Old School Americana & Nostalgia


‘Gilligan’s Island’: Alan Hale Jr. Went to Extreme Lengths to Get Lead Role

‘Gilligan’s Island’: Alan Hale Jr. Went to Extreme Lengths to Get Lead Role

It seems nothing short of death could have stopped Alan Hale Jr. from auditioning for a part in Gilligan’s Island

Hale Jr. starred as Jonas “The Skipper” Grumpy, the second-billed character, in the 1960s hit. The actor went on to play in all three seasons of the original show, all three made-for-TV movies, and both Gilligan Island spin-off series. The now legendary role became Hale Jr.’s legacy. 

According to a 1988 interview with CBS, Hale Jr. knew starring in Gilligan’s Island would be a career game changer. So when he got a call from CBS asking him to get to the studio for an audition, he refused to miss the chance. 

At the time, the actor was filming a movie in a remote area of Utah. And the modest production budget meant there was no transportation on set. The area also offered no rental cars, taxis, or airports. Hale Jr. was basically trapped. So he took matters into his own hands and hitched his way to a plane. 

“I was in St. George, Utah, doing a picture with Audie Murphy and I get this call to come down,” he told Bob Denver, via MeTV. “Well, we had a small budget picture. And there was kind of a difficulty as to how I was going to get there. There were no planes out of there, there were no rental cars…so I went out on the highway with my thumb.”

Alan Hale Jr. Was Immediately Offered a Spot in ‘Gilligan’s Island’

Alan Hale Jr. managed to make the 120-mile trip from St. George to Las Vegas. Once he got to Sin City, he caught a flight to CBS Studios. 

Fortunately, once he boarded the plane, the hard part was over. When Hale Jr. walked into his meeting with Gilligan’s Island creator Sherwood Schwartz and the network execs, Schwartz told him the part was already his. 

“If you’d like to be The Skipper, you are,” he recalled Schwartz saying. 

In 2019, Schwartz’s son, Lloyd J. Schwartz, detailed just how Hale Jr. walked into the meeting having already earned a part. While talking to Closer Weekly, he explained that his father was having trouble finding the perfect skipper. Then, one night, he went out to dinner and spotted Hale Jr. in the crowd—and it was love at first sight.

“Dad was upset because it was getting down to the wire,” he said. “He was at a restaurant with my mother, and at another table was Alan Hale, Jr., who my dad didn’t know. But he said, ‘That’s the guy!’ He didn’t approach him or anything, but the next day, he told the casting director to pursue him.”

“It turns out after that dinner, Alan had flown out to Utah, but they got him to come back and do the test from whatever Western movie he was doing,” he added. “I think he actually had to hitchhike and had a truck take him to Vegas.”