- Jean Seberg, Saint Joan, 1957.
In Marshalltown, Iowa, Seberg was the baby-sitter for Mary Beth Hurt, who grew up to play Seberg(in voice-over) in the documentary,From the Journals of Jean Seberg, 1995. The script had her revealing that bothJane and Vanessa Redgrave auditioned for producer-director-ogre Otto Preminger. He also considered Ursula Andress, Julie Andrews, Anne Bancroft, Claire Bloom, Carol Burnett, Joan Collins, Sophia Loren, Shirley MacLaine, Mary Tyler Moore, Kim Novak (from Otto’s Man With The Golden Arm, 1955),Debbie Reynolds, Maggie Smith, Liz Taylor. And... Mamie Van Doren!
- Sandra Dee, A Summer Place, 1959. The family name was no help when she tested with Michael Callan - eventually her fella in Cat Ballou, 1965. “I never wanted to be an actor,” she told The Hollywood Reporter in 2015. “My dad was an actor, and he never brought joy home, so I didn’t view it as something that I would want to do. But I got fired as a secretary, and then I started studying, and Lee Strasberg said I was talented, so I started doing it just to earn money… I probably would have become a landscape architect.”
- Diane Jergens. The FBI Story, 1959. Jane’s debut was almost as James Stewart’s daughter. Years later, she was on the FBI’s black list . Her secret, she said, was resilience. “You’re either born with it or you’re not. And this is a business as a performer. It’s so hard. You will get so much rejection. My first movie, Tall Story, the director told me I should break my jaw and have my molars taken out, so that my face would be more shapely. Jack Warner told me I had to wear falsies. I mean, every insult that could be thrown at my physical self… Plus bad reviews. And you know, it’s just really, really hard on the heart and the nerves. It’s good for the heart actually; it’s bad for the nerves. So you have to be resilient.”
- Leslie Caron, Fanny, 1960. Jane can talk the talk, but not walk the walk of the Marseilles teenager in the Marcel Pagnol stage, screen, even musical classic. Her audition proved that. Pity, she was a better age at 23 than Caron’s 30.
- Connie Stevens, Parrish, 1961. She tested with Warren Beatty. (Troy Donahue got the job). “We didn’t know each other,” said Beatty. “We were thrown together like lions in a cage and told to kiss. Oh my God! We kissed until we'd practically eaten each other's head off!”
- Natalie Wood, Splendour in the Grass, 1960. How to fail a movie break… Fonda tested as Deanie in 1959. Director Elia Kazan asked Jane if she was ambitious. “No,” she lied. (“Good girls aren’t supposed to be ambitious.”) She kept quiet at her next audition and won her debut later that year in Tall Story with Anthony Perkins. Thanks to Josh Logan, the Broadway and Hollywood director and family friend… who first pushed her into acting opposite her father in the 1954 Omaha Community Theatre production of The Country Girl.
- Natalie Wood, West Side Story, 1961. Daft idea.
- Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast At Tiffany’s, 1961. Dafter! Shirley MacLaine andMarilyn Monroe were also sought for Holly Golightly
- Leslie Caron, Fanny, 1961.Daftest...! Brigitte Bardot was another possibility- both actresses married the French movie-maker Roger Vadim. Leslie had attended the same dance schoolas BB in Paris. In fact, Vadim told me he was the one who suggested Leslie to Gene Kelly for An American In Paris, 1951. Kelly’s then wife, Besty Blair,said it wasanother American in Paris: Eddie Constantine.
- Claire Bloom, The Chapman Report, 1963. Determined to play the nympho, she went to see director George Cukor “all nymphoed up: very padded chest, very high-up, curled my hair and dreamt up a great nymphomaniac dress. He laughed me right out of the office... and made me the frigid widow. That taught me a lesson.” The Havard Lampoon electedher the year's worst actress.
- Diane Baker, Marnie, 1963. According to her autobiography, Fonda wanted to play Lil (who had been a fella in one draft). Alfred Hitchcock did not agree.
