Natalie Wood (1938-1981)
- Carolyn Craig, Giant, 1955.
- Heather Sears, The Story of Esther Costello, 1956. One year earlier, Sam Fuller was due to writer-direct but could never obtain any of the actresses on his his short-list for the mute and blind heroine: Wood, Joan Collins, Jean Simmons, Susan Strasberg. Romulus made it a UK film and Sears won the British Academy Award for Best Actress. Joan Crawford played her wealthy protector.
- Jean Seberg, Saint Joan, 1957. Natalie was the perfect age for the 19-year-old Maid of Orleans - she shot her 37th film, Marjorie Morningstar, instead. The tyrannical producer-director Otto Preminger 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, Kim Novak (from Otto’s Man With The Golden Arm, 1955), Debbie Reynolds,and Maggie Smith.
- Dorothy Malone, Too Much, Too Soon, 1958. The queen of the Warner lot (as songwriter Gwen Davis put it: Natalie Wood and Tab Wouldn’t) but no matter the huge fee she was offered, she refused the Diana Barrymore story as her co-star would be Errol Flynn - alleged, if never named, as the “Mr Showbiz” who drugged, stripped, whipped and raped her in his hotel suite in 1955.
- Sandra Dee, A Summer Place, 1958. Exactly the teen material that Nat felt was behind her in The Girl He Left Behind, three years before. Sole difference: for Tab Hunter, read Troy Donahue. (Some people still can’t tell the difference, said Tab, who often signed autographs as Troy). Nat later regretted turning down the hit film that “makes the most of Hollywood’s newly-discovered freedom to display the voluminous vocabulary of sex,” said Variety. “A couple of years ago, A Summer Place wouldn’t have been made.”
- Millie Perkins, The Diary of Anne Frank, 1958. The poor, teenage Holocaust heroine deserved better than this… Director George Stevens’ collected papers mentions reported a major search for a “new face” for Anne. More than 2,000 girls were seen in Europe (particularly Amsterdam where she lived) and Israel… such as Oshra El Kayam, Karin Wolfe. Plus actresses Perkins, Janet Margolin, Marianne Sarstadt, Tuesday Weld, Natalie Wood - and Broadway’s Anne, Susan Strasberg. Anne’s father, Otto Frank suggested Audrey Hepburn. She was born just 39 days before Anne was now too old (29) to play a teenager. Also, she had no wish to relive the the Nazi horrors she had seen (and heard) while growing up in Holland.
- Carroll Baker, The Miracle, 1959. For Nat, back from, her (first) honeymoon with Robert Wagner, this was far from a passion-project.
- Sandra Dee, Imitation of Life, 1959. The title perfectly summed up Sirk’s movies. Glossmeister Ross Hunter refused to pay Warners $200,000 to borrow “Natalia” and discovered his own imitation of teenage life in New Jersey’s former Alexandra Zuck - soon being borrowed by Warners.
- Barbara Rush, The Young Philadelphians, 1959. Three strikes and out... Natalie was suspended by Warners for refusing this third successive movie. Despite it featuring Robert Vaughn - the lover she had two-timed Elvis Presley with back in 1956. But the New Generation Star was fed up with the old guartd. As she’d said after Marjorie Morningstar the year before: “I’d rather spend my life in a crapper than do another picture with Irving Rapper.”
- Janette Scott, The Devil's Disciple, 1959. Too soon after her marriage to RJ - Robert Wagner - to disappear to Britain for three months - even in the rarified company of Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, Laurence Olivier! Her studio boss, Jack Warner, allowed her to stay home for 14 months. On suspension.
- Jean Simmons, This Earth Is Mine, 1959. Nat refused to be loaned out to Universal - and sat out her suspension until Warren Beatty and Splendor In the Grass restored her fame - and ruined her marriage. Not that Beatty made a move until after she and RJ were divorced.
- Dolores Hart, Where The Boys Are, 1959. Wood was cut when producer Joe Pasternak was reported as selecting unknowns (Burt Reynolds and, as suggested by George Hamilton, Sean Flynn) to battle the power of big Hollywood stars. Total bull! The top roles were for jeanagers (few of whom were A Stars like Wood) and, anyway… unknowns were cheaper. (What ? You never noticed junior Flynn? Of course not. Most of his scenes were cut). Anyway, Wood had bigger dramas to fly: Splendour in the Grass, West Side Story. After Come Fly With Me, 1962, Hart quit Tinseltown (her 17 movies included two with Elvis). She became a Benedictine nun and, eventually, her convent’s Mother Superior.
- Joan Plowright, The Entertainer, 1960. She “desperately” wanted to accept but Warners would not let her go to London and co-star with Laurence Olivier, having only just won her back to work in Cash McCall, the studio’s price for allowing her to make Splendor in the Grass.Not sure why UK director Tony Richardson felt that Olivier’s old time music-hall comic would have an American daughter... The daughter he did have on-screen, Plowright, became his third and final wife.
- Shirley Jones, Pepe, 1960. Wood and Judy Garland were in and out as Suzie. Columbia and Posa Films, the Mexican company of the titular Cantinflas, then looked at Barrie Chase and Sandra Church before loaning Debs from MGM - for The Rumble dance routine, with West Side Story choreographics.
