- Muriel Catala, Le sauveur, France, 1970. Scenarist-director Michel Mardone said the choice between the two unknowns went right down to the noon before shooting began. Adjani’s test turned up in a docu on actors’ first steps, in 2005.
- Lise Danvers, Contes Immoraux/Immoral Tales, France, 1974, Polish director Walerian Borowczyk invited the bright new flavourof the hour to make her film debut in the first of the film’s four erotic tales: La maree/The Tide. She backed off from simulating oral sex on Fabrice Luchini in timewith the tide.
- Sylvia Kristel,Emmanuelle, France, 1974. “Non!I can only give myself and I'm nothing special.”
- Beatrice Romand, The Romantic Englishman, 1975. Terrified of meeting the exiled US director Joseph Losey, she walked slap-bang into his hotel door. For another meeting two months later,she fell into a mud pool and arrived 90 minutes late.
- Jodie Foster, Taxi Driver, 1975.
- Carole Bouquet, Cet obscur objet du désir (US: That Obscure Object of Desire), France-Spain, 1976. She turned down Bunuel…! Because of the nudity. (What else did French actresses do?) She next backed out of L’Eté meurtrier forthe same reason - but once Valerie Kaprisky was given the role, Adjani changed her mind. No one told Kaprisky the rotten news - except the media.
- Marthe Keller, Bobby Deerfield, 1977. Looking for a European lover for the titular Al Pacino, director Sydney Pollack asked French film-maker Claude Pinoteau about Adjani after seeing her English-speaking debut in Polanski's Tenant. “Excellent,” said Pinoteau.
- Marthe Keller, Black Sunday, 1977. “I'm not interested in doing films for the sake of doing films.”
- 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. The project had a French director, the elegant Louis Malle, so why not a French Violet? Except that Adjani was 22… Malle saw 28 hopefuls and/or instant (parental) refusals. From the 11-year-old Laura Dern aged 10 and future Sex And The City co-stars Cynthia Nixon, 11, Sarah Jessica Parker, 12 (like Shields) and (the often too buxom) teenagers: little Melissa Sue Anderson on the prairie, 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 six other twentysomethings. However, no make-up and soft lenses could make 12-year-olds out of Bo Derek, Carrie Fisher, Melanie Griffith, Amy Irving, Mary Steenburgen or Debra Winger.
- Miou-Miou, Les Routes du sud, France, 1978. For his third French movie, exiled US director Joseph Losey thought of Adjani (bien sur) and Maria Schneider, before settling at the last minute for Miou.
- Brooke Shields, The Blue Lagoon, 1979. Grease director Randal Kleiser wanted his shipwrecked couple to be naked throughout the re-make. Among the reasons why Adjani fled from Emmeline.Shields had her long hair glued to her front - and a nude body double.
- Isabelle Huppert, Loulou, France, 1980. She lacked sex-chemistry with Gérard Depardieu in Barocco and a certain lust for him was essential in what critic Peter Ackroyd called a film about “the French equivalent of jogging.” Sex.
- Isabelle Huppert, La dame aux camelias, France-Italy, 1980. Adjani lost two chances on both sides of the pond to follow Garbo (her apparent idol, from the way Isabelle pursued tragedies). First, producer Lawrence Gordon's Hollywood project failed to ignite in 1978. Next, in 1981 she refused not the role but the helmers offered for her approval. First, actor Jean-Claude Brialy quit as director to please her. Then, she also refused the Brechtian Joseph Losey. Finally, Italian maestro Mauro Bolognini made it with the other (some say, better) Isabelle.... Ms Huppert.
- Natahlie Baye, Le retour de Martin Guerre, France, 1981. It had to be Depardieu, said réalisateur Daniel Vigne, but who should be the wife? Inevitably, the (usual) Top Three were discussed: Miou-Miou and the Isabelles: Adjani and Huppert. Then, Dominique Besnehard – by now a French casting ace - suggested one of his best-friend actresses. Baye read for Vigne. Game over, girls!
- Nastassja Kinski, La lune dans le caniveau (US: The Moon in the Gutter), France-Italy, 1982. Jean-Jacques Beineix reunited his Diva team - cameraman, decorator and casting man Dominque Besnehard. Adjani was suggested but JJB wanted Tess… in a Marseilles made in Cinecitta. On screen, it was possible to see exactly when JJB’s love for Kinski supplanted that for his star. Depardieu.
- Maruschka Detmers, Prenom: Carmen,France, l983.
