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Jack Lemmon: Roles He Missed That Other Actors Made Famous

By    |   Thursday, 12 Nov 2015 10:57 PM

Harvard-educated actor and “Grumpy Old Man” Jack Lemmon may have starred in more than 60 movies, but there were some roles he missed that made other actors famous.

“People are probably correct when they see me as the so-called Everyman," Lemmon said in 1996, The New York Times noted in his 2001 obituary. “I’m attracted primarily to contemporary characters. I understand them and their frustrations.”

The Everyman didn’t get cast in everything. Here are some roles that went to others:

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The Lawyer in Broadway’s “Two for the Seesaw”
In the 1958 Broadway production of “Two for the Seesaw,” Henry Fonda landed the lead role of a lawyer who recently separated from his wife. “It’s great, but the crux of it is the girl’s story,” Lemmon’s bio on IMDb, the Internet Movie Database, claims Lemmon said at the time. Four years later, Robert Wise turned “Two for the Seesaw” into a movie for the big screen, starring Robert Mitchum and Shirley MacLaine.

The Dancer in “All That Jazz”
In 1979 – 14 years before he starred in “Grumpy Old Men” – Lemmon was 54, already considered “too old” to play the lead in “All that Jazz,” author Eila Mell wrote in her book, “Casting Might-Have-Beens: A Film By Film Directory.” The film was loosely based on the life of Broadway choreographer and director Bob Fosse, and the role went to Roy Schneider, who was considered a more believable dancer.

Schneider, who in real life was an amateur boxer, often played police officers in the movies. He was the police chief in the first two “Jaws” movies and a detective in “The French Connection.” Though Schneider appeared in more than 60 films, “All That Jazz” was the one that stuck with him. “That will always be my favorite film,” he told the San Jose Mercury News in 1999. “But I never worked harder in my life. I felt I had to prove myself to the dance company. I didn't want to misrepresent them. I was in relatively good shape. But at the end of the day, I’d return to the Holiday Inn with my Tiger Balm.”

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The Professor in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”
In 1966, Lemmon almost landed the role of George, a history professor in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.” He accepted the role but changed his mind the next day, screenwriter Ernest Lehman told author Joel Engel in the book, “Screenwriters on Screenwriting: The Best in the Business Discuss Their Craft.”

“Jack Lemmon said he would do it,” Lehman told Engel, “then he went off to do ‘The Great Race.’ I think between Tony Curtis and Blake Edwards and with his own wife and God knows who else, he probably decided he’d be chewed alive working as George with Elizabeth Taylor’s Martha. It’s dangerous for a man to be seen in that role.” Richard Burton took the role instead, playing a bickering husband opposite Taylor, his real-life wife.

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Harvard-educated actor and "Grumpy Old Man" Jack Lemmon may have starred in more than 60 movies, but there were some roles he missed that made other actors famous.
Jack Lemmon, missed roles
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2015-57-12
Thursday, 12 Nov 2015 10:57 PM
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