Dudley Moore died ten years ago today – on March 27, 2002, at age 66 – after suffering for years from progressive supranuclear palsy. It was a disease that destroyed his career long before it took his life, rendering him unable to act the last years of his life. But while he still could, he turned in some memorable performances: from his early sketch comedy with Peter Cook on the BBC’s Not Only…But Also, to his randy composer in 10, to his drunken but lovable millionaire in Arthur.
As impressive as his résumé is, the list of movie offers that Dudley Moore turned down – or that fizzled before filming could begin – includes many iconic characters and popular film and TV franchises. On the anniversary of Moore’s death, we look at a few of the roles that got away.
Inspector Clouseau was Peter Sellers’ territory for six Pink Panther movies, and he was slated for a seventh: Romance of the Pink Panther. But Sellers died unexpectedly just two months before filming was scheduled to begin. The studio wanted to continue the hugely successful Pink Panther franchise, and it approached Moore about stepping into the Clouseau role. Moore was interested… but only in the one movie, not the four-picture contract the studio wanted him to sign. He declined, and Romance of the Pink Panther was never made. The original series fizzled, though Steve Martin later played Clouseau in the 2006 reboot and 2009 sequel.
Allen Bauer – the man who falls in love with a mermaid in the 1984 romantic comedy Splash – could have been played by Dudley Moore. He was offered the lead role in the movie but turned it down. The part subsequently went to Tom Hanks, who had been in consideration for a supporting role. John Candy stepped into that supporting role, and Hanks took the lead. He must have been grateful for Moore’s pass – Splash launched Hanks’ movie career, one that’s still strong 27 years later.
Doctor Who garnered enough interest from Dudley Moore that in 1987, he entered into talks with director Richard Lester and agreed to play the time-traveling Doctor in a sci-fi fan’s fondest dream, Doctor Who: The Movie. It would have been a win-win: more Doctor Who content for fans both in Moore’s native England and across the pond in America, and more exposure for Moore, whose career was beginning to wane. But like so many dream projects floated in the movie world (a good percentage of which are Doctor Who films), it never materialized.
Q outfitted James Bond with his fantastic gadgets and tools, and Moore had a chance at the role in the late 1980s, when 1989’s License to Kill was in development. He would have replaced longtime Q Desmond Llewellyn, who had played the role in 13 James Bond films beginning in 1963. Once again, Moore took a pass, but not before he had shown enough interest in the role to travel to Mexico for a costume fitting. Given the long-range success of the Bond franchise, sticking with the role could have given Moore guaranteed work for the rest of his career. Instead, the role reverted back to Llewellyn, who played Q in four more movies before he passed the reins to John Cleese in 2002’s The World is Not Enough.
The long list of roles Dudley Moore could have played – but didn’t – doesn’t end there. We could have seen a Dudley Moore Penguin in Batman Returns, but Danny DeVito won the role. We missed out on Dudley Moore playing Mr. Mxyzptlk in Superman III when the character was written out of the script. Dudley Moore was considered for roles in a La Cage aux Folles remake, Beetlejuice, Goldeneye, Turner & Hooch, Masters of the Universe, Trading Places…
Though we missed out on those potential performances, thankfully, we’ve got plenty of iconic Dudley Moore films to remember him by. Even with Russell Brand reprising Arthur last year, we’ll never forget Moore’s affable portrayal of the lovable lush.
Written by Linnea Crowther. Originally published March 2011.