Gwyneth Paltrow Nearly Lost Her Oscar-Winning Role to 2 Bigger Stars

Gwyneth Paltrow was still a budding actor in the early 1990s. In fact, the future A-list star landed one of her first major gigs thanks to godfather Steven Spielberg. The young Paltrow played a bit role as young Wendy Darling in 1991’s Hook. But by the end of that decade, she was an Academy Award winner. So it’s hard to imagine how her career would be different if one of the two bigger stars up for that role had gotten it instead.

Gwyneth Paltrow wears pink on the red carpet
Gwyneth Paltrow | Michael Buckner/WireImage

‘Shakespeare in Love’ is 1 of the biggest Gwyneth Paltrow movies

Before Shakespeare in Love, Paltrow was very much an up-and-coming star. Her roles in films such as Seven and Emma set the stage for greater things to come. But it wasn’t until 1998 that her acting career really took flight. Paltrow starred in not one, not two, but five films released that calendar year. Great Expectations, Hush, Sliding Doors, and A Perfect Murder all did decent business. Yet, Paltrow needed an extra push onto the A list.

That opportunity came at the very end of 1998, when Shakespeare in Love arrived in theaters. The film became such a critics favorite that it easily led Paltrow to clean up during awards season. Moreover, the $25 million period piece went on to earn $289 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo. Suddenly, Paltrow was an Oscar-winning starlet ready to establish herself a major player in the industry.

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The then-rising star nearly lost the role to 2 much bigger names

In the end, Paltrow landed the female lead in Shakespeare in Love, a fictionalized account of young William Shakespeare’s (Joseph Fiennes) life. But she almost lost the role to two bigger female stars, one of whom ultimately got another role Paltrow had passed on. As the actor once revealed, she passed on the chance to play Rose in Titanic. Kate Winslet ultimately won that role and nearly landed Shakespeare in Love too.

According to Complex, Winslet chose to focus on smaller movies. But Julia Roberts — whose own career bounced back with 1997’s My Best Friend’s Wedding — was eyeing Shakespeare in Love herself. The A-lister was reportedly attached to an earlier version of the film, which fell apart and led it to become a Miramax movie. Looking back, it’s wild to consider how Paltrow’s career would’ve differed without Shakespeare in Love.

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Julia Roberts and Kate Winslet eventually went on to win Oscars

Both Roberts and Winslet missed out on playing Viola de Lesseps in director John Madden’s film. But neither actor went without awards attention for much longer. In fact, Roberts won her own Best Actress Oscar for Erin Brockovich just two years after Shakespeare in Love took home seven Oscars.

Likewise, Winslet — who had received five previous nominations — finally won an Academy Award. Ironically, her trophy is for perhaps one of her most under-seen films, 2008’s The Reader. But nonetheless, few would argue Winslet shouldn’t have an Oscar at all. It just took a big longer for the academy to recognize her work.