Paris producer Alain Sarde’s big coup - Godard + Adjani in yet another Godard comeback just fizzled. They were scared of each other. She felt vulnerable, not loved as on her previous film, L’eté meurtrier. He shot her with/without make-up, in Super-8 lighting - “he never treated Isabelle Huppert and Nathalie Baye that way.” She demanded tests before scenes, to approve rushes. After five days, she quit. And the backers insisted the bilious Godard find another actress, “doesn’t matter who.” “I took my photos to his office,” Detmers told me, “and read a few lines in my terrible Dutch accent. All over in seconds. Next day he called: ‘You’re the least rotten... Be at the Hotel Intercontinental tomorrow at 8am. Don’t be late.’ He took a huge risk. I'd never even seen a film camera before.”And a star was born… minus her delicious laugh, edited out (of course!) by Godard. The film triumphed at Venice and failed with the public.
- Fanny Ardant, Benvenuta, Belgium, 1983. Good thinking.
- Nastassja Kinski, Maria's Lovers, 1984. Russian director Andrei Konchalovsky wrote it (with Gérard Brach) for Adjani.Gaumont’s Toscandu Plantier “didn't even answer us - he didn't want me to work in France.”
- Jacqueline Bisset, Under The Volcano, 1984. Third time she avoided US director Joseph Losey. This time, it was to make La maison de Bernard -which never happened.
- Catherine Deneuve, Paroles etmusique, France, 1984. A better age for the young leading men, but the film and director were trop Lelouchian.
- Agapi Manoura, Bordelo, Greece, 1985. According to local film-maker Nicos Koundouros, he had them all in the bag: Isabelle Adjani, Sophia Loren, Mason, Peter Ustinov. Except, he didn’t. None of them! He did have Marina Vlady and she was aghast at how he made nonsense of her role. Apart from the Thessaloniki festivalin 1985 (and 1998!), the film never opened anywhere.
- Charlotte Lewis, Pirates, 1985. Director Roman Polanski tried to sail in l975 with Captain Nicholson - and starred Adjani in The Tenant instead and by 1985, Nicholson was presenting her with a César award.
- Sophie Marceau, L'amour braque, France 1985. Updating Dostoievksi’s The Idiot.One film (Possession) with Polish director Andrzej Zulawski, so they say, is enough.
- Beatrice Dalle, 37°2 le matin (UK/US: Betty Blue), France,1985.
The first producer, Anne-Marie Rassam wanted Adjani but auteur Jean-Jacques Beineix craved an unknow. (That way a director usually garners all the praise!). And casting director Dominique Besnehard found her on the cover of the now defunct Photo-Revue magazine. “She’s the same race as Bardot anf Monroe!” However, when he first called, Dalle slammed the phone down on him. “He was rude, took it for granted that I wanted to work in the film industry,” Dalle told Frederic Albert Levy on the 2013 DVD bonus. “I told him: ‘When you call me, you should be kind and polite.’ He called back immediately, and then politely invited her to a meeting at Boulogne studios. ‘Too far. I don’t have money for a taxi and I never take the metro.’ However unpleasant he was at the beginning, he’s the man who changed my life…“I was afraid. But the only alternative was shoplifting.” Besnehard said she was the greatest recompense of his casting career and his biggest problem. “I once said she was my Vietnam.” Dalle agreed to do everything Beineix wanted. “The film is great, but Beineix could have chosen cooler clothes!I could do movies nonstop, even if there were no film, no result, just for the pleasure of being with the crew. It’s like summer camp! I couldn’t live without a crew. Well, I wish I could live with a soccer team…!”
- Maruschka Detmers, Il Diavolo in corpo/Devil in the Flesh, Italy, 1986. Unlike Jean-Luc Godard, the Italian film-maker Marco Bellochio did not cut the Detmers laugh. Nor her “scandalous” 30 seconds of unscripted and undisguised fellatio of co-star Federio Pitzalis.
- Natassja Kinski, Maladie d'amour, France, 1987. Polish director Andrzej Zulawski fled his own script when his choice of Juliette was veteoed. He wanted an unknown and his pal, réalisateur Jean-Jacques Beineix, showed him some of Béatrice Dalle in their 37°2 le matin/Betty Blue. “Take her now, this minute. She’s fabulous, but an oddball, so she won’t last.” Producer Marie-Laure Reyre said: “Maybe he showed you the best bitsand the rest stinks. [D’oh!]. Forget unknowns. Take a star. Adjani is keen.” He laughed. “The #1 French star as a shampooer in Bordeaux. Don’t be silly.” “OK, Kinski!” (Also a previousj J-JB star in La lune dans le caniveau/The Moon in the Gutter, 1982), “With her Germanic accent she’d be even less credible than Adjani.” (There was also the problem of her having dared to refuse one of his earlier films). “If that’s all you’ve got, I’ll leave, sell you my script and you do it with whoever you want…. And they made a dud! Worse, my name is in the credits.”
