- Cybill Shepherd, Taxi Driver, 1975.
- Jessica Lange, King Kong, 1976. Streep and Kong! The mind boggles. But yes, she auditioned for Dino De Laurentiis. And did not impress him. The Italian producer said his son, in Italian: “Why did you send me this pig? This woman is so ugly! Blech!” When Meryl replied, in fluent Italian: “I’m very sorry that I disappoint you” - Dino “looked like he had been shot.” And denied the story forever more.
- Vanessa Redgrave, Julia, 1977. "I thought it was a crank call," recalled Streep about casting director Juliet Taylor's office inviting her to London for her first movie - in the title role! Once there, veteran director Fred Zinnemann admitted the role had gone to Vanessa. As a consolation, he gave Meryl a small part and Jane Fonda guided her through her film debut, with fond advice like "Stand in your light, stupid!"
- Melinda Dillon, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 1977. "I vote Streep," said co-producer Julia Phillips. Meryl was one of the many seen by Steven Spielberg and his star, Richard Dreyfuss. The others included: Mary Beth Hurt, and the unknown (then and now) Katherine Walker and, according to Phillips, "some bimbo" Spielberg was dating: Amy Irving, his future first wife.
- 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: Streep, Candice Bergen, Cher, Glenn Close (passed), Mia Farrow, Farrah Fawcett (passed), Jane Fonda with Jodie Foster as her daughter), Goldie Hawn (preferred Foul Play), Anjelica Huston, Diane Keaton, Liza Minnelli, Cybil Shepherd, Sissy Spacek, Sigourney Weaver. Malle and Sarandon became lovers and also made Atlantic City together in 1980… the year he married Bergen until his 1995 death.
- Sigourney Weaver, Alien, 1978. La Streep did not need science fiction… Sure helped Weaver’s career, though.Veronica Cartwright and Kay Lenz were also up for Ripley, the most iconic woman in sf movies. Cartwright stayed aboard the good (space) ship Nostromo as Lambert in Ridley Scott’s perfect film. Streep and Weaver studied at Yale together.
- Candice Bergen, Oliver's Story, 1978. "It's not hard to turn down dreadful material," she said of the bad Love Story sequel.
- Susan Sarandon, King of the Gypsies, 1978. Dino De Laurentiis Jr said to his producer-father: "But she's not beautiful." The sap.
- Mary Steenburgen, Goin’ South, 1978. When signing to star and direct the aimless Western, Jack Nicholson searched everywhere for the woman to save him from hanging by marrying him. In 1970, he’d suggested Jane Fonda..Now, he saw Meryl and Jessica Lange. Then, he (and Warren Beatty) discovered Mary waitressing at the Magic Pan Creperie on 58th Street... and rushed to be the first to use her. Jack won. And lost. The film flopped but Mary had a support Oscar by 1981.
- Penelope Milford, Coming Home, 1978. Jane Fonda was shooting Julia with "this young actress with a really strange name... I haven't seen an actress so amazing since Geraldine Page. " She was perfect for Vi Munson! But, "M-e-r-y-l with a y" was booked for the stage.
- Jobeth Williams, Kramer v Kramer, 1979. Meryl auditioned for Phyllis, Kramer’s one night stand: two scenes, one nude. She met scenarist-director Robert Benton, producer Stanley Jaffe in New York hotel. Dustin Hoffman was late for the reading. On arrival, he let fly an enormous fart. Her reaction - “My God, where did you have lunch!” - made her Mrs Kramer. As she left, Hoffman and Benton agreed: “She’s perfect. She is Joanna Kramer!” Exit: Kate Jackson, of Charlie’s Angels.
- Audrey Hepburn, Bloodline, 1979. So it was Audrey having the long affair with co-star Ben Gazzara.
- Sigourney Weaver, Alien, 1979. Director Ridley Scott said choosing Ripley came down to two actresses - former Yale college mates, Meryl and Sigourney.
- Lauren Hutton, American Gigiolo, 1979. Legend insists that Meryl fled from the Michelle role. She was not won over by “the tone” of the film. What did she expect from such a a title?
