Jon Hamm Was Almost Too Hot to Be Don Draper, and More From ‘THR’s’ Oral History of ‘Mad Men’


It’s hard to believe, but Mad Men and its sexy world of advertising pricks (and Peggy Olson), has been around since the summer of 2007. It’s all set to end this summer, with the first of its final episodes premiering in April on AMC. Fittingly, The Hollywood Reporter today ran a fairly comprehensive oral history of the series, with snippets from creator Matthew Weiner, as well as much of the cast of the show. Of course, the series will be taking over museums in the next few months, so we’re going to be learning even more about the show than this oral history (and this season’s poster) reveals, but there’s enough juice in this meat to carry us over ’til then. A few highlights (and potential Mad Men spoilers) below:

Matthew Weiner had to fight for Jon Hamm to play Don Draper because he was too attractive for TV.

Weiner: Back in [2006], there were no handsome leading men. It was not the style. Not that Jim Gandolfini’s not handsome, but he’s not Jon Hamm. There are moments in time when it’s Dustin Hoffman and moments in time when it’s Robert Redford. It was a Dustin Hoffman era.

John Slattery wanted to play Don, and was initially petulant about not having been cast as Don.

Slattery: I went in to read for Don; they wanted me to play Roger. Matt Weiner claims I was in a bad mood the whole [pilot]. I had a couple of scenes, but I wasn’t as emotionally invested as some of the people because there wasn’t that much of Roger in evidence yet. Being a selfish actor, I didn’t necessarily see the full potential in the beginning.

The story of Don Draper/Dick Whitman was contained in an 85-page script Weiner wrote five years before writing Mad Men.

Weiner: So I told [AMC] I had this 85-page screenplay that was Don Draper’s backstory. It was called The Horseshoe, and I abandoned it five years before I wrote Mad Men. The last scene is this character taking Don’s name and leaving his [dead] body at a train station.

Weiner was (predictably) finicky about props on set.

Ellen Freund, property master: You never, ever went to Matt with a mixing bowl and said, “Here’s the mixing bowl.” You’d go to him with a mixing bowl and the proof that it was made in the year previous to the year we were shooting in.

The end of Season One was initially very happy.

Christina Wayne, former senior VP of scripted programming at AMC: [Matthew had] written it that Don comes home, hugs Betty, and they drive off into the sunset. But that ties the show up with a bow, and we had to do season two. He got so mad he hung up, but he called back and said: “You’re right. I just love my characters so much, I wanted them to be happy.”

AMC initially wanted to guarantee a spin-off, but Weiner didn’t want one.

Sandra Stern, COO, Lionsgate TV: Sally was the one character young enough that you could see her 30 or 40 years later. There was a time we wanted a Peggy spin­off, too, and, a la Better Call Saul, a minor character going off to L.A. Matt wasn’t comfortable committing to a spinoff.

The cast always hung out together on set because they were definitely all best friends.

Christina Hendricks: The common area [on the set] started as a piece of AstroTurf and a little glass table with four chairs, and then one year we came back and there was a full deck with a built-in fire pit and Christmas lights.

Elisabeth Moss: We never hung out in our trailers. You hear stories of people on big shows getting these massive trailers and getting interior decorators to come in and do them. We always had triple bangers, the ones where you have three rooms [for three actors] in one trailer.