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Julian Wiles, Founder and Producing Artistic Director
Marybeth Clark, Associate Artistic Director

February 2, 2009

Rock Hudson As Atticus?

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 4:35 pm

That’s a scary thought, isn’t it?  But according to author Charles Shields, Rock Hudson, because of his star power, was under serious consideration to play the part of Atticus Finch in the film version of To Kill A Mockingbird.  Shields, author of Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee (a wonderful biography of Nelle Harper Lee) provides many insights into the writing of To Kill A Mockingbird.  Atticus Finch, the lawyer at the center of the novel, was based on Lee’s father, A.C. Lee was appointed to defend two black men accused of murder about the time Harper Lee was 10 years old.  After he lost the case, he never took another criminal case.  A.C. Lee’s love of the law, however certainly influenced his daughters.  His eldest daughter Alice became one of the few women lawyers in Alabama in 1943 and Nelle followed Alice to law school, but Nelle left law school just one semester shy of her degree.  Nelle had decided to move to New York to pursue a writing career, an unprecedented move for a young woman from a small Southern town, but then Nelle Harper was no ordinary young woman.  Nelle took with her her memories of childhood—a mad dog that terrified the town, a neighbor who shot at a prowler in his collard patch, and especially of her father.  All of these became elements of what would become To Kill A Mockingbird.  Mr. Lee was a prominent member of the community and served as editor of the local paper—a man known to be thoughtful and fair, traits amplifed in the new novel his daughter began writing, a novel she at first entitled “Atticus”.  When the movie rights were sold,  Nelle Lee thought of Spencer Tracy for the part.  Tracy was approached, but in the meantime the director and producer offered the role to Gregory Peck who jumped at the role.  Most consider Peck’s portrayal of Atticus his best role and indeed he won the Oscar for Best Actor.  We have a distinguished Charleston actor in the role of Atticus, Victor Clark.  Last spring he showed us his comic skills playing more than a dozen roles in the acclaimed Greater Tuna.  But Atticus is a character with wit and wisdom, and Vic in many ways is perfect for this role.  Like A. C. Lee the model for Atticus,  Vic has two daughters of his own, and his experiences as a father will no doubt be reflected in his portrayal of this rich and powerful character.

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