Meg and Michelle: A Curious Casting Conundrum

One of the ”What if?” games I like to play is to imagine my favourite films cast with stars other than the ones whose names linger in my memory as irreplaceable. Think of You’ve Got M@il, then of Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer, rather than Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.Visualise Roman Holiday not with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn but Cary Grant and Elizabeth Taylor. What of Jean Arthur or Irene Dunne as His Girl Friday? Both coveted by Howard Hawks but no match for Rosalind Russell.Almost every one of the romantic classics I hold dear to my heart had a shadow cast: other stars who turned down roles for one reason or another. With the benefit of hindsight, when sparks fly between two people on the screen, it’s one of the X-factors of movies: it can’t be predicted or manufactured, and once struck, it remains a mystery.We have an instant combustion called star chemistry, and it happened to me with Addicted to Love, where Meg Ryan’s Maggie harassed Matthew Broderick’s banal astronomer into dizzy submission.But can you love a woman who takes the initiative and wrecks a poor guy’s life? Actually this question was a recurring feature of the screwball comedy, practiced by mistresses of mayhem such as Katharine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby and Barbara Stanwyck in The Lady Eve. These love stories, a little too acerbic for audiences of the time, are if anything more popular now, when their energetically even-handed stalker heroines seem right at home.Love is cruel and all is fair in love and war. So it is a surprise 90’s audiences weren’t ready to watch Meg Ryan display a slightly harsher, more aggressive side to her cute schtick persona.At this point, all those fluffy comedies were starting to blur together into one big schmaltzy epic; While You Were Sleeping in Seattle, Harry French-kissed Sally on One Fine Day. What’s a girl to do? Well, if it’s a 1990’s romantic comedy, the best thing to do was run around New York with George Clooney or Tom Hanks, engage in verbal sparring for 90 minutes, before melting into your suitor’s arms.If Meg Ryan was unavailable, than a Meg Ryan-manqué should be enlisted. Such is the case of One Fine Day where Michelle Pfeiffer’s Melanie projects the frantic, driven spirit of a classic Hollywood career woman. Had Michelle been born before 1910, she might have stolen roles from Carole Lombard and Myrna Loy, even so, I did find myself longing for Ryan to put in an appearance because Maggie in her prime could play opposite a lamp post and make it look romantic.Fantasy casting aside, this is still a fun, if predictable film. There’s nothing here to threaten the greatness of My Man Godfrey atop the screwball canon, but it’s not a bad way to spend 90 minutes. With the emphasis on fast-talking humour and other conventions of the late 30s, I half expected to see Howard Hawks’ name above the title.



Filed under Retrospective

15 responses to “Meg and Michelle: A Curious Casting Conundrum

  1. I’m glad to see you are writing again. This is a fine, imaginative article which makes one think about the different directions in which actors’ careers could have gone. Keep up the good work!

    Yours Hopefully,

    Tiffany Brannan

  2. What about Tom Hanks and Michelle Pfeiffer in Sleepless in Seattle? I know it’s sacrilege, but it would have been different if Michelle had replaced Meg. Perhaps it would have missed the innocence of the movie that made it so loved. Here’s another: Brad Pitt instead of Clooney in One Fine Day. Or what about Bruce Willis instead of Clooney? If they wanted it more comedy than romantic comedy, what about replacing Clooney with Schwarzenegger???

    • Yes, yes, yes! I’d love to have seen Hanks and Pfeiffer, Brad Pitt and Pfeiffer (in fact, almost anybody and Michelle Pfeiffer), Schwarzenneger and Michelle is the daddy of your possible pairings though. You’ve made my night with that one.

  3. I like the way you think…and write!

  4. Great post ☺ These games are always tough for me, but I always wondered what it would be like to pair Michelle Pfeiffer’s character in Into the Night with Meg Ryan’s Maggie from Addicted to Love? That would sound really interesting ☺ What are your thoughts?
    P.S. I have seen two great 2017 summer films so far: Patty Jenkins Wonder Woman and Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver. In fact, I saw Baby Driver 4 times in the theater ☺

    P.S. I watched a great Walter Hill film yesterday called Streets of Fire and the vision of that film is just awesome. Interested in your opinions ☺ Anyway, keep up the great work as always ☺

    • I haven’t seen Baby Driver or Wonder Woman, but you know I enjoy the film’s of Walter Hill. Based on your comments I will try and get to all three in the days ahead.
      Thanks for chiming in on this post. I love your suggested pairing and instantly started to wonder whether Into the Night‘s iconic red leather jacket would look better on Pfeiffer’s Diana or Meg Ryan’s Maggie. Did you have an L.A. version of Addicted to Love in mind? Imagine a vengeful Maggie pursuing Goldblum’s Ed Okin and Pfeiffer’s femme fatale around the City of Angels in a Noir variation on classic screwball comedies!

      • Your Into the Night idea sounds great ☺ Add Matthew Broderick in there and once all four characters meet, it would sound like one of the most awesome dialogue exchanges ever put on film ☺ Anyway, keep up the great work as always ☺

  5. Tom Hanks had that everyman appeal, he fits better with Meg Ryan’s girl next door appeal. But imagine if they’d swapped? Pfeiffer with Hanks and Ryan with Clooney? It’s fun to recast. How about Harrison Ford in more romcoms? I actually think he was a good fit for the genre despite only one success and one failure in them.

    • Thanks for stopping by Lloyd, you’re right Harrison Ford was a good fit for the genre and as a consequence you’ve thrown up a dizzying variety of possible pairings. Imagine Ford and Pfeiffer in Sleepless in Seattle? Ford, Hanks and Meg Ryan in Sabrina? Or George Clooney, Meg and Julia Roberts in My Best Friends Wedding! So many missed opportunities.

  6. Great to see you posting again x Can always rely on you to bring a great way of seeing these ladies. Probably a silly comment, but I watched Stardust recently and thought its perfect for for Paul to review, Michelle Pfeiffer is fantastic in it…I’d love to hear your thoughts on this film and The Witches of Eastwick when you have time x

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