Alicia Silverstone Lost My So-Called Life Role to Claire Danes Because She Was Too Beautiful

Entertainment Sep. 3, 2013 AT 5:00PM
Alicia Silverstone; Claire Danes Alicia Silverstone lost the role of Angela Chase on My So-Called Life to Claire Danes Credit: Charles Eshelman/FilmMagic; Kevin Mazur/WireImage

As if! It's hard to imagine anyone but Claire Danes playing the role of Angela Chase in the seminal teenage drama My So-Called Life, but according to a profile of Danes in The New Yorker, the part almost went to another now-famous actress: Clueless star Alicia Silverstone.

In fact, Silverstone -- then 16 -- auditioned first for the show, The New Yorker reports. And executive producer Ed Zwick was so impressed with her that he told his co-executive producer, Marshall Herskovitz, to "just cast her." But Herskovitz thought she was "too pretty" to play the complicated, confused main character.

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"Alicia is so beautiful that that would have affected her experience of the world," he argued (via The New Yorker). "People would have been telling her she was beautiful since she was six years old. You can't put that face in what's been written for this girl."

Danes, on the other hand, was "sexy and not sexy, free and bound up, open and closed, funny and frighteningly serious," series creator Winnie Holzman recalled of the then-13-year-old actress, now 34 and the star of Showtime's hit drama Homeland.

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Added casting director Linda Lowy: "From the minute she walked in the room, Claire was chilling, astounding, and silent. There was so much power coming out of her without her doing much."

The rest, as they say, is history. Though My So-Called Life lasted only one season on ABC (from August 1994 to January 1995), Danes earned rave reviews, a Golden Globe Award, and an Emmy nomination for her performance. She later went on to star in movies including Little Women, Brokedown Palace, and The Hours, and is now one of the most celebrated actresses on TV. Silverstone, meanwhile, rose to fame as Cher Horowitz in Clueless and is now an author and founder of The Kind Life, a guide to vegan nutrition.

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"I remember being so relieved that I had an opportunity to voice my complaints about my time at school so perfectly and so eloquently, with the right amount of rage and humor," Danes -- now a mom to an 8-month-old son, Cyrus, with husband Hugh Dancy -- told The New Yorker of her big break on My So-Called Life. "Angela and I were the same age, so we could dance around each other. Sometimes I would have an experience and then it would be articulated on the show. Other times, I would play it out, then experience it personally later."

"We gave birth to each other," Holzman said of writing the show. "I was looking at someone who literally could do anything, and so I could, too."

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