- Jodie Foster, Taxi Driver, 1975.
- Jodie Foster, Freaky Friday, 1975. At 12, Foster won (a younger) Princess Lei in Star Wars: Chapter IV – A New Hope, 1976, when her agent realised she was she as still contracted to Disney. While she could have been lawyered out of it, her mother felt duty bound to tell Jodie to forget outer space and swop roles with Mom, Babara Harris, just for one day. Winger had also tested for Annabel, despite being… 21.
- 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 Melissa Sue Anderson, Rosanna Arquette, Linda Blair, Jamie Lee Curtis, Bridget Fonda, Jodie Foster, Mariel Hemingway, Helen Hunt, 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 Winger, Isabelle Adjani, Bo Derek, Carrie Fisher, Melanie Griffith, Amy Irving or Mary Steenburgen.
- Lauren Hutton, American Gigolo, 1979. Winger had to wait a trifle longer for her breakthrough. She used her Warner salary to buy herself out of Warner custody in time for the double whammy of An Officer and a Gentleman, 1981, and Terms of Endearment, 1982.
- Brooke Shields, The Blue Lagoon, 1979. Urban Cowboy got in the way of down being the "naked" shipwreck victim. Ironically, her cowpoke John Travolta had already rejected the lead in the desert island re-make.
- Karen Allen, Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1981.
- Liza Minnelli, Arthur, 1981. “I do admit to being challenging, but it’s always for the work.”
- Kathleen Turner, Body Heat,1981. “It was her first film, so I tried to help herout,” recalled co-star William Hurt. “We became friends, not that way. Kathleen’s got charisma. It’s a cheap, over-used word, but she does have it.”
- Rosanna Arquette, The Executioner’s Song, 1982. The ex-Wonder Girl, younger sister of TV’s Wonder Woman, made the worst choices since George Raft, but having started in Slumber Party ’57, 1976, and Thank God It’s Friday, 1978, she had no training in script selection.
- Daryl Hannah, Splash, 1983. Winger was high on becoming a mermaid called Madison. Director Ron Howard, not so much.
- Linda Hamilton, The Terminator, 1983. In all, 52 actresses were considered, seen, or tested for Sarah Connor.James Cameron created her for Bridget Fonda. She passed; so did Tatum O’Neal. Hedecided to go older…Glenn Close won - her schedule didn’t agree. OK,Kate Capshaw! No,she was tied toIndiana Jones and the Temple of Doom - just as Kathleen Turner was Romancing The Stone. Winger won her audition, said yes… then no.The other46 ladies were:Rosanna Arquette, Kim Basinger, Christy Brinkley, Colleen Camp, Jamie Lee Curtis, Geena Davis, Mia Farrow, Carrie Fisher, Jodie Foster, Teri Garr, Jennifer Grey, Melanie Griffith, Darryl Hannah, Barbara Hershey,Angelica Huston, Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn, Amy Irving,Margot Kidder, Diane Lane, Jessica Lange, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kay Lenz,Heather Locklear, Lori Loughlin, Kelly McGillis, Kristy McNichol, Madonna, Liza Minnelli, Mary TylerMoore, Rhea Perlman (!), Michelle Pfeiffer, Gilda Radner (!), Deborah Raffin, Miranda Richardson, Meg Ryan, Susan Sarandon, Jane Seymour, Ally Sheedy, Cybill Shepherd, Brooke Shields, Sissy Spacek, Sharon Stone, Sigourney Weaver.Most were incontention againa few years later for Fatal Attraction (won by Close) and The Accused (going to Foster and McGillis).Ten years later (after T2), Linda gave birth to Cameron’s daughter and Josephine’s parents wed in 1997… for two years.
- Kathleen Turner, Romancing The Stone, 1984.
“There were a couple of others being considered,” admitted Michael Douglas. “One in particular - but I was concerned that she might be so crazy- that I just couldn’t take a gamble with her in the jungles in Mexico.” Winger? asked Playboy. “Sounds like.”
- Anjelica Huston, Prizzi’s Honor, 1984. “So let’s do it. Right here. On the Oriental. With all the lights on.” Maerose Prizzi knew what she wanted, where and when from from her Family’s hit man, Jack Nicholson - the unlikeliest Mafioso since the Corleones’ James Caan. Before realising his daughter was Oscar-winning perfection, director John Huston looked at some 19 potential Maeroses. From the sublime Winger, Rosanna Arquette, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Liza Minnelli, Demi Moore and Michelle Pfeiffer (been there, done that and got the Married To The Mob and Scarface t-shirts)… to the ridiculous, Geena Davis, Melanie Griffith, Daryl Hannah, Emma Thompson, Sela Ward, Debra Winger… and the damn stupid: Linda Blair, Carrie Fisher, Kelly Lebrock, Heather Locklear, Sarah Jessica Parker, Ally Sheedy.
Sissy Spacek, Marie, 1985. Stand up, please - the three of you who saw the film... Someone?
- Isabella Rossellini, Blue Velvet, 1985. But then director David Lynch started his affair with Isa...
