Even today, big stars want to be on The Simpsons. However, three action giants declined the opportunity during the show’s peak. The Simpsons continues to be a significant force even after more than three decades. With a vast viewership, it holds the record for the most episodes of any American prime-time scripted series and has secured its place in the annals of television history.
Early in its run, the animated sitcom was a pop culture juggernaut. It spawned toys, video games, mountains of merchandise, and even a comedy album. People were so hungry for The Simpsons, that they paid to see this:
Of course, that sort of heat means celebrities of all stripes wanted to be on the show. Dustin Hoffman, Ringo Starr, Danny DeVito, and Michael Jackson all appeared on The Simpsons early in its run. Therefore, it came as no surprise that the writers had some top action stars in mind when they crafted season five’s “Springfield (or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling).”
How Three Major Action Stars Passing on ‘The Simpsons’ May Have Been a Blunder
Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone, and Arnold Schwarzenegger were set to appear together in the now-classic episode. The plot involves Mr. Burns opening a casino that causes chaos for the Simpson family. Per The Simpsons season five DVD commentary, co-creator Matt Groening claims he was promised that if the series included Planet Hollywood, the three stars would promote their restaurant chain. However, Willis, Stallone, and Schwarzenegger ended up being too busy to appear. As a result, the episode included a guest star who humorously portrayed a self-deprecating character, possibly as a subtle jab at the main stars.
Veteran crooner Robert Goulet appeared as a fictionalized version of himself in the episode. Goulet was fooled into taking a gig at Bart’s illegal treehouse casino when schoolyard bully Nelson claimed to have spoken with Goulet’s agent. Goulet’s willingness to poke fun at himself opened up all kinds of jokes for the writers, making his scenes stand out. It’s certainly a classic “what if” situation. Had Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone, and Arnold Schwarzenegger appeared and been willing to be good sports, they would be part of the classic show’s legacy.
Of course, the action stars all floundered in comedy films around the same time this The Simpsons episode dropped. Hudson Hawk, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot and The Last Action Hero are all considered huge blunders for Willis, Stallone, and Schwarzenegger. Perhaps if the trio had appeared on The Simpsons, audiences would have been open to checking out their comedic chops.
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