- Nancy Kwan, The World of Suzie Wong, 1960. So many rows… When Broadway’s Suzie, France Nuyen, and director Jean Negulesco were dumped, a "second global search for another Suzie" began in December 1959, covering: Grace Chang, Choo Oh (Miss Korea 1959), Lisa Liu, Nobu McCarthy, Charita Soliz, Luz Valdez. A total pr job! Kwan, from London’s Royal Ballet School, who succeeded Nuyen on-stage, had long been producer Ray Stark’s choice. Shamefully… Because she looked less Eurasian. Why else had he also been looking at French star Pascale Petit (from Les tricheurs and Julie la rousse) and West Side Story’s Rita Moreno and Natalie…?
- Connie Stevens, Parrish, 1961. Ironically, the next offer was the project that had first brought Warren Beatty to Hollywood - only now the guy was played by the jellybaby Troy Donahue. Natalie tore the script up. (Not easy unless you’re in a real snit).
- Sarah Miles, Term of Trial, 1962. Lost Laurence Olivier a third time. Fifteen years later, she and her re-wed husband Robert Wagner, were invited by Olivier to co-star in his Granada TV production of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, 1976.
- Suzanne Pleshette, Rome Adventure, 1962. Natalie had separated from RJ and was, said director Delmer Daves, “going through an emotional turmoil, has lost eight pounds which she cannot spare and our studio doctor believes we should not plan on using her.” And they didn’t. Bereft on losing lovers (Wagner and Joan Collins), previously chaste co-stars Wood and Warren Beatty met up, socially, cinematically and, finally - after all that - romantically.
- Audrey Hepburn, Charade, 1963. To be opposite Warren Beatty again - when Cary Grant was worrying he was too old to co-star romantically with Audrey Hepburn. Nat preferred Love With The Proper Stranger called Steve McQueen.Then again, she twice married her own Grant, RJ - Robert Wagner.
- Jean Seberg, Lilith, 1963. Yvette Mimieux discovered the JR Salamanca book and sent it to various directors, including Robert Rossen. Unfortunately, her dream role was thwarted by his lengthy decision-making - and Warren Beatty advising him to see Seberg… after promoting Samantha Eggar and Romy Schneider. Also in the mix: Dianes Baker and Cilento (Salamanca’s choice, who was Mrs Sean Connery at the time), Sarah Miles (too busy with her secret lover, Laurence Olivier) and Natalie Wood... who thought she had it in her pocket because that is where she also thought she had Beatty. Oh, so many women thought that.
- Suzanne Pleshette, A Rage To Live, 1964. Producer Walter Mirisch had first planned the John O’Hara novel as a Nat vehicle in 1959 - to follow their West Side Story.
- Kim Novak, Of Human Bondage, 1964. Veteran US director Henry Hathaway’s third choice, for Mildred, after Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor.
- Samantha Eggar, The Collector 1965. Not many Hollywood actresses reject such a directing icon as the three-time Oscar-winner William Wyler.
- Faye Dunaway, Bonnie and Clyde, 1966.
- Jane Fonda, Barefoot in the Park, 1967. Warren Beatty always remained friends with his endless conquests. Among all the equally long line of scripts he kept refusing, he hung on to Neil Simon’s comedy as a vehicle for himself and "Natasha" (as he did with Bonnie and Clyde). When that didn’t happen, the new Paramount owner Charles Bludhorn threatened to throw himself out of his New York skyscraper if Jane was cast... She was, he didn’t and it was her first big hit.
- Katharine Ross, The Graduate, 1967. Broadway genius 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… Ann-Margret, Elizabeth Ashley, Carroll Baker, Candice Bergen, Patty Duke, Sally Field, Jane Fonda, Sue Lyon, Carol Lynley, Hayley Mills, Yvette Mimieux, Suzanne Pleshette, Lee Remick, Jean Seberg, Pamela Tiffin, Tuesday Weld… and Natalie, who simply refused! Having played Games with her that year, Simone Signoret recommended Ross to Nichols.
- Barbara Harris, Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama’s Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feeling So Sad, 1967. Natalie was announced two years earlier for, according to the sales pitch: “This motion picture will probably do as much for mothers as Moby Dick did for whales... ”
- Shirley MacLaine, Woman Times Seven, 1967. Nat reportedly turned down the seven leading roles of Edith, Eve Minou, Jeanne, Linda, Maria Teresa, Marie, and Paulette in an excessively weak comedy from Italian director Vittorio De Sica.
- Ali MacGraw, Goodbye, Columbus, 1968. Wood and Babara Parkins passed on Brenda So, they are to blame for the screen birth of Ali MacVacuous. Paramount boss Robert Evans selected the ex-model to partner Richard Benjamin. Evans made the model a “star.” And, indeed, a wife in 1969. Until he let her make (a literal) Getaway with Steve McQueen in 1971. Whoops.
- Romy Schneider, La piscine, France-Italy, 1969.
