For my second entry in this section, I've chosen the role of Patsy Cline in 1985's Sweet Dreams. Minnesota native (woot woot!) Jessica Lange was nominated for an Oscar for her role as country music's first female megastar. This is the part which Meryl has openly described as the one she really wanted, even begged for, but did not get. Director Karel Reisz, who had directed Meryl to her first lead actress Oscar nomination four years earlier in The French Lieutenant's Woman, evidently had Lange in mind for the role from the get-go. To be honest, based simply on resemblance to Cline, Lange seemed like a far better fit than Streep. That in mind, I wouldn't (sweet) dream of underestimating Meryl's talent for executing convincing portrayals. She had obviously found in the script a connection to the main character. Plus, it was clearly very Oscar-baity. I imagine had Streep been cast, the physical resemblance questions would've melted away within her first few onscreen moments.
Meryl of course has been quite vocal in her praise of Lange's performance, calling her "beyond wonderful." I watched this film (in like nine sections on youtube because I couldn't find it on Netfilix, Amazon or Itunes rentals...sheesh) and I have to agree that Lange knocked it out of the park. I really had no idea how tumultuous Cline's relationship had been with the her husband, however dramatized or exaggerated it may have been made for the film. Here's a clip of their first meeting:
Ok, Ed Harris looks like a clone of Michael Fassbender in Shame. I wager that Meryl was attracted to this role not just for the script, but for the fact that it's a role portraying a singer. Lange obviously lip-synced to Cline's recordings, so I suppose the same would've been done for Meryl. I don't know whether or not Lange can sing, but we know Meryl can, and probably in nearly the same vocal fach as Cline. However, with a voice as recognizable and iconic as was Cline's, I imagine the director would've insisted on the original recordings, possibly to Meryl's chagrin. At least she would've been able to try her hand at the very distinguished-sounding Virginian accent. Gawd.
Both Out of Africa and Plenty were released in 1985. The shooting schedule for Africa was several months long, and I can't imagine that Plenty's was a breeze either. Would we have been denied Meryl's participation in either of these films had she been given the role in Sweet Dreams? We can only wonder. I doubt she would've passed on the role of Karen Blixen, and shooting schedules can likely be shifted a bit in order to accommodate actors. I have a feeling I wouldn't have terribly missed Plenty, especially if Sweet Dreams had ultimately become part of Meryl's film canon. Regardless, this is one that got away.