Jean Seberg, Saint Joan, 1957. In Marshalltown, Iowa, Seberg was the baby-sitter for Mary Beth Hurt, who grew up to play Seberg (in voice-over) during the documentary, From the Journals of Jean Seberg, 1995. The script revealed that both Vanessa and Jane Fonda auditioned for producer-director-ogre Otto Preminger. He also considered such unlikely Joans as Ursula Andress, Julie Andrews, Anne Bancroft, Claire Bloom, Carol Burnett, Joan Collins, Angie Dickinson, Shirley MacLaine, Mary Tyler Moore, Debbie Reynolds, Maggie Smith, Liz Taylor and… Mamie Van Doren!
Wendy Craig, The Servant, 1963. This should have been Vanessa’s movie debut… except she was pregnant with with her first child, Natasha Richardson.
- Lynn Redgrave, Georgy Girl, 1966. “When Vanessa couldn’t do it, they asked Lynn,” recalls Alan Bates. And former TV director Silvio Narizzano put back in all the lines about Georgy looking like the back of a bus - in the first UK feature with a bare butt. That of Alan Bates. Of course.
- Susannah York, A Man For All Seasons, 1966. As soon as she agreed to be Thomas More’s daughter, she was offered The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie on-stage. “Very upset,” she called on director Fred Zinnemann, who found it impossible not to release her. Susannah moved in. “Van” then came to Fred’s aid when, after searching through dozens of sexy beauties, he couldn’t find one who had 45 seconds to “convince the audience she was capable of hanging the course of an empire” - and Redgrave played Anne Boleyn for him. On two conditions No credit, no salary, no realism (The Queen had six fingers per hand and "too many breasts") and, indeed, no dialogue. “She did almost nothing,” praised Fred, “except lean forward and blow into her sovereign’s ear - seductive and totally convincing in the magnetism and power of this woman.”
- Charlotte Rampling, The Long Duel, 1967. She cleverly avoided another mindless example of The Rank Organisation trying to go international.
- Susannah York, Sebastian, 1967. Impossible. Vanessa was already off to Camelot.
- Joanna Pettet, Robbery, 1967. Producer Michael Deeley wanted Vanessa to play the wife of his star and business partner Stanlery Baker. Her husband - Deeley’s pervious boss at Woodfall Films - was furious. “How,” asked Tony Richardson, “could you possibly involve my wife with a thug like Stanley Baker?” To which, Deeley responded: “Stanley may have played thugs, but he certainly wsasn’t one in real life.” Deeley and Vanessa finally got together for Young Catherine, TV, 1991.
- Maggie Smith, The Pride of Miss Jean Brodie, 1968. She had created Jean Brodie on-stage, but was unavailable for the movie. And the Oscar goes to....
- Ingrid Thulin, The Damned, Italy-Germany, 1969. Or, Lady Macbeth, as Dirk Bogarde called the role. Adding: “I’d play a stick in the fireplace for Visconti if he asked me.”
Jennie Linden, Women In Love, 1969. Both Redgrave and Faye Dunaway passed on Ursula because Glenda Jackson’s Gudrun had the more important role - and lines. Maybe so, but the nude wrestling of Alan Bates v Oliver Reed stole the entire movie. Jennie was chosen because of her test with Peter O’Toole for A Lion In Winter, which she did not win. Being a brand new mother, she wasn’t keen. Flamboyant UK director Ken Russell played deaf. “Costume fitting - 10am, Monday.” She was great in (and out of) it. Vanessa later replaced Glenda in Russell’s The Devils, 1971.
- Anouk Aimée, The Appointment, 1969. Better notion than first choice Kim Novak for a rare stinker from Sidney Lumet.
- Glenda Jackson, Sunday, Bloody Sunday, 1971. This time, Glenda replaced Vanessa. They paired up the following year in Mary, Queen of Scots.
- Glenda Jackson, The Boyfriend, 1971. Ken Russell needed one of his star ladies to provide the cameo of a musical star breaking a leg and allowing Twiggy to... go out there and be a star!
- Barbara Leigh-Hunt, Frenzy, 1971. “A good colorful crime spree is good for tourism...” Once upon a whimsy. it was to be Inspector Olivier suspecting David Hemming as a serial killer, with Redgrave among his victims. Not when Alfred Hitchcock started his 52nd and penultimate film - his first in Britain for 16 years.
- Susannah York, Images, 1972. Bargain! Director Robert Altman’s final choice helped write the final script.
- Stephanie Beacham, The Nightcomers, 1972. UK director Michael Winner almost pulled it off - Marlon Brando and Vanessa! But her Italian film, Tinto Brass’ La vacanza, ran over and Winner remembered the sulphuric Beacham from his Games.
- Jenny Runacre, The Final Programme, 1973. Probably wise to leave Michael Moorcock's sf heroine alone - or at least in this sad ’n’ sorry movie version.
- Faye Dunaway, Network, 1976. Director Sidney Lumet was adamant. He wanted the greatest English-speaking actress in the world as Diana Christensen, the anything-for-ratings programming chief at UBS TV. Writer Paddy Chayefsky did not. Being Jewish, he loathed her support of the PLO. Lumet was also Jewish and declared: “Paddy, that’s blacklisting!” Said Chayefsky: “Not when a Jew does it to a Gentile.”
- Daria Nicolodi, Opera, Italy, 1987. Dario Argento meets Macbeth. And everyone’s cursed. Van flew to Rome, was met by director Argento at the airport. Befitting her role of an opera singer’s agent, she asked: “How much?” Ah! And she for home left on the next plane! Dario’s ex (Asia's mother) took over.
- Shirley MacLaine, Madame Sousatzka, 1988. Tied to the project when UK director John Schlesinger won his $5.5m budget. Madame Shirley won best actress at the 1988 Venice fest.
- Theresa Russell, Track 29, 1988. Or Track 39, when planned as director Joseph Losey’s first film in the US for 37 years. “My problems with films,” said Losey, “began at 39.”
- Helen Mirren, The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, 1989. Best out of Peter Greenaway’s melodramatic Dutch-French hotch-potch.
- Susan Sarandon, Thelma & Louise, 1990.
- Maggie Smith, Tea With Mussolini, 1999. First choice of Italian stage-screen director Franco Zeffirelli for Lady Random, one of the three British expat eccentrics becoming the protagonist's adoptive aunts - based upon the childhood chapter of Zeffirelli’s autobiography.
- Eileen Atkins, Robin Hood, 2009. As directors changed from Sam Raimi to Bryan Singer to Jon Turtletaub, there was a moment when the Nottingham reboot had Van as Eleanor of Aquitaine. However, director Ridley Scott went to Eileen.