The only cast member of seminal sketch show SCTV who wasn’t a performer at the Second City theater, Rick Moranis joined the show late at the start of its third season in 1980. He quickly proved himself on the series, though, showcasing his abilities to play a diverse array of characters. From smooth-talking radio DJ Gerry Todd to cover song crooner Tom Monroe, from a member of the clean-cut ‘50s vocal group 5 Neat Guys to his impeccable impressions of Woody Allen and Michael McDonald, Moranis demonstrated a versatility that went underused after he went to Hollywood in the mid-’80s and became a movie star. Moranis starred in his fair share of classics (Ghostbusters, Little Shop of Horrors, Parenthood), but Hollywood quickly began casting him as only dweebs and wimps in a series of forgettable family comedies when he was capable of doing so much more.
A few years after the tragic death of his wife, Rick Moranis retired from movies in 1996 to raise his kids full-time, telling the press, “I just found that it was too difficult to manage raising my kids and doing the traveling involved in making movies. So I took a little bit of a break. And the little bit of a break turned into a longer break, and then I found that I really didn’t miss it.” Moranis resurfaced in 2005 with the release of a country music record called The Agoraphobic Cowboy, which received a Grammy nomination for Best Comedy Album, and according to Dan Aykroyd, he’s on board to reprise his role as Louis Tully in the long-in-gestation Ghostbusters sequel (if it ever happens). Let’s take a look at the roles Rick Moranis almost played but didn’t over the years, including parts in Ace Ventura, The Breakfast Club, a Strange Brew sequel, and more.
The Breakfast Club (1985)
The role: Carl the Janitor
Who got it: John Kapelos
Coming off of a supporting role in Ghostbusters at the time, Rick Moranis was hired to play the janitor in John Hughes’s high school movie The Breakfast Club. Moranis filmed a few days worth of scenes, but his vision for the character was drastically different than what was written. Here’s his replacement John Kapelos describing how Moranis played the character:
“They did shoot for a week or so, maybe less. But Rick insisted on playing the part with a big set of gold teeth, a chain with a wad of keys hanging between his legs which he would play with provocatively and a thick Russian accent. He wanted to do it as sort of a broad SCTV type of character that he was prone to playing. John went with it for a few days, but then he asked Rick if he had read the script because this guy was supposed to have gone to this high school.”
¡Three Amigos! (1986)
The role: Ned Nederlander
Who got it: Martin Short
Director John Landis said, according to Moviefone, that if Martin Short had been unavailable, he would have cast Short’s fellow SCTV-er Rick Moranis in the role of Ned Nederlander in Three Amigos. Moranis and Three Amigos writer/star Steve Martin went on to work together frequently anyway, appearing in Little Shop of Horrors, Parenthood, My Blue Heaven, and LA Story together.
City Slickers (1991)
The role: Phil Berquist
Who got it: Daniel Stern
Moranis was originally cast alongside Billy Crystal and Bruno Kirby in City Slickers, but he dropped out of the role to take care of his wife, who had been diagnosed with cancer and passed away shortly thereafter. Here’s an interview with Rick Moranis telling David Letterman about getting ready for City Slickers back in 1990:
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994)
The role: Ace Ventura:
Who got it: Jim Carrey
According to Michael Kantor and Laurence Maslon’s book Make ‘Em Laugh: The Funny Business of America, Rick Moranis turned down the lead role in Ace Ventura, which then went to newcomer Jim Carrey and helped him break through as a movie star.
Gone Fishin’ (1997)
John Candy and Rick Moranis were attached to star in the J.J. Abrams-scripted fishing trip buddy movie Gone Fishin’ in 1991, but filming didn’t get underway before Candy’s death in 1994 and Moranis ended up retiring from movies in 1996.
Home Brew (unproduced, in development 1999)
The role: Bob McKenzie
Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas were set to reprise their roles as the McKenzie Brothers in Home Brew, a canceled sequel to 1983’s Strange Brew, which was the movie based on their “Great White North” SCTV characters. Dave Thomas and SCTV cohort Paul Flaherty wrote the script for Flaherty to direct. The plot involved Bob and Doug McKenzie, who are now working as garbagemen, being convinced to enter the microbrewing business by fast-talking insurance salesman Rick Ripple (played by Dan Aykroyd). Filming was set to take place in 1999 but was called off when funding fell through, resulting in two different lawsuits. Rick Moranis hasn’t made plans to star in a movie since, but hopefully, we’ll get to see this talented guy act again one day.