- Natalie Wood, The Great Race, 1964. Directot Blake Edwards' first choice was shooting a better comedy, Cat Ballou. Second notion, Lee Remick, was committed to Broadway. Wood accepted the suffragette Maggie DuBois - as long as head Brother Jack Warner agreed to give her Inside Daisy Clover. Director Blake Edwards wished Warner had refused… Blake wanted Patty Duke or Elizabeth Hartman and did not take kindly to the diva-ish Wood. He got his revenge during the largest ever custard pie scene (4,000 pies over five days), hurling them with relish in her face!
- Michéle Mercier, Angélique, Marquise des Anges, France, 1964. Paris producer Francis Cosne wanted Vadim to direct. Until a Hollywood cable saying: “Jane Fonda not interested in a costume drama. She also asks me to tell you she will nevermake a film with Roger Vadim.” Recounted, with relish, by Vadim who not only made films with her, but bedded and wedded her... even though proving impotent at the first try. (Also in the frame: Virna Lisi, Monica Vitti - and Vadim’s other wives or lovers: Brigitte Bardot, Catherine Deneuve, Annette Stroyberg).
- Carol Lynley, Bunny Lake Is Missing, 1964. The Columbia suits wanted Fonda and Ryan O’Neal.Producer-director-ogre Otto Preminger did not. He wasn’t keen on Ann-Margret, either.
- Julie Christie, Doctor Zhivago, 1965. “Ever turned down a film and regretted it?You better believe it.Zhivago!” And why? Depends who you believe... Jane: “Vadim didn’t really want me to go to Spain for that long.”Roger Vadim:“Although dying to work with David Lean,she didn’t want to spend seven monthsin Spain away from me.” The truth is that Lean fretted over her American accent and asked her agent if she’d agree to be dubbed. Whoops!
- Julie Christie, Fahrenheit, 1966. When shooting was slated for the summer of ’64, fireman Montag's women were French favourites Fonda (or Tippi Hedren) and Jean Seberg as as his wife, Linda, and lover, Clarisse. Two years later, the French nouvelle vague icon François Truffaut decided that Christie - en route to her Darling Oscar and Doctor Zhivago - should play both sides of Ray Bradbury’s coin. Precisely the reason why a jealous Terence Stamp quit and his ditto replacement, Oskar Werner, loathed the film. (Just not quite as much as Truffaut loathed Werner!)
- Faye Dunaway,Bonnie and Clyde, 1966.
- Katharine Ross, The Graduate, 1967. Broadway’s Mike Nichols came to town and saw, tested, auditioned almost every babe of the correct age for Mrs Robinson’s daughter. From Baby Doll to Lolita, by way of Saint Joan and The Flying Nun Sally Field… Fonda, Ann-Margret, Elizabeth Ashley, Carroll Baker, Candice Bergen, Patty Duke, Sally Field, Sue Lyon, Carol Lynley, Hayley Mills, Yvette Mimieux, Suzanne Pleshette, Lee Remick, Jean Seberg, Pamela Tiffin, Tuesday Weld, Natalie Wood. Having played Games with her that year, Simone Signoret recommended Ross to Nichols.
- Carol White, Daddy’s Gone A-Hunting, 1968. A smitten (if non-consumating) Frank Sinatra decided to introduce Carolwhite (as he called her) to Hollywood by arranging screenings of Poor Cow, even Cathy Come Home. (The very idea of Old Blue Eyes setting up Ken Loach screenings is beyond belief). (But true). For LA, she was a cheaper Julie Christie, which is why she beat Fonda, Candice Bergen and Marlo Thomas here to… total miscasting! As Chicago critic Roger Ebert pointed out, White was too healthy, too blonde, too fetchingly plump, too simple, too secure, to remotely approach the stature of the haunted heroine. “What was needed was a hyperthyroid brunette with restless eyes.”
- Mia Farrow, Rosemary's Baby, 1968. “I’ve never been a I’ve made lots of mistakes. I’ve never played it safe. But I’m lucky." So was Mia. The director, Roman Polanski, took her without a test.
- Natalie Wood, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, 1969. Carol.
