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It's hard to imagine George Stevens' classic Giant with anyone but James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, and Rock Hudson. After all, Hudson and Dean both received Academy Award nominations for their performance.
However, this epic Western almost had a very different cast. Read about the other potential leads below.
1. Everyone wanted to be Bick.
Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, Robert Mitchum, Sterling Hayden, and William Holden were interested. Holden actually met with Director George Stevens about the part of Bick Bennett several times. However, since the role demanded an actor to play both young and old, Stevens thought that it would be hard to make Holden appear younger and cast Rock Hudson, believing it would be easier to age an actor instead. Many years later, when Hudson saw his aged self on television, he said, “I looked at myself and ran to the mirror… and it was exactly the same including where the gray is to a ‘t’. So now I know what I’m going to look like when I’m 70.”
2. Another star almost had Dean’s spot.
Ladd and George Stevens had previously worked together on the critically acclaimed Western Shane. Stevens saw the actor as the rebellious Jett Rink, but Ladd wanted the larger role of Bick, not wanting to play a supporting character. James Dean was cast instead, receiving an Academdy Award nomination for his performance. Speaking about the part, Dean said, “I’ve gotten to like the state and the people so much. I’m apt to talk like a proud Texan even after Giant is completed.”
3. Hepburn and Kelly were almost the female lead.
Director George Stevens first pursued Audrey Hepburn for the role and visited with her to discuss the film. However, Hepburn and Stevens disagreed over some element of the story, and she bowed out. Grace Kelly was the next choice, but her relationship with MGM wasn’t in a good position. Thus, a loan out to Warner Brothers wasn’t probable. Others considered were Jane Wyman, Anne Baxter, Patricia Neal, and Janet Leigh. But Elizabeth Taylor won the role by convincing the director, even factoring in her availability around her pregnancy. “She has extraordinary talent and is potentially the best female star in Hollywood. There is more acting in that girl than anyone has ever gotten out of her,” Stevens said about Taylor.