12 of the Greatest Movie Roles Almost Played

Michael Keaton in The Purple Rose of Cairo

Woody Allen is another filmmaker who has occasionally recast during production; his 1987 drama September, for example, was nearly complete when Allen decided to start over, re-writing, re-casting, and re-shooting from scratch. (His original version has never been seen, but the final film was, charitably speaking, not one of his best.) But his most famous switcheroo came in the 1985 Depression-era comedy/drama The Purple Rose of Cairo, in which the dual role of actor Gil Shepard and his archaeologist character Tom Baxter was originally played by Michael Keaton, then one of the hottest comic actors in the country. “I loved him in Night Shift,” Allen explained to Eric Lax in Conversations with Woody Allen. “I thought he was absolutely terrific. I’d love to do something with him, but that wasn’t the piece.” The problem, according to Allen, was that “Michael Keaton was right out of the 1980s, not the 1930s… I’d look at dailies and he was fine, but you get no sense of a 1930s movie star from him; he was just too hip.” Ten days into shooting, Keaton was let go and replaced with Jeff Daniels. Allen’s DVDs never include deleted scenes or behind-the-scenes information, so the Keaton scenes have never been seen, though a few production stills of Keaton and co-star Mia Farrow were seen in last year’s excellent Woody Allen: A Documentary.