- Stella Garcia, The Last Movie, 1970. In the late 60s, when deciding to succeed the late Montgomery Clift as Kansas, director Dennis Hopper assembled a cast including Fonda, Jennifer Jones, Jason Robards. And then decided not to risk Phil Spector’s promised $1.2m budget. Based on Hopper’s experiences while shooting The Sons of Katie Elder in Mexico (when indigenous natives aped the movie-making), the film won the Critics’ Prize at Venice but The Last Movie was damn nearly The Last Hopper. Well, he shot it in Peru - coke capital of the world. No way of knowing if their sex scene would have ended up for real like the naked Hoppy and Garcia embrace under a waterfall. “She was wet,” he told me in Cannes in 1976, “and it just slipped in.”
- Ann-Margret, Carnal Knowledge, 1971. Rejected by New York director Mike Nichols. In good company: Dyan Cannon, Joan Collins, Raquel Welch, Natalie Wood.
- Marcia Rodd, Little Murders, 1970. Determined to film the Jules Fieffer play which he had flopped in on Broadway in 1967, Elliott Gould wanted Fonda as his girlfriend. However, when they met, he felt so intimidated he could not say a word… Enter: Rodd from the 1969 stage revival (also directed by Alan Arkin), in her film debut. Donald Sutherland’s hippy priest stole the entire enchilada. French screen icon Jean Renoir told Arkin: “This film will never be forgotten.” (Really? The one I saw, or a different cut?)
- Vanessa Redgrave, Mary, Queen of Scots, 1971. The Scottish queen was always intended by producer Hal B Wallis for Genevieve Bujold. She was not keen on another executed 16th Century royal, having already been beheaded as Henry VIII’s second wife, Ann Boleyn, in A Thousand Days. Wallis next looked over Fonda, Mia Farrow, Sophia Loren, Maggie Smith. Redgrave (first booked for Elizabeth I) was sixth choice.
- Jill St John,Diamonds Are Forever, 1971.
- Ellen Burstyn, The Exorcist, 1973.
- Marsha Mason, Cinderella Liberty, 1973. Director Mark Rydell fought hard for Marsha after seeing her in The Doll's House on-stage in San Francisco. Fox preferred a name... Fonda! But she had already trawled the streets as Klute.
- Faye Dunaway, Chinatown, l973.
Producer Robert Evans had given a script to Jane for safety while dealing with “my best friend,” superagent Sue Mengers. She wanted $250,000 for Faye... “and an answer tonight or she’s going to do Night Moves with Arthur Penn,”.” Evans said: $75,000.. Sue said: “I'm going with Arthur Penn.” Evans: “I'm going with Jane Fonda." One hour later; Mengers called him back: “Honey, I spoke to Faye… we’ll take the $75,000.” Later, Mengers gleefully phoned him: “Honeee, guess what? There was no picture with Arthur Penn. I made it up!" Said Evans: “Guess what? Jane Fonda turned us down.”
- Florinda Bolkan, Una breva vacanza (US: A Brief Vacation), Italy-Spain, 1973. Not like Vittorio De Sica to reject La Loren but... According to his producer Arthur Cohn, Jane , Sophia and Liz Taylor were all fighting to be Clara Mataro.
- Mireille Darc, Les seins de glace, France, 1974. When planned earlier by realisateur Jean-Pierre Mocky, with two Janes in mind. Birkin or Fonda.
- Louise Fletcher, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, 1974.
- Katharine Ross, The Stepford Wives, 1975. Jane turned down the Bryan Forbes film because “the backing came from a big corporate company.” But, honey, all studios were by now owned by corporate companies. Where ya gonna go?
- Faye Dunaway, Network, 1976. Henry Fonda refused, too. That cost them an Oscar each. She set up On Golden Pond, 1981, to be his Oscar-winner. (They were the first father-daughter to be nominated).
- Susan Sarandon, Pretty Baby, 1977. The rôle was horrendous - a prostitute allowing her 12-year-old daughter’s virginity to be auctioned off in a brothel in the red-light Storyville district of New Orleans, circa 1917. Elegant French director Louis Malle saw 28 possible little Violets - and another 15 actresses for her mother: Fonda (with Jodie Foster as her daughter), Candice Bergen, Cher, Glenn Close (passed), Mia Farrow, Farrah Fawcett (passed), Goldie Hawn (preferred Foul Play), Anjelica Huston, Diane Keaton, Liza Minnelli, Cybil Shepherd, Sissy Spacek, Meryl Streep, Sigourney Weaver. Malle and Sarandon became lovers and also made Atlantic City together in 1980… the year he married Bergen until his 1995 death. (Jane’s niece, Bridget, had been in the loop for Violet).