- Glenn Close, Fatal Attraction, 1987.
- Mathilda May, Trois places pour le 26, France. 1988. Réalisateur Jacques Demy's 1980 idea was Dancing, “transposing Broadway in France.” (Producteur Claude Berri called it:“Singing inthe Sun”). Yet Gaumont didn't want Yves Montand in a musical! Demy’s final film, turned out an embarrassing semi-bio of Montand... but having sex with his own daughter. Adjani had already been his daughter in the similarly embarrassing Tout feu, toute flamme, 1981.
- Maria de Madeiros, Henry and June, 1990. Every Hollywooden director shooting in Paris calls up Adjani - and is rebuffed. Philip Kaufman talked with her when Alec Baldwin was due as Henry Miller and proved luckier with his second (Portuguese) choice. “She really became Anaïs Nin.”
- Valeria Golina, La putain de roi/The King's Whore, Austra-France-Italy, 1990. French réalisateur Daniel Vigne devised Adjani, John Malkovich. Next director, Axel Corti, did not.
- Mathilda May, Isabel Eberhardt, 1990. London producer Don Boyd's thought way back in 1979.
- Andie McDowell, Hudson Hawk, l990. First US film offered after her Camille Claudel Oscar nod! Non mercy - she had learned about rotten capers from Ishtar, 1987.
- Glenne Headly, Dick Tracy, 1990. Obviously Warren Beatty’s Paris lover was too French to be Tess Trueheart, the love of Tracy’s life. Anyway, Adjani rejected it, being more concerned with her Camille Claudel biopic - delayed until 1998. So she could have made both - except she wasn't keen to be “cartoonish-looking. I didn't want blonde curls.” The rift ended the affair of two beauties far too much alike.Beatty was “bereft” and after sacking Sean Young for being too young opposite his 53 summers, he gaveTess to the plainer Headly... and dyed her hair red to match that of his mother and sister.
- Theresa Russell, Kakfa, 1991. Scenarist-director Steven Soderberg's first film since winning the 1989 Cannes Festival with sex, lies and videotape.He went through various French choices and started shooting with one (Anne Parillaud) until diction obliged a furtherchange.
- Beatrice Dalle, La fille de l'air, France, 1992. Director Maroun Bagdadi based what proved his final film on the sensational Paris prison escape of Michel Vaujou r- whisked out of jail by his wife in a helicopter on May 26, 1986.
- Kim Basinger, Final Anaylsis, 1992. Not many women refuse Richard Gere!
- Sharon Stone, Basic Instinct, 1991.
- Juliette Binoche, Damage, 1992. After musing over Jodie Foster, Paris auteur Louis Malle considered Adjani as the girl sexually involved with the British parliamentarian father of her fiancée - in Malle’s penultimate movie.
- Emmanuelle Seigner, Lune de fiel/Bitter Moon, France, 1992. Réalisateur André Techiné planned it for Adjani and Alain Delon, before M and Mme Polanski took it on.
- Demi Moore, Indecent Proposal, 1993. “It’s rare to find a director who really likes and knows how to look at a woman through the camera.”
- Judy Davis, The New Age, 1993. Very keen on the directing debut of The Player scenarist Michael Tolkin - but tied to La reine Margot.
- Annette Bening, Love Affair, 1993. Ten years earlier when Warren Batty was still with the French superstar (ie before their Ishtar!) she was to play Terry McKay. A decade later, Beatty was wed (for the first and only time in his celebrated love life) to Bening and they made the (limp) retread… of the 1939 original (Charles Boyer/Irene Dunne) and its re-make, An Affair to Remember (Cary Grant/Deborah Kerr).
- Bridget Fonda, The Road To Wellville, 1994. Among names bandied about forUK director AlanParker’sfilm a year before.
- Sophie Marceau, Anna Karenina, 1997. Refused producer Mel Gibson’s invitation to St Petersburg. “That’s the pricee of integrity,” said the actress compared to such actors as Charles Laughton, Michel Simon and James Dean. She was right, the scenario for the only Western Anna to be made in Russia was not up to scratch. Mel simply phoned his Braveheart co-star.
