Chuck Norris almost played Red Forman on That ’70s Show instead of Kurtwood Smith. Here’s what happened and why Norris couldn’t take on the role.
Kurtwood Smith portrayed the family patriarch, Red Forman, on This 70s show but the character was almost played by Chuck Norris. Smith appeared in all eight seasons of the period sitcom and was revered as a fan favorite for his stern demeanor and catchphrases. The portrayal of Red, as well as all the dynamics of the Forman family, could have been very different if the show’s creators had had their first choice.
Red Forman has been portrayed as the tough, yet loving, father of the family. He was a sweet when it came to his daughter, Laurie, as she tended to get away with everything. Eric, on the other hand, saw the weight of Red’s harsh parenting techniques. In Red’s defense, he had to put up with a lot given that Forman’s house was the main meeting place for Eric’s friends. Red’s wife Kitty was in many ways the opposite of her husband, but they complemented each other well.
This 70s show was created by Bonnie Turner, Terry Turner and Mark Brazill. Prior to its debut in 1998, the creative team behind the series were tasked with setting up the cast for the set. Red was written as a hardened father due to his time in WWII and Korean War service. The producers initially sought out Chuck Norris for the role of Red. Norris was supposed to be their first choice for the role, and now that the series ended over a decade ago, it’s nearly impossible to imagine anyone other than Smith playing Red. Norris ultimately turned down the role of Red Forman due to scheduling issues.
The legendary actor really considered playing the role of Red for This 70s show, but his schedule simply did not allow him to join the project. When the sitcom was developed, Norris still played the role of Ranger Cordell Walker in Walker, Texas Ranger. The beloved crime series ran from 1993 to 2001, which overlapped with This 70s showthe first few seasons. Norris seemed like an appropriate choice at the time due to his time as a member of the US Air Force.
Smith may not have been the Reds’ first choice, but things turned out to be better. Red’s relationship with Eric was sometimes difficult, but as his son grew older they understood each other better. He also served as a father figure to Steven Hyde after the young man was put in a tough spot by his family. Red suffered from serious health problems but found a new life. Despite this, he never gave up calling others “idiots” or using his famous “my ass” threats.
After Smith was given the role of Red, he decided to use his relationship with his father as the inspiration behind Red’s behavior. He truly had an understanding of the character, making Red one of the most unforgettable figures in This 70s show. Smith continues to act to this day, but some viewers will always remember him as Red Forman. It’s unclear whether Norris would have had this kind of legacy had he taken on the role, as is the case with many long-running TV plays.
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