More on: sitcom Justin Theroux shares intimate photo with ex Jennifer Aniston on “Facts of Live” Bragging about the role of “My Three Sons” didn’t help TV star pick up women “Friends” stars Matthew Perry and Courteney Cox are distant cousins: report “Friends” fans can have a sleepover at a replica of the sitcom set
Jon Cryer was almost cast to play Chandler Bing in “Friends,” but FedEx ruined his take.
The “Pretty in Pink” star taped an audition while in London and arranged for it to be rushed to Los Angeles overnight. But, as TV director James Burrows reveals in his new book, the courier lost the package and the producers didn’t even see Cryer audition, paving the way for Matthew Perry’s casting.
This is just one of the stories in “Directed by James Burrows,” out June 7, about the TV guru’s six-decade career on TV. He has directed more than 50 pilots and has been associated with some of the greatest sitcoms of all time, including “Friends”, “Will & Grace”, “Taxi” and “Cheers”, which he co-created.
Here are some of the most surprising stories in the book:
“Laverne & Shirley” While Penny Marshall (left) and Cindy Williams played best friends in “Laverne & Shirley,” the actresses were brutally competitive on set. Getty Images
Burrows writes that there was “tension” between co-stars Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams “right from the start.” Penny was the sister of the show’s creator and producer Garry and their father, Anthony, and sister Ronny were also producers, which apparently made Williams feel like a strange woman.
“Cindy felt the show was too heavy for Marshall and she counted how many lines she was given compared to Penny,” Burrows writes. “The two started having problems with each other, which became public. I was on set when the shit hit the fan and the entire writing staff, which I loved, got fired. “
“Taxi” Danny DeVito has found a clever way to make extra money with “Taxi”. Disney General Entertainment Con
Burrows was impressed by the surrealist comedian Andy Kaufman, who played the gentle mechanic Latka. Once upon a time, Kaufman’s alter ego Tony Clifton – a raunchy lounge singer character – had to appear in an episode before the producers thought better of it. When they informed the manager about Kaufman, he said he was fine, but that “Tony” insisted he had to “be fired in front of everyone, with a prostitute on every knee,” according to the book.
“Tony” refused to be fired well and started screaming “and a big fight ensued with everyone yelling and screaming.” Co-stars Tony Danza and Judd Hirsch loved it, Burrows writes, but Jeff Conaway was bothered by Kaufman’s theatricality.
Burrows also reveals that Danny DeVito found a way to make extra money on set by playing short-tempered cab operator Louie De Palma.
“Danny developed a small craft industry by taking bribes from the company, including myself, to announce the names of family and friends when [his character] he was sending taxis, ”he writes. “She had a good side hustle going on.”
Meanwhile, Danza was known as a scoundrel on stage, stealing the security guard’s golf cart and “as well as Fonzie’s motorcycle from the ‘Happy Days’ set.”
“Friends” Burrows once lent the entire money of the “Friends” cast to gamble in Las Vegas. NBCUniversal via Getty Images
Burrows had to convince David Schwimmer to play the role of Ross Geller, written expressly for him.
“David initially turned down the ‘Friends’ job because he had a bad experience on another show,” reveals the actor’s Burrows, who previously co-starred on “Monty” with Henry Winkler. “He was reluctant to commit to a minimum term of five years, which all sitcom actors have to do… he was worried that the show would not be collaborative and that his ideas of him would not be welcome. We assured him that this experience would be different and would be a whole ”.
To help build camaraderie among the sextet, Burrows borrowed the Warner Bros. corporate jet to take the then-unknown actors to Las Vegas for some bonding.
Burrows had to convince David Schwimmer (far left) to be Ross.
Convinced that the show was going to be a success, Burrows told them, “’This is your last chance to remain anonymous. Once the show goes on, you guys will never be able to go anywhere without being persecuted. ‘ None of them believed me. None of them had any money even at that point, so I gave each of them a couple of hundred dollars to go play.
“I paid out one thousand four hundred dollars. If the math doesn’t seem correct, it’s because LeBlanc had no idea how to play craps and lost his two hundred dollars in seconds, so I gave him another two hundred. They went back to Los Angeles, the show premiered, they have never had a chance to remain anonymous ever since and each of them wrote me refund checks for the money I gave them.
“Cheers” “Cheers” ran for 11 seasons. Everett Collection
Burrows writes that in the first season of the show on a Boston bar, they tried to capture a legend for a place as a guest: Lucille Ball to play Diane Chambers’ (Shelley Long) mother. Burrows and Charles’s brother went to the star’s Beverly Hills home to discuss the part.
“[We] she sat in the living room with Lucy and her second husband, Gary Morton, whom she married after she and Desi Arnaz divorced, “recalls Burrows. “We pitched the idea to her. Gary intervened with something. Lucy cut him off and said, ‘Gary, remember where you were.’ As we walked out of her house, we were trying to decide whether Lucy meant ‘Remember where you were in that story you were telling’ or ‘Remember where you were before you got married.’ “
Anyway, “Lucy turned us down” and the role went to British actress Glynis Johns.
