Looking for some vintage drama? Apparently the play of Shakespeare in Love from 1998 was a bit of a mess, so cool, settle in! It turns out that Gwyneth Paltrow ultimately won the role of Viola de Lesseps, which was originally intended for Julia Roberts. In a recent post for AirMail, via Variety, producer Edward Zwick revisited the reasons why Julia left the film, claiming that the company was initially ecstatic with her casting. The studio was so enthused that they were willing to spend the money just on the chance of having the Beautiful Woman wear a corseted gown.
The truth is that Julia was completely fixated on the thought of Daniel Day-Lewis portraying Shakespeare, to the point where she requested “that two dozen roses be sent to Daniel Day-Lewis, accompanied with a letter that read: “Be my Romeo.” However, DDL had other commitments, so Julia was forced to perform a chemistry read alongside Ralph Fiennes (who was eventually cast).
According to Variety, Edward claimed that Julia hardly acknowledged Ralph despite his best efforts to elicit the famed smile. “I’m not saying she was purposely sabotaging, but it was still a disaster. Ralph was leaving when I tried to apologise to him, but he was moving too quickly. I turned to face Julia after he had left to see how she would respond. ‘ She only uttered, “He’s not humorous.”
Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, and Sean Bean, to mention a few, were among the actors with whom Julia later conducted chemistry tests. However, everything changed when she performed a reading for Paul McGann.
“Julia emerged from makeup the morning of the exam, dazzling in full historical costume,” Edward recounted. But as soon as she started to speak, something seemed off. Magic was nonexistent. The script wasn’t the issue. perhaps Paul McGann. Julia was there. It was immediately apparent that she hadn’t been practising her accent from the moment she started speaking.
Julia left the project the following morning, despite Edward’s apparent attempts to be “encouraging,” according to a manager who just stated that “Julia had flown back to the U.S. and that she was departing the project.” Universal had already invested $6 million at this stage.
Edward said, “I never spoke to Julia again. Instead, I’ve watched as her work gained in complexity and stature from a distance. I have no malice for her. She was a terrified 24-year-old woman. When I watched the Globe Theatre being demolished, I wasn’t much older and was attempting to act like an adult. And it took my grandiose dreams with it.