- Mary Steenburgen, Goin’ South, 1978. In April 1977, Jack Nicholson signed to direct the Western tale of conman Henry Lloyd Moon (no kin to his never achieved pet oater, Moontrap). As early as 1970, he’d wanted Jane to save him from hanging - by marrying him. (Paramount was voting George Segal and Candice Bergen). Anne Bancroft also passed, handing a screen debut to Mary - discovered by Warren Beatty and Nicholson doing time as a waitress. They both fought to use her first. Jack won. His backers were furious but Nicholson (also directing) argued: “What is stardom for if you don’t take chances. In a way, I wanted someone who would teach me something about the job.”
- Meryl Streep, Kramer v Kramer, 1979. Jane could never have re-written the famous courtroom declaration as magnificently as Meryl.
- Sally Field, Norma Rae, l979. Refused! Odd for such a famous left-winger. The ex-Flying Nun flew to Cannes, picked up Best Actress and nine months later, the Oscar, for her trade union fighter
- Romy Schneider, La mort en direct (UK/US: Death Watch), France-West Germany-UK, 1979. Lyons realisateur Bertrand Tavernier unwisely insisted on Romy and Harvey Keitel. The producers wanted US names: Fonda (totally uninterested), Jill Clayburgh, Diane Keaton opposite Robert De Niro or Richard Gere.
- Isabelle Huppert, Heaven's Gate, 1980. Everyone preferred her to the French import. Everyone except stubborn director Michael Cimino. On the ego trip of his life. And career death.
Barbara Hershey, The Entity, 1980. Fonda, Jill Clayburgh, Sally Field and Bette Midler (!) were listed for poor Clara, pursued by the titular being. Two years previously, Clayburgh and Fonda lost Norma Rae to Field - her finest hour.
Jill Clayburgh, First Monday In October, 1981. Far too conservative, this account of the first woman judge appointed to the US Supreme Court. All her energies were devoted to On Golden Pond - and aerobics.
- Jessica Lange, Frances, 1982. They all loved her and they all wanted to be Frances Farmer... Jane, Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton, Sissy Spacek, Tuesday Weld.
- Meryl Streep, Silkwood, 1983. Jane’s version (or, interest) turned into The China Syndrome, 1979. Streep had a small role in Jane’s Julia, and she wanted her as The Other Woman in Coming Home.
“Oh, get her to play anything,” she told Hollywood Reporter’s Stephen Galloway in 2015. “I thought, it’s a really weird name, but there’s something very special going on here. Anyway, [studio executive] Sherry Lansing was at Columbia. I was developing the Karen Silkwood story at Columbia. I couldn’t make it get it right, and Sherry said to Michael Douglas - because he had a script called The China Syndrome [with] Jack Lemmon, Richard Dreyfuss (Dreyfuss dropped out) - and she said, “You and Fonda should team up here.” He had the script, it was already done, it was going to be a very small movie. And me and my partner Bruce said, “No. Let’s make it a bigger movie, let’s get Jim Bridges to, rewrite the script and make a gender change, and I’ll be transgender, and I’ll do the Richard Dreyfuss part...”
- Jacqueline Bisset, Under The Volcano, 1984. Exiled US director Joseph Losey wanted her for his aborted version. They later made A Doll's House together, 1973.
- Tina Turner, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, 1985. Casual suggestion by Australian director George Miller. He kept calling Bartertown ruler Aunty Entity a Tina Turner character, so he went for the original... still awaiting a third film.
Glenn Close, Jagged Edge, 1985.
