Gregory Peck is probably most celebrated for his stellar performance as Atticus Finch in the 1962 adaption of To Kill a Mockingbird. However, the actor had a long and fruitful Hollywood career spanning decades, with performances in films such as Roman Holiday, Cape Fear, and The Big Country. So it might be a bit of a surprise that he wasn’t the #1 pick for the part of Ambassador Robert Thorn.
When searching for talent to take on the role of Thorn, several actors such as Charlton Heston, William Holden, and Roy Scheider had already passed on the role. True, Gregory Peck was an obvious choice for the part, but the studio was reluctant to reach out to the actor because Peck had suffered a family tragedy. Peck’s son, Jonathan, had recently died by suicide, so the studio wasn’t sure if Peck would be ready to take on any acting gigs. However, after reaching out to Peck’s agent, the studio got permission to forward the script to Peck, who quickly signed onto the project. Screenwriter David Seltzer says, “I think there may have been some connection in his exorcising his own sense of … I lost a kid, and when you lose a child, there’s no way not to feel at fault.”
Gregory Peck’s involvement with the picture certainly helped to elevate the film in the public’s perception. According to Alan Ladd Jr., “Putting Gregory Peck and Lee Remick in it, you’re saying to people right off the bat this is not a normal horror picture. It was scary, but it was classy scary.” Without Gregory Peck at the helm, it’s likely The Omen wouldn’t have gotten its sophisticated reputation.
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