Movie Fact #300 - October 8th, 2021

 

Few pairings in cinema are as well-known or revered as Martin Riggs (Played Mel Gibson) and Roger Murtaugh (Played by Danny Glover), the odd couple of cops that led the four Lethal Weapon films from 1987 to 1998. And as it turns out, it was pretty much as copasetic in the casting process as it was on-screen. Gibson, in fact, was invited by director Richard Donner as the director was interested in working with the actor after Ladyhawke (Gibson was one of the top choices for the role that ultimately went to Rutger Hauer). And Gibson had quite the unique mentality for what he wanted out of the character of Martin Riggs:

"This particular story was a cut above others I had passed on, because the action is really a sideline which heightens the story of these two great characters. I picture Riggs as an almost Chaplinesque figure, a guy who doesn't expect anything from life and even toys with the idea of taking his own. He's not like these stalwarts who come down from Mt. Olympus and wreak havoc and go away. He's somebody who doesn't look like he's set to go off until he actually does."

For Glover, the attraction was equally strong especially given, fresh from his success as Mister in The Color Purple, he felt the role of Roger Murtaugh offered a whole new range of character expression and experience. His thoughts on taking the role at the time were as follows:

"Aside from the chance to work with Mel, which turned out to be pure pleasure, one of the reasons I jumped at this project was the family aspect. The chance to play intricate relationships and subtle humor that exist in every close family group was an intriguing challenge, as was playing a guy turning 50. Murtaugh's a little cranky about his age until everything he loves is threatened. His reawakening parallels Riggs'."

It was actually casting director Marion Dougherty who first suggested teaming Gibson with Danny Glover, given Murtaugh had no set ethnicity in the script, so she arranged for Gibson to fly in from his home in Sydney while Glover was flown in from Chicago, where he was appearing in a play, to read through the script. Following their joint screentest, it wasn't even a choice for Donner after that:

"It took about two hours and by the time we were done, I was in seventh heaven. They found innuendoes; they found laughter where I never saw it; they found tears where they didn't exist before; and, most importantly, they found a relationship — all in just one reading. So if you ask about casting... it was magical, just total dynamite."

The result is one of the most legendary screen pairings of all-time and one of the most beloved buddy cop comedy franchises of all-time. It's a franchise we're never too old for. Stay tuned!




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