director Dick Powell was faced with a dilemma: he wanted to make a big-budget, Howard Hughes-produced epic about Mongol chief Temujin’s rise to power, but he wanted a well-known actor to play the part. His final decision? Mr. Mongol himself, John Wayne.


Сайн уу, pilgrim.

I can’t even imagine what the thought process was on this one. It looks almost too wild for a Hollywood Halloween costume party. Words can’t describe it. Don’t look at the picture too long; it will make your head hurt.

Moral of the story: when an actor is notorious for only being able to play himself, and he is not Mongolian, do not cast him as a Mongolian.

#1. Robert De Niro as Fearless Leader

When one considers the film The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle (2000), many questions arise. For instance, why does this film exist? How does anyone who was involved with it still have a career? Does anyone who was involved with it still have a career? Why does–HOLY CRAP! IS THAT ROBERT DE NIRO?


The first film in De Niro’s “anything-for-a-buck” period, which continues to this day.

Yes. Yes it is.

But now, to continue the previous line of questioning. Why can’t De Niro, one of the most talented actors in film history, do a simple Russian accent? All of his henchmen can do it–even Jason Alexander! Instead, he opts for the Gestapo clothes and the staccato German, but you can occasionally see him slipping into his trademark Bronx accent. The lip curl is the first sign.

Why he ever signed onto this–and not only starred in it, but produced it as well!–will remain a mystery for centuries to come.



My List of People I’d Like to Meet Before One of Us Dies

August 30, 2012 § 1 Comment

Dear reader,

First of all, I realize that it’s a bit pompous to begin this post with a salutation that implies that I still have readers. But if you know me at all, you know that I take pride in my pomposity.

Anyway, I’ve actually been very sad when reading entertainment news recently, because we’ve been losing a lot of greats. Andy Griffith passed away last month, as did one of my favorite people in the whole wide world, Phyllis Diller. I miss them, and I lost my chance to talk to them face-to-face. And I don’t want to lose my chance to meet anyone else.

But, to be fair, I realize that it’s entirely possible that I’ll die before they do. So, without further ado (I kind of specialize in ado, don’t I?), I present to you My List of People I’d Like to Meet Before One of Us Dies.

In no particular order:

Mel Brooks

Carol Channing

Don Rickles

Paul Simon

Carl Reiner

Martin Scorcese

Bob Dylan

Robert De Niro

Jerry Lewis

B.B. King

Gene Wilder

Billy Joel

Cloris Leachman

Sid Caesar

Craig Ferguson

Kenneth Brannagh

Eva Marie Saint

Chuck Berry

Barry Humphries

Weird Al Yankovic

Meryl Streep

Dick Van Dyke

Chuck Berry

Hugh Laurie

Kirk Douglas

Michael Douglas

John Cleese

Michael Palin

Terry Jones

Eric Idle

Terry Gilliam

James Caan

Stephen Fry

Carol Burnett

Bob Newhart

Tim Conway

Jonathan Winters

Terrence Malick

Bruce Willis

Robert Downey, Jr.

Michael Caine

Julie Andrews

Desmond Tutu

And several more, I’m sure. But those are the ones off the top of my head. What are yours?


Color Me Barbecue

August 3, 2012 § 1 Comment

Yesterday, I had a rare experience. I ate barbecue.

You’d think that, since I live down here in the South, where men are men and pigs are pigs and men eat pigs, I’d eat barbecue for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (and perhaps for dessert!). However, this is not the case. I could probably count on one hand the times that I’ve had barbecue. And I have a totally normal hand.

I’ll show you what I noticed when I walked in this particular “‘cue joint,” as the kids say:

1. The employees were seriously annoyed with the prospect of customers who wanted to order food. “What do you think this is,” they seemed to say, “a restaurant or something?”

2. The fryer had had the same oil since around 1873.

3. Everything on the menu had something to do with pork. Even the chicken had pork.

4. Each song on the restaurant’s playlist had a clearly identifiable motif. I heard such hits as, “Beer Barrel Polka,” “Teardrops In My Beer,” “Beer, Beer, Beer,” “From Beer to Eternity,” “Wish You Were Beer,” “Beer and Now,” “I Love You, My Beer,” etc.

5. But they didn’t serve beer.

6. That seems like kind of a cruel joke.

7. They have a self-serve soft-serve. Awesome, right? But the only thing that resembled an ice cream bowl were those tiny condiment things. Apparently, The Borrowers are the only ones who get ice cream there.

8. After eating here, I smelled like I had been sleeping in a charcoal grill for two months.

9. Ladies love that.

10. But not the right kind of ladies.


Revenge of the Sequel: Part III

June 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

It’s during times like these that I weep for humanity. Sure, there’s war and famine and all that, but what I’m talking about is something much more distressing: unnecessary sequels.

Being the early-twentieth-century guy that I am, you may be surprised to know that I do a relatively good job of keeping up with the latest movie news. I rarely watch new movies, because I’m sick to death of all the “actors” who have roughly as much talent as mailboxes. (I will be nice and not mention the name “Channing Tatum” in relation to the preceding sentence.)