- Jessica Lange, The Postman Always Rings Twice, 1980. Hot love scenes were expected... And Meryl told director Bob Rafelson that she’d be nude if co-star Jack Nicholson was also explicitly naked. “I will, if he will...!” So, said Meryl, “I didn’t turn it down. He turned me down.” According to biographer Dennis McDouglas, Jack, preparing for his kitchen table scene with Jessica, “tried for 45 minutes to whip up an erection for a tumescent trouser silhouette but gave up after Jack Jr refused to stand to attention.”
- Madeline Kahn, Simon, 1980. Passed on Dr Cynthia Malloy in the writer-directing debut of Woody Allen’s co-writer Marshall Brickman.
- Liza Minnelli, Arthur, 1980. Arthur went from John Belushi and Bud Cort to Michael Palin and John Travolta as thoughts for his ideal woman Linda Marolla included Meryl, Mia Farrow, Farrah Fawcett, Goldie Hawn, Barbara Hershey, Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange, Susan Sarandon, Cybill Shepherd and Tuesday Weld - in the throes of divorcing the titular Dudley Moore.
- Jessica Lange, The Postman Always Rings Twice, 1980. Streep, plus Lindsay Crouse, Theresa Russell and even Raquel Welch, passed on Cora’s murderous affair with Jack Nicholson. "The US critics hated it," said director Bob Rafelson. “They didn’t like the idea that a guy who looked like a sloth (as Nicholson did in that picture) could touch the pussy of Jessica Lange. And touch it he did, by God!”
- Nathalie Baye, The Return of Martin Guerre, France, 1982. “The story was originally in Spanish and happened 500 years ago,” recalled producer Arnon Milchan about his Michael Powell script for Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro and Meryl. "Then we heard there was going to be a French version" - Daniel Vigne directing Gérard Depardieu and Nathalie Baye. Milchan waited ten years before re-making it as Sommersby.
- Patricia Hodge, Betrayal, 1982. Producer Sam Spiegel didn’t need to make movies anymore (they’d all flopped since The Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia). He still hoped to make good - and might have managed it if Meryl had made the film of his Last Tycoon scenarist Harold Pinter’s semi-autobiographical play examination of a love affair. But her young family needed her in America - "and you can't make this picture anywhere else but in England." Streep went into Sophie’s Choice and her first Best Actress Oscar. (In 2014, she as nominated for a record 18th time).
- Sandra Bernhard, The King of Comedy, 1983. "She wasn't interested," reported director Martin Scorsese. Robert De Niro had suggested her "because she's very funny... does funny stuff like pratfalls. Great sense of humour. When we were doing Falling In Love, we used to make fun of the script - well, not make fun of it, but read it in a different way, soap opera it up."
- Ann-Margret, A Streetcar Named Desire, TV, 1984. That's called lowering the ante... She was unavailable when playwright Tennessee Williams wanted her for a new Streetcar film in the 1980s. Rather than waiting, the project was refashioned for TV with (don't laugh) litttle Annie Olsson and Treat Williams.
- Glenn Close, Jagged Edge, 1985. According to writer Joe Eszterhas, Meryl wanted a dozen major changes in his script. (Is that all?). Close jumped again, having lately picked up one of Streep's Broadway rejections as well, Tom Stoppard's Sure Thing.
- Jessica Lange, Sweet Dreams, 1985. Patsy Cline is one of the few roles that Streep was rejected for! Now, she has said, that she couldn't imagine the movie without Jessica. Streep did her own CW singing in Postcards From The Edge, 1990.
- Theresa Russell, Black Widow, 1986. Like Debra, Meryl preferred the cop to the man-eater. And killer.
- Glenn Close, Fatal Attraction, 1987.
- Jodie Foster, The Accused, 1988.
