10 Movies (and 1 TV Show) That Almost Starred Gene Hackman

Evening Standard, Getty Images
Evening Standard, Getty Images

With a career that spans more than 40 years, 100 on-screen credits, and two Oscar wins (plus an additional three nominations), Gene Hackman has earned the right to be picky. Though he officially announced his retirement from Hollywood in 2004, movie fans around the world have long hoped to see him make a comeback. In the meantime, and in honor of his 90th birthday, we’re looking back at 10 famous movies—and one beloved sitcom—he almost starred in.

1. THE GRADUATE (1967)

In 1967, longtime friends and one-time roommates Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman found themselves as co-stars in Mike Nichols’s The Graduate, with Hoffman cast as floundering recent college grad Ben Braddock and Hackman as Mr. Robinson, the husband of Hoffman’s much older lover. Though Hackman was older than Hoffman, it was by just seven years—which didn’t seem old enough, and led Nichols to get rid of Hackman and recast the role just a few weeks into filming. Nearly 20 years after the film’s release, in 1985, Hackman admitted to the Chicago Tribune that, “It still hurts. I was going to play Mr. Robinson, Anne Bancroft’s husband. But Mike Nichols didn’t think I was doing it well and so—one, two, three, I was fired. Mike’s a nice guy, but he’ll fire you without blinking an eye.”

Though Hackman admitted that getting the axe didn't do much to hurt his career—Bonnie and Clyde came out the same year and really helped to raise his profile—he said it was still “painful. Every time I look at the television schedule and see The Graduate coming on, or sometimes when I see Dusty [Hoffman], I think about it. And, you know, getting fired from The Graduate can stick with you."

2. ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST (1975)

If Kirk Douglas had his way, he would have played the role of R.P. McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest—just as he had on stage, when the book was adapted as a play in 1963. But by the time the film finally got off the ground with Miloš Forman as director more than a decade later, Douglas knew he was too old for the role, but had two specific actors in mind: Hackman and Burt Reynolds. Ultimately, the role went to Jack Nicholson, who won his first of three (and counting) Oscars for the film.

3. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977)

A photo of Gene Hackman, circa 1972
William Lovelace, Daily Express, Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Though it’s hard to imagine Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind without Richard Dreyfuss in the starring role of Roy Neary, he was far from Spielberg’s first choice. Spielberg had his eye on Steve McQueen, who reportedly said no because he couldn’t cry on cue. Spielberg then offered the part to a host of the biggest actors of the time—Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, and James Caan among them. They all passed, leaving the door open for Dreyfuss.

4. APOCALYPSE NOW (1979)

Five years after starring in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation, Hackman was the director’s first choice to play Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore in Apocalypse Now ... but there was a catch. “The Apocalypse Now situation was touchier because I have such regard for Francis Ford Coppola as a director,” Hackman told the Chicago Tribune. “But he wanted me to work for points (a percentage of the gross, rather than for a salary), which I don’t think I should do.” Instead, it was Robert Duvall who got to famously declare: “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”

5. ORDINARY PEOPLE (1980)

In 1980, Robert Redford made his directorial debut with the emotionally charged story of a family dealing with the death of their eldest son; Donald Sutherland and Mary Tyler Moore played the parents, and Timothy Hutton played the younger son (and won an Oscar for his efforts). But Sutherland’s role was originally going to be Hackman’s—until money got in the way. “I liked the script but couldn’t come to an agreement regarding the—how can I phrase it?—the compensation,” Hackman told the Chicago Tribune. "If I thought about it, I suppose I would have to have some regrets. So the thing to do is not think about it, don’t you think?”

6. BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985)

Gene Hackman arrives at the premiere of 'The Royal Tenenbaums' in 2001.
LUCY NICHOLSON, AFP, Getty Images

We’re not sure exactly how close Hackman got to landing the role of Doc Brown in Back to the Future, but in 2015, we learned that he was on the list of contenders to play the lovably mad scientist. Michael Klastorin and Randal Atamaniuk’s book, Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History, included a memo—dated August 21, 1984—that included more than 40 possible names to fill the role. Some of them are crossed out, some of them are bracketed, and some of them—like Christopher Lloyd and Gene Hackman—have a checkmark next to them, which seems like a good sign. (See a copy of the memo here.)

7. MISERY (1990)

Though the role of novelist-turned-captive Paul Sheldon in Misery might seem like the kind of part any actor would kill for (no pun intended), a long line of well-known actors said no to the film. In his book, Which Lie Did I Tell?, legendary screenwriter William Goldman recounted some of the names on that list, including Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Robert Redford, Harrison Ford, and William Hurt (who apparently told them no twice).

8. THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991)

Though Hackman has stayed mostly in front of the camera, in the 1980s he decided he wanted to see what it felt like to sit in the director’s chair and, along with Orion Pictures, purchased the movie rights to Thomas Harris’s The Silence of the Lambs for Hackman to both direct and star in. “It's one of the most cinematic books I've ever read,” Hackman said. “As I read it, the movie was clicking in my mind.”

Hackman planned to take the role of Jack Crawford, with John Hurt as Hannibal Lecter. But in 1989, on Oscar night, Hackman had a revelation: Sitting in the audience, where he was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for Mississippi Burning, Hackman realized that he didn’t want to follow up one unlikable character with another. So he sold his part of the rights to Orion, and still has yet to direct a film.

9. THE FUGITIVE (1993)

In 1989, Hackman and director Andrew Davis clicked while making The Package, in which Hackman played a Green Beret tasked with transporting a prisoner, played by Tommy Lee Jones, back to America. When the time came for Davis to begin casting for the role of Chief Deputy Marshal Sam Gerard in The Fugitive, he considered Hackman—and John Voight, too—but eventually opted to re-team with Tommy Lee Jones who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the film.

10. JACKIE BROWN (1997)

Gene Hackman attends the Next House ESPN The Magazine party in 2005 in Jacksonville, Florida
Evan Agostini, Getty Images

Jackie Brown may be the headliner in Quentin Tarantino’s adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s 1992 novel Rum Punch, but bail bondsman Max Cherry is integral to the twisty plot. And Tarantino had a pretty short list of possible contenders: Hackman, John Saxon, and Robert Forster. He went with Forster, which turned out to be a smart move, as the actor received the movie’s only Oscar nod.

11. THE BRADY BUNCH (1969 – 1974)

Remember that “beloved sitcom” we mentioned? Well, it’s none other than The Brady Bunch. Yes, you read that right. In his 2010 book, Brady Brady Brady, The Brady Bunch creator Sherwood Schwartz wrote that, “there were a number of men I wanted to interview [for the role of Mike Brady], including Gene Hackman. Paramount wouldn’t even okay Gene Hackman for an interview because he had a very low TVQ. (TVQ is a survey that executives use to determine the audience’s familiarity with performances. TV executives don’t admit to the existence of TVQs, but it is commonly employed in casting.)” Maybe it was all for the best—at least for Hackman. “The year after The Brady Bunch debuted, unknown Gene Hackman with no TVQ starred in The French Connection and won the Academy Award for Best Actor, and has been a major star ever since,” Schwartz added.

10 Products for a Better Night's Sleep

Amazon/Comfort Spaces
Amazon/Comfort Spaces

Getting a full eight hours of sleep can be tough these days. If you’re having trouble catching enough Zzzs, consider giving these highly rated and recommended products a try.

1. Everlasting Comfort Pure Memory Foam Knee Pillow; $25

Everlasting Comfort Knee Pillow
Everlasting Comfort/Amazon

For side sleepers, keeping the spine, hips, and legs aligned is key to a good night’s rest—and a pain-free morning after. Everlasting Comfort’s memory foam knee pillow is ergonomically designed to fit between the knees or thighs to ensure proper alignment. One simple but game-changing feature is the removable strap, which you can fasten around one leg; this keeps the pillow in place even as you roll at night, meaning you don’t have to wake up to adjust it (or pick it up from your floor). Reviewers call the pillow “life-changing” and “the best knee pillow I’ve found.” Plus, it comes with two pairs of ear plugs.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Letsfit White Noise Machine; $21

Letsfit White Noise Machine
Letsfit/Amazon

White noise machines: They’re not just for babies! This Letsfit model—which is rated 4.7 out of five with nearly 3500 reviews—has 14 potential sleep soundtracks, including three white noise tracks, to better block out everything from sirens to birds that chirp enthusiastically at dawn (although there’s also a birds track, if that’s your thing). It also has a timer function and a night light.

Buy it: Amazon

3. ECLIPSE Blackout Curtains; $16

Eclipse Black Out Curtains
Eclipse/Amazon

According to the National Sleep Foundation, too much light in a room when you’re trying to snooze is a recipe for sleep disaster. These understated polyester curtains from ECLIPSE block 99 percent of light and reduce noise—plus, they’ll help you save on energy costs. "Our neighbor leaves their backyard light on all night with what I can only guess is the same kind of bulb they use on a train headlight. It shines across their yard, through ours, straight at our bedroom window," one Amazon reviewer who purchased the curtains in black wrote. "These drapes block the light completely."

Buy it: Amazon

4. JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock; $38

JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock
JALL/Amazon

Being jarred awake by a blaring alarm clock can set the wrong mood for the rest of your day. Wake up in a more pleasant way with this clock, which gradually lights up between 10 percent and 100 percent in the 30 minutes before your alarm. You can choose between seven different colors and several natural sounds as well as a regular alarm beep, but why would you ever use that? “Since getting this clock my sleep has been much better,” one reviewer reported. “I wake up not feeling tired but refreshed.”