- Kathleen Turner, Peggy Sue Got Married, 1985. The mighty Coppola made the (bad) movie with Turner (worse). At the end of the previous year, as directors switched from Penny Marshall to Jonathan Demme, Winger had been set as (the perfect) Peggy Sue. But a cycle accident severely injured her back and ruled her out of this and many other movies during her long convalescence.
- Glenn Close, Fatal Attraction, 1986.
- Holly Hunter, Broadcast News, 1987. Bad timing! Director James Brooks wrote it for her but she was pregnant with her and Tim Hutton’s son, Noah. “She’s real smart, very dedicated, extremely resourceful about her work,” said Jack Nicholson, guesting as a TV news anchor. “The girl’s got boom!”
- Elizabeth Perkins, Big,1987. Steven Spielberg’s sister, Anne, wrote the script, so it was perhaps obvious that she would think first of her brother’s pals: Winger and Harrison Ford. They declined. Politely. Wisely. Well, Debra was pregnant and recommended Perkins for Anne’s third and last filmed script and final producing gig. She’d also acted - in Escape To Nowhere in 1961, directedby her brother. At 13.
- Jodie Foster, The Accused, 1987.
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 had been seen for Sarah. Starting with the Fatal Attraction also-rans: Winger, 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, Meryl Streep. 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, 1987. Paramount suits then saw 43 young actresses for the (real life) gang rape victim. Or, their own rape bait fantasies… such as 16-year-old Alyssa Milano! And a further 28 for her awyer. Including the Fatal Attraction also-rans (from Debra to Faye Dunaway, by way of Diane Keaton and, naturally, Meryl Streep). Plus Winger, Beverly D’Angelo, Blythe Danner, Geena Davis, Sally Field, Carrie Fuisher, Teri Garr, Mary Gross, Kathleen Turner, Sigourney Weaver, Dianne Wiest. A 1982 rape victim herself, McGillis refused the lead. She had no wish to revisit the horror and pain of her own assault six years earlier. 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.
- Theresa Russell, Black Widow, 1987. Given the choice of the two roles, she chose the FBI agent, because she didn’t understand what motivated the Black Widow to kill. (Money, no?)
- Barbra Streisand, Nuts, 1987. Winger + Nuts! Hollywood thought that too close to the bone. Director Mark Rydell was in charge when Streisand showed interest. He preferred Debra. Then, La Barb came back - with director Martin Ritt!
- Susan Sarandon, Bull Durham, 1988. Some things are meant to be. Susan and Tim Robbins have been together ever since. (Well, almost). Kathleen Turner, Switching Channels, 1988. Fled this CAA package after the “nightmare” of the previous one: Legal Eagles. Fled CAA, too . For a time.
- Kathleen Turner, War of the Roses, 1989. When the battling spouse was Kevin Costner.
- Michele Pfeiffer, The Fabulous Baker Boys, 1989. Not one, apparently, for making whoopee..
- Jessica Lange, The Music Box, 1989. Even rejected European director Costa-Gavras - after their Betrayed, 1988.
- Demi Moore, Ghost, 1989. Not keen on another tear-jerker. Unless she could have Whoopi Goldberg’s role. (And her Oscar).
- Virginia Madsen, The Hot Spot, 1989. Doubtless put off by the required nudity, Winger refused director Dennis Hopper’s erotic movie - when planned with Mickey Rourke. Hpper also checked Jodie Foster (Hopper’s co-star in his previous ’89 gig, Catchfire), Mela39 - Lorraine Bracco, Radio Flyer, 1991. A Richard Donner switch when replacing writer-director David Mickey Evans, bumped down to exec producer by Michael Douglas. Debra Winger had also been sought. But Douglas also barred Winger from his Shining Through that year as he had for Romancing The Stone, in 1984. 39 - Lorraine Bracco, Radio Flyer, 1991. A Richard Donner switch when replacing writer-director David Mickey Evans, bumped down to exec producer by Michael Douglas. Debra Winger had also been sought. But Douglas also barred Winger from his Shining Through that year as he had for Romancing The Stone, in 1984.They wuz both right!
- Julia Roberts, Pretty Woman, 1989.
- Jodie Foster, The Silence of the Lambs,1990.
- Susan Sarandon, Thelma & Louise, 1990.
- Meryl Streep, Postcards From The Edge, 1990. Debra’s version, circa '87, was postponed. By the time it was ready anew, she was committed to an Arthur Miller script with a totally false title: Everybody Wins, 1990.
- 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.
- Geena Davis, A League Of Their Own, 1991. Long attached to the female baseball project (she took private batting practice) and then quit in a snit (or “an injured back”) over the "stunt casting" of Madonna. Her agent, Rick Nicita got, his other client on the team after Geena auditioned in Penny Marshall’s back yard.
- Penelope Ann Miller, Other People’s Money, 1991. After losing Michelle Pfeiffer, Canadian director Norman Jewison looked at Geena Davis and Winger and fell for the girl who had played everything from Marlon Brando’s daughter to Robert De Niro and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s girls.
- MelanieGriffith, Shining Through,1991. Set up by Dawn Steel (real name: Spielberg), when she was Studio President at Columbia, it proved an over-expensive flop for Fox with Michael Douglas, already leery of Winger six years earlier.