Awful thing to say. Except it is true. Jodie Foster would never have won her (first) Oscar for this trenchant drama - if actress Kelly McGillis had not been raped in 1982… At first, the role of the rape victim Sarah Tobias was written for Andie MacDowell. She passed. The Paramount suits then saw 34 other young actresses for the (real life) victim. Or, for their own rape bait fantasies - including 16-year-old Alyssa Milano! Foster was refused a test because she was “not sexy enough”! And, anyway, the studio had decided upon McGillis, a high flyer in Paramount’s Witness and Top Gun. And, naturally, she refused point-blank! She knew what it was to be brutally raped and Kelly had no wish to revisit the horror and agony of her own assault six years earlier. The suits were annoyed. They needed her. She was hot at the box-office, their box-office. They had made her a star!! Eventually, McGillis agreed to play Sarah’s defence attorney - on condition that unsexy Jodie played Sarah! A huge list of talent also seen for Sarah. Starting with the Fatal Attraction also-rans: Streep, Rosanna Arquette, Ellen Barkin, Kim Basinger, Jennifer Beals, Jennifer Grey, Melanie Griffith, Linda Hamilton, Darryl Hannah, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Diane Keaton, Demi Moore, Kelly Preston, Meg Ryan, Jane Seymour, Sharon Stone, Debra Winger. And moving on to the younger Melissa Sue Anderson (trying to break her Little House on the Prairie image), Justine Bateman, Valerie Bertinelli, Phoebe Cates, Jennifer Connelly, Joan Cusack, Judy Davis, Kristin Davis, Bridget Fonda, Annabeth Gish, Mariel Hemingway, Kelly LeBrock, Virginia Madsen, Brigitte Nielsen, Tatum O’Neal, Molly Ringwald, Mia Sara, Ally Sheedy, Brooke Shields, Uma Thurman. Oh, and Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, said the suits, was “too nice.” Rape victims shouldn’t be nice? Oh, Hollywood!
- Kelly McGillis, The Accused, 1988. Paramount then saw a further 28 women for the victuim’s lawyer. Including Streep among the Fatal Attractioners and… Beverly D’Angelo, Blythe Danner, Geena Davis, Sally Field, Carrie Fisher, Teri Garr, Mary Gross, Kathlen Turner, Sigourney Weaver, Dianne Wiest. A 1982 rape victim herself, McGillis refused the lead. Obviously. However, she agreed to play Sarah’s defence attorney - on condition that “unsexy” Jodie, and no one else, played Sarah! The suits caved, tested Foster and the rest is Oscar history… dated March 29, 1989.
- Susan Sarandon, Thelma & Louise, 1990.
- Sharon Stone, Basic Instinct, 1991.
- Ellen Barkin, Man Trouble, 1992. After Heartburn, 1986, and Ironweed, 1987, the third pairing of Meryl and Jack Nicholson was set for 1990, except Jack was too spent... not so much from actor-directing The Two Jakes but its gigantic flop. By the time he was ready, Meryl was not - she was pregnant with her fourth baby. Lucky for her. Barkin was a poor substitute. Yet Jack Nicholson agreed in order to help out two of his Five Easy Pieces: writer Carole Eastman and director Bob Rafelson.
- Gene Hackman, The Firm, 1993. Director Sydney Pollack and producer Scott Rudin considered turning the head of their secret Mafia law firm into a woman - and young lawyer Tom Cruise would have an affair with her. They didn’t get it on during Lions for Lambs, 2007, either. The well-meaning film, produced by Cruise to re-launch United Artists, did not.
- Emma Thompson, The Remains of the Day, 1993. The Broadway and Hollywood director Mike Nichols planned a Streep reunion with Jeremy Irons, except they had both become too highly priced since The French Lieutenant's Woman, 1981.
- Stockard Channing, Six Degrees of Separation, 1993. Streep and Will Smith...!! Meryl was keen, she loved the play (Channing’s Tony nominated role) and had worked with Australian director Fred Schepisi on Plenty, 1985.
- Geena Davis, Angie, 1993. The official reason was Madonna was already booked for Abel Ferrara’s Dangerous Game, 1992. Then, one of her emails was leaked - furious with the head Fox, Joe Roth, for dumping her for a non-Italian in the titular role. In truth, she fled after hearing Roth didn’t want her because she 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. Oh, very Italian!
