Ah, the heartbreak when two good-looking people don’t have chemistry!
According to “My Best Friend’s Wedding” director P.J. Hogan, the 1997 rom-com would have looked very different had Julia Roberts and Russell Crowe connected during the audition process.
“I don’t know what went wrong,” Hogan said in an excerpt of Scott Meslow’s book “From Hollywood With Love,” as reported by Vulture. “It was one of the worst table reads I’ve ever experienced.”
Hogan, who had been pushing for Crowe to play Roberts’ love interest, added that megastar Roberts had casting approval.
“No one was getting in this movie if Julia didn’t approve,” Hogan said. “[But] Russell was, I thought, probably the most amazing actor I had ever encountered. I kind of knew Russell was going to be a really big star.”
Yet their table read didn’t quite go as planned: “Russell was seated opposite Julia. He gripped that script, and he stared at that script, and he didn’t look at her once,” Hogan recalled. “He read every line in a monotone. At one point, Julia was literally leaning over the table, staring, like, inches from Russell’s face, trying to make eye contact. And he wouldn’t look at her.”
Hogan added, “At the end of the reading, Russell came up to me and said, ‘I thought that went pretty well.’ And then I knew: Russell was not going to be in ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding.'”
Eventually, Dermot Mulroney was cast to play male lead Michael O’Neal, with whom Roberts’ Julianne Potter has long been in love. The rest of the ensemble cast — including the roles of Julianne’s best friend and Michael’s fiancée — was a different story.
“If memory serves, Julia wanted Benicio del Toro [to play her best friend George],” Hogan said. “A brilliant actor, but…not known for his comedy.”
And Michael’s fiancée-slash-Julianne’s nemesis Kimmy had to be played by someone whom audiences would believe could “go up against” Roberts. “Whoever plays Kimmy has to be a movie star as well,” Hogan summed up. Ultimately, the role went to Cameron Diaz — but not without a compromise: Roberts allegedly agreed to Diaz’s casting only if real-life pal Mulroney could play Michael.
Twenty-five years later, and “My Best Friend’s Wedding” is still considered an unconventional rom-com.
“Most romantic comedies are about how all’s fair in love and war, which is something I have never really believed in. And this was a screenplay about how all is not fair in love and war. It was a romantic comedy that wasn’t very romantic,” Hogan said. “Julia had to make a death-defying leap. She had to bring the audience along with her, with the character, and somehow still have them not hating her by the end.”
And the rest, as they say, is rom-com history.
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