Alternate Movie History: 'City Slickers,' Starring Rick Moranis and Charles Bronson

Alternate Movie History: 'City Slickers,' Starring Rick Moranis and Charles Bronson

Oct 28, 2013

Fact: Everybody likes City Slickers. If you don't, it only means you haven't seen it. That's not to say it's the greatest movie ever made and that seeing it will change your life forever, just that it's the kind of movie that is too damned likable to hate. We suppose that, if for reasons inconceivable to us, you simply cannot tolerate the presence of Billy Crystal, then maybe, just maybe, you wouldn't like City Slickers. But even then you've got Daniel Stern, Bruno Kirby and freaking Jack Palance to put a smile on your face.

If that does somehow describe you, then you may like to learn about the alternate universe City Slickers movie that almost was. It was always going to star Billy Crystal, but according to his recently published autobiography Still Foolin' 'Em: Where I've Been, Where I'm Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys?, the rest of the cast could have been very different.

For starters, Rick Moranis was originally cast as Phil, the nerdy and yet adulterous supermarket manager. However, Moranis' wife was diagnosed with breast cancer in the middle of rehearsals, and so he had to drop out of the film. Phil was later recast with Daniel Stern.

Initially a scheduling conflict meant that Jack Palance couldn't actually sign on to the film, despite loving the script. So then the production approached legendary tough man Charles Bronson. He wasn't nearly as in love with the script as Palance, but we'll just let Crystal's autobiography tell that story:

The next day I was told to be at my office at a certain time as Mr. Bronson would be calling me. I sat by the phone, nervous about talking to him. The phone rang.

"Hello," I said cheerfully.

"F--- you," he replied. I waited for the punch line. There wasn't one.

"F--- you. I'm dead on page sixty-four! How dare you send this to me."

I wasn't sure if he was joking or not.

"You have a lot of nerve," he went on. "I don't die in my films." I was about to remind him that he died in The Magnificent Seven, but before I could, he said it again: "F--- you."

"Mr. Bronson, I'm sorry you feel this way. It's a great part."

"No, it's not—I'm dead on page sixty-f---ing-four." And he hung up.

I sat there, stunned, and then the phone rang and it was Jack's agent saying he'd blown off the other film because he wanted to do this one, and we were home safe.

Well we're glad that one ended the way it did. Check out for more stories about City Slickers, including two incredibly endearing ones that will make you want to go watch whatever Jack Palance movies you own as soon as possible. Or you could just buy Crystal's book, which includes many, many more behind-the-scenes stories.




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