Who do you get to play an Italian who became a sailor in Portugal before exploring for the Spanish? An Irishman Gabriel Byrne of HBO's In Treatment if you're making a miniseries in the '80s. A Frenchman the ever charming Gérard Depardieu if you're making an explorer flick in the '90s. Or perhaps a plain old American Fredric March, "the quintessential actor's actor," according to the New York Times if you're making a classic epic in the '40s.
There have been Columbus operas, plays, books, cartoons, TV series and films. There was an especially impressive rash in 1992, 500 years after that first voyage, when no less than four films were released: 1492: Conquest of Paradise; Carry on Columbus; Christopher Columbus: The Discovery; and, though it sounds like it might be about another kind of trip, The Magic Voyage. Supporting casts have included everyone from Marlon Brando and Tom Selleck to Sigourney Weaver and Faye Dunaway.
One reviewer of Byrne's rendition poked fun at the irresistible story line, saying Columbus will "spend seven years on his knees petitioning Faye Dunaway [Queen Isabella] for his square-riggers before he brings horses and discovers tobacco in 'paradise' (your basic Haiti). After which there are floggings, and venereal disease desire under the palms and the ever-popular rape and pillage."