Meanwhile, the character Frasier Crane, played by Kelsey Grammer, was only supposed to be in four episodes.
Kelsey Grammer joined the cast in season three and went on to play Frasier Crane for 20 years. CBS via Getty Images
But the moment they saw Grammer’s face on an audition tape, “We all started laughing … He left New York and lived in his car on the Paramount lot for a while.” The actor ended up playing the character for nearly 20 years, both on “Cheers” and on his show, “Frasier”.
Woody Harrelson was virtually unknown when he was cast to play the lovely but stupid bartender Woody Boyd. Burrows recalls how the actor’s youthful joie de vivre energized the cast after Nicholas Colasanto, the actor who played bartender Coach, died of a heart attack.
“Woody brought foosball, water pistols and spitballs to the set, turning the middle-aged cast into fun monsters chasing each other…” writes Burrows. “That cast was wild.”
Burrows writes that he once asked Harrelson if he could jump over the bar rather than walk around it. He was able to “and it became a defining moment for both the character and the show. He was lovely doing it, and it pissed everyone else off, especially Teddy. During rehearsals, Teddy tried to jump over the bar. It wasn’t a good time for either Ted or the bar.
Jay Thomas was fired after publicly insulting Rhea Perlman. Paramount Television
Jay Thomas was a stand-up comedian and disc jockey when he appeared in “Cheers” as Eddie LeBec, a Boston Bruins goalkeeper and love interest in waitress Carla Tortelli (Rhea Perlman). One day a person who called his radio show asked him what it was like to be on “Cheers” and Thomas replied, “’It’s brutal. I have to kiss Rhea Perlman. ‘
“It was like this. He insulted Rhea, which means she insulted all of us, ”Burrows writes. “He crossed the family. Jay was unceremoniously fired. Since he was no longer on the show, Eddie had to go too. In our world, you don’t end up sleeping with fish; die a violent but comical death.
The writers had Eddie playing a penguin in a traveling ice show when he is killed by a slow-moving Zamboni machine.
“The Bob Newhart Show” Bob Newhart defended his characteristic stutter while filming his sitcom pilot. CBS via Getty Images
Burrows reveals that when he worked on the 1972 pilot for “The Bob Newhart Show,” they found that the show was a little too long. A producer approached the comedian and said, “‘Bob, could you stutter a little less?’ Newhart’s response: ‘That stutter paid for my house in Beverly Hills.’ “
“Will & Grace” Burrows calls Debra Messing one of the most gifted physical comedians I have ever worked with. NBCUniversal via Getty Images
Burrows reveals that it was Sean Hayes and Alexis Arquette for the part of Jack McFarland.
“Jack is based on a man from New York who slept with everyone,” he writes. “By choosing Sean, who looks innocent and sweet enough, we didn’t go to the dark side and so the character became a lot more attractive.
Bob Odenkirk once signed on to play Grace’s boyfriend Nathan, but at the first table he read that the “Better Call Saul” star’s performance was cut short. At the time, the actor was best known for the cult series “Mr. Show ”and the producers were nervous that he wouldn’t be able to deliver, so Woody Harrelson took over the role. Years later, Odenkirk told Burrows that he and his wife had just had a baby at the time and was exhausted.
“Men who misbehave” Burrows has rare critical words for “SNL” alum Rob Schneider.Â © Carsey-Werner Co / Courtesy Ever
In recent years, Burrows has had a “fun clause” added to every sitcom deal he has signed, which allows him to unilaterally quit a project if he’s not enjoying himself. He was only used once, on the short-lived NBC show “Men Behaving Badly”.
It was based on a British show about two sweet men doing horrible things. Burrows explains that the original show worked because the protagonists were so adorable that the audience forgave their bad deeds. But, he adds, the first mistake of the American version was the hiring of Rob Schneider, an alum of “Saturday Night Live”, that “he was neither sweet nor could he play a sweet character, so it became a show about a malevolent boy who hurts things.
“Nobody could connect with that. Rob and Ron [Eldard, his co-star] never got along. From time to time, the producers would say, ‘Rob is in his trailer and he’s not going out. Can you talk to him? ‘ The vitriol became so bad that during a recording, in front of an audience, the cast “walked through the show,” saying their lines without emotion, “Burrows writes. “They tried to replace Ron with Ken Marino, but people found it very difficult to work with Rob. I was done “.
Burrows also writes extensively on how he directs.
Burrows says in the book that fun for him is a harmonious work environment without shouting matches or diva tantrums.
“I still believe that kindness is the most important currency you can trade with, in business and in art … What I believe I owe my success to is my way of making everyone in the lifeboat feel like they are keeping afloat. all the others. “