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John C. Reilly Was Almost Cast as Jimmy McNulty on ‘The Wire,’ David Simon Reveals

A combination of phone tag and geography prevented it from happening.

John C. Reilly

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Dominic West earned great acclaim for playing Jimmy McNulty on “The Wire,” but he almost didn’t get the part. In an excerpt from Jonathan Abrams’ book “All the Pieces Matter: The Inside Story of The Wire,” series creator David Simon reveals that he originally had a very different actor in mind: John C. Reilly. The reason it didn’t happen? A combination of phone tag and geography.

“I thought John C. Reilly could be a different McNulty, certainly not the same, but I thought he could carry all of the excesses and vices of McNulty in a different way,” Simon says. “I’ve loved his work in a lot of stuff. I was on the phone with him. It was three weeks before Halloween [2001], because I was in a corn maze with my kid, Ethan, who would have been like seven, six. So, I’m trying to keep up with my kid, who’s running around like a madman in this maze, and that’s when John C. Reilly called me back. I really couldn’t take the call. I talked to him for maybe five minutes, and I said, “‘Hey, listen, can I call you back? I’m in a corn maze with my kid.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, yeah. Call me back.’ In the time between when he called me and when I called him back, he stopped taking calls. He later told Dom [West, who got the role] that his wife was like, ‘We are not moving to Baltimore.'”

“Later on, Dom was working with him on ‘Chicago’ and they’re looking at each other,” Simon continues. “They’re so different, and Dom’s like, ‘What were they going for?'”

The rest, as they say…

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