“The Graduate”: Not Starring Robert Redford
[Mike] Nichols, who had championed the idea [of casting Robert Redford as Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate], surprised himself by turning the actor down.
“We were friends, we had done Barefoot, I was playing pool with him, and I said, 'I'm really sad, but you can't do it. You can't play a loser,'” says Nichols. “He said, ‘Of course I can play a loser!’ I said, ‘You can’t! Look at you! How many times have you ever struck out with a woman?' And he said, I swear to you, ‘What do you mean?’ He didn't even understand the concept. To him, it was like saying, ‘How many times have you been to a restaurant and not had a meal?’”
— from Mark Harris' “Pictures at a Revolution,” pg. 237