When the creative team behind "School Ties" — which included "Law & Order" creator Dick Wolf and director Robert Mandel — were putting together the cast for their high school drama about a Jewish football player facing antisemitism at an elite prep school, they were tasked with finding fresh young faces who they hoped would be able to carry the movie despite not yet having any star power. It had worked before, after all, perhaps most famously in "The Outsiders." And much like Francis Ford Coppola struck gold with a cast that included Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, and Rob Lowe, Mandel and Wolf hit the jackpot and found bonafide big screen stars in Brendan Fraser, Chris O'Donnell, Ben Affleck, and, of course, Matt Damon.
Obviously, when you've got a bunch of talented and handsome young actors on set generating buzz about which one of them will be the Next Big Thing, it's only natural that some tension would start to build. Even if there was camaraderie among the cast, chances are they were going to wind up fighting for the same roles, and Hollywood can be plenty cutthroat. So when the opportunity arose for an up-and-coming actor to star alongside the one and only Al Pacino in his 1992 film "Scent of a Woman," it's not a surprise that every young actor in the business would be vying for the part. Given the fact that a slew of the hottest young names were filming together at the time — in between testing with Pacino — it ended up making things a little … awkward.
Fighting For A Once In A Lifetime Role
Al Pacino is a legend, and already had been for 20 years by the time "Scent of a Woman" came along. The man was Michael Corleone, for goodness sake. (Although, given he first got the part when he was a young unknown himself, even that was touch and go for awhile.) He's an icon and a hero in Hollywood, to the point where even Keanu Reeves took a multi-million dollar pay cut just for the chance to work with him. Obviously, getting the second lead in a Pacino headliner was a dream job for every young actor working on "School Ties." Naturally, basically everyone in the film read for "Scent of a Woman," and as Robert Mandel noted, it led to some friction on the set. As the director told Yahoo! in a September 2022 interview:
"I did sense a certain friction because they all knew they were up for it. I think they knew who the finalists were and I think there was some friction. I remember they did have to leave the set and come back and we didn't talk about it a lot, but I could sense something was happening there. And I'm sure they were all testing with Pacino, so that was a big, big deal for them."
The role in question eventually went to Chris O'Donnell, essentially anointing him the next big Hollywood star. Of course, to some degree, you almost have to wonder if some of the other actors in the cast feel like they might have dodged a bullet by not being launched into the showbiz stratosphere so quickly. After all, O'Donnell may have had the early success, but at least none of the rest of the "School Ties" cast ever had to wear Bat-nipples.
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