Joan Collins Lost the Role of ‘Cleopatra’ to Elizabeth Taylor Because She Refused to Sleep With a Studio Executive
Joan Collins is one of Hollywood’s most iconic and legendary actors thanks to her role on the hit soap opera Dynasty. Though the series made Collins an international star, it turns out that she went up for the converted role of Cleopatra long before she landed the part of Alexis Colby.
‘Cleopatra’ made Elizabeth Taylor a superstar
In 1963, Elizabeth Taylor starred as the powerful Queen of Egypt in the lengthy yet spectacular love story, Cleopatra, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz.
The film depicts Cleopatra experiencing both triumph and tragedy as she attempts to resist the imperial ambitions of Rome. It also details her manipulation of Julius Caesar (Rex Harrison) and her passionate love affair with Mark Antony (Richard Burton).
Cleopatra was the highest-grossing film of 1963, earning $57.7 million at the box office in both the United States and Canada. It’s also one of the highest-grossing films of the decade at a worldwide level.
Not only did the film rake in some big bucks for 20th Century Fox, but it also earned Taylor a $1 million payday.
Though the film made Taylor a Hollywood legend and one of the well-known public figures in the world, it turns out that she wasn’t the film studio’s first choice to play the powerful Egyptian queen.
Joan Collins was sexually propositioned for the lead in ‘Cleopatra’
When 20th Century Fox was looking for someone to take on the lead female role in Cleopatra, they considered casting Joan Collins, who was just coming off the success of a string of hit films at the time.
According to Collins, she was bombarded by the head of 20th Century Fox at the time, Buddy Adler, and the board’s chairman to star as the infamous queen in the historical drama. She was even guaranteed that the role would be hers if she were “nice” to them.
However, Collins soon realized that being “nice” meant she was expected to sleep with those studio executives, which she couldn’t bring herself to do.
“This was the casting couch,” the Dynasty star said during a 2019 interview with CBS Sunday Morning. “He was head of the studio, and he said, ‘I can put you up in a nice little apartment, and I’ll come and visit you. And you’ll not only get all the best roles at Fox, but we’ll see that you get Cleopatra.“
Without hesitation, Collins rejected the alleged offer.
“I was never ever, ever, going to settle for giving my body to some old man for a role — or even young man, or anybody,” she continued. “I would never do that, ever, ever.”
In the end, the role went to Taylor. However, Collins revealed that when Taylor was hospitalized during production, her agent called her saying they might need to recast the role — and that she was at the top of the list.
But since the glamorous superstar was one of her good friends, Collins turned down the opportunity to take Taylor’s place in the film.
“I said, ‘I can’t do that! She’s a friend of mine. I would feel absolutely dreadful,'” Collins told CNN in 2011. “He said, ‘Listen, this is show biz, kid.'”
Taylor, to Collins’ relief, eventually recovered and was able to carry on with the film.
Though Collins didn’t get the chance to star as Cleopatra, she still went on to have a successful career in Hollywood. Today, she’s considered one of the most iconic actors in the industry, and to think, she didn’t even need to star in a huge production to receive this honor.
[Correction: An earlier version mistakenly said Robert Burton, not Richard Burton.]