Brooke Shields, Pretty Baby, 1977. The subject 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 hopefuls and/or instant (parental) refusals for Violet. From Laura Dern aged 10 and future Sex And The City co-stars Cynthia Nixon, at 11, Sarah Jessica Parker, 12 (like Shields) and (the often too buxom) teenagers Hunt, Melissa Sue Anderson, Rosanna Arquette, Linda Blair, Jamie Lee Curtis, Bridget Fonda, Jodie Foster, Mariel Hemingway, Anissa Jones (who tragically ODed at 18 before her audition), Diane Lane, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kristy McNichol, Tatum O’Neal (Dad said no), Dana Plato (Mom said no), Michelle Pfeiffer, Ally Sheedy, Meg Tilly, Charlene Tilton… to seven twentysomethings. However, no make-up and soft lenses could make 12-year-olds out of Isabelle Adjani, Bo Derek, Carrie Fisher, Melanie Griffith, Amy Irving, Mary Steenburgen or Debra Winger.
- Kari Michaelson, Gimme A Break! TV, 1981-1987. At 18, Hunt tested for Katie, one of three suddenly mother-less daughters of a small town police chief Carl Kanisky who finda surrogate mother in a black housekeeper.
- Alice Krige, Barfly, 1987. Eurodirector Barbet Schroeder gave her the role of Tully Sorenson, then felt he needed a more experienced actress to work with Mickey Rourke and Faye Dunaway.
- Catherine O’Hara, Home Alone, 1990. An astonishing 37 stars (Harrison Ford,Jack Nicholson, Jessica Lange, Michelle Pfeiffer, etc) were considered for the forgetful parents - nothing roles in a film written for and duly stolen by the stranded kid, Macauley Culkin.
- Juliette Lewis, Cape Fear, 1991 .Among the many- the very many - Christina Applegate, Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Connelly, Shannen Doherty, Nicole Eggeret, Bridget Fonda, Jodie Foster, Nicole Kidman, Diane Lane, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Alyssa Milano, Demi Moore, Sarah Jessica Parker, Molly Ringwald, Meg Ryan, Winona Ryder, Brooke Shields, Tiffani Thiessen, Reese Witherspoon - considered by Steven Spielberg and, later, Martin Scorsese fortheteen daughter of Nick Nolte and Jessica Lange: Danielle Bowden. (Nicole in the 1962 original). Some found it too sexy and, indeed, even at 28 (!), Helen could hardly have equalled the on-heat musk of Juliette, 18, and her totally improvised - and one take - seduction scene with Robert De Niro.
- Sharon Stone, Basic Instinct, 1991.
- Laura Dern, Jurassic Park, 1992. One of the first modern screentests - well, readings - seen on TV when Paramount’s Real TV tabloid show starting running such audition tapes in 1995 - yet banned fromauction in Beverly Hills by the actors’ union in April 2013. “Auditions are not public performances,” said SAG-AFTRA. .“Performers are entitled to expect them to remain private.”And yet not a word when Paramount's Real TV tabloid show starting running such audition tapes…in 1995! In all some25 ladies voted against Dr Ellie Sattler- not the finest woman’s role in a Spielberg movie.They included survivors of the Fatal Attraction/Basic Instinct campaigns… Hunt, Jamie Lee Curtis, Geena Davis, Bridget Fonda, Jodie Foster, Jennifer Grey, Linda Hamilton, Daryl Hannah, Kelly McGillis, Michelle Pfieffer, Julia Roberts, Ally Sheedy, Sigourney Weaver,Debra Winger, Robin Wright. And among newer contestants: Hunt, Juliette Binoche, Sandra Bullock, Joan Cusack, Sherilyn Fenn, Teri Hatcher, Elizabeth Hurley, Laura Linney, Julianne Moore, Julianne Moore, Gwyneth Paltrow and Sarah Jessica Parker.
- Demi Moore, A Few Good Men, 1992. Linda Hamilton, Elizabeth Perkins, Demi Moore also rushed to read for helmer Rob Reiner and casting director Jane Jenkins to be Tom Cruise’s love interest. (He’d wed the last one: Nicole Kidman).
