As early as 1997, several sources reported that Meryl was set to produce and star in a screen version of Friedrich Schiller's play Mary Stuart with her friend Glenn Close. Streep would portray Mary Queen of Scots, the cousin of English Queen Elizabeth I (Close). Not only did Streep and Close ultimately not star in this production, but the film never ended up getting made at all. This is therefore the only Shoulda Coulda Woulda I've posted which covers a project that never made it to the big screen. It also would've been the first film Meryl co-produced (if we don't count her made for TV movie ...First Do No Harm in 1997).
So what happened? Evidently while filming The House of the Spirits with Glenn Close in 1993, the two came up with the idea of starring together in a film version of Schiller's play. They even approached Brit Richard Eyre to direct the project with a screenplay by Charles Wood. Filming was set to begin in late summer 1998. As so often happens, funding took a while to come together, and by the time it looked like it was going to happen, Meryl dropped out, being replaced by French actress Isabelle Huppert. The only reasoning behind Streep's departure that I could find was from a Guardian article which stated that Meryl's heart was no longer in the project. This obviously would've put the funding for the project in jeopardy, possibly resulting in its ultimate demise.
Mary Stuart potentially could've provided both Streep and Close with fantastic roles. Although Mary of Scotts and Queen Elizabeth never actually met in real life, the play was a dramatic vehicle for the two main characters, as Elizabeth struggles with the prospect of having her cousin and rival for the throne executed for treason. Previous film depictions of these two women starring Katharine
Hepburn/Florence Eldridge and Vanessa Redgrave/Glenda Jackson also had
the pair meet and interact.
For Meryl it would've been another nice buddy project, which we know she has an affinity for after her collaborations with Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton. The character of Mary Stuart of course provides the opportunity for yet another accent. I believe Stuart grew up speaking French, so perhaps Meryl would've spoken English with a French-Scottish accent (whatever that would sound like). How nice it would've been to see Meryl's choices in the portrayal of a woman who's essentially on death row in the late 16th century.
As previously mentioned, had Streep stuck with the project filming would've started in 1998, which means a likely late 1999 release. I wonder if Meryl still would've done Music of the Heart, which filmed around the same time. We know she spent a lot of time prior to that film learning and practicing the violin, a preparation that may not have been available had she done Stuart. If getting the financials in order took longer than expected, perhaps they simply could've bumped it back a year and film in 1999. We know she didn't have a ton going on around that time, and it would've given her a film release in 2000...and no doubt another year filled with Oscar buzz.