' ' Cinema Romantico: What Role in Road House Did Stephen Colbert Read For?

Thursday, May 21, 2020

What Role in Road House Did Stephen Colbert Read For?

I am, for reasons that only concern us today in terms of expository purposes, an avid watcher of “Real Housewives of New York City.” I do not apologize. And like most Bravo programs, it is followed by “Watch What Happens Live”, a talk show, of sorts, hosted by the network’s impresario Andy Cohen, where he typically interviews both a personality from the show that has just aired and a celebrity guest. After last Thursday’s episode, however, Cohen had but one guest, Stephen Colbert. As he does with everyone who appears, Cohen asked Colbert a series of semi-serious questions, including about failed auditions. And it was then that Colbert, talk show host two times over and former correspondent on another talk show, sipping an espresso martini, advised that he once auditioned for “Road House.”

That’s “Road House.” [Pause to let the title sink in further.] The 1989 action thriller in which, to quote IMDb, “a tough bouncer tames a dirty bar”, that is, depending upon whom you ask, a cult classic, just a classic, bad, good-bad, in poor taste, high art, or director Rowdy Herrington’s second best movie after “Striking Distance.” This immediately prompted the question that this blog and this blog only is qualified to ask – for what “Road House” part did Stephen Colbert did audition?

Imagine this guy auditioning for Road House.
We can rule out certain roles immediately, of course. Colbert was not playing Wade Jennings or Brad Wesley, never mind Dalton. If Sam Elliott or Ben Gazzara or Patrick Swayze were asked to audition, then the casting director had done lost her mind. Colbert did once front a Rolling Stones cover band, but Jeff Healy is Jeff Healy even if he’s playing a character named Cody. Perhaps Colbert could have auditioned for Frank Tilghman, owner of the Double Deuce, the dirty bar in question, though the role would have to be reimagined as a first-time proprietor out of his depth and I don’t think the powers that be would have allowed such a reimagining even in the audition room.

I like imagining Colbert as Jimmy, Brad Wesley’s foremost henchmen, with his shirt unbuttoned down to his navel, but I’m not sure his martial arts expertise would have been up to snuff to get a reading.

Now Colbert might seem to make no sense as Tinker, the Capterpillar ball cap wearing henchmen with suspenders who gets maimed by a fake polar bear. But that’s only because John William Young made the part so indelible. Perhaps Colbert read for Tinker but played the part as a kind of out of time greaser?

Likewise, I can sort of see the more maniacal version of the Colbert Report Stephen Colbert driving a monster truck a la Brad Wesley’s henchman Gary Ketchum. Is there footage of 1980s Stephen Colbert pretending to be at the wheel of a monster truck?

Colbert does make some sense as Pat McGurn, the conceited, dummy bartender skimming the drawer, but John Doe was well known as the co-founder of the punk band X and I find it hard to believe he would have been made to read against a skinny dufus from Northwestern drama.

If, however, you take this Colbert, imagine him a couple decades younger, you can imagine him as the Dancing Shirtless Guy. (If you have seen “Road House”, you need no further clarification. If you have not seen “Road House”, you deserve to find out for yourself.) But do you read for the part of Dancing Shirtless Guy? What’s to read? Wouldn’t you just dance? Shirtless?

I’m not sure you would need to read for the part of the “Loudmouth” either, the dude in the floral print shirt who pulls a switchblade and gets roundly dismissed from the premises by Dalton, but it’s easy to see Colbert in that role. Not because of the floral print shirt, necessarily, though Colbert would look at home in one in the worst best way possible, but because I can see him brandishing that switchblade to the cocky hilt, teetering on the border of parody and a straight face.

But. I think in the end Colbert must have read for the part of Steve. As a hapless bouncer who gets roughed up, ruining his pretty face, and then gets unceremoniously removed from his position by Dalton for engaging in salacious affairs while on his ostensible break, the guy is mostly there for additional comic relief. Colbert could have played that part. And it’s good he didn’t, I think, because given Steve’s coda, Stephen might never have made it to The Ed Sullivan Theater.

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