- Charlotte Gainsbourg, Passionement, France, 1999. The father of Adjani’s first born made his directing debut with Camille Claudel. This time, Bruno Nuytten couldn't win her and Gérard Depardieu. Gainsbourg was not an obvious substitute, although co-star Gérard Lanvin, said maternity had profoundly changed her.
- Connie Nielsen, Gladiator, 1999. Regrets? Too few to mention. And this one of the biggies. “I’m so sorry not to have made the film, Ridley Scott adored La Reine Margot and wanted me.” The studio did not. Scott, she says, has taken revenge on such blinkered studios by hiring French actresses ever since:Eva Green, Léa Seydoux.
- Laetita Casta, La Bicyclette bleue, TV, France, 2000. The opposite of réalisateur Claude Pinoteau’s La Boum - this was a film that wound up as a TV mini-series. The La rifle team of 1974 - Adjani and Pinotoeau - were Gaumont’s choice in the late 80s, except there was a rights battle as the book had been, er, influenced by Gone With The Wind. All issues were solved in time for the TVersion.
- Josiane Balasko, Un crime au paradis, France, 2001. Director Jean Becker made Adjani’s famed L'eté meutrier in 1983. Not enough to win her for his re-make of Sacha Guitry’s Poison.
- Juliette Binoche, Decalage horaire, France, 2002. Adjani changed her mindabout scenarist-director Danielle Thompson’s romanticjet-lag comedy.
- Monica Belucci, Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra, France-Germany, 2002. Just an Alain Chabat comedy, not important enough for Adajni who always craves front centre roles and tragic. She stayed off-screen for five years before returning front centre, tragic - and exceedingly over-weight - in the over-praisedLa Journée de la jupe, 2008.
- Jacqueline Bisset, Welcome To New York, 2013. Enthusiastic about joining Gérard Depardieu “in the Abel Ferrara universe,” Adjani changed her mind about playing a thinly veiled Anne Sinclair, the French journalist wife of disgraced French politician Dominque Strauss-Kahn. She had no wish to make “a destructive intrusion into their private sphere.” Depardieu had few qualms about playing DSK. “He’s very French, arrogant, smug - I will do it because I don't like him.”
- Mia Wasikowska, The Double,2012. Seventeen years earlier, Roman Polanski had great trouble trying to film the Dostoievski tale of a man faced with his doppleganger and total opposite: confident, charismatic, good with women.(Last made by Bertolucci as Partner, 1968). John Travolta turned his back on $8m (and Paris) in June 1995. Anthony Hopkins had no time (booked for Nixon, Picasso, etc), Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino weren’t keen. Steve Martin was - but the project collapsed when Adjani quit followed by Polanski.Jesse (just 12 at this time) finally made it in London for actor-director Richard Ayoade.
- Jacqueline Bisset, Welcome To New York, 2013. Allegedly jealous that director Abel Ferrara was more fascinated by Gérard Depardieu than her, Adjani quit the role of the thinly disguised Madame Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Three new candidates loved the script - switched from a conspiracy thriller to a vibrant study of the weaknesses of the human soul – but Juliette Binoche, Kristin Scott Thomas and Beatrice Dalle were all booked. Bisset was suggested by Depardieu, playing DSK… er Georges Devereaux. “I’m not attacking this filth,” declared the ex-Mme DSK Anne Sinclair, “I’m vomiting on it.”
- Anaïs Demoustier, Marguerite et Julien, France, 2015.
Scripted for François Truffaut in 1971 by his regular scenarist Jean Gruault after Truffaut’s collaborator Suzenne Schiffman unearthed the tragic romance of siblings Julien and Marguerite de Ravalet, executed on December 2, 1603, for adultery and incest. That was the problem. Too many other films about incest! From Louis Malle’s Le souffle au cœur/Murmur Of The Heart to Charlotte Rampling in Addio fratello crudel/‘Tis A Pity She’s A Whore. Actor turned sometime director Jean-Claude Brialy was keen to take over the project with Adjani, (from Truffaut’s L’histoire d'Adèle H/The Story of Adele H, 1975) and the French Hair find, singer Julien Clerc… presumably because he was called Julien. (We’re talking French films here). However, Brialy’s fourth directorial effort, Un amour de pluie, had flopped. CUT to 2011… Gruault finally publishes his scenario - received as a birthday gift by director Valérie Donzelli. Bingo! Except Seydoux, her first choice for Marguerite, was called away to battle Spectre with 007. Donzelli chose Demoustier from eight contenders. Wiith Gruault adapted by Donzelli and Jérémie Elkaïm (her Julien), the result was violently atacked at the 2015 Cannes Festival. Didn’t I say we’re talking French films here...