Gregory Peck said that every romantic comedy script he ever got sent had the fingerprints of Cary Grant on it. The producers had tried for Grant first, and when he turned them down had gone for the next actor down the food chain. This happened for example on "Roman Holiday
", which won an academy award for best writing, though not necessarily for best re-writing for recast lead.
It's obviously not necessary that the fingerprints of the star are literally on the script! But ideally the star should have really turned down the script, and the film as made should not have made any major adjustments to the recasting.
This is not about Development Hell
where a lead actor may change several times. The script should have been written with the star in mind, who for whatever reason was not available.
This is Trivia
, not a trope, except for in-universe examples. Related to What Could Have Been
- "Roman Holiday" was written for Cary Grant, but eventually made with Gregory Peck, leading to his sardonic comment quoted above.
- A classic example is "The Ladykillers", which was originally written for Alastair Sim, but finally made with Alec Guinness. He played the part almost as an impression of Alastair Sim, so much so that Sim's daughter said that many people thought her father had played the part.
- In Skyfall, Bond is revealed to have a badass Scottish gamekeeper on his ancestral estate who acted as a Parental Substitute when he was younger. Popular opinion is that the role was written for Sean Connery, but Albert Finney was ultimately cast.
- Sister Act was originally written by Paul Rudnick with Bette Midler in mind.
- In Pulp Fiction the role of Vincent Vega was written for Michael Madsen as a reprise of his Vic Vega role in Reservoir Dogs. Madsen turned it down because he couldn't get out of rehearsals for Wyatt Earp and John Travolta was cast. The two characters are brothers.
- The Speedo sketch in "That Mitchell and Webb Look" features very lazy writers who refuse to rewrite their work about a lawyer when the original actor dies ("We were on a cruise.") The recast black actor has many lines emphasising his whiteness.