Never in a million years would we have guessed this.
Detective James ‘Jimmy’ McNulty was played by British actor Dominic West for The Wire’s run from 2002 to 2008, and the show landed West with two Golden Globe nominations and a permanent place in TV history for being a part of one of the greatest and most-loved shows ever made.
However, the show’s creators initially had someone very different in mind.
In a new book, All The Pieces Matter: The Inside Story of The Wire by Jonathan Abrams, the author has compiled an oral history of how the show came together, and in a segment of the book on the initial casting process (the snippet was published by GQ), creator David Simon talks about his first choice for the role:
I thought John C. Reilly could be a different McNulty, certainly not the same, but I thought he could carry all of the excesses and vices of McNulty in a different way. I’ve loved his work in a lot of stuff. I was on the phone with him. It was three weeks before Halloween , because I was in a corn maze with my kid, Ethan, who would have been like seven, six.”
“So, I’m trying to keep up with my kid, who’s running around like a madman in this maze, and that’s when John C. Reilly called me back. I really couldn’t take the call. I talked to him for maybe five minutes, and I said, “Hey, listen, can I call you back? I’m in a corn maze with my kid.” And he said, “Yeah, yeah. Call me back.” In the time between when he called me and when I called him back, he stopped taking calls. He later told Dom [West, who got the role] that his wife was like, “We are not moving to Baltimore.”
Yep, John C. Reilly, now best known for usually co-starring with Will Ferrell in bonkers comedies.
However, back at the turn of the millennium, Reilly was getting Oscar-nominations and critical love for his serious turns in the likes of Chicago and Magnolia, so maybe fifteen years ago, it doesn’t seem all THAT weird.
There but for the grace of God…
Clip via Adult Swim