- Sandra Bullock, Speed, 1993. Aw c’mon! This is the one and only time that Meryl was in the mix for the same role as such equals as… Rosanna Arquette, Cameron Diaz, Carrie Fisher, Bridget Fonda, Daryl Hannah, Kay Lenz, Alyssa Milano, Demi Moore, Tatum O’Neal, Sarah Jessica Parker and Ally Sheedy!!! A further 25 (including, aw c’mon… Glenn Close and Emma Thompson) also refused to help Keanu Reeves save passengers of a bus with a bomb on it. What was Foxthinking! Then again, it must be admitred ghat if this was Die Hard On A Bus, Meryl’s The River Wild, a year later, was… was Die Hard On A Raft. (But, at least, she had the Bruce Willis role that time).
- Sigourney Weaver, Death and the Maiden, 1994. First name on the short list (quelle surprise!) of director Roman Polanski and producer Thom Mount.
- Joan Allen, Nixon, 1994. The JFK director Oliver Stone’s main idea for Pat Nixon - until one of his Tricky Dicky choices, Warren Beatty, suggested Allen. He even read with her to prove his point.
- Mary Stuart Masterson, Radioland Murders, 1994. First leading lady suggestion for the Dream On cable TV star Brian Benben His wife knew best. George Lucas production or not, the old (1974) script was too long in the tooth.
- Patricia Arquette, Beyond Rangoon, 1995. This once she fourth choice... after Meg Ryan, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jodie Foster.
- Annette Bening, The American President, 1995. "I once had a White House in Washington..." Due opposite Robert Redford (again) in the Fred Schepisi version, The President Elopes, in 1992.
- Annette Bening, Richard III, 1995. Budget would not stretch far enough for Ian McKellan's dream (and deliberately American) Queen Elizabeth in his 1930s-Fascistic take on Shakespeare.
- Joan Allen, Nixon, 1995. Inevitably, Meryl was seen for First Lady Pat Nixon. However, Warren Beatty - a possible Tricky Dicky - had already recommended Allen to auteur Oliver Stone.
- Madonna, Evita, 1996. At the very least, the accent would have been perfect... Madonna was director Oliver Stone's first choice, except "she had no humility." So he agreed to sail with Streep. "She has a lovely voice and was hungry to do it." After nearly three years' prepping, she quit in October 1989. Exhaustion, said her publicist. Money, said Stone. "She was upset about men getting bigger salaries." Pregnancy had much earlier prevented her accepting Hal Prince's request to take over the role on Broadway. "That would have been a new switch - a pregnant Evita!"
- Diane Keaton, Marvin's Room, 1996. Meryl was first attached to Bessie. When Anjelica Huston fell out of Lee, Streep took that role over and Bessie became Keaton.
- Julia Ormond, The Barber of Siberia, 1997. Ten years earlier, the project of Russian director Nikita Mikhalov had been all set for Streep. Now it went to nobody.
- Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth, 1998. According to The Legend, this is one of three roles only that Streep was rejected for - by, in this instance, the Pakistani director Shekhar Kapur best known for his Indian epic, Bandit Queen, 1994.
- Glenn Close, Mars Attacks! 1998. For the Tim Burton jape that failed to ignite, Stockard Channing was also talked of for President Jack Nicholson’s First Lady. Close din’t help. Too many stars. Not enough satire.
- Brenda Blethyn, RKO 281, TV, 1999. For Louella Parsons as the Scott brothers, Ridley and Tony, tell all about the making of Citizen Kane. It ended (brilliantly) as a reduced-budget HBO tele-movie..
- Rene Russo, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, 2000. During a rights rumble, Danny De Vito-Streep became Jason Alexander-Rene Russo. To this day, no one can fully explain why this mess was ever envisaged, let alone made.
- Frances McDormand, Almost Famous, 2000. For his autobiographical talk of joining the rock world, writer-director and ex-Rolling Stone journo Cameron Crowe wanted Streep as his mother. She did not agree.
