Why Julia Roberts Quit ‘Shakespeare in Love’ After Awful Chemistry Reads, Producer Claims

Why Julia Roberts Quit Shakespeare in Love After Awful Chemistry Reads Producer Claims
Why Julia Roberts Quit Shakespeare in Love After Awful Chemistry Reads Producer Claims

The entertainment industry is always abuzz with exciting stories, and the drama behind the scenes is sometimes just as compelling as what we see on the screen. One such instance occurred during the making of the 1998 film, Shakespeare in Love, where Julia Roberts was initially cast as the lead, Viola de Lesseps. However, after a series of unfortunate chemistry reads, the actress ended up leaving the project. In this article, we'll take a closer look at what went down during the making of the movie and the reasons behind Julia Roberts' departure.

The Initial Excitement

As per producer Edward Zwick, the studio was thrilled with the idea of casting Julia Roberts as the lead in the movie. Her name alone was enough to make the studio executives excited, and they were willing to spend whatever it took to have her on board. However, things didn't go as planned, and Julia's excitement for the role was short-lived.

The Search for the Perfect Romeo

Julia Roberts was reportedly obsessed with the idea of Daniel Day-Lewis playing Shakespeare, and she even went as far as to send him two dozen roses with a card that read "Be my Romeo." Unfortunately, Day-Lewis was busy with other commitments and couldn't take on the role.

The Awful Chemistry Reads

After Day-Lewis passed on the role, Julia Roberts did a chemistry read with Ralph Fiennes, who was eventually cast as the male lead. However, the chemistry between the two actors was terrible, with Julia barely acknowledging him during the read. Although Edward Zwick insists that Julia wasn't intentionally trying to sabotage the read, it was still a disaster. After the test, Julia moved on to chemistry reads with a host of other actors, including Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, and Sean Bean.

The Final Straw

Although Julia Roberts did a chemistry read with several actors, things took a turn for the worse during her reading with Paul McGann. Despite looking radiant in her full-period costume, it was clear that something was wrong as soon as she started speaking. According to Edward Zwick, there was no magic, and it was evident that Julia had not been working on the accent. Despite Edward's attempts to encourage her, Julia quit the project the next morning, leaving Universal with a $6 million bill.


In hindsight, it's easy to see why the chemistry reads didn't go well, but it's unfortunate that the studio had already spent so much money before realizing that Julia Roberts wasn't the right fit for the role. However, the film went on to be a huge success, with Gwyneth Paltrow stepping in to play the role of Viola de Lesseps. It's interesting to speculate how the movie would have turned out if Julia had stayed on, but it's safe to say that the end result was fantastic.


Q: Who was originally cast as Viola de Lesseps in Shakespeare in Love?

A: Julia Roberts was initially cast as Viola de Lesseps, the lead character in the movie.

Q: Why did Julia Roberts leave the movie?

A: Julia Roberts left the movie after a series of terrible chemistry reads with several male actors, including Ralph Fiennes and Paul McGann.

Q: Who eventually played the lead in Shakespeare in Love?

A: After Julia Roberts left the movie, Gwyneth Paltrow was cast as the lead character, Viola de Lesseps.

Q: Did the movie perform well at the box office?

A: Yes, Shakespeare in Love was a huge success, grossing over $289 million at the box office.