Gwyneth Paltrow wasn’t feeling so romantic when she received the script for Shakespeare in Love. The actress originally turned down her Oscar-winning role in the 1998 film after breaking up with then-fiancé Brad Pitt.
“The movie had many iterations,” Paltrow, 46, tells Variety in a new interview. “Julia Roberts was going to do it for a long time, and then that version fell apart. It ended up in Miramax, and I was the first person they offered it to.”
Paltrow and Pitt, 46, ended their engagement in 1997, and amid that heartbreak, the actress rejected the part of cross-dressing actress Viola de Lesseps.
“I was in the middle of a terrible breakup [with Pitt], and the idea of going to England and being far from home just seemed … I didn’t even read it,” she says. “I was just like, ‘I can’t read anything right now. I’m having a really hard time.’”
Finally, after director John Madden tried to get Kate Winslet to take the part, Paltrow got around to reading the script. “I just couldn’t put it down,” she recalls. “It was perfect. … [An agent] said, ‘I think it’s more of a guy’s part.’ I was like, ‘Well, I want to do it.’”
Now, the Goop entrepreneur says Shakespeare in Love “changed [her] life,” and not just because her performance earned her the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1999. Her life came full circle when her husband, Brad Falchuk, referenced the film in his vows during the couple’s September 2018 wedding. “He actually said it’s no coincidence that I played this muse, because that’s who I am to him, and his perception is that’s who I am in real life,” she reveals. “It was really sweet.”