- 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 both Vanessa and Jane Fonda auditioned for tyrannical director Otto Preminger. He also considered such unlikely Joans as Ursula Andress, Julie Andrews, Anne Bancroft, Claire Bloom, Carol Burnett, Joan Collins, Angie Dickinson, Shirley MacLaine, Mary Tyler Moore, Debbie Reynolds, Maggie Smith, Liz Taylor and… Mamie Van Doren!
- Wendy Craig, The Servant, 1963. This should have been Vanessa’s movie debut… except she was pregnant with with her first child, Natasha Richardson.
- Lynn Redgrave, Georgy Girl, 1966. “When Vanessa couldn’t do it, they asked Lynn,” recalls Alan Bates. And former TV director Silvio Narizzano put back in all the lines about Georgy looking like the back of a bus - in the first UK feature with a bare butt. That of Alan Bates. Of course.
- Susannah York, A Man For All Seasons, 1966. As soon as she agreed to be Thomas More’s daughter, she was offered The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie on-stage. “Very upset,” she called on director Fred Zinnemann, who found it impossible not to release her. Susannah moved in. “Van” then came to Fred’s aid when, after searching through dozens of sexy beauties, he couldn’t find one who had 45 seconds to “convince the audience she was capable of hanging the course of an empire” - and Redgrave played Anne Boleyn for him. On three conditions No credit, no salary, no realism (The Queen had six fingers per hand and "too many breasts") and, indeed, no dialogue. “She did almost nothing,” praised Fred, “except lean forward and blow into her sovereign’s ear - seductive and totally convincing in the magnetism and power of this woman.”
- Charlotte Rampling, The Long Duel, 1967. She cleverly avoided another mindless example of The Rank Organisation trying to go international.
- Susannah York, Sebastian, 1967. Impossible. Vanessa was already off to Camelot.
- Joanna Pettet, Robbery, 1967. Producer Michael Deeley wanted Vanessa to play the wife of his star and business partner Stanley Baker. Her husband - Deeley’s previous boss at Woodfall Films - was furious. “How,” asked Tony Richardson, “could you possibly involve my wife with a thug like Stanley Baker?” To which, Deeley responded: “Stanley may have played thugs, but he certainly isn’t one in real life.” Deeley and Vanessa finally got together for Young Catherine, TV, 1991.
- Faye Dunaway, The Thomas Crown Affair, 1967. For the insurance agent investigating Tommy Crown, director Norman Jewison wanted Eva Marie Saint. Too old, screamed the suits. OK, the director drew up a dreamy wish list: Redgrave, Anouk Aimé, Brigitte Bardot, Candice Bergen, Leslie Caron, Julie Christie, Sharon Tate, Raquel Welch… and his star, Steve McQueen, suggested testing Camilla Sparv. “Yeah, well, I’ve just seen an early print of Bonnie and Clyde… and you’re gonna spend eight hours kissing her!”
- Maggie Smith, The Pride of Miss Jean Brodie, 1968. She had created Jean Brodie on-stage, but was unavailable for the movie. And the Oscar goes to....
- Ingrid Thulin, The Damned, Italy-Germany, 1969. Or, Lady Macbeth, as Dirk Bogarde called the role. Adding: “I’d play a stick in the fireplace for Visconti if he asked me.”
- Jennie Linden, Women In Love, 1969. Probably connected with the fact that Glenda Jackson (and her new, improved, pregnant breasts) had the better role of Gudrun, everyone else passed on being Ursula. Redgrave, Faye Dunaway, Shirley MacLaine (anti-nudity – unlike Redgrave, who referred to her body as part of her acting instrument) and Carol White reportedly refused a £10,000 offer. Maybe they were right. Ken Russell’s film didn’t do much for Linden’s career. She had been chosen because of her test with Peter O’Toole for A Lion In Winter, which she did not win. Being a brand new mother, she wasn’t keen. Flamboyant UK director Ken Russell played deaf. “Costume fitting - 10am, Monday.” She was great in (and out of) it. Vanessa later replaced Glenda in Russell’s The Devils, 1971.
- Anouk Aimée, The Appointment, 1969. Better notion than first choice Kim Novak for a rare stinker from Sidney Lumet.
- Janet Suzman, Nicholas and Alexandra, 1970. Having lost $10m for Columbia on a four consecutive flops, small films all, it was time for producer Sam Spiegel to go BIG again in the River River Kwai/Lawrence of Arabia tradition. BIG, but CHEAP. A mere $8m budget was not able to afford Vanessa (or Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly or Elizabeth Taylor!). Anyway, no one gave a damn about “two silly people,” wrote Stanley Kaufman in The New Republic, “getting what, as justice goes in this world, they deserved.”
- Glenda Jackson, Sunday, Bloody Sunday, 1971. This time, Glenda replaced Vanessa. They paired up later that year in Mary, Queen of Scots.
- Glenda Jackson, The Boyfriend, 1971. Ken Russell needed one of his star ladies to provide the cameo of a musical star breaking a leg and allowing Twiggy to... go out there and be a star!
- Glenda Jackson, Mary, Queen of Scots, 1971. After selecting Redgrave as his Elizabeth I, US producer Hal B Wallis switched her to the Scottish sovereign. But who else could be Elizabeth? His scenarist John Hale knew. He had also written the opening chapter of the superb BBC TV mini series, Elizabeth R, for a majestical Jackson. Redgrave finally played Elizabeth I in Anonymous, 2011, sharing the young/old portraits with daughter Joley Richardson.
