Hunchback of Notre Dame Directors Reveal Mandy Patinkin Had Awful Audition

Mandy Patinkin is a celebrated actor with a long career and dozens of memorable roles -- some even iconic. But everyone has a bad day, and apparently his audition for Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame was memorably bad for the filmmakers behind the animated film. The audition was memorable not necessarily because he was bad -- but becuase it was a bizarre experience all around, perhaps speaking to the eccentricities of actors, or an overabundance of enthusiasm on Patinkin's part to be playful and creative in delivering the audition. The end result may not have gotten him the job, but at least it's something that people still talk about sometimes.

According to directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, having a Disney pianist there, and the songwriters behind the movie's music, didn't keep Patinkin from wanting to bring somebody who played along with him, and rearranged the song for the occasion. That's the kind of thing -- especially at Disney -- that ends up becoming an urban legend with maaaaybe a few over-the-top cartoons drawn of "The Patinkin Incident" after the fact.

"He brought his own accompanist," Trousdale told Collider. "We had a guy there. He was on the piano and everybody who came in and sang, he supplied the music. His accompanist had rearranged the song....So they played it. And Kirk and I were like 'huh.' You could see Alan and Stephen just turning red and levitating. Like the room behind them was getting dark. And when he finished with the song, I can’t remember who it was, but almost immediately they said, 'Kirk and Gary do you want to step outside?' We said, 'Okay.'"

The directors are not 100% sure what happened when the musicians and Patinkin discussed the changes he had made to the music, but apparently it didn't go especially well.

"We could hear an animated discussion happening behind the door and then Mandy Patinkin came back out, ostensibly to work with us on a little bit of the dialogue," Wise said. "He was going to read a dialogue scene, because he hadn’t yet for his audition. We were supposed to give him some feedback and talk about the character. He was very gracious with us and he's talking with us and nodding and a little bit intense. Then, in mid-sentence, Gary and I were talking and at one-point Mandy goes, 'Guys, I'm really sorry, I can't do this.' And he turns on his heel and he goes back into the room and shuts the door. Then the fireworks really started. The walls shook."

The filmmakers said that the ensuing argument was so loud and so over-the-top that the engineer and casting director fled the room and stood outside with the directors in shock, while Patinkin so angered lyricist Stephen Schwartz that he stormed out and had to be cajoled to come back into the audition room -- and maybe the film? -- by composer Alan Menken.


Patinkin seems to have a my-way-or-the-highway attitude about a lot of parts; he left both Criminal Minds (which he said was "destructive to [his] soul") and Homeland over creative differences, both times rather abruptly. Castmates and producers on both shows said that he was focused and professional right up until the moment he decided to leave, though, so it isn't like he's a cancer on set.

As noted in the Collider interview, Patinkin didn't give nearly this many details, but said in a 1997 profile in the Los Angeles Times that "they sent me a song and I worked on it the way I work on songs," but that "right there at the audition said, 'I can't do this.'"