Julia Roberts Wasn’t the First Choice for Shelby in Steel Magnolias
Julia Roberts is undoubtedly one of Hollywood’s most iconic actresses, known for her stunning performances and undeniable talent. Her portrayal of Shelby Eatenton Latcherie in the 1989 film “Steel Magnolias” is considered one of her most memorable roles. However, what many people may not know is that Julia Roberts wasn’t the original actor cast as Shelby in the film.
When “Steel Magnolias” was being developed for the big screen, the role of Shelby was initially offered to another rising star of the time, Meg Ryan. At that point in her career, Ryan had already gained recognition for her roles in romantic comedies and it seemed like a perfect fit, but fate had other plans. Unfortunately, Meg Ryan had to decline the role of Shelby because she was offered the lead in “When Harry met Sally”.
Sally Field and her then-spouse made a recommendation regarding the ideal person to portray Shelby – a young and relatively unknown actress named Julia Roberts, who had caught their eye with her breakout performance in the critically acclaimed film “Mystic Pizza.”
Despite being a relatively fresh face in Hollywood, Julia Roberts impressed the producers with her audition. “We brought her in, and she was Julia Roberts, so she was magic. She just walked into the room and lit it up”, said Robert Harling in a recent interview. It turned out to be a decision that would change her life and catapult her into stardom. Roberts brought an infectious charm and vulnerability to the character of Shelby, capturing the hearts of audiences around the world.
“Steel Magnolias” tells the story of a group of close-knit women in a small Louisiana town who navigate life’s ups and downs, supporting each other through thick and thin. Shelby, a young woman with diabetes, becomes the center of attention as her desire to have a child puts her health at risk. Roberts portrayed Shelby with depth and sensitivity, showcasing her range as an actress and solidifying her status as a leading lady in Hollywood.
The success of “Steel Magnolias” further cemented Julia Roberts’ career, leading to her winning the Academy Award for Best Actress in 2001 for her role in “Erin Brockovich.” She went on to star in numerous critically acclaimed films, including “Pretty Woman,” “Runaway Bride,” and “Ocean’s Eleven.”
While it’s fascinating to imagine how Meg Ryan’s portrayal of Shelby would have differed from Julia Roberts’, it’s hard to deny that Roberts brought something special to the role. Her natural charisma and undeniable talent made Shelby a beloved and unforgettable character in the hearts of moviegoers.
Despite not being the original choice for the role, Julia Roberts proved that sometimes, the unexpected can lead to greatness. Her performance in “Steel Magnolias” launched her into the realm of Hollywood superstardom. Fate intervened, and the world was gifted with a truly remarkable performance that solidified Julia Roberts’ place in cinematic history.