Buy it: Amazon

5. Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light; $200

Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light
Philips/Amazon

If you’re looking for an alarm clock with even more features, Philips’s SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is smartphone-enabled and equipped with an AmbiTrack sensor, which tracks things like bedroom temperature, humidity, and light levels, then gives recommendations for how you can get a better night’s rest.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Slumber Cloud Stratus Sheet Set; $159

Stratus sheets from Slumber Cloud.
Slumber Cloud

Being too hot or too cold can kill a good night’s sleep. The Good Housekeeping Institute rated these sheets—which are made with Outlast fibers engineered by NASA—as 2020’s best temperature-regulating sheets.

Buy it: SlumberCloud

7. Comfort Space Coolmax Sheet Set; $29-$40

Comfort Spaces Coolmax Sheets
Comfort Spaces/Amazon

If $159 sheets are out of your price range, the GHI recommends these sheets from Comfort Spaces, which are made with moisture-wicking Coolmax microfiber. Depending on the size you need, they range in price from $29 to $40.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Coop Home Goods Eden Memory Foam Pillow; $80

Coop Eden Pillow
Coop Home Goods/Amazon

This pillow—which has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon—is filled with memory foam scraps and microfiber, and comes with an extra half-pound of fill so you can add, or subtract, the amount in the pillow for ultimate comfort. As a bonus, the pillows are hypoallergenic, mite-resistant, and washable.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Baloo Weighted Blanket; $149-$169

Baloo Weighted Blanket
Baloo/Amazon

Though the science is still out on weighted blankets, some people swear by them. Wirecutter named this Baloo blanket the best, not in small part because, unlike many weighted blankets, it’s machine-washable and -dryable. It’s currently available in 12-pound ($149) twin size and 20-pound ($169) queen size. It’s rated 4.7 out of five stars on Amazon, with one reviewer reporting that “when it's spread out over you it just feels like a comfy, snuggly hug for your whole body … I've found it super relaxing for falling asleep the last few nights, and it looks nice on the end of the bed, too.” 

Buy it: Amazon 

10. Philips Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band; $200

Philips SmartSleep Snoring Relief Band
Philips/Amazon

Few things can disturb your slumber—and that of the ones you love—like loudly sawing logs. Philips’s Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band is designed for people who snore when they’re sleeping on their backs, and according to the company, 86 percent of people who used the band reported reduced snoring after a month. The device wraps around the torso and is equipped with a sensor that delivers vibrations if it detects you moving to sleep on your back; those vibrations stop when you roll onto your side. The next day, you can see how many hours you spent in bed, how many of those hours you spent on your back, and your response rate to the vibrations. The sensor has an algorithm that notes your response rate and tweaks the intensity of vibrations based on that. “This device works exactly as advertised,” one Amazon reviewer wrote. “I’d say it’s perfect.”

Buy it: Amazon

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The Surprising Characters on Friends Who Were Originally the Show's Main Couple

Everyone was enthralled by Ross and Rachel's romantic drama—but how would you feel about Monica and Joey's?
Everyone was enthralled by Ross and Rachel's romantic drama—but how would you feel about Monica and Joey's?
Getty Images

When you think of Friends, your mind probably goes to all the hilarious one-liners, such as Joey's "How you doin'?", or all the romantic relationships in the show, most importantly Ross and Rachel's. We watched the pair's love story blossom since their first kiss back in season two, and the couple is widely regarded as one of the best in TV history.

Well, there was another couple planned that didn't make the cut. Just as Lisa Kudrow and Matt LeBlanc wanted their characters Phoebe and Joey to get together, showrunners planned for Monica and Joey to be an item. And they weren't just going to be a fling—the two were originally the Ross and Rachel of the show.

Vulture reports that Friends creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman initially had Monica and Joey coupling up, explaining:

"It would’ve unfolded like this: Joey, a 'perpetual horndog,' would’ve eventually been lured and 'tamed' by Monica as he continued to climb up in the world of acting. Crane, however, found himself 'bored' by this version of Joey; he retooled Joey to be a funnier and warmer character within the friend group, and dropped the romance with Monica altogether."

Would've been weird, right? According to Entertainment Weekly, it wasn't just Crane who didn't like the idea. LeBlanc himself, who played Joey, wasn't into his character trying to pursue Monica, not wanting to play someone who was perceived as creepy and hit on everyone.

It seems Joey went through some serious revisions before Friends became what it is today, and it's probably for the best. He doesn't end up married in the end, but at least Monica gets her happily ever after moment with Chandler.

[h/t Vulture]