The Time Dane Cook Blew Steven Spielberg Away With An Audition, But Still Didn’t Get The Film Role

Dane Cook is something of a millennial icon. The stand-up comic garnered outstanding fame in the early 2000s with hugely successful comedy specials like Rough Around The Edges, Retaliation, and Vicious Circle. During this time, he had a rather successful movie career as well, though it may not have been one that film aficionados would etch into the cinema history books. But he almost had his big shot at a dramatic role, only to have the rug ripped out from under him when the project fell through. It was Steven Spielberg’s now-defunct Trial Of The Chicago 7.

As you can see in the video above, I recently caught up with Dane Cook to discuss his new stand-up special Above It All, and when I asked if he’d like to take on more dramatic roles, he told this gem of a story:

I've got a great Spielberg story. I went in for The Trial Of The Chicago [7] when he was directing it. There was a moment in time where he was good to go. And I went in for Zane, his casting director, and put myself on tape with her there. And she just looked at me and she was like, ‘that was, that was a really good audition, like, really good.’… and I got a call from my agent, he goes, ‘Spielberg wants to meet you tonight for dinner at his house. He watched the tape. He was blown away.’ And it was one of the coolest phone calls and moments in my life. Until about 3 hours later, I got another phone call from my agent. Same day, I'm getting ready for dinner. He goes, ‘the whole thing's done.’ It fell apart, in the same day. And I was mortified. I was so, I was so broken down by this.

The project was big news at the time of this event, as Steven Spielberg was originally set to direct the script written by Aaron Sorkin. Eventually Spielberg had to back out due to budget concerns following the 2007 Writers Guild of America strike. The film finally came to fruition in 2020, this time with Sorkin himself at the helm, and garnered a very positive overall reaction from critics and fans alike that later earned it six Academy Award nominations. 

While Dane Cook may have been a victim of over-exposure circa 2010, delving into dramatic acting has always been on the comic’s bucket list. He did star in 2007’s Mr. Brooks in a rather serious role alongside Kevin Costner, and proved that he has dramatic chops with a performance that garnered positive reactions. He even auditioned for the role of Steve Rogers in Captain America: The First Avenger, although the notorious jokester did manage to get in some trouble in the process. He still maintains a level of hope regarding the future of such endeavours, especially given the fact that he got the proper props from Spielberg himself:

I saw him three months later at like, you know, at some Hollywood shindig. And his assistant tapped me and says, you know, ‘Mr. Spielberg would like to chat with you.’ And I got to go over, and he put his hands on my shoulders. He goes, ‘you gave a great performance,’ and he gave me my flowers for the audition… but it was just like, it emboldened me to go, ‘if I'm patient and I just continue to do things when it's my time to do it, I hope other people will see that reflected in the work.’ And then who knows where, where we go from here.

So hope is not lost on Dane! The two have a rapport. Spielberg is obviously still maintaining his status as a cinematic legend, as his latest film The Fablemans is receiving rave reviews, and took the coveted People’s Choice Award during his first outing at TIFF. As for Dane Cook, he has a new special out called “Above It All,” which was shot at his own home in the Hollywood hills. It’s available right now on the platform Moments, but only for a limited period of time. The streamer focuses on live performances that one can tune into with a live chat feature, but is now offering a “replay” of the special. This is a far departure from the route that most stand-up comics of Dane Cook’s stature take. While Netflix is producing massive specials such as Gabriel Iglesias’ Stadium Fluffy this year, Dane prefered to take a different route, opting for a live-streaming, almost pay-per-view platform where he gets all available metrics and has personal legal ownership over the broadcast itself.

If you’re a fan, I can tell you with confidence that Above It All is delightful. The comedy special is more personal than most, and it’s available right now on Moment! If stand-up isn’t quite your jam, you can always check out our 2022 movie release schedule.

Jeff McCobb
Senior Video Producer

Jeff is a film buff who is ridden with gratitude that he gets to spout opinions about them for a living. He currently resides in Los Angeles, where he spends his time complaining about Los Angeles.