Julia Roberts Was Originally Starring In SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, But She Left The Project After She Couldn’t Get Her Leading Man — GeekTyrant

The 1998 movie Shakespeare in love was nominated for 13 Academy Awards and won 7 of them, but the road to making and releasing the film was quite difficult. The film follows a fictional version of the world’s greatest playwright, William Shakespearewho “is young, out of ideas and out of cash, but meets his ideal woman and is inspired to write one of his most famous works.”

The movie is charming and sexy, and the acting is great, me Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes in the lead, accompanied by Geoffrey Rush, Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Colin Firth and Imelda Staunton. But Paltrow’s award-winning performance almost wasn’t, as another Hollywood elite had the role before her.

Producer Edward Zwick recently published a first-person essay for Air Mail (via Variety ) about the making of Shakespeare in loveand talked about Julia Roberts joining and leaving the project in spectacular fashion.

According to Zwick, Universal Pictures agreed to pay for the film only when Steel magnolias and Beautiful woman actor Julia Roberts expressed interest in starring in the lead role. Zwick wrote:

“The mere possibility of ‘Pretty Woman’ wearing a corseted gown excited the studio enough to cough up the dough. Ten weeks later I returned to London, where a dry copy of Stoppard’s first draft awaited me in my fancy hotel room.’

Later, Zwick traveled to London with Roberts, where the two were going so that Roberts could do chemistry readings with several actors lined up to play William Shakespeare. Zwick said Roberts was obsessed with casting Daniel Day Lewis in the role, even though Day-Lewis had already told Zwick that he was committed to filming In the Name of the Father with his own My left leg director Jim Sheridan.

Zwick recalled Roberts telling him:

“He’s brilliant – he’s handsome and intense. And so funny! Did you see his performance in “A Room with a View?” He has also done Shakespeare. Don’t you think that would be perfect?…I can make him do it.”

Zwick said that almost immediately Roberts had her assistant “send two dozen roses to Daniel Day-Lewis, along with a card that said, ‘Be my Roman.’

Later, at a dinner with Roberts and Stoppard the night before the chemistry reading, Zwick said that Roberts “got a text and stood up, grabbed her bag, gave a quick confused apology that she had forgotten plans to saw an old friend and hurried away.” Then Roberts didn’t show up the next morning to read chemistry. Zwick said he met with the actress in her hotel room, where she “kept telling me that Daniel was going to do the movie and I would have to cancel today’s casting.”

Zwick later met personally with Day-Lewis, who once again told him he was committed to it In the Name of the Father. Zwick had an assistant deliver the news to Roberts’ team. Roberts showed up at chemistry readings the next day and paired up with him Ralph Fiennes.

“Even when Ralph did his best to produce the famous smile, Julia barely recognized him. I’m not implying that he was deliberately sabotaging, but it was a disaster nonetheless. I tried to catch Ralph’s eye to apologize as he was leaving, but he couldn’t get out of there fast enough. After she left, I turned to Julia, waiting for her reaction. ‘He’s not funny’ is all he said.’

Zwick continued:

“The rest of that day and every day of the week that followed went just as badly. I no longer have my cast lists, but among the young actors who have yet to be discovered, I remember: Hugh Grant, Rupert Graves, Colin Firth, Sean Bean, Jeremy Northam. Julia found fault with all of them: one was rigid, the other was not romantic, and so on.

Roberts continued to do so Notting Hill opposite Hugh Grant very soon after this incident, but I digress. Zwick said it took two weeks from the casting until Julia agreed to try out with the actor Paul McGann.

Zwick went on to say:

“On the morning of the audition, Julia came out of her make-up looking radiant in period costume. But as soon as he started to say the words, something was wrong. There was no magic. The problem wasn’t the script. Or Paul McGann. It was Julia. From the moment he started speaking it was clear that he hadn’t worked on the accent.

“Sensing Julia’s distress, I tried to be encouraging, but she must have sensed my concern and made the tragic mistake of underestimating her insecurity. Having only recently rocketed to the dizzying heights of the Hollywood food chain, she must have been terrified to fail. But I would never be able to talk her off the ledge. The next morning, when I called her room, they told me she had checked out.”

Zwick contacted Roberts’ manager, who said he informed him, “Julia had flown back to the US and was leaving the project.” Zwick said he called Tom Pollock, the head of Universal at the time, who informed him that the company had already spent $6 million on the project at the time. On the strength of Roberts’ casting, the studio had already begun building sets, making costumes and securing locations. Zwick said Pollock assured him he would return Roberts, but never did.

Zwick said:

“I have never spoken to Julia before. Instead, I’ve watched from afar as her work grew in depth and stature. I bear her no ill will. She was a scared 24-year-old. I wasn’t much older, trying to act grown-up as I watched the Globe Theater being torn down. And with him my dreams of greatness.”

Shakespeare in love it would eventually be revived by Harvey Weinstein at Miramax Pictures, but not without the now-disgraced producer threatening to fire Zwick from the project. Gwyneth Paltrow was cast in the role, which would later earn her an Academy Award for Best Actress. She was excellent in the film and losing this role didn’t hurt Roberts’ career in any way. So it all worked out.

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