By Emily-Fortune Feimster and Stacy Jenel Smith
At one point in their careers, celebrities have had to go the extra mile to get a great part in Hollywood. Every good actor knows that sometimes it takes a lot more than just showing up to an audition to land a great role.
Kate Winslet was bent on nabbing the leading lady part in “Titanic,” for example, but director James Cameron resisted. She’d done “Sense and Sensibility” and “Hamlet,” and he was afraid she had the wrong image. When her agents failed to get the point across to Cameron that Winslet was Rose, she reportedly left a rose in his car with a friendly note. Then she got his cell phone number and called to convince him herself. Cameron was on the freeway, and said “I’m going somewhere.” Undeterred, Kate insisted to him, “I just have to do this, and you are really mad if you don’t cast me,” the actress recalled. Cameron reconsidered. Winslet was also hell-bent to get Leonardo DiCaprio to play opposite her, and tracked him down to his hotel room at the Cannes Film Festival to persuade him.
Perhaps the greatest film actress of her generation, Meryl Streep, can play aggressive as well as she plays everything else. Alan Pakula actually turned Meryl down for “Sophie’s Choice.” She phoned the director and, as she puts it, “begged and pleaded for an interview.” Pakula consented out of politeness, expecting nothing, but Streep dazzled him in the interview and got the part — for which she later won an Oscar. Similarly, Sydney Pollack didn’t see Meryl as a good prospect for his “Out of Africa,” and told her agent he wasn’t interested. Srteep heard through the grapevine that the director didn’t think she was sexy enough. She got a meeting with Pollack, walked in wearing a dynamite push-up bra, wowed him and the rest is history.
Tobey Maguire secured the lead role in the hit movie “Spider-Man” by going topless for his audition. The star had failed to woo producers in his first audition as they were unconvinced that his slight frame would pass for that of an action hero’s. However, when called back for a more physical try-out, Maguire unveiled his ripped six-pack to clinch the deal. “I decided I was going to own this. I was in pretty good shape – I do yoga – and I took off my top, tied it around my waist and did it topless. The next day the studio gave me the job,” explained Maguire.
Funnyman Jim Carrey knew that he just had to play the part of eccentric Andy Kaufman in the 1999 movie, “Man on the Moon.” He went up against a handful of other hopefuls but he persistently lobbied for the role. Carrey mastered the impersonation of Kaufman and sent in an audition tape complete with the bongo drums once owned by the late comedian.
When Nicole Kidman relatively unknown, she went to the expense of paying a crew and renting her own stage and equipment to make a first-class audition film. Later, she became fed up with mediocre parts and so she fought fiercely for the lead role in the film “To Die For.” Initially, the actress was considered too tall and too Australian for the part but Kidman pursued director Gus Van Sant directly and eventually convinced him that, with the right hair, makeup and trashy clothes, she was the right person.
Jamie Foxx was able to branch out from comedy with his performance alongside Al Pacino in “Any Given Sunday.” The former high school football player said, “I made a tape just off the cuff with my friends. I talked trash, talked to the camera like I was this character. I took the tape, turned it into Warner Bros. and they gave me a chance to do my thing.”
But not all people who go the extra mile get the part. A classic case was when the once hot Sean Young showed up on “The Joan Rivers Show” dressed as Catwoman. Crossed off the A-list, she went begging for the villain role in “Batman Returns,” wearing a silly suit on national television. It didn’t work
For the rest of the actors, they are some of the highest grossing performers in the business. Their refusal to take no for an answer has certainly paid off.