Actors don't usually like to talk about parts that got away or name names when it comes to people they replaced. If you almost got to play Indiana Jones, like Tom Selleck, you'd shut up about it, too. Sometimes actors will talk about it if the guy they beat out went on to a similar level of success. Will Arnett, for example, recently confirmed he beat out Rainn Wilson for the role of G.O.B. on Arrested Development. Come to think of it, with all that syndication money from The Office, Wilson will do much better than Arnett.
Katie Holmes apparently turned down the lead in Buffy the Vampire Slayer to do Dawson's Creek. Brigitte Fonda turned down Ally McBeal. Jamie Gertz turned down Monica on Friends, and Nancy McKeon (The Facts of Life) was also short-listed for that series.
All in the Family would have looked a lot different if Mickey Rooney (as Archie) and Harrison Ford (as Meathead) had accepted parts that eventually went to Carroll O'Connor and Rob Reiner. Ray Liota as Tony Soprano? Fagetaboutit--except it almost happened. Lara Flynn Boyle almost slipped into Carrie's Manolo Blahnik's on Sex and the City.
So it was a surprise a few weeks ago when I was talking on the phone with David James Elliott (above) and he identified the actor he replaced on the new ABC summer series Scoundrels. Neal McDonough (Band of Brothers) beat Elliott out for the part of Wolf West, the head of a family of small time crooks. (The series premiered Sunday at 9 on ABC and CTV).
The series opens with Mr. Wolf in bed with Mrs. Wolf, played by Vignina Madsen (Sideways). Apparently McDonough (left) never read the script, because, as has been reported, the strict Catholic father-of-three refused to do the sex scene on religious grounds.
"For whatever reasons he didn't do love scenes," says Elliott, the former JAG star originally from Milton, Ontario. He had just returned from vacation with his family when he got the call to come join the cast in New Mexico and take McDonough's place.
Scoundrels is hardly Californication. There were more sex scenes in Band of Brothers. Whatever. McDonough's loss is Elliott's gain.
Or not. Scoundrels opened to an overnight, estimated 5.2 million Sunday night on ABC.
Read more on Elliott and Scoundrels in the cover story I wrote for Saturday's Starweek magazine, which someday I hope to be able to link to.