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Along with being one of the most popular romance movies of the last several decades, The Notebook also played a huge role in boosting Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams careers. Gosling and McAdams respectively played lovers Noah Calhoun and Allie Hamilton, with James Garner and Gena Rowlands appearing as the older versions of Noah and Allie. However, had production on The Notebook unfolded differently, we could have seen George Clooney and Paul Newman both occupying the Noah role.
While recently promoting his new movie The Midnight Sky, George Clooney revealed that both he and Paul Newman were being lined up to star in The Notebook. So why didn’t it work out with these two, with Ryan Gosling and James Garner being cast instead? Here’s what Clooney told EW:
Paul and I talked about doing it, and we were sitting there one day and I was looking at him and I go, 'I can't do this movie, Paul.’ He was like, 'Why?' I was like, 'Because everybody knows what you look like at 30 years old. You got blue eyes, I got brown eyes. You're too famous at 30 for me to be playing you at 30, it's never gonna work.' And he's like, 'I guess you're right.'
George Clooney had a point. By the time Paul Newman hit his mid-30s, he’d already scored acclaim from movies like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and The Hustler, so it was easy enough for people to recollect how he’d looked at that point in time decades later. As a result, George Clooney felt this physical profile didn’t properly match Newman’s features enough for him to be playing the younger Noah Calhoun.
So ultimately, George Clooney decided to pass on The Notebook, and eventually Paul Newman bowed out too, paving the way for Ryan Gosling and James Garner to be cast as the younger and older Noah. New Line Cinema acquired the film rights to The Notebook in 1996, the same year Nicholas Sparks’ original novel was published, and screenwriter Jeremy Leven was hired for the movie a few years later. So presumably it was around this time that Clooney and Newman were approached. Other actors who’d been approached to star in The Notebook beforehand were Tom Cruise and Jessica Simpson.
Of course, George Clooney was doing pretty well for himself in the late ‘90s, as he was starring in the NBC series ER and appeared in movies like From Dusk Til Dawn and Batman & Robin (though he later apologized for the latter). Considering Clooney would go on to star in the likes of Ocean’s Eleven, Good Night, and Good Luck and Michael Clayton, to name just a few, it’s not like missing out on The Notebook impeded his career. Paul Newman passed away in 2008, and Road to Perdition and Cars were among his final movies.
As for how The Notebook turned out in its final form, while it was initially met with mixed reception among professional critics, it continues to be a fan favorite over 15 years after its release. Commercially, it pulled in over $116 million off a $29 million budget.
Should you find yourself in the mood to rewatch The Notebook, it’s available to stream on Netflix, and not to worry, it’s the original version as opposed to the alternate cut that had previously been on the site. Learn what movies are heading to theaters in the near future with our 2021 release schedule.