Screen legend Jack Thompson was full of eye-widening film industry tales on Anh’s Brush With Fame – but there was one recollection from his lengthy career that clearly stung to think about.
The Man from Snowy River actor, 80, revealed he almost landed the coveted role of Oskar Schindler in 1993’s Schindler’s List.
In the wide-ranging interview covering his upbringing, career, recent health battle and industry titbits from the 70s and beyond, a raw and honest Thompson pursed his lips as Anh asked about the role he lost to Liam Neeson.
“Almost,” he said, shaking his head with a sigh and slight smile.
“I’d done camera tests, shot a couple of scenes, and then did a whole afternoon with Spielberg,” he explained.
“At the end of it (Spielberg) said, ‘Well there’s not much doubt’.
“Then he said, ‘I have to go straight away now and catch the plane to New York, and when I come back on Monday we’ll sign up’. And then he went to New York, and he saw Liam (Neeson), who I’d worked with, and he came back and said ‘Yeah I think it should be Liam’,” he revealed.
“I was OK with that for a while, it was a bit devastating at the time but that’s the business,” he continued.
“Months and months and months later I’m on my farm, I’ve gone right up to the back hill, and I get off the horse … and (I’m thinking about) what had just happened with Schindler’s List and I just (yelled): ‘F******’,” he said, letting out a scream.
“There’s no such thing as nearly,” the Order of Australia member added.
“You either do it or you don’t.”
“Liam was wonderful, But it was one of those moments,” he concluded.
According to a 2005 Sydney Morning Herald interview, Thompson had spent months researching the role of Oskar Schindler, a German businessman and member of the Nazi Party who saved more than a thousand Jewish refugees from the Holocaust during World War II.
He’d event spent time working on his accent with Austrian actor Max Schell, making the casting outcome all the more disappointing.
But it isn’t just Thompson who has a strong memory of the close call.
In a 1996 LA Times article, Neeson himself recalled Thompson’s gracious response to him landing the part in the epic historical drama.
“The next day I got a telegram from Jack Thompson, who was somewhere in the middle of Africa,” Neeson told the publication.
“And he said something about ‘Thrilled to hear you got cast.’ He said something like it was kind of between the two of us. I was floored by it. It’s times like that that I’m proud to be an actor.”
Thompson’s portrayal of Major James Francis Thomas in Australian war film Breaker Morant (1980) scored him an Academy Award nomination and a win for Best Supporting Actor at Cannes.
Speaking on Anh’s Brush With Fame on Tuesday, the veteran actor and mentor to Russell Crowe opened up about his advice to a seven-year-old Rusty on the set of TV series Spyforce, touched on his iconic 1972 Cleo nude centrefold, and described a terrifying recent health battle, revealing he would have died within 48 hours had he not sought treatment for his kidneys.
Anh’s Brush With Fame airs Tuesdays at 8pm on ABC, and is available to stream on ABC iview.