Harry Shearer (The Simpsons, Spinal Tap) was ALMOST Eddie Haskell
Ned Flanders could've picked on the Beaver!
Some Hollywood castings seem fated. An actor performs a role so well that we can't imagine it any other way. Nobody else could've been Gilligan. There's only one Archie Bunker. A Festus by any other name wouldn't smell as ripe.
But the reality is that casting is a fickle thing. Often, those perfect decisions aren't made until the eleventh hour, with last-minute shake-ups changing the look and feel of an entire series. There are plenty of reasons why a casting director might pull a switcheroo. The best of them make it seem like everything was destined to be that way from the beginning.
While it may seem like Ken Osmond was born to play Eddie Haskell, things almost didn't turn out that way. Leave it to Beaver was first introduced to the world as a pilot titled It's a Small World, and that show featured some fundamental differences. For instance, the character we know as Eddie Haskell was then known as Frankie Bennett, and he was played by a different — but still familiar — face.
You're probably more familiar with Harry Shearer's voice, though, than his face. On The Simpsons, Shearer has become a modern-day Mel Blanc, giving voice and life to countless classic cartoon characters. He's Ned Flanders, Mr. Burns, Smithers, Principal Skinner, Reverend Lovejoy, and countless others from Springfield and beyond.
Beyond The Simpsons, Shearer is probably best known for the rock mock doc This Is Spinal Tap, in which he played fictional British heavy metal musician Derek Smalls. The influential movie was underseen at the time but has since grown to cult status, elevating Shearer's profile along the way.
So, what happened? We all love Ken Osmond, but why didn't Shearer proceed with the role?
"My parents," Shearer explained in a 2010 interview on The Howard Stern Show. "They said, 'It's cool for you to be a working actor,' but I was going to public school. And they said, you know, 'If you're going to be in a show, as a part of the cast, week in and week out, then we're going to have to take you — you can't go to public school, we're going to have to put you in one of those special Hollywood schools, we don't think that's right.'"
But what of his career? Did Shearer ever resent his parents for costing him what could've been a role that brought him instant fame as a youngster?
"No, my parents were on my side," he said.