Jerry Stiller during Jerry Stiller Backstage After Performing in "The Ritz" - January 1, 1975 at The Longacre Theater in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)
Movies - TV
Jerry Stiller Caused A Crisis During The Sopranos' Casting Process
One of the earliest "what could have been" castings on "The Sopranos" goes back to the pilot and the original pick for Herman "Hesh" Rabkin. Georgianne Walken and Sheila Jaffe, the series' casting directors, revealed on an episode of the "Talking Sopranos” podcast that, instead of Jerry Adler for the role, they were looking at Jerry Stiller.
Stiller, however, made a last-minute decision to appear in a commercial that was shooting at the same time as "The Sopranos" pilot. Sheila Jaffe received word late on a Friday in 1997 that Stiller had chosen the commercial over the show, which was terrible news as the pilot was set to shoot the following Monday, forcing her to scramble and recast the part over the weekend.
The podcast's host Steve Schirripa (who played Bobby) finds it impossible to imagine Jerry Stiller as Hesh because he doesn't think his onscreen persona of playing eccentric, short-fused characters would have worked compared to Adler's interpretation as cool-headed, wise, and yet still funny. In the long run, the show seems to have benefited from Stiller's departure despite the short-term crisis it caused.