Julia Roberts shaded for leaving ‘Shakespeare in Love’: ‘The problem was Julia’
Julia Roberts was the original contender to play Viola de Lesseps in 1998’s ‘Shakespeare in Love’ before Gwyneth Paltrow landed the role.
Producer Edward Zwick has now revealed why Oscar winner Roberts (55) left the project.
She was apparently “the problem.”
“The mere possibility of the ‘Pretty Woman’ wearing a corset dress got the studio excited enough to cough up the dough,” the ‘Glory’ director, 70, recalled in a essay for airmail recently noted that Universal Pictures would only pay for the film if Roberts was involved.
Zwick then flew to London with Roberts so she could do chemistry lectures with actors starring to play loverboy himself, William Shakespeare.
The ‘Erin Brockovich’ actress was desperate to star in the film alongside Daniel Day-Lewis; however, the ‘My Left Foot’ actor had already promised to shoot 1993’s ‘In the Name of the Father’.
Zwick recalled Roberts telling him how “brilliant, handsome and intense” Day-Lewis was at the time.
‘Don’t you think he’d be perfect? … I can get him to do it,” Roberts reportedly told the producer.
The “Mystic Pizza” star even asked her assistant to send two dozen roses to the “There Will Be Blood” star, along with a card that read, “Be my Romeo.”
But once Day-Lewis told Zwick and Roberts’ team that he was fully committed to “In the Name of the Father”, their chemistry lecture was cancelled.
Roberts still went through the casting process, now paired with Ralph Fiennes.
“Even when Ralph did his best to generate the famous smile, Julia barely acknowledged him,” Zwick wrote.
“I’m not suggesting she was deliberately sabotaging, but it was a disaster nonetheless,” he continued. “I tried to catch Ralph’s eye to apologize as he left, but he couldn’t get out of there fast enough. When he was gone, I turned to Julia, waiting for her response. “He’s not funny” is all she said.”
Ralph’s brother, Joseph Fiennes, would later win the role of the famous British playwright.
Other A-listers, including Hugh Grant, Rupert Graves, Colin Firth, Sean Bean, and Jeremy Northam, also read with Roberts, but she “found fault with all of them.”
Two weeks later, actor Paul McGann came in to read with the “Notting Hill” alum.
Even though she was completely made up and wearing an Elizabethan period costume, “something was wrong.”
Zwick realized it was Roberts who was the problem in the scene and not one of the male actors.
“There was no magic. The problem wasn’t the script. Or Paul McGann. It was Julia,’ he said. “From the moment she started talking, it was clear she hadn’t worked on the accent.”
He then explained in his essay how he “felt Julia’s discomfort” in the scene and she picked up on his discomfort.
But he noted that he had made the big mistake of “underestimating her insecurity.”
The Post has reached out to Roberts representatives.
Zwick believed that Roberts was “terrified of failing” in the world of Hollywood because she had risen so quickly to become one of the world’s most bankable stars.
After the experience, Roberts flew back to America and announced she was leaving the movie.
“Shakespeare in Love” was later produced by Harvey Weinstein at Miramax, featuring controversy later their colossal Oscars 1999 campaign.
Paltrow and co-star Judi Dench went on to win gold statuettes for their performances, with critics saying they emerged victorious only thanks to Weinstein’s continued lobbying.