Jessica Lange


  1. Sissy Spacek, Carrie, 1976.  

  2. Carrie Fisher, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, 1976

  3. Margot Kidder, Superman, 1977.

  4. Mary Steenburgen,  Goin’ South, 1978.    Made three tests for director and co-star Jack Nicholson. He sent roses as consolation.  Plus a note:  “We’ll work together one day and have lots of fun and make lots of money.”  They did, too, when Bob Rafelson checked the tests and cast them as the sulpheric Frank and Cora in The Postman Always Rings Twice, 1980..
  5. Bette Midler, The Rose, 1979.      When it was still The Janis Joplin Story, Fox wanted  Lange  – miming to Janis songs. “That always looks so fake,” complained director Mark Rydell. He  wanted a real singer. Like who?  Like The Divine Miss M!  Get outa here – she’s nothing.  When she became something, the studio called Rydell back… and he made a star out of “a living gland!”
  6. Lauren Hutton, American Gigolo, 1979.     From the outset, auteur Paul Schrader eyeballed Hutton as Senator Stratton’s adulterous wife. Paramount wanted A Name. And having already lost Julie Christie, the suits lunged for Lange. Too dark, she said, choosing altogether lighter. The Postman Always Rings Twice. Go figure. Meryl Streep also disapproved of the film’s tone.  What did she expect from such a a title?
  7. Shelley Duvall, The Shining, 1979.     Duvall was the exact opposite of how author Stephen King saw Wendy Torrance. Which is why co-star Jack Nicholson had recommended Lange to Stanley Kubrick, a director suddenly without direction or understanding of the book. Nicholson always praised Duvall for “the toughest job that any actor that I’ve seen had.”. And made sure he got Lange for his next, more erotic partner in The Posman Always Rings Twice, 1980.
  8. Liza Minnelli, Arthur, 1980.     Brand new auteur Steve Gordon knew exactly who was perfect. Dudley Moore as the titular rich drunk man-child and Minnelli as his lady. Orion Pictures also considered Lange, Mia Farrow, Farrah Fawcett, Carrie Fisher, Goldie Hawn, Barbara Hershey, Diane Keaton, Kay Lenz (1972’s Breezy, already looking for a comeback), Bette Midler, Gilda Radner, Susan Sarandon, Cybill Shepherd, even Meryl Streep, Debra Winger. Plus Tuesday Weld – in the throes of divorcing the titular Dud. Gordon made a big hit, but never a second film – he died at 44 in 1982.
  9. Elizabeth McGovern, Once Upon a Time in America, 1982.   Italian maestro Sergio Leoneclaimed he interviewed “over 3,000 actors,” taping 500 auditions for the 110 speaking roles in his New York gangster epic.  He certainly saw 33 girls for nymphet Deborah Gelly: Rosanna Arquette, Kim Basinger, Jennifer Beals, Linda Blair, Glenn Close, Jamie Lee Curtis, Geena Davis, Farrah Fawcett, Carrie Fisher, Bridget Fonda, Jodie Foster, Melanie Griffith, Linda Hamilton, Daryl Hannah, Goldie Hawn, Mariel Hemingway, Diane Lane, Jessica Lange, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Heather Locklear, Kristy McNIchol, Liza Minnelli, Tatum O’Neal, Michelle Pfeiffer, Meg Ryan, Susan Sarandon, Cybill Shepherd, Sissy Spacek, Meryl Streep, Kathleen Turner, Sigourney Weaver, Debra Winger. Plus Brooke Shields as the younger version. Deborah was 15 in the first script; McGovern was 20.

  10. Linda Hamilton, The Terminator, 1983. 
    In all, 55 actresses were considered, seen or tested for Sarah Connor (aged 18; Linda was 27) opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger. James Cameron auteured Sarah for Bridget Fonda. She passed; so did Tatum O’Neal.   He decided to go older… and Glenn Close won – her schedule didn’t agree. OK, Kate Capshaw! No, she was tied to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – and Kathleen Turner was Romancing The Stone. Debra Winger won her audition, said yes… then no.   The other 48 ladies were The ’80s Group: Lange, Rosanna Arquette, Kim Basinger, Christy Brinkley, Colleen Camp, Jamie Lee Curtis, Geena Davis, Judy Davis, Mia Farrow, Carrie Fisher, Jodie Foster, Teri Garr, Jennifer Grey, Melanie Griffith, Darryl Hannah, Barbara Hershey, Anjelica Huston, Amy Irving, Diane Keaton, Margot Kidder, Diane Lane, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kay Lenz, Heather Locklear, Lori Loughlin, Kelly McGillis, Kristy McNichol, Michelle Pfeiffer, Deborah Raffin, Meg Ryan, Susan Sarandon, Ally Sheedy, Cybill Shepherd, Brooke Shields, Sissy Spacek, Sharon Stone, Lea Thompson, Sigourney Weaver… one aerobics queen, Bess Motta (she became Sarah’s room-mate, Ginger Ventura), two singers (Madonna, Liza Minnelli), two Brits (Miranda Richardson, Jane Seymour), five essentially funny girls, Goldie Hawn, Rhea Perlman (Mrs Danny De Vito), Gilda Radner, Mary Tyler Moore… plus the new MTM, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, from Saturday Night Live. Most were in contention again a 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.

