Years before winning an Oscar for Monster -- and decades before she became a feminist action-movie icon with Mad Max: Fury Road -- Charlize Theron almost went down a very different path. Trying to break into the movie business, the statuesque South African beauty apparently auditioned to play the lead role of Nomi in Paul Verhoeven and Joe Eszterhas’ Showgirls. And this is why she didn’t get the gig.
The New York Daily News has the scoop, saying that Charlize Theron auditioned for the Showgirls role that eventually went to Elizabeth Berkley, and desperately wanted it. But Verhoeven, in an interview with the paper, explained:
Charlize also auditioned, and I don't recall her having any problem with the nudity at all. 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.
That’s right. Thanks to her role as Jessie Spano on the hit TV show Saved By The Bell, Elizabeth Berkley was more of a household name than the woman who’d eventually become an A-list superstar. And I’m not saying this as a joke. Berkley absolutely was the bigger star… in 1995. When she didn't get the part in Showgirls, Theron went on to star in 2 Days in the Valley. From there, she appeared in Tom Hanks’ directorial debut That Thing You Do! And she finally broke out playing Keanu Reeves’ wife in the Satanic drama The Devil’s Advocate, where she was seduced by Al Pacino. “Speak of the devil!”
Some might say Charlize Theron dodged a bullet. Elizabeth Berkley’s career has been overshadowed by her role in the campy (and borderline disastrous) Showgirls. Paul Verhoeven even takes the blame, in the above interview, for ruining Berkley’s career, and adds:
[Theron] was very lucky that she did not get the part. I wish Charlize congratulations for that, because it would have been a miserable 20 years for her!
How different everyone’s careers might have been had Theron been cast in Showgirls. Maybe she could have changed it? Maybe it would have torn her down, as well? And maybe Elizabeth Berkley would have a brighter career, even though she’s now come around to embracing her persona as Nomi, and all of the trappings that come along with it.