- Sharon Stone, Basic Instinct, 1991.
- Lorraine Bracco, Radio Flyer, 1991. A Richard Donner switch when replacing writer-director David Mickey Evans, bumped down to exec producer by Michael Douglas. Debra Winger had also been sought. But Douglas also barred Winger from his Shining Through that year as he had for Romancing The Stone, in 1984.
- Laura Dern, Jurassic Park, 1992.
- Uma Thurman, Pulp Fiction, 1993.
- Bridget Fonda, Point Of No Return, 1992. Why would anyone be interested in Hollywood’s re-make of Nikita when the original’s auteur, Luc Besson, was not?
- Lorraine Bracco, Medicine Man, 1992. Bracco was, ina word, appalling. Cher, Steenburgen and Debra Winger were seen by director MartinRitt for partnering Jack Nicholson in 1984, when the script was called Road Show.Sean Connery co-existed (barely) with Bracco for John McTiernan when critics proved either 100% for or against. The Washington Post’s Hal Hinson actually said Bracco displayed “the kind of tenacious, emotional ferocity that Debra Winger showed in some of her earlier roles." No, she didn't.
- Demi Moore, Indecent Proposal,1992. Robert Redford paying her and her husband $1m to sleep with her was not quite the way to keep Winger in the movies! (No, that took a Leap of Faith - with Steve Martin).
- Meg Ryan, Sleepless in Seattle. 1992. This was a better idea. Just not better enough.
- Laura Dern, Jurassic Park, 1992. Some 25 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…Winger, Jamie Lee Curtis, Geena Davis, Bridget Fonda, Jodie Foster, Jennifer Grey, Linda Hamilton,Daryl Hannah,Helen Hunt, Kelly McGillis, Michelle Pfieffer, Julia Roberts, Ally Sheedy, Sigourney Weaver, Robin Wright. And among newer contestants:Juliette Binoche, Sandra Bullock, Joan Cusack, Sherilyn Fenn,Teri Hatcher, Helen Hunt, Elizabeth Hurley, Laura Linney, Julianne Moore, Julianne Moore, Gwyneth Paltrow and Sarah Jessica Parker.
- Ellen Barkin, This Boy's Life, 1993. Robert De Niro's fee meant not enough left to hire Debra as Leonardo DiCaprio’s mom. “You can’t afford me,” Barkin told producer Art Linson. “But she liked the script so much, we were able to.”
- Sarah Jessica Parker, Ed Wood, 1993. She rejected both Johnny Depp and his favourite director Tim Burton. Where had her sense of humour gone?
- Sandra Bullock, Speed, 1993. Although sharing the heroics and the driving of the bus-bomb with Keanu Reeves, most girls saw it as The Guy’s film. An amazing 36 refused to be Annie: Winger, Rosanna Arquette, Kim Basinger, Halle Berry, Glenn Close (!), Geena Davis, Cameron Diaz, Carrie Fisher, Bridget Fonda, Jodie Foster, Melanie Griffith, Daryl Hannah, Mariska Hargitay, Barbara Hershey, Anjelica Huston, Diane Lane, Jessica Lange, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kay Lenz, Alyssa Milano, Demi Moore, Tatum O’Neal, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michelle Pfeiffer, Julia Roberts, Meg Ryan, Winona Ryder, Jane Seymour, Ally Sheedy, Brooke Shields, Meryl Streep (!), Emma Thompson (!), Meg Tilly, Marisa Tomei, Kathleen Turner and Sigourney Weaver.
- Meg Ryan, When A Man Loves A Woman, 1994. The hot Debra-Tom Hanks became a tepid Ryan-Andy Garcia. Title also changed from The Significant Other. Still didn’t work.
Nicole Kidman, To Die For, 1994.
“You aren't anybody in America if you’re not on TV…” Most young sparks agreed this was a role to die for - the girl who would do anything (murder included) to get on TV, and stay there. They included Patricia Arquette, Jennifer Connelly, Joan Cusack, Bridget Fonda, Jodie Foster, Melanie Griffith, Darryl Hannah, Holly Hunter, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tatum O’Neal, Mary-Louise Parker, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michelle Pfeiffer, Meg Ryan (passing up $5m), Brooke Shields, Uma Thurman. However, Winger simply refused… and Kidman persuaded director Gus Van Sant that she was his destiny.
Jessica Lange,Marvin's Room, 1994. Lost: another role for Robert De Niro’s company. Jessica had already made two successive De Niro movies.
Jennifer Aniston, The Object Of My Affection, 1998. Roommates - straight girl, gay guy. When Debra and director James Bridges were set to film Wendy Wasserstein’s script, it was the girl who was gay.
- Drew Barrymore, Riding in Cars With Boys, 2001. Writer-producer-directorJames Brooks bought the rights in 1989 for Cher and Debra as mother and daughter. Barrymore’s Ma was Lorraine Bracco.
- Nicole Kidman, Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus, 2006. MGM’s Ileen Maisel bought Patricia Bosworth’s biographyof the photography icon for Diane Keaton but two Euro directors she had dallied with both preferred Debra.So they didn’t last long.