  11. Mia Farrow,  Hannah and Her Sisters, 1985.    In the Woody Allen frame for Hannah.  So was Kim Basinger – Lange’s rival for the Frances Farmer biopic, Frances, in 1982.And being Mia, she had “a small sick feeling”  that the script revealed Woody’s feelings for her younger sister while he’d really been inspired by the sisters in Anna Karenina!
  12. Sissy Spacek, The River, 1984.      After not touching farming for decades, suddenly Hollywood had three simultaneous farmers-in-recession dramas – all aimed at Lange.  She  passed on this one…
  13. Sally Field,  Places in the Heart,  1984.      …and  missed a possible  Oscar  here  (Field won it,  “You like me, you really like me!”) in order to make the less effective Country, with lover Sam Shepard.
  14. Kim Basinger, Fool For Love, 1985.     “If you can get Jessica and Sam Shepherd, here’s the money,”  RKO told director Robert  Altman. “When I said we  can’t –  Jessica was pregnant –  they withdrew.” Shepard suggested Basinger. Having lost Frances to Jessica, this was a sweet revenge for Kim even though she had to put up with the tackiness of her boss, Cannon’s Menahem Golan: “Just looking at her makes me want to screw her!”  Harry Cohn lives!
  15. Holly Hunter, Broadcast News, 1987.    Here is the news…
  16. Michelle Pfeiffer, Married to the Mob, 1987.  Oh,  she may well have been the suits’ main choice for Angela, wife of mobster Frank “The Cucumber” de Marco.  But La Pfeiffer was splendiferous. People must have forgotten that Alec Baldwin was even in da movie!
  17. Glenn Close, Fatal Attraction, 1987.
  18. Kelly McGillis, The Accused, 1988.    Paramount suits saw 40 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 defence attorney. Including the Fatal Attraction also-rans (from Jessica to Debra Winger, by way of Diane Keaton and, naturally, Meryl Streep). Plus Blythe Danner, Sally Field, Terri Garr, Mary Gross, Dianne Wiest. A 1982 rape victim herself, McGillis refused Jodie Foster’s Oscar-winning role,  but asked to play her lawyer.
  19. Sigourney Weaver, Gorillas in the Mist, 1988.      UK director Michael Apted’s moving, almost documentary account of primatologist Dian Fossey’s life among Rwanda’s mountain gorillas grew out of two separate projects sensibly merging into an Universal-Warner combo.    Jessica was not interested until talking to Apted.  Something nagged him about their Fridaymeeting. “She kept her coat on – curious.”  She called him back on Moday: “Yes – but can you wait a year – I’m pregnant!”  Apted told her: “I’m sorry, I can’t wait ten minutes  .I’m gripping on to this film with my fingertips.  There’s a thousand other people wanting to do it.”
  20. Kathleen Turner, War of the Roses, 1989.       Ron Meyer, CAAgent #2 during the reign of Mike Ovitz and his foot soldiers, yelled on a Deluth street corner that she should do it. The film she was making in Deluth underlined why she did not take any CAA orders- North, another flop with Shepard.

