Imagine a world where George Lucas never made his Star Wars prequels. Someone actually blew the childhood rape whistle on him and his wretched schemes were thusly nixed. A place where Alan Moore’s comic book masterpiece Watchmen was never transformed into Zach Snyder’s shitty slow motion action porno. Instead it was an excellent HBO miniseries produced by Terry Gilliam. Whedon’s Firefly was never canceled and is still on air today. Michael Bay… Michael Bay is dead.
But while it’s comforting to think about such a perfect world where all of nerdom’s proverbial boogeymen have been fittingly dispatched and all its most beloved treasures remain untarnished, I think it’s even more fun to think about a world where the movies that actually almost happened here were made. I’m talking about those completely ludicrous, brilliant, and outright seizure inducing casting choices which almost occurred in our reality to some of our favorite movies. What if those films were made the way they were going to be at some point instead of the way we now know them? Somewhere there’s a multiverse multiplex that shows the films that were almost made in our universe. Here’s what I want to see most:
1. A Clockwork Orange starring Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones
Before Stanley Kubrick ever signed on to adapt Anthony Burgess’ classic ultraviolent teenage dystopian novel Mick Jagger and crew were seriously circling the project. Can’t you just picture the opening shot of our humble narrator at the milk bar but instead of the terrific and terrifying Malcolm McDowell we in his stead see the equally terrific and differently terrifying Mick Jagger?
“There was me, that is Mick, and my four droogs, that is Keef, Brian, Bill and Charlie, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar trying to make up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening.”
Tell me you can’t help but hear Jagger’s distinct languid enunciation of the word “rassoodocks” let alone the rest of the immortal line. This was 1969 and the Stones were halfway through their darkest and most musically and culturally potent period. They had already released 68’s Beggar’s Banquet, replete with the opening seductive satanic salvo “Sympathy For The Devil”, and they followed that album with ‘69’s towering Let It Bleed.
An album, heralded by “Gimme Shelter”, the apocalyptic death knell for the peace generation, that was filled with even more mutilated grace than its predecessor. I mention this because it’s important to remember the time when Clockwork Orange was being considered as a vehicle for Mick and the Stones.
They had not yet become the lingering, dumfungled, walnut faced cabaret act reliant on past glories to still turn in a crowd. No, in ’69 Mick and Keith Richards were at the peak of their double-headed psychosexual narcotic drenched powers and the establishment was scared shitless of them. Listen to a song like “Midnight Rambler” and it practically sounds like it’s describing a night out for Clockwork’s Alex and the boys.
“Talkin’ bout the midnight rambler, the one that closed the bedroom door. I’m called the hit-and-run raper in anger. The knife sharpened, tippy toe… Or just the shoot ‘em dead, brainbell jangler.”
Sounds pretty dead on so does the song’s final message,
“I’ll stick my knife right down your throat, baby and it hurts.”
Of course you may be asking, “But what does Mick think of the Ludwig Van?” Luckily, Mick’s agent had already thought of this and along with the deals to secure Mick in the lead and Keith and the rest for the droogs there was also talk of getting some obscure proto shoegaze post-skiffle group known as The Beatles on board to provide the soundtrack the whole affair. Now I love Kubrick’s movie and wouldn’t want to live in a world that does not contain it. But I would give my left yarble to at least visit a realm that contains the Stones’ version scored by the Fab Four.
2. The Terminator starring O.J. Simpson
Seeing the words Terminator and O.J. Simpson together almost seems redundant right? But 1983 back when Terminator was in pre-production was a different time. The story goes that the head of Orion, the studio making the picture, suggested to director James Cameron that the then NFL star and budding actor take the role of the unfeeling, unstoppable, women killing machine from the future.
Cameron’s response was, “That’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard.” Cameron considered Simpsons “too nice” for the role of the razor cold killer cyborg and didn’t think he would be believable as a killer. When asked about the peculiar casting choice in 2010 Cameron remarked, “I didn’t know that he was gonna go murder his wife later and become the real terminator.” Yeah, and we didn’t know you were going to resign yourself to only making unwarranted sequels to your didactic hippie space jungle allegory James. Or that you would team up with Google to become some sort of super villain meteor tycoon.
Bonus Round: Almost picked to bat off O.J.’s Isotoner wrapped exoskeletal grasp was Sting as future solider guy Kyle Reese. Yep, that Sting. I will admit that the two aforementioned combatants squaring off becomes infinitely more alluring to me if Sting would have managed to don his excellent battle diaper from Dune when facing off against Mr. Simpson.