Anyway, I’m not a big fan of the typical summer blockbuster films (that infuriatingly insist on returning EVERY SUMMER). However, I can go to a fun, mindless, entertaining film and simply enjoy it for what it is: crap.

No, I’m kidding, of course. But I’ve recently noticed a disturbing and enraging trend in the film industry. Since there are obviously no new ideas left, Hollywood resorts naturally to butchering old, good ideas that have already been made into old, good films. Here are some examples:

Seven Samurai (1954): Often called the first modern action movie, Kurosawa’s masterpiece is just about a perfect film. Enter Hollywood, promising a remake in 2014. Luke punches Hollywood in the face. End scene.

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963): A delightful, if a little lengthy, screwball adventure with every conceivable entertainer from Hollywood’s golden age. What’s that? A sequel, you say? Coming out next year? BWAAAAAAAAAH!!!

Sunset Boulevard (1950):In my opinion, Billy Wilder’s best film. It’s shocking. It’s brave. It’s dark. It’s brilliantly acted. It’s…going to be remade soon? And maybe as a musical? I need an aspirin.

Scarface: Yes, there is a Scarface remake slated for ’14. This is going to be a remake of the 1983 film with Al Pacino, which was a remake of the 1932 film starring Paul Muni. Huff.

And now…..the best (and by “best” I mean “most maddening”):


Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen Martin Scorsese’s incredible film Raging Bull, but it wasn’t exactly ripe for a sequel. It was a story with a beginning, middle, and end. It was an amazing movie, one of my favorites, and it NEED NOT BE TAMPERED WITH.

I think my readers would agree that I should stay off the Internet.


Pinstripe Productions Pites Pack

June 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

Prepare your palettes for a particularly pleasant pinch of pleasantry.

Alliteration, behbeh.

What you are about to see is something reserved for a privileged few. The privileged, of course, being those who read my blog. You realize now why I said “few”.

The video below is the test footage for a new project spearheaded by Charlie Walter and myself (the same dynamic team behind such hits as The Dinner Talks! and The Melon Brando Comedy Hour). Stay tuned for more news about this exciting project!


Shooting from the Hip(ster)

June 14, 2012 § 4 Comments

I’ve noticed a shocking development in my behavior. I’m afraid I may be becoming a hipster. There have been several warning signs in the past, but today was the final nail in the coffin. And I nailed coffins before it was cool.

It happened in an instant. I was being normal and perfectly un-snobby, minding my own business, when I suddenly found myself at Starbucks, sipping a venti iced mocha and fiddling with my new iPhone. WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ME?!?

You may have noticed, in the previous paragraph, that I mentioned my new iPhone. In case you haven’t caught on, I recently got an iPhone. Can you believe it? I think I’m the least likely person that’s ever been on this earth to have an iPhone, narrowly edging out Moses and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Comment if you have any information on natural cures for Hipsteritis. Oh, and please donate generously. Those apps are expensive.


Renaissance Scaire

May 29, 2012 § 4 Comments

This weekend, something amazing happened. It is the first time this has ever happened in the history of the world. It is shocking, unbelievable, earth-shaking.


Well, it’s more like a sunburn. Actually, that’s precisely what it is. If my skin was candy, it would be the wild cherry kind. It would also be pretty gross.

Anyway, I think I got more sun exposure this Sunday than I have in the past eight years. I probably should have worn sunscreen, but I have sort of an aversion to it ever since I saw the wrestling scene in that movie Topkapi (you know what I’m talking about) (actually, you probably don’t) (click on the link).

Would you like to know why I got so much sun exposure this weekend? You would? Delightful! I think I’ll tell you.

I went with some friends to a little (and by “little” I mean “unnecessarily big”) event called the Renaissance Faire. This is an event that is strategically scheduled on the hottest day in the history of the universe, where people from miles around dress in outfits made from upholstery that must weigh eighteen pounds per square inch and talk in English accents so bad that, as soon as they reach your ears, cause you to suddenly have a tugging urge to stab yourself. As you can tell, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The folks at the Renaissance Faire place are pretty strict about historical accuracy. I learned so much! For instance, did you know that references to Blazing Saddles were common among the nobility? Or that funnel cakes and Philly Cheese Steak were culinary staples in the late 1500s? I sure didn’t. Gee, I wish I lived back then.

However, I did have some fun. I got the chance to learn some olde (see that fancy “e” I added?) dances. I had a beautiful and enchanting partner, and we enjoyed the experience immensely, despite the fact that together we had all the grace and elegance of bison.

I did have one small complaint, however. These people NEED TO WEAR MORE CLOTHES. Sure, I know it’s hot, but really. Most of the women there looked to me like the adult female version of Augustus Gloop, except less health-conscious. Everywhere I’d turn I’d see several cubic yards of flesh spilling out of tops that consist of exactly one inch of leather. Probably a cow’s eyebrow or something.

Anyway, I really did enjoy the time I spent there. In fact, I’ve decided to live year-round as if I were actually living in the Renaissance! I’ve started to read Descartes’ Discourse on Method to get me in the mood. The way he says, “It’s twue! It’s twue!” always cracks me up.


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