Monday, June 29, 2020

Recasting 1979: "The Rose"

Following what would have been supporting roles in two potentially very successful films in 1977 and '78, we can imagine Streep may have been poised to enter the foray as a leading lady. Cue Mark Rydell's 1979 drama loosely based on the life of Janis Joplin. 

The role of Mary Rose Foster was of course originally played by the great Bette Midler. I've read that the director only wanted to make the movie if Midler had agreed to star, so it's tough for me to imagine Streep having any chance at this role. Midler wasn't a huge star at the time, but was of course known for her singing abilities. Meryl at that point likely was not, especially for the type of singing that's required in this movie. But we all know stranger things have happened. 

I managed to get my hands on a DVD copy of the film (it's not streaming anywhere!), and quickly thought to myself, "whoa, this would be tough." It's not often I say that I'd have a hard time seeing Meryl being able to pull off a certain character, but this was one of them--because of the singing performances. 

Don't get me wrong, the rest of the character would've been catnip for any actress: troubled rock star, alcohol/drug abuse, lesbian lover, hippie. Midler was apparently uncomfortable with the original script being too close to Joplin, as the singer had died less than ten years prior, so some changes were made. Regardless, there are some powerful moments in the film of a troubled, even desperate woman on the edge. That part Meryl would've sunk her teeth into. The vocals are another. 

Yes, Meryl is no slouch when it comes to belting out a few bars. Hell, she even believably pulls off a rock and roll singer in 2015's Ricki and the Flash. But while Ricki is a washed up flower child who never made it big, Rose is one of the greatest in the world. What an amazing challenge that would've been for Meryl! I have to imagine with her high, light voice, she could've learned how to passably achieve the vocal pyrotechnics necessary for audiences to be convinced her character was the real deal. 

The film was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Actress for Midler. She also won the Golden Globe for Actress in a Musical or Comedy (which it was neither...rather a drama with music performed by way of a live rock performances). 

Given the opportunity in the lead role, it would've been interesting to see if Meryl ultimately could've done the part justice. And had she, I expect it would've catapulted her into upper echelon of major Hollywood stars. It would be only big-time parts from then on.


  1. Wonderful Jeff, I was really hoping you would go with this! I think if she had a good vocal trainer she could certainly have done those songs justice. And would have been magnificient in the rest of the movie.
    Also, she could have been in contention for the Grammys with the soundtrack.

    In my imagined filmography Meryl would have starred in a Broadway musical somewhere in 1976 or 1977 as I've always wished she would have spent more of that amazing talent on stage.

    In this imagined filmography would Meryl still have starred in Kramer vs Kramer, Manhattan, The Deer Hunter? The latter I doubt she would have give up due to the chance to film it with the great Cazale.

    1. In this recasting project, I make the assumption that Meryl does only the films I post about, almost all of which will be outside her real filmography. That's why I think you're right in calling it a "reimagined" filmography (although that's what I called it in my posts from 2014). That older one might have been better titled as a "recasting." But I guess they're both technically reimagined.

    2. And you're totally right about Cazale. But this is pretend!

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    1. In my wild imagination Meryl finished University in 1973 when she was 24. She was then whisked to Broadway right after by Joseph Papp where she spent the first year in well-received supporting roles.

      I once read an interview with one of her old Yale (?) professor who told his students something like, however great you think she was in "Sophie's Choice", she was ever better as "Miss Julie". Therefore I would have loved her to star in this play during the 1975 Broadway season.

      Then in 1976 her first big musical! Ideally a brand new role she could make her own but possibly a "Chicago" rival where she could alternate the roles of Roxie and Velma each night. This would win her the Tony and assert her as both a great actress as well as viable singer.

      The same year she would have made her TV debut in "Sybil" instead of Sally Field. An amazing part Meryl would have brought so much to and given her a first Emmy.

      I would have still kept the small part in "Julia" in 1977 as her movie debut (due to her busy theatre schedule) but she would have established herself in Shakespeare, playing both Lady Macbeth and isabella in "Measure For Measure".. Maybe in London?

      In 1978 she would still star in "Holocaust" alongside her small but important role as Linda in "The Deer Hunter" plus a slightly expanded role in "Manhattan" where she has one extra, memorable scene where she could show her great comic talents.

      1979 brings a Spring release for her version of "Looking For Mr Goodbar" which is an amazing and daring role for any young actress, even today. Great music and haunting performance.
      This would have been followed by her revelatory role in "The Rose" which would win her Best Actress and a chance to give us her version of the title song.
      Closing out 1979 would be "Kramer vs Kramer" which to this day is still an important piece of the era.

      Thank you for indulging me in sharing this part of my "re-envisioned" 1970s, which I've had in my head for years. Love what you're doing with these posts.. :)

    2. I love this, Charlie! What's great is that it's special to you. And that's one of the things I enjoy so much about following Meryl's career. We think beyond the movies she's done to what has touched us in some way and how much we would've enjoyed seeing her interpretation of that same performance.

      You are definitely more theater-leaning for her career choices than am I. Don't get me wrong, I would love to see Meryl on stage, but I'm selfish and want to be able to see her multiple times in things, which screen performance allows. But how great would it be if she had won a couple of Tonys before hitting it big in Hollywood?!