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Showgirls stands as one of the most critically-reviled movies of all time, a 1995 erotic thriller that starred Elizabeth Berkley as Nomi Malone, a young woman in search of her big break. While made with the best of intentions, Showgirls was a box-office bomb. And over the years, new generations have continued to find fault with the controversial flick. Interestingly enough, Berkley wasn’t the original choice to play Nomi. A-lister Charlize Theron was once in the running for the lead role.

‘Showgirls’ bombed at the box office when it debuted

Showgirls tells the story of Nomi Malone, a young woman who heads to Las Vegas in hopes of making it as a showgirl in a revue show. Things don’t go smoothly for Nomi from the start. Eventually, Nomi crosses paths with Cristal Connors and her boyfriend, Zack Carey, two mainstays at the Stardust Casino, who convince her to audition for a role in the casino’s topless revue.

While Showgirls features a star-studded cast, including former child star Berkley as Nomi, Gina Gershon as Cristal, and Kyle MacLachlan as Zack, it bombed hard at the box office in 1995. As reported by IMDb, although the film received a lot of buzz due to the significant nudity and sexual content in the film, critics almost universally slammed the plot, acting, and writing.

Charlize Theron auditioned for the role of Nomi

charlize theron
Charlize Theron attend the EE British Academy Film Awards 2020 After Party at The Grosvenor House Hotel on February 02, 2020 in London, England. | Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

Berkley took on the role of Nomi with aplomb, handling the film’s racy scenes with bravery. Still, she wasn’t the only star in the running for the part. Well before she reached A-list status, Theron actually expressed interest in the role.

As reported by BuzzFeed, Showgirls director Paul Verhoeven would later admit that he’s glad Theron didn’t get the role of Nomi. While Verhoeven said Theron was OK with the nudity required, it’s probably best they went with Berkley. “She was good and wanted the part, but basically she was not well known enough at the time and just did not fit the part, so we said ‘no,'” the director noted to Vanity Fair.

“She was very lucky that she did not get the part,” Verhoeven said. “If she had been offered the part then, she would probably have been chewed up in the same way they treated Elizabeth.”

Elizabeth Berkley’s career took a nosedive after ‘Showgirls’


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Theron landed her big break in The Devil’s Advocate shortly after Showgirls came out. To this day, she’s one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. Berkley, however, didn’t fare so well. Critics slammed Berkley’s performance in the movie, calling her acting wooden and unappealing. Even though many recognized her attempt to go from TV to film, her career stalled after Showgirls‘ poor reception.

In the years that followed, Berkley would manage to land small parts in movies like The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (which, coincidentally, also featured Theron). However, she would find more success with theater and television roles after the flop that was Showgirls. Only in recent years has Berkley made her comeback. The documentary You Don’t Nomi shines some light on how unkind the entertainment industry has been to the actor, rather than to the many other creative people involved with the project.