  21. Kathy Bates, Misery, 1990.    “Nobody knows you’re here. And you better hope nothing happens to me. Because if I die… you die.”  The vengeful fan Annie Wilkes was the full throttlewoman’s role that scared A List guys off the 32nd of Stephen King’s staggering 312 screen credits.  His Stand By Me director Rob Reiner considered Anjelica Huston, Jessica Lange, comics Roseanne Barr, Vicki Lawrence, Mary Tyler Moore Rosie O’Donnell, and singers Bette Midler and Barbra Streisand… until scenarist William Goldman picked Bates.  And she won the best actress Oscar on March 25, 1991. As if that wasn’t enough, King later wrote Dolores Claibourne and rewrote Ray as Rae in The Stand, for Kathy.
  22. Catherine O’Hara, Home Alone, 1990.  For the zero roles of Macauley Culkin’s forgetful parents (in a film written for and duly stolen by him), an astonishing 66 stars were considered – including 32 later seen for the hot lovers in Basic Instinct:Kim Basinger, Stockard Channing, Glenn Close, Kevin Costner, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Douglas, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Linda Hamilton, Daryl Hannah, Marilu Henner, Anjelica Huston, Helen Hunt, Holly Hunter, Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange, Christopher Lloyd, Jack Nicholson, Sean Penn, Michelle Pfeiffer, Annie Potts, Kelly Preston, Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan, Martin Sheen, Sylvester Stallone, Sharon Stone, John Travolta.   Other near Moms were Kirstie Alley, Lynda Carter, Kim Cattrall, Geena Davis, Laura Dern, Jennifer Grey, Gates McFadden, Kelly McGillis, Bette Midler, Ally Sheedy, Mary Steenburgen, Debra Winger… and the inevitable unknown: Maureen McCormick, part of The Brady Bunch for seven 1981 chapters.
  23. Geena Davis, Thelma & Louise, 1990.
  24. Ellen Barkin, Man Trouble, 1991.     Writer Carole Eastman hoped to make it with Jack Nicholson-Diane Keaton. Lawrence Kasdan planned Jessica-Robert De Niro. Finally, Barkin beat a pregnant Streep to Nicholson.For no good reason.
  25. Sharon Stone, Basic Instinct, 1991.
  26. Lorraine Bracco, Medicine Man, 1991.  IMDb said the pitch was: “In the beautiful and dangerous Amazon rainforest, dissimilar people must make their choices between business, science and love.”  Not to mention who should win between Lange, Diane  Keaton, Jessica Lange  and (the awful) Bracco, for the Mexico shoot as Dr Rae Crane opposite Sean Connery’s $10m role of Dr Robert Campbell. 
  27. Christine Lahti, Leaving Normal, 1992.    Producer-director Edward Zwick’s first film since Glory, 1989, read likeThelmaand Louise, The Continuing Story.
  28. Alberta Watson, Spanking the Monkey, 1993.    Jessica and fellow A-Listers Faye Dunaway and Susan Sarandon spurned director David O Russell’s offer to be Mrs Aibelli.  They didn’t like the title (USlang for masturbation) nor Mrs A committing incest with her medical student son (Jeremy Davies).  The Canadian Alberta (no kidding!) snapped up what became her favourite character. “I’m not a name with an image to protect. The subject was incest. It didn’t scare me at all. I seized the character and made her something.  She was a deeply disturbed woman with a roller coaster of emotions.  Her son visits for the summer and she’s laid up in a cast with a broken leg and things get out of hand.”
  29. 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: Lange, Rosanna Arquette, Kim Basinger, Halle Berry, Glenn Close (!), Geena Davis, Cameron Diaz, Carrie Fisher, Bridget Fonda, Jodie Foster, Melanie Griffith, Daryl Hannah, Barbara Hershey, Anjelica Huston, Diane Lane, 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, Sigourney Weaver and Debra Winger. 
  30. Goldie Hawn, The First Wives Club, 1995.  An early thought for Elise Elliot, one of three mid-aged women vowing vengeance on their husbands afterbeing jettisoned for younger models. But director Hugh Wilson had to make do with just five Oscar-winners: Marcia Gay Harden, Goldie Hawn, Eileen Heckart, Diane Keaton, Maggie Smith. All agreeing with the Goldie line: “In Hollywood, women have only three ages: babe, district attorney and Driving Miss Daisy.”

  31. Meryl Streep, The Bridges of Madison County, 1995. Also short-listed for author Robert Waller’s Italian war bride Francesca were: Jacqueline Bisset, Claudia Cardinale, Sophia Loren, Susan Sarandon. Australian director Bruce Beresford before quitting.  After tentative efforts by directors Bruce Beresford, (who tested Sonia Braga, Catherine Deneuve, Lena Olin, Isabella Rosselllini). Mike Newell, Sydney Pollack and the mighty Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood took over the helm. And casting. In a trice. He simply called up “our best actress.”
  32. Meryl Streep, Marvin’s Room, 1996.      Jessica left but Robert De Niro stayed.
  33. Sophie Marceau, Anna Karenina, 1996.    UK director Bernard Rose’s first idea. The star and producer, Mel Gibson, must seen Jessica totally miscast in another historical costume drama, Rob Roy, 1995 – and suggested hisFrench co-star from Braveheart, 1995.
  34. Meryl Streep, The Manchurian Candidate, 2004.       Director Jonathan Demme, on his second re-make intwo years, looked at all the women with balls: Jessica, Glenn Close, Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson.
  35. Michelle Pfeiffer, Chérie, 2009.    While co-starring with Paul Newman in A Thousand Acres, 1997, Lange was preparing for her next role – Léa de Lonval from Colette’s novel. Except it never got in to first gear… A decade later, UK director Steohen Frears made it a reunion with his Dangerous Liasons  star, Pfeiffer, and writer Christopher Hampton.
  36. Meryl Streep, August: Osage County, 2012.  Oklahoma playwright (and actor) Tracy Letts wanted the Steppenwolf cast of his 2008 Pulitzer Prize winning play to be in the film. He was downright furious when Brits (and an Aussie) were suggested for the dysfunctional Westons. “They must be all-Americans!” Producer Harvey Weinstein won the battle for Benedict Cumberbatch and Ewan McGregor but gave in about Nicole Kidman – and Judi Dench ( too old, anyway, at 78 to Meryl’s 63 for Violet aged 65). in what seemed a Western-set take on Lilian Hellman’s Little Foxes. Therefore, candidates for Violet quickly became  Annette Bening, Glenn Close, Jane Fonda, Sissy Spacek – and Jessica Lange, wed to Sam Shepard, another Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, cast as Violet’s husband.














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