It has long been known that the original choice to play Jack Shepherd in the ABC mega-hit series ‘Lost’ was Michael Keaton, though the details have remained a little vague as to why he dropped out of the pilot episode all those years ago. Fortunately, we now seem to have a definitive answer from the man himself, Michael Keaton, which pretty much matches up to what we had already heard from JJ Abrams and the other creative forces behind the series.
According to Keaton himself:
“J.J. and I had a conversation; he told me about this thing he does…He said, and here’s what happens, the guy that you think is the lead, dies in the last 10 minutes. Those kinds of things intrigue me, so I went, ‘Oh.’ And I thought, ‘Yeah.’ The idea of doing an hour television show–I was just too lazy. So, I thought, wow this is pretty good, but then I don’t have to be in the series. I think what happened was–and I’ve never really talked to him about this–[either] he thought better of it or the studio said, ‘That ain’t gonna happen.’ And then there was kind-of a half a conversation about, ‘Well, do you have any more interest.’ The offer changed.”
So basically, Keaton was interested when he thought all he had to do was be in the pilot, be awesome, and then die, not having to commit to the entirety of a TV series, which makes sense for a man more interested in being a film star than a television actor. In a way, he wanted to go the Ned Stark approach long before the general public even knew who Ned Stark or ‘Game of Thrones’ even was, which was really forward thinking of him (rumor has it that Sean Bean agreed to play Stark for similar reasons, because he knew he would not be tied to ‘Game of Thrones’ for long). And the whole idea behind killing Jack in the pilot was a message Abrams wanted to send to the audience that NO ONE was safe on ‘Lost,’ not even a character that was being built up as the primary antagonist, but ABC execs quickly convinced him to change his mind, and I think that was disappointing to Keaton.
Granted, in the case of ‘Lost,’ if things had gone down as originally planned, and Jack would have died, Kate would have become the leader the of the island, and it would have become a much different show. Who knows if it would have been as successful or beloved, or if it would have been even better. As for how it did go down, Matthew Fox stepping in made for a perfect Jack Shepherd, and some would say (myself included) that he really was the heart of the show, and led the cast, and I cannot imagine ‘Lost’ without him, so it seems like everything worked out for the best.
What are your thoughts on the matter? Would the show have been more epic had it killed off Jack as originally planned? I mean, by the end a lot of beloved characters did die over the course of the show, and you never got the sense that anyone was safe, so I think they still managed to succeed on that front, but still, you always felt that Jack was safe, at least until the end. Feel free to share your opinions in the comments below!