LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) — We’ve seen who will cut a rug on the next “Dancing With the Stars.” But do you know who turned ABC down?
According to a source involved with casting, the network approached Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg to join the dance card for the show’s 11th cycle but was unable to secure him.
The network also lobbied unsuccessfully for Sylvester Stallone, political commentator Ann Coulter, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the real Erin Brockovich, billionaire Richard Branson, comic actor Tim Allen and former TV darling Suzanne Somers.
“We’ve approached a lot of people over the years,” executive producer Conrad Green told The Hollywood Reporter. “People say no for a variety of reasons. Some people like the show but think they suck at dancing. It’s a lot easier to say no than it is to say yes.”
Others who have taken a pass: Reality star Kirstie Alley, “Community” star Joel McHale and “The Price Is Right” host Drew Carey.
Although lobbying for a spot on the roster has proved successful in the past — hello, Melissa Joan Hart — the casting source said those who push usually have little success. “Melanie Griffith tries to get on every season,” the source said.
And even before rehearsals begin, whispers of on-set drama are running rampant.
Bristol Palin, daughter of former GOP vice presidential hopeful Sarah Palin, already has been dubbed this season’s Kate Gosselin, who was famously difficult at times last season. It also seems that the younger Palin has one mother of a chip on her shoulder.
“Bristol was really annoyed by all the questions about whether her mom would be in the audience to support her,” the source said. “She kept complaining about the amount of press she had to do. She is acting like this is all a big pain.”
Nonetheless, the Gosselin effect might be music to ABC’s ears. During her stint on the network last season, “DWTS” saw a surge in ratings — 23 million people tuned into the March 30 episode to see if Gosselin could remember her steps — and for the first time toppled reality competitor “American Idol.”
From “Jersey Shore” star Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino to America’s favorite TV mom Florence Henderson, it’s clear the network kept to its tried-and-true casting formula: a mix of longtime stars, athletes, a choice seemingly from out of left field and a heavy dose of familiar faces from reality shows.
“This show is a different kind of reality show,” said former “Hills” star Audrina Patridge, who is on the show next season. “It is much more challenging. I can’t wait for the audience to see a different side of me as I overcome my fears of being in front of a live audience.”
“DWTS” seems to be relying more heavily on controversial reality stars to bring in viewers in recent years.
The first six cycles of the series featured only two reality stars: “The Bachelor” contestant Trista Sutter and “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” star Kim Kardashian. However, the past four have seen six reality personalities grace the ballroom floor. With the addition of Patridge and Sorrentino this season, the trend continues.
“Every season you move things forward,” Green said. “When we first started, there weren’t many reality shows, now there are a billion of them. Everyone interesting to watch has either had a reality show or been approached for one. Those are the people buzzed about, and they are the same people that will make our show compelling to watch.”
What’s in it for contestants — besides exposure, a crash fitness course and ballroom bona fides?
According to the casting source, all contestants earn equal compensation for the show, subject to their ability to avoid elimination.
With a $345,000 pot up for grabs during the 10 weeks of airtime, the source said each star makes an initial $125,000 for signing, three weeks of rehearsal before the premiere and competing in the first two episodes, even if the cast member is cut after the first dance.
The breakdown for the remaining weeks is $10,000 an episode for Weeks 3 and 4, $20,000 an episode for Weeks 5 and 6, $30,000 an episode for Weeks 7 and 8, and $50,000 an episode for the final two weeks.
The production source said contestants forfeit a portion of their salary if they fail to meet the ultra-strict rehearsal schedule.
“Initially, they rehearse six hours a day, every day,” the source said. “Then it moves to eight hours a day. If they don’t comply with the entire schedule, the network will deduct it from their paycheck.”
But this doesn’t mean the network won’t accommodate some over-the-top requests.
“There is flexibility to take care of them,” the casting source said. “Not necessarily financially, but if they want a fancy hotel or transportation (they will allow it). No one is getting $500,000 for a season while someone gets a third of that. If they were to once on that, they would be screwed.”
Without fail, some stars attempt to bring their own team aboard for the show, but that’s another area the network holds the line on.
“Nobody has ever been allowed to use their own hair and makeup team,” the casting source said. “(If the network approved it), they would all want it.”
Additionally, ABC does not grant contestants the ability to be involved in the partner-selection process.
“Production pairs up the star and the professional,” the production source said. “If they didn’t, everyone would be vying for the same few dancers.”
Also in next season’s cast are former “America’s Got Talent” judge David Hasselhoff, singers Michael Bolton and Brandy, “Dirty Dancing” star Jennifer Grey, former NBA player Rick Fox, comedian Margaret Cho, former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner and Disney Channel sitcom star Kyle Massey.
“DWTS” will have its two-hour premiere September 20.