Or How The Movie Star Got Canned... over a script! Jane disliked the Joe Eszterhas scenario because she thought the studio disliked it. She listed her changes - “a totally different movie,” complained Joe. “The stupid cunt!” is how producer Marty Ransohoff phrased it. “What does she know?” Jane’s (and Joe’s) attorney, Barry Hirsch, felt no brand new studio head would dare fire one of the world’s biggest stars. Guy McElwaine (Joe’s ex-agent) did exactly that. Ransohoff was no happier or polite about Close: “Have you seen her sexy? I wouldn’t want to fuck her.” Three years later, Jane told Joe: “I should’ve done it, I made a mistake.” He mentioned another idea he had before becoming LA’s highest paid scenarist...
- Cher, Mask, 1985. Cher won Best Actress at Cannes. Director Peter Bogdanovich never got over it. “I’m sick of her mouthing off about me. I worked hard on that performance with her and she knows it... She’s excellent in it. But the studio didn’t want her, they wanted Jane Fonda. I fought for her. No one thought of Cher for the part except me.” Not so. Scenarist Anna Hamilton Phelan had pinned a photo of the chanteuse to the script she handed to Bogdanovich.
- Elisabeth Shue, Adventures in Babysitting, 1986. For his directing debut, Gremlins writer Chris Columbus saw just about every gal in town for the explosive night of babysitter Chris Parker: a project hanging around (with Fonda) since the 60s. Twenty years on, Jane’s niece, Bridget Fonda, was booked. Kathleen Turner was the next “first choice.” Julia Louis-Dreyfuss auditioned - and passed toJodie Foster.. But she also passed - to Michelle Pfeiffer… and she quit for The Witches of Eastwick! More auditions were held for: Justine Bateman (her TV series, Family Ties, cancelled that idea!), Melanie Griffith, Andie MacDowell, Tatum O’Neal, Brooke Shields, Sharon Stone. Columbus refused Kelly McGillis and Valerie Bertinelli lost out to Shue on the final day.
- Jessica Lange, Music Box, 1989. And the next Eszterhas idea was: A US lawyer defends her beloved father, accused of war crimes and finds he is “a moral monster.” Great but, embarrassingly, at 52, Jane still fancied herself and her roles as girls. She tested “young” but Costa-Gavras said (never to her face) that she was too old. She was paid $1.25m to “go away.” (Kiss of death to a movie career, noted Eszterhas). After the movie came out, his father, Istvan, was charged with war crimes in Hungary: printing anti-Semitic editorials and organizing a book burning.
- Lena Olin, Havana, 1990. The 1978 plan was Jane with Jack Nicholson until director Sydney Pollack's Cuba visit had him running back to his usual star, Robert Redford. “I began to think of it as the corpse that walked, my zombie project,” said scenarist Judith Rascoe.
- Judy Davis, Husbands and Wives,1991. Officially,it was reportedas a disagreement upon the aesthetics of the character. Hah! OK, she understoodit was supposed to be an an honour to work (half-price!) for Woody Allen. “But I’m not cutting my hair for anyone!” Hadn’teither of themheard of wigs…?
- Kathleen Turner, VI Warshawski, 1991. Sara Pavetsky's first books about the tough female private eyeful were snapped up by Fonda's company. Then, she was snapped up by CNN creator Ted Turner and retired from movies. And only the one Warshawski thriller was made. Badly.
- Cameron Diaz, Gangs of New York, 2002. Jenny Everdeane was first offered to Fonda in the 70s.... when Martin Scorsese actually wanted the Blues Brothers, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi as young Amsterdam Vallon and scarey Bill “The Butcher” Cutting!!
- Anne Bancroft, Spanglish, 2004. Jane auditioned for her comeback, - writer-director James L Brooks had this thing for Mrs Robinson. Like all of us.
- Susan Sarandon, Elizabethtown, 2004. La Fonda had to leave when shooting was delayed while auteur Cameron Crowe waited for Orlando Bloom to be available.This meant her comeback was a turd called Monster-in-Law..
- Meg Ryan, The Women, 2007. After 15 years trying to make her version of MGM’s 1938 magic, the fizz had left the bubbly for the TV Murphy Brown creator Diane English. Truth was few among her cast(s) could match the 30s ladies. La Fonda might have been better than Ryan in Norma Shearer’s famous role.