Other Versions of Reality

Picture the scene. A young man and woman stand at the prow of a ship. Her eyes are closed and arms out wide. He clasps her tenderly around the waist. ‘I’m flying, Jack!’ she gasps in exhilaration. Yes, it’s the 1997 film ‘Titanic’ but not as we know it. In this alternative version of reality, Rose is played not by Kate Winslet but Gwyneth Paltrow. When director James Cameron was whittling down the possibilities, it was these two actresses who made the final two. Personally, I think he made the made the right call but I suppose Gwyneth would have been okay… ish… Not as good, but adequate. There is something even more unfamiliar about this scene. The identity of the actor playing Jack. It’s Macaulay Culkin. Yes, I mean the kid out of ‘Home Alone’. Kevin!!! A grown up version obviously, but still?! Macaulay was indeed a frontrunner for this role before losing out to Leonardo DiCaprio. Which is just as well, surely. It would have changed the whole tone of the film and not for the better. Yet it could easily have been him who became ‘King of the World!’ and who calmly made all the right decisions about where to stand while the ship was sinking. Only sadly to wind up freezing to death very gallantly and romantically while there was definitely enough room on that floating door for two people…
It’s also the case that Forrest Gump was almost played by John Travolta and Indiana Jones by Tom Selleck. Which goes to show that even things which seem like they could never have been other way, were once undecided. In that sense the casting of characters in a film bears some resemblance to the picking of a team in hurling. Exactly who will fill the slots from 1 to 15 is rarely obvious and in exactly what order, even less so. Particularly this is the case with underage panels when players have not yet been definitively labelled. What one is faced with is a bunch of players with different levels of ability. Then the ones who have similar overall ability, are quite different on closer analysis. One is a bit faster, one stronger, one has more skill, one better to catch, one has composure, one is always prepared to get stuck in. Each of the selectors will have their own theory, but there is no definitive guidebook which says which of these qualities is more essential to which position.
Shane O’Donnell for instance, has been a brilliant forward for Clare over the last few years. As a youngster on development panels, the best of managers and coaches invariably picked him at corner back. His comrade David McInerney meanwhile now plays in defence, having been a forward up to Minor. It’s more art than science to get it right. The correct combination will maximise what the players are capable of. Get it wrong… pick Macaulay and Gwyneth… and perhaps you no longer have the chemistry which led to one of the biggest box office hits of all time.
And then there’s the matter of what moves you make once the game is on. Unfolding in a way that needs to be fixed urgently. The story of hurling has countless examples of where a switch was made, which won the game. Here too, there is a parallel with Hollywood and another blockbuster. In 1976, George Lucas was shooting a project called ‘Star Wars’ and had hit bullseye with three out of four of his main characters. Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford were all slotting in, but the last piece of the puzzle was refusing to fit in neatly. David Prowse played the bad guy in a black helmet. A former bodybuilder who stood 6’7, he fit the bill physically but the Englishman’s voice wasn’t working. His speech was in a heavy Bristol accent and made the words of the Dark Lord sound slightly absurd. Also there was the matter of Prowse’s clumsiness. He tended to break his light sabre whenever a fight scene occurred. George Lucas’ response was ruthless. A former Olympic fencer, Bob Anderson, was drafted in to take over whenever the weapon was wielded. Another actor with a suitably sinister tone, James Earl Jones, was chosen to voice over every line of Prowse’s dialogue. Prowse was annoyed. His feelings were hurt. But the bottom line was that the combination of all three men proved more than the sum of their parts. Together they were Darth Vader, arguably the most memorable and intimidating villain of the entire 20th century. More than any other ingredient, he was the X factor which propelled Star Wars onto its huge success.

So…there is always the tantalising prospect that something similar might just happen if you just switch the hurlers currently playing at #3 and #11…

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