To think what might have been! Saturday Night Live has paved the way for some of Hollywood's brightest stars — Eddie Murphy, Tina Fey, Bill Murray, and Kristen Wiig, to name just a few — but it also let some incredible comedians walk right out the door.
SNL producer Lorne Michaels sat down with The Hollywood Reporter recently to chat about the NBC mainstay, which is set to air its 40th anniversary special on Feb. 15. Reflecting back on his decades-long tenure with the show, the 70-year-old exec revealed some of the now-famous names he rejected.
"Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell auditioned," Michaels told THR when asked whether there was anyone he wished he'd hired. "There were lots of people who you'd see how brilliant they were, but you knew on some level that it wasn't going to work."
One such person? Lisa Kudrow, who went on to become a megastar on the 1990s sitcom Friends. "Lisa Kudrow gave a brilliant audition," he admitted, "but it was at the time when it was Jan Hooks and Nora [Dunn in the late 1980s, early '90s]."
The show also rejected comedic superstar Jim Carrey — but Michaels says that wasn't his decision. "I wasn't at the Jim Carrey audition, but somebody who was there said, 'I don't think Lorne would like it,' and they were probably wrong, but it doesn't matter," he shared. "Or maybe they were right — who knows? No one gets it all right."
Indeed, Michaels is the first to admit he's had some missteps in the past. Asked which season he'd like to do over, he chose 1985's season 11, which featured Joan Cusack, Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Michael Hall, Jon Lovitz, and Randy Quaid, among others — most of whom were fired prior to season 12.
"I wanted to recapture what [we had had when we started]," he explained of his reasoning at the time. "Dan Aykroyd was 22 [in 1975], I believe, and so was Laraine Newman. I think Bill Murray was, too. Gilda [Radner] and John [Belushi] were like 24. Chevy [Chase] was 31...We were just younger, and so I wanted to get back to that and I maybe went too young. I think it wasn't thought through as much as I would have liked it to have been."
Pick up the Feb. 13 issue of THR for more from Michaels and former SNL cast members.