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How Morgan Freeman Stole Alan Arkin's Role

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How Morgan Freeman Stole Alan Arkin's Role
Photo Source: Getty Images

In “Argo,” Alan Arkin plays the producer behind the most important film never made. In real life, he jokes that he got the best reviews of his career for a film he never appeared in—the critically reviled 1990 flop “The Bonfire of the Vanities.” Arkin calls the screenplay adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s novel “one of the best scripts I’d ever read” and was desperate to play the role of Judge White. “They didn’t want me, they wanted somebody like Burt Lancaster. So I put myself on camera, did the entire part, and sent it into them. And I got the part.” However, things soon went awry. “The day after I got the part, for some reason the NAACP and a couple other organizations complained that blacks were badly represented in the film. They obviously didn’t realize everybody was badly represented in that script. So the studio and producers said, ‘What part can we take and turn into a nice black guy?’ So they took my part and gave it to Morgan Freeman and said we had had artistic differences, when I’d never even spoken to anybody. But I got paid.” To add insult to injury, Arkin attended a screening of the film when it came out and spotted director Brian DePalma in the back row. Says Arkin, “I turn and see him, and he ducks down behind his seat and crawls out of the theatre on his hands and knees.”

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