With his hugely popular debut feature The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Judd Apatow established a particular brand of film comedy that combined hard-R raunch with subversive sweetness. For over a decade, Apatow ruled the comedy movie landscape with both his own directorial efforts and producing the movies of other directors like Paul Feig and Adam McKay.
Apatow built up a recurring stable of actors including Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Paul Rudd, and Kristen Wiig. Roles like Bridesmaids’ Megan, Superbad’s Seth, and Anchorman’s Brick Tamland were cast perfectly, but these Apatow productions almost starred different actors.
5 Seth In Superbad
Perfectly Cast: Jonah Hill
There have been plenty of raunchy R-rated comedies about teenagers trying to get laid, but what made Superbad stand out was the dynamic shared by its stars, Jonah Hill and Michael Cera.
Hill and Cera share convincing chemistry as lifelong best friends Seth and Evan, whose dynamic takes a surprisingly sweet turn as the story becomes less about sex and more about separation anxiety.
Almost Cast: Seth Rogen
Seth Rogen and his writing partner Evan Goldberg began working on the script that would eventually become Superbad when they were just 13 years old, still in school themselves. At the time, according to Vulture, Rogen wrote the part of Seth for himself to play.
However, by the time they made it in Hollywood and got the movie into production, Rogen was too old to convincingly play a high schooler, so he played Officer Michaels opposite Bill Hader instead.
4 Aldous Snow In Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Perfectly Cast: Russell Brand
When Jason Segel’s Peter goes to Hawaii to get over his breakup in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, he’s horrified to find his ex staying at the same resort with a new beau: Aldous Snow, the legendary frontman of the rock band Infant Sorrow. Russell Brand played the pretentiousness of Aldous’ sobriety hilariously and shared terrific chemistry with Segel, Kristen Bell, and Jonah Hill.
Brand’s portrayal of Aldous proved to be so popular that he was given his own spin-off movie, Get Him to the Greek, reuniting him with Hill, about an off-the-wagon Aldous being escorted to a gig by a record executive.
Almost Cast: Charlie Hunnam
While Brand ended up being the perfect actor to play Aldous, according to CinemaBlend, Segel wrote the part with his Undeclared co-star Charlie Hunnam in mind. Playing Aldous in 2008 might’ve prevented Hunnam from taking his star-making lead role in Sons of Anarchy.
Hunnam explained why he turned down the role: “I was in a dark night of the soul in my career, at that point, and felt as though I needed to seize the trajectory and that just wasn’t really aligning with, at that period of my life and career, what I wanted to be doing.”
3 George Simmons In Funny People
Perfectly Cast: Adam Sandler
One of Apatow’s most personal movies, Funny People, translates his experiences as a young standup comic into the dramatic story of a world-famous comedian, George Simmons, being diagnosed with a terminal illness and taking a protégé under his wing.
Adam Sandler was the perfect casting choice for Simmons. Much like Simmons, Sandler is a legendary comedian on the other side of the looking glass with a huge fan following and a history of critically polarizing high-concept studio comedies. Plus, according to The Hollywood Reporter, Sandler used to live with Apatow in a $900-a-month apartment when the two were just starting out, so he was present for a lot of the experiences that inspired the movie.
Almost Cast: Paul Rudd
While it seems unlikely that Sandler would’ve turned down an offer from his old roommate, The Huffington Post reports that he was offered the role of the “Bear Jew” in Quentin Tarantino’s World War II epic Inglourious Basterds at the same time as Funny People. So, he had to choose between the two.
According to Vulture, if Sandler had accepted Tarantino’s offer and turned down Apatow’s, Apatow was going to cast either Paul Rudd or Jason Bateman as George Simmons. Bateman’s deadpan style would’ve been great for this role, and Rudd played a stand-in for Apatow himself opposite his wife and daughters in Knocked Up and This is 40.
2 Brick Tamland In Anchorman
Perfectly Cast: Steve Carell
A year before the double whammy of The Office and The 40-Year-Old Virgin would make Steve Carell a comedy superstar, he offered an early glimpse of his talent in the role of less-than-intelligent weatherman Brick Tamland in Anchorman.
Carell doesn’t lean into Brick’s personality quirks too heavily, instead opting for hysterically deadpan deliveries of lines like, “I love lamp,” and “Where’d you get your clothes from, the toilet store?”
Almost Cast: Chris Parnell
According to Vulture, Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s original script for Anchorman included their top casting choices for the main roles, like Ben Stiller as Brian Fantana and Ed Harris as Ed Harken. The role of Champ Kind was written for John C. Reilly, but he was busy with The Aviator at the time. Reilly went on to play leading roles in Ferrell and McKay’s next two movies, Talladega Nights and Step Brothers.
Chris Parnell, Ferrell’s co-star from SNL, was the top choice for the role of Brick. After Carell was cast, Parnell played the smaller role of Garth Holliday instead.
1 Megan In Bridesmaids
Perfectly Cast: Melissa McCarthy
Academy voters tend to dismiss comedies – especially R-rated comedies with scatological gags – but they made an exception for Bridesmaids, which received Oscar nominations for both Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress for Melissa McCarthy.
McCarthy became a star overnight with her scene-stealing turn as Megan, who flirts with an air marshal, poops in a sink, and claims to have communicated telepathically with a dolphin after falling off a cruise ship.
Almost Cast: Rebel Wilson
According to CinemaBlend, Rebel Wilson auditioned to play Megan in Bridesmaids and even made the shortlist alongside McCarthy. Although McCarthy landed the part, the producers liked Wilson so much that they created the role of Brynn for her. Annie originally only had one roommate, played by Matt Lucas, but he was given a sister so Wilson could appear in the movie.
Wilson ended up appearing in some of the movie’s funniest moments, like showing off her horribly infected tattoo or revealing that she read Annie’s journal after mistaking it for “a very sad, handwritten book.”
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Author: Ben Sherlock