- Barbara Leigh-Hunt, Frenzy, 1971. “A good colorful crime spree is good for tourism...” Once upon a whimsy. it was to be Inspector Olivier suspecting David Hemming as a serial killer, with Redgrave among his victims. Not when Alfred Hitchcock started his 52nd and penultimate film - his first in Britain for 16 years.
- Susannah York, Images, 1972. Bargain! Director Robert Altman’s final choice helped write the final script.
- Stephanie Beacham, The Nightcomers, 1972. UK director Michael Winner almost pulled it off - Marlon Brando and Vanessa! But her Italian film, Tinto Brass’ La vacanza, ran over and Winner remembered the sulphuric Beacham from his Games.
- Jenny Runacre, The Final Programme, 1973. Probably wise to leave Michael Moorcock's sf heroine alone - or at least in this sad ’n’ sorry movie version.
- Katharine Hepburn, Rooster Cogburn, 1974. Imagine such political hotheads as Redgrave and Wayne sahring the same set… !! If well enough to reprise his Oscar-winning True Grit marshal, John Wayne wanted Ingrid Bergman as Eula Goodnight, no less. Producer Hal Wallis shortlisted Bette Davis, Maureen O’Hara, (of course!). Plus true Brits Redgrave, Glenda Jackson, Maggie Smith. But he rejected any comeback for Loretta Young (his producer son Mike Wayne’s godmother) which is when, in trying to avoid two wrinkly co-stars, Duke suggested Mary Tyler Moore. Hepburn won because the script by ex-Duke co-star Martha Hyer (Mrs Wallis, credited as Martin Julien) was a flagrant remix of Kate’s African Queen - and as pathetic as director Stuart Miller. It was his second feature. The “6ft 6ins sonuvabitch no-talent, ” as Duke termed him, never made a third.
- Faye Dunaway, Network, 1976. Director Sidney Lumet was adamant. He wanted the greatest English-speaking actress in the world as Diana Christensen, the anything-for-ratings programming chief at UBS TV. Writer Paddy Chayefsky did not. Being Jewish, he loathed her support of the PLO. Lumet was also Jewish and declared: “Paddy, that’s blacklisting!” Said Chayefsky: “Not when a Jew does it to a Gentile.”
- Susannah York, The Rollicking Adventures of Eliza Fraser, Australia, 1976. Not rollicking enough… Either one! Two versions were planned and Julie (or Vanessa Redgrave) was to be the lead in Czech director Jiri Weiss’ take on the aftermath of the sinking of the Stirling Castle off Queensland on May 22, 1836. Aussie helmer Tim Burstall rushed his version before the cameras… Too rushed, perhaps. One critic, Stephen Groenewegen called it Carry On Convicts.
- Daria Nicolodi, Opera, Italy, 1987.
Dario Argento meets Macbeth. And everyone’s cursed. Van flew to Rome, was met by director Argento at the airport. Befitting her role of an opera singer’s agent, she asked: “How much?” Ah! And she left on the next plane! Dario’s ex (Asia's mother) took over.
- Shirley MacLaine, Madame Sousatzka, 1988. Tied to the project when UK director John Schlesinger won his $5.5m budget. Madame Shirley won best actress at the 1988 Venice fest.
- Theresa Russell, Track 29, 1988. Or Track 39, when planned as director Joseph Losey’s first film in the US for 37 years. “My problems with films,” said Losey, “began at 39.”
- Helen Mirren, The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, 1989. Best out of Peter Greenaway’s melodramatic Dutch-French hotchpotch.
- Susan Sarandon, Thelma & Louise, 1990.
- Madge Sinclair, The Lion King, 1993. Also in the mix to voice Queen Sarabi in the 32nd Disney toon - Bambi meets Hamlet in Africa! - were Virginia McKenna and Helen Mirren. Sinclair was also queen to James Earl Jones’ king in Coming To America, 1988. In TV history books as the first woman starship captain in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, 1986, the Jamaican actress died of leukemia in 1995. As a mark of respect, Disney refused to cast another actress and deleted Sarabi from The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride in 1998.
- Maggie Smith, Tea With Mussolini, 1999. First choice of Italian stage-screen director Franco Zeffirelli for Lady Random, one of the three British expat eccentrics becoming the protagonist’s adoptive aunts - based upon the childhood chapter of Zeffirelli’s autobiography.
- Bebe Neuwirth, Celebrity, 1997. Always hard to please, auteur Woody Allen did not like the Redgrave sequence. He re-shot it with Elaine Stritch. Didn’t like that either. He rewrote it and went younger with the Tony and Emmy award-winning Neuwirth... as a hooker instructing Judy Davis about fellatio with the help of a banana! Stritch had been here before during the re-shoot circus that was September in 1986, which Woody shot twice over, damn nearly thrice!
- Eileen Atkins, Robin Hood, 2009. There was a moment when the Nottingham reboot had Redgrave as Eleanor of Aquitaine. She pulled out after the tragic death of her daughter, Natasha Richardson, Mrs Liam Neeson, following a ski-ing accident in Canada.