MovieChat Forums > The Six Million Dollar Man Discussion > Monte Markham, choice for the title role

Monte Markham, choice for the title role


I know this has been discussed before in another thread, I wanted to express my own thoughts on the subject.
Majors was now a well known TV star(Big Valley and Owen Marshall, while he had thoughts of crossing over to movies. I know he had a sizable part in Will Penny with Heston. It has been said that he was up for the Voight role in Midnight Cowboy, but was unable to take due to obligations to Big Valley. I have to question whether he wanted a role like this (given the homosexual theme).I think he had relegated himself to being a TV actor by now.
Back to the point.... Markham had film roles as well, I know he was in the sequel to The Magnificent Seven, in fact he was in a tele-film for Universal titled The Astronaut.(Would love to have a copy of this)
I feel Markham was a better actor for this role. If staying true to Caidin's original novel the character was supposed to robotic, cold, and calculating. His guest appearances as the Seven Million Dollar Man were excellent episodes. While Majors was good in the original 1972 ABC tele-film, I feel it was somewhat downhill after that. Albeit the role did evolve as he became a hero to Children worldwide.
With all this said, I love Majors as an actor. I grew up on syndication of SMDM, and followed his career through Fall Guy, and even up to Tour Of Duty.
Majors was the kind of guy you wanted to go play a game of touch football with and then go have a beer.
As far as acting chops go, I have to give the edge to Markham.
Apologies if this post was not cohesive.... I am caring for my two year old Son.:)

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Majors was a more established name, with series and lead credentials. Markham had more guest starring roles and never really headlined, or was in the principle cast of a series. Was he a better actor? In many respects, yeah. However, that is not always the chief concern when casting a lead actor in a series. Majors had the charisma to carry the show, which was a big part of its success and why he headlined another, in The Fall Guy. Markham just never seemed to have that leading man charisma.

With all of that said, Majors always struck me as the perfect actor to portray an astronaut. Astronauts were portrayed (largely accurately) as cool headed, daring individuals. They took chances, but always with calculated risks. They were problem solvers. Majors carried that off well, and had the proper military bearing, when in those situations. Listen to Jim Lovell in the Apollo 13 commentary, or from audio recordings of the mission. He has that calm tone that Majors has in the series.

I like Monte Markham; but, he was always more of a guest performer or supporting actor, not a lead.

"Fortunately, Ah keep mah feathers numbered for just such an emergency!"

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I think the premise of the series was for the title character to be a government agent/spy. The episodes that had Austin as an astronaut where pretty sparse. I believe Caidin's novel Cyborg portrayed Austin as a Col. in the Air Force(not sure how much space experience he had, it's been quite some time since i read the novel.)

While i agree with your comments of being cool headed and daring, that grew out of the test pilot culture of flying experimental aircraft(primarily jet fighters), most all of the early astronauts where from this culture. But back to my original point, the character, if being true to the Cyborg novel, was supposed to be a cold killing machine.
I think if you go back and look at those episodes, where Markham guest appeared, even his face had that cold glare( what you want to portray a cybernetic government agent who often needed to kill in order to fulfill his mission.) I know from seeing interviews Majors didn't like having to play a "robot", and he chose to interject more humor as part of the character.
I will agree that Majors was a well established TV star, and Markham was primarily a guest star, and that is probably why they chose him for the lead. You mentioned The Fall Guy, as did I, that was probably because both series were on the ABC network and Glen Larson the producer(Fall Guy) also had a good working relationship with Majors. I think Majors was much better suited to a role like Colt Seevers(sp.)

To sum it up, I'm not saying Majors wasn't a good actor. My point is, in my opinion, Markham would have done a better job as the character written in the novel Cyborg on which the series was based.

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Markham has kind of a hammy over-actor in the $7million episode, imo. Although Markham a lot of fun to watch, I think Majors was the better choice.

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Monte Markham was Martin Caidin's choice for Steve.

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Very possibly.

But as grendelkhan said "Majors had the charisma to carry the show..."

Monte Markham might have been a better actor, but with him as the lead I seriously doubt that we would remember the series today. Much the same as with Star Trek - Jeffrey Hunter made a great Captain Pike, and the pilot was good sci-fi, but would it have spawned the Trek franchise that we have today? I doubt it.

Of course, there's no way to know, but sometimes, I think things happen the way they're supposed to.

All of that being said, I wasn't really a fan of '6M$M' when it was first run, but I loved 'The Bionic Woman'.

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I disagree. Lee Majors is underrated. He never overacted. He is has got a natural acting ability. I love his quiet sense of humor. I was a little girl who developed a huge crush on the guy after watching this show. Think it was my first celebrity crush. Whenever he acts in anything, I try to watch it.

Markham didn't and doesn't hold a candle to Lee Majors. In fact, I had to look him up to find out what he looked like. Had know idea who the guy was. So if he was such a better actor, wouldn't he have become more famous than Lee. Lee went on to do another hit with the Fall Guy. I don't think The Six Million Dollar Man would have been such a big hit without Lee Majors.

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Again my point is, and if staying true to the original written material by Caidin, Markham was a better choice. Markham had a TV series in the late 60's just like Majors, and he had been in some feature films e.g., Return of Magnificent Seven. No he didn't have another series like Fall Guy, but I think your school girl crush, as you call it, is jading a cold, logical analysis of this situation.
Majors had a big chance to break out in Midnight Cowboy, but I don't think he wanted to play a character that had some homosexual overtones. You should do some more reading on who(Majors) was and not just get lost in physical appearance.

