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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Here's the story of a man named Hackman

Posted Wednesday, February 22, 2012, at 1:08 PM

(Photo)
If there can be any redeeming value in not being able to sleep because of a cold, it's that it can give you license to snuggle under the covers and watch some late-night TV.

That's where I found myself the other night, flipping channels until I ran across a Biography offering about the story behind the making of "The Silence of the Lambs."

The program is another in a series of interesting "Untold Story of ..." movies and TV series that have included details about such offerings as "Caddyshack," "Animal House," "Ferris Buehler's Day Off" and "Happy Days."

What I like is there are always some juicy movie or TV nuggets to mine from the program.

For instance, did you know "The Silence of the Lambs" was released on Valentine's Day 1991? What a great date movie!

Or that studio and director bickered long and hard over the lead actors?

From the outset, the studio wanted Jodie Foster, who would win a Oscar for her role, while director Jonathan Demme, initially offered the part to Michelle Pfeiffer and even considered Meg Ryan, Geena Davis and ever-squeaky Melanie Griffith.

For the male lead, Gene Hackman was originally set to play Dr. Hannibal Lecter and even wanted to direct the film as well.

Hackman, however, pulled out on the advice of his daughter who thought he material was too dark for his career (especially on the heels of "Mississippi Burning"). In Hackman's place, the studio first sought Robert Duvall or Robert DeNiro but Demme ultimately held out for Anthony Hopkins, who also won an Oscar.

What intrigues me is that "Silence" is yet another iconic role Hackman was chosen for but turned down.

Did you know that when the TV series "The Brady Bunch" was cast in 1969, Hackman was picked to play Mike Brady (ultimately Robert Reed's role)? But he bowed out that time, too, for a film opportunity ("The French Connection" perhaps?).

Gene Hackman endures as one of my favorite actors, essentially of course, on the strength of his portrayal of last-chance basketball Coach Norman Dale in the film "Hoosiers."

Yet it's hard not to mix and match those Hackman roles and would-be parts ...

Imagine Hackman with the Bunch huddled around him in the Brady living room, a la Norman Dale in the state finals locker room. The line still fits as he looks up somberly to say: "I love you guys."

Or picture Hackman as Mike Brady, intoning Dr. Lecter-like to wife Carol and the kids, "I'm having an old friend for dinner."

Just not the same, is it?

Yep, you have to think "Silence" was indeed golden, and got it right.



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A native of Chicago and a graduate of the University of Missouri, Eric Bernsee has enjoyed residing in Greencastle for more than 25 years. Years of consuming McDonald's iced teas, Dairy Castle flurries and Marvin's GCBs have helped make him the man he is today.