During his many decades as an actor, Bruce Dern has appeared in numerous films. In 1976, he appeared in a film made by one of the famous and influential directors in movie history.
That director of Alfred Hitchcock. And the film Dern was fortunate enough to work with him on was titled “Family Plot.” Dern played the character George Lumley in the film, which also starred Karen Black and Barbara Harris.
The plot, according to IMDB, is: “A phony psychic/con artist and her taxi driver/private investigator boyfriend encounter a pair of serial kidnappers while trailing a missing heir in California.”
What fans of Bruce Dern and this Hitchcock film might not know is that Al Pacino was considered for the role of George Lumley. However, the legendary director chose Dern over Pacino for the role. And why he did so is a pretty interesting story.
Dern talked about why he landed the role during an interview with Cowboys and Indians Magazine. Turns He asked Hitchcock directly why he was hired for the part in “Family Plot” and not someone else.
“And then I said, ‘Hitch, why am I here? Why did you choose me? I mean, it’s a wonderful break in my career, but you’re not my agent or manager and everything else,’” Dern recalled.
It was then that Hitchcock shared casting details with the actor. One of the options for Dern’s role in the film was Al Pacino, but it took a bit before Dern realized that during his conversation with Hitchcock.
“He said, ‘Well, first of all, Bruce, Mr. Packino wanted too much money. He wanted a million dollars,’” Dern shared. “Hitch doesn’t pay a million dollars. Even Miss Andrews and Mr. Newman didn’t get a million dollars from Hitch (for ‘Torn Curtain’). I said, ‘I see, but that still doesn’t explain it. I don’t quite get what you’re telling me.’ He said, ‘Well, first of all, all (Italians) should have their names spelled phonetically.’ Suddenly I realized — Mr. Packino was Al Pacino.”
However, Bruce Dern didn’t just land the job because Hitchcock could pay him less than Pacino.
“… (Hitchcock) says, ‘You’re here because you’re unpredictable and you are the only actor in your generation who appears to me to be unpredictable, and yet we like you. And that’s why you are here,’” Dern recalled.
Bruce Dern Told Alfred Hitchcock He Was ‘Not Going to Miss’ Spending Time With the Director
Bruce Dern didn’t miss out on the opportunity to learn about filmmaking from Alfred Hitchcock.
“Well, the first day on the set of ‘Family Plot,’ I pulled my chair right up next to Hitch and sat down,” Dern recalled. “And I’m a little irreverent — and maybe a little off-putting, I guess — but I said, ‘Hey, bud, the drill with me is this: I’m going to sit here every day for 11 weeks, and if you’re bored with me, just tell me. I won’t talk, but I won’t leave. I’m not going to miss 11 weeks with you.’”
Fortunately for Bruce Dern, the director agreed to let him spend that time together.
“And he said, ‘That would be fine, Bruce. Sit right down,’” Dern recalled.