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The 'Goon' Who Nearly Landed the 'Legend of Tarzan' Role Over Alexander Skarsgård

By Dustin Rowles | Industry | July 6, 2016 |

By Dustin Rowles | Industry | July 6, 2016 |

The Legend of Tarzan put up surprisingly decent numbers over its opening weekend ($46 million) in spite of a very poor reception by critics and a notable lack of buzz going into the weekend. Unless worldwide box-office is strong, the $180 million budgeted film may still struggle to break even, but it appears that it won’t be the massive, Lone Ranger type write-down the studio had probably been expecting before Friday.

I haven’t seen it yet, because of those poor reviews and my general lack of interest in the storyline, although a cast that includes Christoph Waltz, Margot Robbie, and Alexander Skarsgård is admittedly compelling.

What would not have been compelling, however, is the lead that producer Jerry Weintraub — who has since passed — had originally envisioned for the role, but subsequently dismissed after coming to the realization that he was a “goon.”

From a profile on Margot Robbie in Vanity Fair:

The conversation finally came around to Tarzan. For the last several years of his life, the great bearish movie producer Jerry Weintraub, who died while the film was in postproduction, had been trying to get Tarzan back to the big screen … For a moment Jerry believed he’d found Tarzan in Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps. It was all Jerry talked about. “It’s going to be like Johnny Weissmuller,” Jerry told me. “All the reporters are going to say, ‘Weintraub found the new Johnny Weissmuller!’ ” At that point, Jerry had never seen Phelps do anything but get in and out of a pool. Then, as if arranged, the swimmer hosted Saturday Night Live. As this went on past Jerry’s bedtime, he asked his assistant to record it. I was working with Jerry on his memoir at the time, a project that grew out of a 2008 Vanity Fair profile, and so sat beside him the next morning in his living room in Beverly Hills, identical breakfasts on identical trays set before us, my portions slightly smaller. As he watched Phelps’s monologue, I watched him, his mood shifting from excited to perturbed, green to red. Two minutes in, Jerry turned to his assistant and shouted, “This isn’t Tarzan! This isn’t Johnny Weissmuller! He’s a goon! Why didn’t anyone tell me he’s a goon? Turn it off. Goddammit, turn it off.”

Here’s the two minutes Weintraub saw that elicited his assessment:

“Goon” is perhaps a bit harsh, but Weintraub was probably right to conclude that Phelps would have been a terrible choice.

Source: Vanity Fair

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.