Film fans might have already forgotten, but almost 25 years ago, Martin Scorsese was looking at Tom Hanks to star as Dean Martin in a biopic about the iconic performer. The film was said to be written by Paul Schrader and would pull back the curtain on Martin’s time in the Rat Pack and, of course, in his comedic duo with Jerry Lewis. Alas, like so many other projects, it never came to be.
However, in a recent interview with The New York Times, Tom Hanks talked about why he wanted to star in the film and what angle Scorsese and he would take on presenting Dean Martin. Ultimately, Hanks believes the film would have been eye-opening for many people because it would have dispelled a bunch of myths about the crooner.
“I didn’t see Dean Martin as being the cynical presence in the Rat Pack. I think he’s the only one who got it,” explained Hanks. “Dean Martin was not into any of the show-business razzle-dazzle except for the way it gave him a degree of ease and enjoyment that he wanted because he grew up so hardscrabble. He said, ‘Pally, there’s got to be an easier way,’ and he discovered what that way was. There’s a great story about Dean Martin: After he broke up with Jerry Lewis, everybody said, ‘Jerry is a genius, Dean’s just a crooner.’ Dean then went to play Las Vegas, and it was a disaster. He comes back and says to one of his guys, ‘They don’t seem to like me without the monkey boy. What are we going to do?’ I’m paraphrasing. The guy said, ‘You could always do the drunky act.’ So from that drunky act came jokes like: ‘I don’t drink anymore. I just freeze it and eat it like a Popsicle.’ He was not a boozer. When he’s out there with the Rat Pack, it’s apple juice in his glass. He would pretend not to know his lines. ‘I’d like to have a response to that joke, but I have to wait for Mr. Cue-Card Man to do his job.’ This was all fake! What is that other than an expertise beyond belief?”
He continued, “That’s why I wanted to do it. I felt like I understood that guy to a T. Also, I’ve heard this story about Dean and Jerry at the end of their lives. Jerry was in some restaurant and Dean came in — did not say hello. Just took his seat. Jerry said, ‘I have to go talk to Dean.’ Understand, the night they broke up at the Copacabana, Jerry said to Dean, ‘What we had all this time was love.’ Dean said, ‘You know what you were to me? A big fat [expletive] dollar sign.’ But at the end, they’re old, they’re infirm, and they just sat and held hands at some restaurant, weeping. Forgive me if I’m telling you too much about the movie we never made.”
Again, we’ll never get to see the film that Scorsese and Hanks wanted to make. That time has come and gone. Back in the late-‘90s, when this film was being discussed, Jim Carrey’s name was thrown out there as a possible Jerry Lewis, alongside John Travolta as Frank Sinatra and Adam Sandler as Joey Bishop. It definitely would have been a pretty interesting feature, when you take into consideration all the names involved.
Instead, you can see Tom Hanks star as another music industry icon, Colonel Tom Parker, in “Elvis,” which hits theaters on June 24.