The Big Question: Greatest Role They Never Played?

The other day I was watching The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers: Milady’s Revenge. I love these films dearly, as I have since I saw them when they were first released. The costuming is spectacular, the scripts witty and engaging, the cast amazing, and the spirit of Dumas shines through both films.

The Three Musketeers was, I recall, the first time I saw Michael York, who has remained one of my favorite actors ever since. He was perfect for the passionate – albeit not terribly likely to think things through – D’Artagnan. With his ability to maintain equal amounts of wide-eyed innocence, terrier determination, and kid-in-a-candyshop love of all ladies at the same time, it remains one of his finer performances.

And yet I have firmly maintained for decades that the finest performance he might ever have given is one that, alas!, he never did.

You see, the instant I first read Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, I saw Michael York in Wilde’s damned protagonist. As I read of Gray’s descent into hell, I knew that York would be the perfect person to carry both the innocent beauty of the outer shell and the fiendish, decadent cruelty of the man within.

Unfortunately, nobody ever cast him in the role. And, of course, Dorian Gray is a role that may only be played by a man in the first blush of youth. Michael York is still a brilliant actor and a handsome man… but the time has passed. We will never see his Dorian Gray. The world, I think, is a tiny sliver less wonderful for it.

Have you ever just known the perfect role for an actor who never wound up playing it? Who and what? Tell me all about it!

8 Responses to “The Big Question: Greatest Role They Never Played?”

  1. Hester from Atlanta August 27, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

    Hugh Grant – 11 years ago, turned down the role of the Professor of the Black Arts in the 2nd Harry Potter movie. Kenneth Bragnaun (Spelling?) played it well but Hugh baby would have been fanstastic.

    Several years ago there was a rumor going around that Hugh Grant would play the role of Henry Higgins in the remake of My Fair Lady – he would have been fabulous. But he didn’t want to do it.

    You can tell, I am an HG Fan.

  2. LeighB in ATL August 27, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    Well, sort of. I think it was when Timothy Dalton took over as James Bond, there had been talk of Pierce Brosnan taking the role. I was devastated when he would or could not. However, he was eventually able to do so, even though I think it would have been even better had he done when he was a bit younger. We would have had a few more Pierce movies before moving on to the delicious Daniel Craig.

  3. La Petite Acadienne August 27, 2012 at 6:49 pm #

    I think most agree that Clint Eastwood in his prime would have been a perfect Roland Deschain, from Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” series. Alas, he is now too old for the role. (He’d make a nifty Father Callahan, though…)

  4. Teteatete August 27, 2012 at 11:19 pm #

    Hugh Grant and Kenneth Branagh are not quite in the same league. Harry was better off for HG’s demurring…

  5. aa August 28, 2012 at 5:50 am #

    Alan Rickman played the Vicomte de Valmont in the stage version of Dangerous Liaisons. Then they made the film and the role went to bl**dy John Malkovich, who couldn’t act his way out of a paper bag.

    Argh.

  6. catrandom August 28, 2012 at 5:07 pm #

    The main character in Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin books, Capt. Jack Aubrey, is a huge, bluff blond Englishman in his mid-20s.

    And who was cast in “Master and Commander”? Russell Crowe, a short, 40-year-old Australian. When Heath Ledger was STANDING RIGHT THERE, being all perfect for the part (yes, Australian too, but that’s easily addressed). Right age, right size, right look, and a wonderful actor. It would’ve been fantastic.

  7. Amynae August 28, 2012 at 5:34 pm #

    Echoing La Petite- Eastwood basically IS Roland. I was hoping that they could get the project off the ground in time for Viggo Mortenson to take the part, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. I had hopes for Timothy Olyphaunt as Eddie, but its too late for that now as well.

    Maybe they’ll just do the right thing and animate it.

  8. Ambrosia Jones August 28, 2012 at 7:07 pm #

    Tom Hardy as Finnick from “Catching Fire” and “Mockingjay”, books two and three from “The Hunger Games” trilogy. I recently re-watched “Inception” and my eyes grew big and I started screaming out “Oh my GAWD! He’d make the perfect Finnick!” when Tom came on screen as Eames and my friends looked at me and said “What’s a Finnick?” and I said “He’s from the ‘The Hunger Games’!” and they rolled their eyes at me and turned up the TV. They’ve gone and cast Sam Claflin and I suppose he’ll do just fine, but Tom Hardy would have be divine. Oh, also, I realize that I desperately need to get a life.