Mary Steenburgen


  1. Cybill Shepherd, Taxi Driver, 1975.
  2. Brooke Shields, Pretty Baby, 1977.   The plot sickens… A prostitute allows 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 29 hopefuls and/or instant (parental) refusals for pretty little 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 (pre-Dallas)… 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
  3. Julie Christie, Heaven Can Wait, 1977.  With Warren Beatty, you never knew which came first.  The project. Or the latest lover. They always merged.   Leslie Caron in Promise Her Anything, 1965.; Julie Christie, McCabe and Mrs Miller, 1979, and, of course,Shampoo, 1974.; Diane Keaton, Reds, 1979; Isabelle Adani, Ishtar, 1985; Madonna, Dick Tracy, 1985. ‘and finally the actress he wed, Annette Bening, in Bugsy, 1991.  He took so long getting Heaven ready for shooting that his leading  lady went, as in life, from Caron  to Keaton  before he went back to the best of ‘em all, La Christie – the film’s saving grace, he said.  Also in the mix for Betty Logan  were   Kate Jackson and Mary Steenburgen. PS Beatty never used the song he asked  Paul McCartney to write,   Did We Meet Somewhere Before?
  4. Glenn Close, Fatal Attraction, 1987.
  5. Susan Sarandon, Bull Durham, 1987.   Ron Shelton had one helluva job trying to win backing for his directing debut. “Baseball movies don’t sell.”  His producer Thom Mount was part-owner of the real Durham Bulls squad. He recognised what Roger Ebert would call “a treasure because it knows so much about baseball and so little about love.” Kim Basinger was Shelton’s first choice for Annie (an Annie is s baseball groupie). “There’s never been a ballplayer slept with me who didn’t have the best year of his career.”  He tested Carrie Fisher, Mary Steenburgen, Pamela Stephenson, Debra Winger… considered Kate Capshaw, Geena Davis (who made the female ball movie, A League of Their Own), Michelle Pfeiffer (too young) and Isabella Rossellini… felt  Kay Lenz and Michelle Pfeiffer were too young… while Glenn Close was having Dangerous Liaisons in France, Melanie Griffith was a busy Working Girl and Kelly McGillis preferred The Accused. He also thought of Cybil Shepherd and Bruce Willis as The Couple but Moonlighting got in the way. And that’s how the splendid Susan Sarandon met Tim Robbins and  lived together for 21 years.
  6. Frances Conroy, Another Woman, 1988.   Her second Woody Allen film was in the can and she was filming in Mississippi – when he needed, as always, some re-shoots. Impossible! So, rather like September the year before, Woody had to find… another woman. Steenburgen would have had billing. Broadway’s Frances did not. Well, she was not yet the mother of Six Feet Under, TV, 2001-2006.
  7. 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 Steenburgen to Debra Winger, by way of Diane Keaton and, naturally, Meryl Streep). Plus Blythe Danner, Sally Field, Terri Garr, Mary Gross, Kathleen Turner, Sigourney Weaver, Dianne Wiest. A 1982 rape victim herself, McGillis refused the lead role but agreed to play the lawyer – on condition that Foster was the  client. 
  8. Geena Davis, The Accidental Tourist, 1988.     So, Geena got the support actress Oscar.   The sole shock of   the March 29 1989 Oscarnight   – as she beat, among others, Sigourney Weaver in Working Girl and   the exquisite favourite, Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Liaisons.
  9. Christine Lahti,   Miss Firecracker, 1989.     Lahti was   pregnant. The director’s fault – her husband Thomas Schlamme.   She recommended Mary.   When  pregnant five years earlier, Steenburgen had nominated Lahti   as   her   replacement in Swing Shift, 1983.
  10. Julia Roberts, Pretty Woman, 1989.

  11. Grace Zabriskie, Child’s Play 2, 1990.     Too busy with Back To The Future Part III to play Grace Poole in the killer-doll sequel.
  12. Susan Sarandon, Thelma & Louise, 1990.
  13. 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.
  14. Sharon Stone, Basic Instinct, 1991.
  15. Lorraine Bracco, Medicine Man, 1992.    Bracco was, in a word (or accent), appalling. Cher, Steenburgen and Debra Winger were seen by director Martin Ritt for partnering Jack Nicholson in 1984, when the script was called Road Show. Sean Connery co-existed (barely) with Bracco for helmer John McTiernan when critics proved either 100% for or against. The Washington Post’s Hal Hinson actually wrote: “There’s no sex here, and no real romance, per se. Instead, there’s something deeper…” No there wasn’t!
  16. Wendy Crewson, The Good Son, 1993. Passed on being Macauley Culkin’s mother..
  17. Natasha Richardson, Waking Up In Reno, 2002. F   ive years earlier, Mary, Powers Boothe, Laura Dern, Barbara Hershey, had read for two trashy couples travelling to Reno to see a monster truck show.
  18. Jean Marsh, Oz the Great and Powerful, 2012.    “We’re going for the Frank L Baum book illustrations and nothing like that 1939 vaudeville thing,” said a Disney suit. Thanks for the warning said the fans, staying away in droves… Steenburgen and Louise Fletcher (Nurse Ratched, after all) were seen by editor-turned-auteur Walter Murch for Nurse Wilson here… and the witch Princess Mombi over there in Oz. With her powder of life. And spare heads. (Oh and Mr Suit, it is L Frank Baum. Explains a lot).










 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  18