Wood, Leslie Caron, Angie Dickinson, Delphine Seyrig, Monica Vitti were unavailable or wanted their favourite cameraman or refused swimsuit scenes. (Difficult with that title). Alain Delon said: “What if I ask Romy?” For her, it was a gift from her god. He re-launched his on-off lover’s fading career. She was now a wife and mother, while he had one lover in the film (Madly), another visiting (Mireille Darc) before making a movie about (and with) the three of them (Madly, 1970). Director Pierre Granier-Deferre tried to re-unite The Couple for L’un contre l’autre. Ever the gent, Delon told him he couldn’t form a couple with Romy anymore - she was too old, too ravaged. Which gave us pause every time we saw a tearful Delon on TV going on about (yet again) his great love story with poor Romy.
- Jennie Linden, Women in Love, 1969. Not the only Hollywoodian considered for Ursula.
- Anna Karina, Laughter in the Dark, 1969. If he couldn’t get his ex-wife Brigitte Bardot for his 1964 plans for Vladimir Nabokov’s novel, French realisateur Roger Vadim wanted Natalie opposite Richard Burton (who was selected and quickly sacked by UK director Tony Richardson in his ’69 version). Nat, however, was into a two year sabatical. “I’ve been working steadily [for more than 20 years] since I was five.”
- Carrie Snodgress, Diary Of A Mad Housewife, 1970. Natalie was not interested in being a wife abused by her spouse - Richard Benjamin again. She was simply waiting for her new man, UK producer Richard Gregson, to divorce his wife.
- Ann-Margret, Carnal Knowledge, 1971. Among the many actresses turned down by New York stage-screen director Mike Nichols.
- Liza Minnelli, Cabaret, 1972. A (mad) 60s’ plan for a third Natalie-Robert Redford movie after Inside Daisy Clover and This Property Is Condemned.
- Mia Farrow, The Great Gatsby, 1973. The film was to be Paramount chief Robert Evans’ gift to his lady. Except Ali MacGraw had flown away with Steve McQueen (ironically, Evans’ ideal Gatsby). Thinking of yesteryear, Paramount chief Robert Evans offered Daisy Buchanan to Natalie. She refused to test, however, even though she hadn’t made a movie since… well, yesteryear.As if following her lead,Cybill Shepherd and Tuesday Weld also refused any tests for Daisy Buchanan. Instedad, Natalie made a tele-movie, Love Song, with her second-time husband, RJ.Robert Wagner.
- Faye Dunaway, The Towering Inferno, 1974. And yet she refused the towering epic - even though her RJ was among the stars: Fred Astaire, William Holden, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman etc. Nat called it “boring, insipid and worthless.” Which didn’t say much for RJ’s choices? Or those of Astaire, Dunaway, Holden, McQueen, Newman, etc. (They all had bills to pay). But then Natalie selected the far inferior epic, Meteor, 1979... just to play a Russian!
- Faye Dunaway, Network, 1976. Trashing director Sidney Lumet’s choice of Vanessa Redgrave, the film’s Oscar-winning writer Paddy Chayefsky wanted Natalie(Candice Bergen or Ellen Burstyn) as his TV ratings-obsessed programming chief,Diana Christensen. “If you're going to hustle, at least do it right.” Faye got the Oscar. And hubby Terry O’Neill got his classic Morning After photo!
- Kathleen Quinlan, I Never Promised You A Rose Garden, 1977 .Making Inside Daisy Clover, 1965, Natalie got to know the film’s Britishauthor and scenarist Gavin Lambert - and tried toproduce his new scenario(with directorSydney Pollack, then Mark Rydell).
- Bibi Andersson, I Never Promised You A Rose Garden, 1977. This is one of two passion-projects thatgot away - unlike Rebel Without A Cause, A Cry in the Night, Marjorie Morningstar, Splendor in the Grass, West Side Story, Inside Daisy Clover, This Property Is Condemned. By the time Rose Garden reached fruitiona full decade later, Nat was too old for the schizo mental patient. And not so keen on playing her shrink.
- Elizabeth Taylor,The Mirror Crack’d, 1981. And soon enough, so had she…. Natalie would not. Liz would... lower her fee to $250,000.
- Meryl Streep, Sophie’s Choice, 1982. Even more bizarre than the unsuitable “Natasha,” novelist William Styron revealed that.. when writing the novel, he envisioned Ursual Andress as Sophie!
- Susan Blakely, Will There Really Be Morning? TV, 1983. And this is the other passion-project that slipped away... The Frances Farmer biopic was the secondmental health drama she tried to developin 1966. TV star Blakely (among the co-stars of Nat’s husband Robert Wagner in The Towering Inferno), won the rights and held every other actress at bay, playing Francis, herself. Triumphantly.
- Stefanie Powers, Hart To Hart, TV, 1979-1984. Sidney Sheldon created the couple. Director Tom Mankiewicz flew to Hawaii to convince Natlie and RJ to duet. Wagner answered for both:“I sell soap. My wife sells tickets.”She walked-on in the pilot, dressed as her favourite character, Scarlett O’Hara, and was credited under her real name.Natasha Gurdin.
- Geena Davis, Thelma & Louise, 1990.