Horace And Pete may not have made a ton of money (yet, anyway), but it did earn everybody involved a lot of critical regard. And while Edie Falco and Steve Buscemi have both been rightly lauded for their contributions to Louis C.K.’s odd experiment in self-published TV, no one garnered as much positive word of mouth as veteran actor Alan Alda. Although he only appears in half of the show’s episodes, Alda’s take on the bitter, witty, bigoted Uncle Pete was key to establishing the show’s darkly comic tone, and his facility with the series’ black-hearted dialogue made his character as fascinating as he was disgusting. It was a big, meaty role, and Alda attacked it with gusto.
He almost didn’t get a chance, though, according to a recent episode of WTF With Marc Maron, in which C.K. detailed the long road to casting the character, and the various big names that passed it up along the way. Among them: Joe Pesci, who the part was originally written for, and Jack Nicholson. C.K. originally discussed Pesci’s potential involvement on an episode of The Howard Stern Show last week, detouring into Pesci’s opinion of his stand-up skills (“You’re no good at it”), and an anti-cunnilingus rant that made it into Uncle Pete’s mouth (with Pesci’s permission, which presumably explains why he was thanked in the show’s final credits) in “Episode 4.”
Having been turned down by the former Home Alone star, C.K. then went even bigger, approaching SNL’s Lorne Michaels to put him in touch with Nicholson. According to the WTF interview, Nicholson reportedly liked the script, but declined the part. When C.K. asked him why, the 78-year-old actor responded, “You know what I did today? I went out to the tree in my yard and I sat under it and I read a book. And when I was done, I went back inside.” (To be fair, that does sound a little more pleasant than spouting racist epithets on a dusty soundstage.)
C.K. then tried Christopher Walken—who, acting style aside, could really have sold the father-son connection between Uncle Pete and Buscemi’s character—before considering Alda. The writer and stand-up apparently had to be sold on the casting, but ultimately declared it the right call, telling Maron, “He fucking invented that character. It’s not what I had in my head. It was a billion times better.”
C.K. also hinted that he might still resurrect the show in some form, despite its seemingly conclusive finale. (For what it’s worth, he’s already got an established name lined up to play the next Horace: that’s Two And A Half Men’s Angus T. Jones playing Horace IX in the show’s final scene.)