Certainly one of the most negative aspects of the film industry is its inherent superficiality, and there are few things worse in casting than when looks are considered more valuable than acting talent. Sadly, this is something that actors deal with on a regular basis, and that includes some of the biggest stars in the world. For example, back in the 1970s Meryl Streep missed out on the lead female role in John Guillermin’s King Kong remake because one of the producers deemed her too ugly for the part.
This is a rather shocking story in light of all the critical acclaim that Streep has gone on to earn in her career since the 1970s, but it’s true, and was recently revealed by the actress while visiting The Graham Norton Show as a guest. The subject of horror show auditions came up in conversation, and the Academy Award winner began telling a story about the first time that she met with producer Dino De Laurentiis Sr. She was brought in to audition for King Kong after catching the eye of the producer’s son while starring in a play, but the familial connection didn’t wind up helping at all. Said the Into The Woods star,
"I walked in and his son was sitting there [points off to the left], and he was very excited that he brought in this new actress. And the father said to his son in Italian – because I understand Italian – he said, ‘Que bruta? Why do you bring me this ugly thing?’ It was sobering as a young girl."
Shocking and horrible as the situation was, however, Meryl Streep didn’t just cry and run away. Instead, she stood her ground and explained that she could understand what the producer was saying about her, and that she was sorry not to be "beautiful enough to be in King Kong."
Those familiar with the 1976 version of the giant ape story likely know that the lead female role wound up going to Jessica Lange, marking her big screen debut. And while missing out on the film obviously didn’t really help Meryl Streep’s career, she wound up finding her own opportunities. By 1978 she was starring alongside Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken in Deer Hunter, and by 1979 she was starring in both Woody Allen’s Manhattan and winning an Oscar for Robert Benton’s Kramer vs. Kramer. So it’s a horrible story, but one with a happy ending.
It’s arguable that this story is a lot more charming when Meryl Streep herself tells it, so head over to Page Two to watch the video!