Many of today’s famous actors know the trials and tribulations that come with starting out in Hollywood, and that’s certainly true for Reese Witherspoon, who lost out on landmark film roles that she desperately wanted early in her career. In a new interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Witherspoon revealed that she lost the titular role in Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 remake of Romeo + Juliet, which was a “devastating” experience for her. The part went to fellow Emmy winner Claire Danes, who starred alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in the Oscar-nominated film.
When speaking about her career, Witherspoon admitted that she “went hard” auditioning for some big-ticket movies in the ‘90s that she didn’t wind up landing, and Romeo + Juliet was one of the first to come to mind. “Oh my God, I wanted to do Romeo + Juliet so badly, so badly,” she said. “Of course, Claire Danes was amazing, but it was devastating to me that I didn’t get it after screen tests and getting really close.” If it makes her feel better, she wasn’t the only name who was passed up for Juliet. The role initially went to Natalie Portman, who was forced to drop out after executives said she looked too young for the part.
Witherspoon was also a contender to play the iconic Cher Horowitz in Clueless, which ultimately went to Alicia Silverstone. She admitted that her initial reactions to losing these roles weren’t the greatest, stating that she was “very competitive and jealous of other women and not supportive” at that time in her career. “I was really unhappy, I was not seeing the abundance of opportunity,” she said, adding that she felt part of a system where “only one girl would make it.”
The actor has been open about losing roles in the past. In a February interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Witherspoon told the story of her audition for Martin Scorcese’s 1991 film Cape Fear with Robert De Niro, revealing that she flubbed that one herself. “I didn’t know who Robert De Niro was, so I was standing outside talking to the receptionist, and she was like, ‘You know he’s the most important actor of our time, right?’” she recalled. “I was 14! I had never seen Goodfellas. I had never seen The Godfather.”
When she stepped in front of him to audition, her nerves took over, and she kept mispronouncing a word. “He had to finish the lines for me,” she said. “And then I auditioned for him ten years later, and I thought, ‘He’s never going to remember that I bricked that audition,’ and he was like, ‘I remember you; you’re the one who couldn’t say the word.’” At least she has a funny audition story to tell.