- Geena Davis, Angie,1993. The official reason was Madonna was already booked for Abel Ferrara’sDangerous Game, 1992.Then, one of her emails was leaked - furious with the head Fox, Joe Roth, for dumping her for a non-Italian inthe titular role. In truth, she fled after hearing Roth didn’t want her becauseshe couldn’t carry a movie. (Not that this one did any better without her). Her director, Jonathan Kaplan, also quit and Martha Coolidge took over with her 1991 Rambling Rose star - after some thoughts about a dozen others, from Halle Berry to Meryl Streep.Oh, very Italian!
- Kate Capshaw, Just Cause, 1995. Mid-way throughher triumphant 161 episodesof TV’s Mad About You, “I made myself turnthings down in the hope of finding something I really wanted.”Like Twister...?!
- Daphne Ashbrook, Doctor Who (The Movie), TV, 1996.
- Samantha Mathis, Broken Arrow, 1996. Hong Kong action ace John Wood considered Jennifer Aniston, Halle Berry, Lauren Holly. Then gave the park ranger to Hunt - but she preferred Twister. Probably they all agreed with Roger Ebert’s later criticism: the purpose of The Girl was to “take off her shirt as soon as possible.” Christian Slater suggested his similar main squeeze from Pump Up The Volume, 1990.
- Annette Bening, American Beauty, 1998. Often confused, Helen Hunt and Holly Hunter were both seen about being Kevin Spacey’s loving wife. “Don’t you mess with me, mister, or I’ll divorce you so fast it’ll make your head spin!”
- Michelle Pfeiffer, What Lies Beneath, 2000. She talked to Roger Zemeckis about being Mrs Harrison Ford, after making movies with Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks, Jack Nicholson, Kevin Spacey. She is not remembered for any of them.Just couldn’tcut it in movies.
- Julianne Moore, Hannibal, 2001. Top Brit director Ridley Scott looked at Gillian Anderson, Cate Blanchett and Helen when Jodie Fosterdecided against reprising her Oscar-winning FBI agentClarice Starling in the Silence of the Lambs sequel.
- Nicole Kidman, Bewitched, 2004. Who wants to play wriggly-nosed Samantha? Me, me, chorused... Jennifer Aniston, Kim Basinger, Cameron Diaz, Heather Graham (who would have been quirkily great), Angelina Jolie, Lisa Kudrow (perfect!), Tatum O'Neal, Gwyneth Paltrow, Michelle Pfeiffer, Julia Roberts, Meg Ryan, Alicia Silverstone, Hilary Swank, Naomi Watts. Among 35 possibles. Over the years.
- Joan Cusack, Chicken Little, 2004. To find the right voice for Abby Mallard in Disney’s paltry poultry pic, Disney went through Hunt, Jamie Lee Curtis, Geena Davis, Laura Dern, Jamie Donnelly, Jodie Foster, Holly Hunter, Madonna and, of course, Sigourney Weaver. (By now many Alien fans were working at every studio). Plus Sarah Jessica Parker, when her husband, Matthew Broderick, was in the frame for the titular hero.
- Rachel Weisz, The Lovely Bones, 2008. On the list but Rachel was the first star signed by New Zealand director Peter Jackson. Poor Helen, never put a foot right after sevenyears of Mad About You, TV, 1992-99, while looking for “a good script, a good script, a good script…or money.” She thought she’d found it with The Sessions, 2012, but stripping off as a sex surrogate did not relight her dimming star.
- Julianna Marguiles, The Good Wife, TV, 2009-2015. The ER star admitted she had been “sloppy thirds” for the titular Alicia Florrick. Actually, she was sloppy fourths… Her rivals had been Hunt, Ashley Judd and the one Julianna didn’t seem to know about: Elisabeth Shue.
- Lauren Graham, Parenthood, TV, 2009-2011. Hunt’s people and NBC’s couldn’t agree on money, allowing Graham (Lorelai of The Gilmore Girls,TV, 2000-2007) to succeed Maura Tierney who quit the show to battle her breast cancer.