The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)
Julia Roberts in ‘Shakespeare in Love’? Thankfully it didn’t happen, producer says
“Shakespeare in Love” producer Edward Zwick let readers in on a few big secrets about the making of the Oscar-winning 1998 film.
The period romance starred Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes and won seven Academy Awards, including best picture. But in the project’s nascent days, it didn’t involve Paltrow at all but instead “Pretty Woman” star Julia Roberts, whom Zwick suggests sent the early production off the rails.
In the first chapter of his upcoming memoir, published Saturday in Air Mail, Zwick marked the 25th anniversary of the film with juicy details about its development. His contributions, he said, had long been overlooked and rarely publicly acknowledged — even on the night he won an Academy Award and was edged out of his acceptance speech by studio mogul Harvey Weinstein.
“The Last Samurai” and “I Am Sam” producer revealed that, at first, he couldn’t get revered screenwriter Tom Stoppard to do a rewrite on Marc Norman’s first draft. That version imagined the Elizabethan theater “as the Hollywood of its day, with young Will as just another struggling writerdirector having to cater to the public’s appetite for innocuous, pleasing fare, deal with treacherous producers, mollify temperamental actors, struggle with writer’s block, and survive the plague.”
Life imitated art for all of them, he explained. In the early 1990s, Stoppard, a “childhood idol” of Zwick’s, apparently wanted a million dollars to make the movie but Universal Studios wouldn’t finance it until Roberts, then 24, showed interest in the project.
After screen-testing with the almost-perfect Ralph Fiennes, Zwick said, “Julia was hardly there at all. … Even as Ralph did his best to elicit the famous smile, Julia barely acknowledged him.