Norman Lear almost cast Mickey Rooney as Archie Bunker in All in the Family. He recalled that time he spoke with Rooney about playing the 'bigot' character.
Mickey Rooney’s would-be role as Archie Bunker is one of those famous “castings that almost happened,” and All in the Family creator Norman Lear will never forget the actor’s speech that made both parties think twice.
“In New York, I thought before I came out here and met Carroll [O’Connor], I thought about Mickey Rooney playing the role,” Lear tells Black-ish creator Kenya Barris in the PEN interview above. “I knew his manager. I never met Mickey Rooney. I called his manager and he said, ‘Well, Mickey’s in the office, he happens to be in the office. Why don’t you talk to him?'”
Lear continues to recall how Rooney spoke of himself “in the third person” over the phone and declared, “If you got something for the Mick, just tell ’em.”
When Lear described the Archie character as a bigot, Rooney responded with an unforgettable speech: “‘Norm, they’re gonna kill you. They’re gonna shoot you dead in the streets.’ Can never forget this speech. ‘You wanna do something with the Mick, listen to this: Vietnam vet, short, blind, large dog… private eye.'”
Clearly, that didn’t work out, and Lear ended up casting Carroll O’Connor as Archie Bunker in All in the Family.