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Thanks for the advice... but I know quite a bit about who Lee Majors was. Have done plenty of reading on him. Sorry...I don't really care about the background of Cyborg. Lee Majors made the show a hit. Who cares if he didn't do Midnight Cowboy. I respect the man for the things he has done. Why must everything be over analyzed? It was over 40 years ago...doesn't really matter anymore. The show was entertainment and fun.

Have a great night.

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First Lee Majors had tremendous charisma but most of all he was chosen because of his tremendous athletic ability. I doubt very much that Monte Markham could have handled all the stunts that Lee Majors did himself. After the SMDM was over Mr. Majors he had severe problems with his knees and yes one has been replaced. Lee Majors was a great actor and in my opinion Mr. Markham overacted he was just a little too intense to play that part. I have seen Lee play many different parts in his career and believe that man can act and still is today.

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Lol, this is IMDb so there's no need to have to believe if he (or anyone else for that matter is still acting or working in the industry, or isn't ).

Lee Majors[link=nm0000516]I don't know what's a sig. line? Can't think of one! Can you tell me what one is?

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I don't doubt he had athletic ability, he played college football. If you remember, however, very early in the series, he did less and less of the stunts. It even got so in the closeup simple running scenes you could identify a stuntman.

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Yes they occasionally put in a stunt double for the running because he needed a break once in awhile but he said he did between 80 to 85% of his own stunts. When the series was over his knees were in very bad shape and has since had one replaced and the other needs to be. Long shot on running probably stuntman close shots of course him. Oh by the way he also played basketball and did hurdles in track and field and did everything he could to stay in shape.

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Ever try to sit through The Norsemen?

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No have not seen that. Lee is not happy with it either and kind of embarrassed about it

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I'm not debating the wisdom of casting either actor in the role of Steve Austin. The 2 actors had very contrasting methods of performing bionic scenes. Majors has a very understated way of performing his bionic scenes, even when he's fighting. Markham is extremely animated. Look at the way he does his running scenes...it's wild!

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Just chiming in with my opinion, because...why not?

I have always found Lee Majors to be incredibly wooden, and he was smart to stay with TV. He never would have lasted as a movie actor.

Monte Markham was a much better actor, IMO. Would have been very interesting to see him as the bionic man.

I read the book Cyborg as a young teenager, and remember the pilot movie for the series as being closer to the source material, in that Steve was more of a secret agent James Bond type of guy. I recall reading after the telefilm, the studio purposefully retooled the character to be closer to Major's limited range and appeal. By that I mean he did not have the chops to play an agent/spy type, so they had to make him a good ol' boy.

SO glad he did not do Midnight Cowboy, holy crap he would have been embarrassingly bad next to Dustin Hoffman.

Sorry if this hurts the Lee Major's fan club's feelings. I'm sure he's a great guy and he did fine within his scope.

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As a 10 year old at the time it was airing I can assure you the show could easily have been called the Lee Majors Hour to us, we wanted Lee Majors action figures that just happened to look like Steve Austin.

Markhams a great actor, but just would not have had that effect on the kids.

Its hardly a secret, watch the season 2 episode The Seven Million Dollar man with Markham and you can see his version of the character along with Majors. Markham is clearly a better actor, and it clearly doesn't matter given the nature of the part. Do you really want a deep acting talent for the Bigfoot episodes?

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I'm certainly not trying to say Markham was a master thespian!!

Remember he did play a role on Baywatch at some point in the series.

Nice to see that some are agreeing that Majors was very much an "everyman" and had wide appeal, thus gaining the role.

I recently saw they are playing Starflight One on cable, I shall sit through it!

I have heard they are trying to bring this "Bionic Man" character to the big screen and that would be an epic flop, unless it was made without the use of grandiose special effects and the like.

On another note, I watched The Astronaut with Markham on youtube... well worth a watch and shows how good tele-films used to be!

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YES, an epic flop as Marky Mark is totally wrong as Steve Austin.

I'll let you know when I come-up with a new signature, .

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Lee Majors was picked for this show of course because of his athletic ability and when they sat down to talk about it he made it plain that he would of not of curse play a comic book character like Batman. He of course did most of his own stunts including some he was not suppose too. Lee said he never worked soo hard in his entire life and it was not his favorite show as he said he was more like a Colt Seavers character and really loved that show. He got into a bad fight with studio at towards the end of the show and was happy of course when it was over. He was almost impossible for him to escape the image of the bionic man though he tried and today has excepted his fate.

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At one point he was almost going to be replaced by Gil Gerard.

I'll let you know when I come-up with a new signature, .

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Yes as by the fourth season he wanted out of the show but they finally broke down and gave him a big raise so he stayed for the last season and was glad when it was cancelled

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Great Post! It is 2 years later, and your son is now - and well, I hope! I, too, grew up with smdm and recently got the 5 seasons on dvd - watching season 1 - the plane in the himalayas episode...I actually showed my government class the bionic christmas carol today - last day of classes...

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Thanks for posting, and mentioning my Son. Yes, he is well, and ironically he has gotten interested in watching the dvd collection, calling Austin "the running man" LOL. Call me old fashioned, whatever, I can still watch the episodes and enjoy them. It's nice to see them in there original length, especially the tele-films. I think SMDM, as it was titled is a great tv movie and will probably hold up for many generations to come. Unfortunately all our childhood heroes age and I hope that Lee Majors is well and happy in his life. You should watch Will Penny with Charlton Heston in the starring role. It was Majors first significant feature film role and, albeit, a small role it is a good watch.

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Lee is doing very well and very happy with his life right now. He is still working and has a wonderful wife by his side. When not working he goes to fan conventions and attends many charity events. And yes I loved him in Will Penny

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