Actor Michael Baldwin has played Mike Pearson, the hero of the Phantasm horror franchise, in four of the series’ five films. The exception was 1988’s Phantasm II, which starred a young James Le Gros, who would go on to appear in Drugstore Cowboy, Living in Oblivion, and Girls. But Mike was almost played by someone who became a much bigger star: Brad Pitt.
Director and Phantasm overlord Don Coscarelli related the tale when he appeared on this week’s installment of Entertainment Weirdly on EW’s Sirius XM channel to discuss his new memoir, True Indie: Life and Death in Filmmaking.
“The studio would not allow Michael Baldwin to have the role [in Phantasm II], so we had to search for other actors,” said Coscarelli. “I was interviewing every hunky male actor in Hollywood. When we did Phantasm III, 10 years later, I brought Michael Baldwin back to play the role, and he reminded me that he had been friends with Jennifer Aniston before she was successful. He said that he was with her and her new boyfriend, and it was Brad Pitt, and he came over to Michael and he said, ‘Hey, you’re the Phantasm guy! I tried out for that movie, and I didn’t get the role.’
Coscarelli continued, “Michael came and told me that and I go, ‘Mmm, I don’t remember Brad Pitt.’ In any case, a few months later, I had nothing to do and I found this little videocassette of all of those things, and I was fast-forwarding through, and there sure enough, the casting director opens the door and she goes, ‘Don Coscarelli, meet Brad Pitt.’ And he walked in and, you know, he was a good-looking guy and his reading was really good. He wasn’t the Brad Pitt back then, this was before he did Thelma and Louise. In any case, big mistake on my part obviously, [although] James Le Gros is a terrific actor and he’s gone on to a stellar career.”