In the early 1960s, director Robert Aldrich came across an outline for a novel by E. M. Nathanson. He tried to buy the rights and failed. MGM successfully bought the rights in 1963. The novel, The Dirty Dozen, was an instant best-seller when it was released in 1965. The title originated from a real-life combat unit nicknamed, “The Filthy Thirteen,” who refused to bathe during training. The story, however, is not based upon their exploits.
Two years after the book’s debut, the film version of The Dirty Dozen, directed by Aldrich, was released. It was the biggest box office hit of 1967 for MGM. With this year being the movie’s golden anniversary, Tail Slate imagines what the ideal cast of a remake would be.
The central figure in this film is Major John Riseman. A captain in the novel, the character was promoted to Major in the movie version because of the casting of Lee Marvin in the role. He was 42 at the time and considered to be a bit too old to play a captain. Lee Marvin was one of several of actors cast as main characters in the film who were actual veterans of World War II. Marvin served in the Marine Corps.
We plan to cast Liam Neeson in this pivotal role.
George Kennedy was cast as “Major Max Armbruster” whose role was to assist Major Riseman in carrying out the mission. Best known for his Academy Award winning role in Cool Hand Luke and for appearing in all four of the Airport films, Kennedy was a career military man who spent 16 years in the Army. He left after a career-ending back injury and wound up becoming an actor.
TailSlate selects the very talented Willem Dafoe for this role
Richard Jaeckel played “Sergeant Bowren” who was the head of the Military Police unit assigned to guard the Dozen during their training. After serving in the U. S. Merchant Marine during World War II, he became an actor. He had roles in Battleground and Sands of Iwo Jima.
Playing a tough, no-nonsense Army NCO is apparently something in Vince Vaugh’s acting wheelhouse, as he showed us in 2016’s Hacksaw Ridge.
Academy award winner Ernest Borgnine played the general who ordered Major Riseman to put a team together from condemned prisoners to carry out what most considered a suicide mission. Playing “General Worden” was a bit of a promotion for Borgnine who had just played Navy Lt. Commander “Quenton McHale” for four seasons on ‘McHale’s Navy.” Borgnine served in the real U.S. Navy during World War II
We are going with Alec Baldwin since he has experience playing a general officer.
NFL great Jim Brown retired from football rather than give up his role as Lieutenant Jefferson in The Dirty Dozen.
With Jim Brown’s speed having been essential to his role in the attack on the castle, and the fact he is an NFL Hall of Fame running back, we’ve chosen Ladainian Tomlinson to replace him. LT is a 2017 NFL Hall of Fame finalist.
After The Dirty Dozen, Telly Savalas would go on to star as “Ernst Stavro Blofeld” in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and later as “Lieutenant Theo Kojack” on television. At the time he was best known for his Oscar-nominated performance in 1962’s Birdman of Alcatraz. he spent three years in the U.S. Army during World War II, hosting the Your Voice of America series.
Vin Diesel is the perfect replacement for Savalas in this film.
John Cassavetes received a nomination for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his work in The Dirty Dozen.
Oscar winner Adrien Brody will take on the role of “Victor Frankel”
Charles Bronson was already a major action star and had played a meaty role in an earlier World War II movie, Battle of the Bulge, just two years earlier. Bronson served as an aerial gunner on 25 combat missions aboard B-29 aircraft and received a Purple Heart for wounds he suffered during those missions.
Ben Foster will take over Charles Bronson’s role as Joseph Wladislaw.
Donald Sutherland’s “Vernon L. Pinkley” has a great scene where he’s pretending to be a general officer inspecting the troops of “Colonel Breed” (Robert Ryan). He would go on to roles in two more war movies, both released in 1970. M*A*S*H and Kelly’s Heroes were comic war movies that enjoyed great success.
This one was a no-brainer. Like father, like son.
Speaking of “Colonel Everett Dasher Breed” who was played by Robert Ryan, we will have to replace him as well. Ryan had appeared in two earlier “star-studded” war films about World War II, The Longest Day and Battle of the Bulge.
We chose Brad Pitt to take on this role.
Clint Walker stands 6’6″ and portrayed the giant American Indian, “Samson Posey.” In 1998, at the age of 71 he provided the voice of “Nick Nitro” in the movie Small Soldiers.
We went back and forth between Nathan Jones and Tyler Mane, both of whom played massive warriors in 2004’s Troy and finally settled on Mane.
Trini Lopez was cast in the role of “Pedro Jiminez” even though he was a singing rather than acting star. When production of the film went beyond the original shooting schedule he chose to leave the film. As a result his character’s part was rewritten and he dies when the Dozen make their parachute jump.
There is a scene in the film where Trini Lopez plays guitar and sings a song. So the natural choice to replace him is Oscar Isaac.
Who should we cast in the roles of the remaining members of the Dozen, originally played by Tom Busby, Stuart Cooper, Al Mancini, and Colin Maitland? You tell us.