- Lois Smith, Minority Report, 2002. Streep and Spielberg! They talked about it when she voiced Blue Mecha in Artificial Intelligence: AI, 2001. Smith, 72, has been in 90-plus films, starting with East of Eden, 1955. By this year, Meryl scored her 13th Oscar nod (two wins), beating Katharine Hepburn’s twelve and four and Bette Davis, ten and two. (Early in her career, Streep received a letter from Davis, saying she felt Meryl was her successor as the premier American actress. Kate Hepburn, however, despised Meryl as an actress. Too damned brilliant, huh?).
- Patricia Clarkson, All The King’s Men, 2006. Just too busy for a consecutive re-make (after The Manchurian Candidate) what with... The Devil Wears Prada, The Music of Regret, Robert Altman’s (finale) A Prairie Home Companion and voicing The Queen in The Ant Bully toon. She had made 20 films that far in the new century, 61 screen roles in 30 years.
- Helena Bonham Carter, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, 2006. Annette Bening, Toni Collette, Nicole Kidman, Cyndi Lauper, Bernadette Peters plus great Brits, Kristin Scott Thomas, Imelda Staunton, Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet were also considered for Mrs Lovett, making the meatiest of meat pies (from the victims of a demonic Johnny Depp). They all lacked one essential. They were not living with director Tim Burton! HBC. And she underlined it by being pregnant during the shoot.
- Michelle Pfeiffer, Hairspray, 2007. Both Meryl and Madonna were seen as Velma Von Tussle. And both Meryl and Michelle had been beaten to Evita, 1996, by Madonna.
- Debra Winger, Rachel Getting Married, 2008. She asked director Jonathan Demme to release her as Amy Adams’ mother in order to be Mama Mia! “I was intimidated about contacting Debra,” said Demme. “But my belief that we needed her transcended my fear.” And Streep became Amy’s reverend mother in Doubt.
- Helen Mirren, The Last Station, 2009. Second choice for Sofya Tolstoy in the long and winding road of filming Jay Parini’s novel about the writer’s death - 18 drafts over 20 years. Anthony Hopkins was to play her husband. But as Parini pointed out: “These actors had busy lives and we could not... coincide with their schedules.”
- Helen Mirren, Red, 2009. OK, one Oscar-winner for another, Margaret Thatcher v Queen Elizabeth II (not for the first time). The official version is that Meryl was “considered.” Nobody considers Meryl, they rush to sign her... But she hasn’t made a stupid film since Death Becomes Her in 1991. (Also with Bruce Willis). But who would wish go see La Streep in the old black-ops team (Morgan J Freeman, John Malkovich) together again as RED. Retired, Extremely Dangerous. Now if they’d offered her the Bruce’s boss role…
- Michelle Peiffer, People Like Us, 2011. Director Alex Kurtzman thought of Meryl fopr Chris Pine’s disheveled looking mother! Of course, she was. She’d be considered for anybody’s mother. Even Shrek’s.
- Helena Bonham-Carter, Great Expectations, 2012. Schedules prevented a Streepian Miss Havisham in the ninth screen version of the Dickens classic between 1934-2012. Helena was the first to stick to Dickens’ description and wore a single shoe.
- Annette Bening, The Search, 2013. Oscar-winning French director for The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius tried to land Streep for the orphanage director as Fred Zinnemann’s film of 1947 Germany is re-told in post war Chechnya. In short, nothing has changed.
- Adriana Ugarte, Julieta, Spain, 2015. Some years earlier, Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar planned to adapt three Alice Munro stories as Silence for Meryl. "She knew the stories, and we talked about the character of Juliet, and she was very enthusiastic. It was really something for me, because if you have an instrument like Meryl Streep, even to direct it for me should be different…" He quit as soon as Martin Scorsese announced his (totally different) Silence plan. (Pedro could simply have used either of the other two short story titles: Chance; Soon). No, the real reason he matched Munro’s original title - Runaway - was that felt felt insecure in a place he did not know (Canada), in a language (English) he had not mastered (although having written the script in English). It just all worked better back in his comfort zone. Madrid.