Julia Roberts Was Originally Cast As The Star Of ‘Shakespeare In Love’ And It Was A ‘Disaster,’ Says Producer

Julia Roberts attends the 28th Annual Critics Choice Awards on Jan. 15 in Los Angeles.  (Photo: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

Julia Roberts attends the 28th Annual Critics Choice Awards on Jan. 15 in Los Angeles. (Photo: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

Ahead of Sunday’s Oscars, producer Edward Zwick looked back at one of the many films he’s worked on, which won a whopping seven trophies in 1999: Shakespeare in love.

Zwick, in a new excerpt from his memoir, described as “recently completed,” which was published on subscription site Air Mail, wrote about the challenges of making it, from a disappearing lead actress in Julia Roberts to a menacing studio manager in the form of Harvey Weinstein .

Here’s a breakdown:

What exactly does Zwick say about Julia Roberts?

A lot of. He writes that she had taken on the role of Viola De Lesseps before Gwyneth Paltrow, who eventually took it on – with great success – and then dropped out. This was years before the movie was actually finished, but after her performance in the hit Beautiful lady in 1990. (He described her as 24 at least twice, so that would have been late 1991 or most of 1992. Roberts’ birthday is October 28.)

In fact, he said it was her involvement that “got the studio excited enough to cough up the dough” it took to make it.

But he noted that his leading lady seemed to be having issues in her personal life at the time. She was wary of the paparazzi, having just broken up with Kiefer Sutherland in June 1991, days before they were due to get married, when she paired up with Jason Patric. (If you weren’t there then, imagine the pandemonium surrounding Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston’s breakup.)

Jason Patric and Julia Roberts attend the premiere of

Jason Patric and Julia Roberts attend the premiere of Hast on December 18, 1991 in Hollywood, California (Photo: Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

As Zwick puts it, Roberts Real wanted Daniel Day-Lewis to be her leading man, even to the point of sending him two dozen roses with a card that read, “Be my Romeo.” When Lewis couldn’t, because he committed to the lead role In the name of the father, Roberts was seriously unhappy. Although Zwick said he went to great lengths to find good actors she could read with when they chose someone for the part, including Colin Firth and Hugh Grant – Roberts’ future co-star in Knotting hill a decade later – she had no chemistry with any of them.

“Certainly, none of them, no matter how gifted, funny, or handsome, were as ‘right’ as Daniel — which makes sense, because they weren’t Daniel,” Zwick wrote. “To this day, every time I run into Russell Crowe he berates me for not casting him. We must have auditioned every actor in England.”

How does he say she left the movie?

“After two weeks of casting, there was only one actor Julia wanted to test with. His name was Paul McGann. We arranged a full-screen test in Pinewood,” Zwick said. “On the morning of the test, Julia emerged from makeup looking radiant in full period costume. But once she started saying the words, something wasn’t right. There was no magic. The problem wasn’t the script. Or Paul McGann. It was Julia. From the moment she started talking, it was clear she hadn’t worked on the accent.”

The production had arranged for the Georgia-born actress to work with a dialect coach.

“I felt Julia’s discomfort and tried to be encouraging, but she must have sensed my discomfort, and I made the tragic mistake of underestimating her insecurity,” Zwick continued. “She only recently catapulted to dizzying heights atop the Hollywood food chain, she must have been terrified of failure. But I could never talk her off the ledge. The next morning when I called her room I was told to hear that she had checked out.”

The studio had reportedly already spent $6 million on the project.

So is Zwick mad at Roberts?

Edward Zwick has produced and directed films including

Edward Zwick has produced and directed films including Blood diamond And Legends of Autumn. (Photo: Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)

In his own words, Zwick was upset when Roberts unceremoniously left his film, but noted that she was young and he wasn’t much older. He has “no ill will”, although he has not spoken to her since.

Roberts representatives did not respond to Yahoo Entertainment’s request for comment.

What does Weinstein have to do with this?

Zwick wrote that his film was in turnaround for a while, until the now-disgraced producer and his former company, Miramax, picked him up.

“When my agent, Jeff Berg, called Harvey and asked what my role would be in a film I had been developing and producing for seven years, Harvey said I was being pulled out of the process,” Zwick said. “That I was paid during the term of my deal with Universal, and that he had no obligation to include me. My next call was to Bert Fields, the Hollywood attorney. Equally respected and feared throughout the city, Bert sent Miramax a legal letter. And then the threats started.”

It got ugly. But Zwick ended up getting a producer credit on the film, even though he was locked out of the microphone at a key moment. (Zwick is the man visibly disappointed when Weinstein takes the microphone at around 2:47.)

Why is this coming out again?

Shakespeare in love hit theaters on December 11, 1998, so its 25th anniversary is still about nine months away. But, as we mentioned, it really cleaned up at the Academy Awards, winning awards for music, costume design and art direction, as well as writing, supporting actress (Judi Dench), actress (Gwyneth Paltrow) and the coveted title of Best Movie.

This year, 10 movies — No news from the Western Front; Avatar: the way of the water; The Banshees of Inisherin; Elvis; Everything Everywhere Everything at once; The Fables; Tar ; Top gun: Maverick; Triangle of sadness; And Women talk – will compete for the same prize.

Leave a Comment