3. The Troy McClure From The Simpsons Live Action Spinoff Movie starring Phil Hartman
Hi, he’s Troy McClure, you may remember him from such films as, The Boatjacking Of Supership ’79, The Erotic Adventures Of Hercules, “P” Is For Psycho. Or you might remember him from such educational films as, Two Minus Three Equals Negative Fun, Locker Room Towel Fights: The Blinding Of Larry Driscoll, Get Confident, Stupid! and Alice’s Adventure Through The Windshield Glass. Phil Hartman was the voice behind this beloved character and beyond that Phil was one of the funniest people who ever walked the earth.
Phil was called “The Glue” back in his SNL days because he was the cast member that held together any given scene. He was known to possess the uncanny talent of being able to milk any and every line for maximum humor. So even though he mostly played smaller, supporting roles on TV and in the movies you always remembered his scenes. For some reason his particular talent never lent itself to a successful lead role. Maybe this is why the idea for a live action movie for Troy was mostly Phil’s own.
But even though the idea may have started with Phil it definitely piqued the interest of many Simpsons writers. For them as well as Phil it become a kind of dream project, something they’d get to someday when the time was right. Unfortunately the chances for this amazing movie and what could have been his big breakthrough lead role were shut down when Phil was murdered by his own wife in 1998.
When asked about the Troy McClure feature Matt Groening said, “It never got further than enthusiasm but it would have been really fun.” Somewhere on some screen the Troy McClure movie that never was made plays, and Phil Hartman smiles, out from the dark.
4. Batman starring David Bowie as the Joker
We’re talking Tim Burton’s first Bat film here and we’re talking The Thin White Duke as the Clown Prince Of Crime. To be truthful Jack Nicholson was Warner Bros.’ first choice but in case they couldn’t reach an agreement many others were considered. The list includes other notables like Tim Curry, (too butch, kidding) William Dafoe (too pervy, not kidding) and Robin Williams (too Robin Williams).
But what actually sounds like a good goddamn idea is the Queen Bitch as Batman’s greatest foe. Why? Because first off, Bowie can unlike many rock stars can actually act as evident in The Man Who Fell To Earth, The Hunger and The Prestige. Secondly, even if he couldn’t the man is the Joker. At least in his various 70’s personas like the titular Ziggy Stardust or Halloween Jack from Diamond Dogs. He’s brilliant, twisted, imbued with a vicious yet enticing worldview and above all he looks like the devil when he smiles.
Hell, even now twenty odd years later Bowie could still pull off playing The Joker if Warner Bros. ever attempts a live action adaption of Frank Miler’s The Dark Knight Returns. Bowie would be perfect as the older, somewhat androgynous and regally lackadaisical Joker who purrs Batman’s name like a lover’s even as he’s bearing down on him with his switchblade.
5. The Lord Of The Rings starring the fucking Beatles
First thing you think after you scoop the brains out of your ears is so they’re going to play the four hobbits right? Wrong! Seems around ‘67 whilst looking for another film project for the band John Lennon got it in his head that he should play the ring addled Gollum. What? Happiness is a warm ring mama and all that. Many speculate that Lennon just figured this was the best role, which is hard to argue. Paul was to be Frodo Baggins, with dutiful Ringo as his Samwise Gamgee and George in full beard regalia as Gandalf The Grey. The last one I can really see, Harrison spent much of the later 60’s looking like the sort of weed indulging wizard who’d hang out with dwarves. That or some fabulous manner of Amish Pimp or strung out junkie Viking.
Regardless, this might make a fun music video or short but a whole feature? Lennon was so serious about it being a film he approached Stanley Kubrick with the project. No word on whether or not Kubrick was really giving the idea much thought. Probably not as he went into production on Dr. Strangelove soon after Lennon’s invite.
What finally silenced The Beatles’ Lord Of The Rings movie was when the still living J.R.R. Tolkien, who still retained the rights, put the kibosh on the whole affair. Preventing what would probably have been a total boondoggle for the band but nevertheless an extremely interesting chapter in their history. Especially if Kubrick would have stayed on board. At the very least it would have produced one crazy ass Beatles record, thought Robert Plant would have lost the subject matter for a handful of Zep tunes. Even trade right?
But that’s the beauty of parallel universes. You don’t really have to trade anything. All the movies we love are still here; just the way we love and remember them (except for the original unaltered Star Wars Trilogy, that requires a VCR) and nothing changes that.
But there’s also the possibility that there other versions. Some could be great others hilariously not so; but they could be out there. It’s possible. Like everything in life movies are the results of countless choices. Countless possibilities, it’d be impossible not to ponder them.