The Lost Roles of ‘The Incredible Burt Wonderstone’

Steve Carell’s magician comedy The Incredible Burt Wonderstone hits theaters tomorrow, and like most movies, it took a long time to come together. When the project was originally put into development in 2006, it was called Burt Dickenson: The Most Powerful Magician on Planet Earth, and the movie has changed shape a lot in the years since. Directors Jake Kasdan and Charles McDougall each came and went before the studio finally found 30 Rock’s Don Scardino, who got the thing made. A number of actors either tried out for or passed on parts in Burt Wonderstone, from movie stars to character actors to nichey comedians. Let’s take a look at some of the people who almost ended up in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, including Sacha Baron Cohen, Sarah Silverman, and Thomas Lennon.

Sarah Silverman

The role: Jane

Who got it: Olivia Wilde

Along with Michelle Monaghan, Judy Greer, Jessica Biel, and Olivia Wilde, comedian Sarah Silverman was on the short list for the movie’s female lead, that of Burt Wonderstone’s assistant Jane but she didn’t win the role. It’s been a while since Silverman played a significant supporting role in a big-budget mainstream comedy - 2006’s School for Scoundrels and 2003’s The School of Rock were the last two - as she’s turned down a lot of parts because she’s sick of playing thankless girlfriend and roommate roles in movies. This would have been a break from that, but it is still a subservient female role in a comedy that’s main characters are all males.

Sacha Baron Cohen

The role: Steve Gray

Who got it: Jim Carrey

Having just finished filming The Dictator at the time, Sacha Baron Cohen was circling the part of Steve Carell’s David Blaine-esque rival magician, Steve Gray. Cohen ended up taking a role in Les Misérables instead, which will probably be a movie that much more people will see. Sacha Baron Cohen hasn’t acted in a comedy that someone else wrote since Talladega Nights in 2006.

Riki Lindhome

The role: Jane

Who got it: Olivia Wilde

Riki Lindhome, one-half of the musical comedy duo Garfunkel & Oates, discussed going up for the female lead in the movie last year on her Nerdist podcast Making It. “I auditioned for Burt Wonderstone, for the main girl,”  Lindhome explains. “They were like, ‘It’s gonna go to a comedian’ or something like that, and then I got a call - they said it’s down to Jessica Biel and Olivia Wilde. And I’m like, ‘Cool… cool.’” It is a shame that the part didn’t go to a comedian, but that’s just the way things go sometimes.

Adam Pally

The role: Steve Gray

Who got it: Jim Carrey

Happy Endings star Adam Pally told TV Guide last year about auditioning to play Jim Carrey’s part in the movie, recalling, “It’s going to seem crazy that I was even up for the role, I guess I really wasn’t, I just read for it. But I loved it and it went to Jim Carrey… obviously … I read the script and thought it was hilarious. The fact that they even considered me was awesome.” It is great that a funny but new guy like Adam Pally was up for such a big part in a big comedy. Pally is set to play his first supporting role in a mainstream Hollywood comedy in A.C.O.D., which stars Adam Scott and is set to come out later this year.

Thomas Lennon

The role: Anton Marvelton

Who got it: Steve Buscemi

Reno 911 and The State star Thomas Lennon also revealed he was up for a part in the movie on Riki Lindhome’s podcast Making It, saying, “For Burt Wonderstone, I did a little pencil-on mustache and I wore an ascot, so I was driving onto the Warner Brothers lot in costume … you feel super weird.” Lennon didn’t land the part, even though playing a weird magician seems like something that’s perfectly suited for him.

The Lost Roles of ‘The Incredible Burt Wonderstone’