The iconic BBC comedy followed the Trotter family’s struggle to become millionaires through a number of failed get-rich-quick schemes. Only Fools and Horses recorded 64 episodes from 1981 until 2003 and made several further appearances, including at the London Olympics in 2012. Despite the show’s undeniable success, Sir David revealed that he was far from the first person to be considered to play Del Boy.
While Lennard Pearce and Nicholas Lyndhurst were chosen to play Grandad and Rodney Trotter very quickly, Sir David’s casting was a far slower casting process.
The London-born star claimed that no one else was asked to audition for those parts but Del Boy proved to be “a touch more problematic”.
By his “most conservative estimate”, Sir David was “merely the fifth option” that the “BBC would be interested in” for the role and there may have been others.
He quipped: “Why, perhaps you, dear reader, were considered for the role, too, and turned it down. It would hardly come as a shock to me.”
In Sir David’s new memoir A Del Of A Life, which was released in October, he listed the celebrities who were hoped to play the wheeler-dealer ahead of him.
They included the actor and voiceover specialist Enn Reitel, who was thought to be the “first port of call” but he was working on another project.
Next was Harry Potter star Jim Broadbent, who “turned it down” because he was preparing for a theatre role.
Robin Nedwell, of the Doctor in the House comedy series, and Billy Murray, who played Johnny Allen in EastEnders, were both considered too.
Sir David knew he could have “been offended” by being so low on the pecking order and believed that others would have been “terribly sniffy” about not being offered the role first.
However, the then-40-year-old considered it an opportunity to show them why they should have “come to me first”.
He concluded that it wasn’t important to be “first in line” but instead to be “the best you can be when you get to the front of the queue”.
Sir David felt that Reitel or Broadbent would have been a “much more plausible brother” for Lyndhurt’s character Rodney because of their height.
However, his casting fed into the underlying plotline that the Trotter brothers did not share a biological father.
Sir David described the story arc as a “wonderful insinuation” that was “never overplayed” but was “constantly hovering in the background”.
He also thought the comedic aspect of having a considerably shorter older brother worked way better as it was funnier to see a “smaller man punching up”.
Sir David also felt Del Boy’s constant bossing around “could have looked a bit like bullying” if the character was played by someone taller or the same height as Rodney.