ONLY FOOLS & HORSES character, ‘Del Boy’, was seemingly a tough role to hire for, with Sir David Jason merely fifth choice.
In Sir David’s brand new memoir titled ‘A Del Of A Life’, which was released in October, the celebrities who were shortlisted to play the wheeling and dealing king, were confirmed. They included actor and voiceover specialist Enn Reitel, thought to be the “first port of call” but was unable commit due to working on another project at the time.
Also in the list was Harry Potter star Jim Broadbent, who “turned it down” because he was preparing for a theatre based role. Ironically Jim did actually end up on the Peckham estate, eventually playing the role of Del Boy’s untrustworthy school mate (and copper), Roy Slater (3 episodes).
The late Robin Nedwell, known for his role in ‘The Doctor in the House’ comedy series, and Billy Murray, more famously known as Johnny Allen from EastEnders, were also both considered.
The iconic BBC comedy series, followed the Trotter family struggles, to make ends meet and ultimately to become millionaires, through flailing get-rich-quick schemes. The series recorded 64 episodes between 1981 until 2003 and included a number of specials, all family and festive favourites. Given the show’s undeniable success, Sir David revealed far from first choice to be considered for the role of the infamous ‘Del Boy’.
While Nicholas Lyndhurst (Rodney) and Lennard Pearce (Grandad) were chosen very quickly for their respective roles, Sir David’s casting was a much slower casting process. The London born star (Jason) claimed that no one else was asked to audition for those parts, however the Del Boy gig proved to be “a touch more problematic”.
By a “most conservative estimate”, Sir David was “merely the fifth option” that “BBC would be interested in” for the lead role and there were probably others.
Sir David knew he could have “been offended” by being so low on the selection pecking order and believes that others would have been “terribly sniffy” about not being the first nominee for the role. However, the then-40-year-old considered it an opportunity to show the BBC why they should have “come to me first”. He concluded that it wasn’t important to be “first in line” but rather to be “the best you can be when you get to the front of the queue”.
Sir David Jason’s book A Del of a life was published by Century in October and is available from amazon.