Bette Midler turned down ‘too violent’ Stephen King movie

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Bette Midler has become Hollywood royalty throughout her almost 60-year career. And she’s still going, having recently starred in the long-awaited sequel, Hocus Pocus 2 on Disney Plus. But there have also been a few major roles she didn’t take. One of them was in a horror movie originally penned by Stephen King, and she confessed it was too gruesome for her.

Midler recently told Variety she was offered the role of Annie Wilkes in the 1990 thriller Misery. The picture follows a writer (Paul Sheldon, played by James Caan), getting stranded in a blizzard before being taken in by a nurse (Wilkes) – his “number one fan”. The crazed fanatic then forced the writer into creating a new manuscript while torturing him and breaking his bones.

Midler recalled she “just couldn’t” join the cast of Misery. “It was too violent,” she admitted. “The character was so not funny, so without any qualities of redemption.”

She added that there were some parts of the role that were too much for her to deal with – specifically the horrific acts Wilkes carried out on the writer.

Midler exclaimed: “She cut off his foot. Come on. Who does that?”

Although Midler didn’t see the value of joining the miserable movie, Bates’ performance as Wilkes was highly praised and even recognised by the Academy. In 1991, Bates won the Oscar for Best Actress in the 63rd Academy Awards. To this day, Misery is still the only Stephen King-based movie that has ever won an Academy Award.

Perhaps the horror aspect of Misery intrigued Midler, however. Three years later, in 1993, she starred in the aforementioned Hocus Pocus, which has since become a widely loved cult classic. It also earned a whopping $45 million at the box office.

Midler also spoke candidly about giving up another blockbuster franchise: Sister Act. The movie starred Whoopi Goldberg, who went on to appear in a sequel, as well. The picture made a staggering $231 million at the box office on a meagre $31 million budget.

Midler recalled: “They came to me with Sister Act and I said: ‘My fans don’t want to see me in a wimple.’ Can you believe that? How off the wall is that? How crazy is that?”

The 77-year-old added that American filmmaker Jeffrey Katzenberg called her “every day” because he desperately wanted her to star in the film.

“I stood my ground,” Midler added. “Because I really was afraid of the costume. Isn’t that amazing? I can wear anything but a nun’s habit?”

She added: “Whoopi wore it all the way to the bank. So God bless her. And she was perfect for it.”

That isn’t to say Midler was without success, however. In 1979 she starred in The Rose, an American musical drama directed by Mark Rydell. Her performance in the picture resulted in a Best Actress nomination at the Oscars that same year.


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