On the heels of Lifetime’s announcement today that the network is developing a remake of “Steel Magnolias” featuring an all-African-American cast, it got us to thinking about which actresses might be right to take over the roles made so iconic by original cast members Sally Field, Shirley Maclaine, Olympia Dukakis, Dolly Parton, Julia Roberts and Daryl Hannah.
And while my choices no doubt run mostly to the A-list end of the spectrum (i.e. most of these actresses probably aren’t all that keen on starring in a made-for-TV film on a cable network lacking the sophisticated reputation of HBO or Showtime), it would nevertheless be a lot of fun to see this fantasy cast come together on-screen.
Originally played by: Julia Roberts
My pick for the remake: Beyonce Knowles
Why: A fresh-faced talent capable of displaying great strength and charisma is required for the role of Shelby, and Knowles has done good work before in films like “Dreamgirls” and “Cadillac Records”. More than that, she’s got the star-wattage needed to follow in Julia’s footsteps.
Originally played by: Olympia Dukakis
My pick for the remake: Phylicia Rashad
Why: Rashad has the same twinkle in her eye as Dukakis, and she’s just the right age to play Clairee, the happy-go-lucky widow with a cutting wit. Though she’s taken on more dramatic roles over the last couple of decades, during her years on “The Cosby Show” she demonstrated a gift for comic timing that’s needed for the part.
Originally played by: Daryl Hannah
My pick for the remake: Zoe Saldana
Why: One of the great beauties of her day, Hannah “disappeared” behind a pair of nerdy glasses to play Annelle, a gawky Southern innocent who gradually comes out of her shell. Like Hannah, Zoe Saldana is a willowy sexpot with a vulnerable streak who could really nail the part of the meek doormat-turned-confident woman.
Originally played by: Shirley MacLaine
My pick for the remake: Alfre Woodard
Why: Woodard has played brittle, world-weary characters to excellent effect before, and she’s versatile enough to nail the comic beats required for Ouiser, the bitter two-time widow who regularly squares off with Clairee at the beauty parlor.
Originally played by: Dolly Parton
My pick for the remake: Queen Latifah
Why: This may prove the toughest character to cast in the remake – after all, how can you possibly find another actress quite like Dolly Parton to fill the role of Truvy, the cheerful, good-natured beauty parlor owner? Still, Queen Latifah is capable of projecting real warmth on-screen, and that’s required for a character that in many ways serves as the glue holding all the women together.
Originally played by: Sally Field
My pick for the remake: Angela Bassett
Why: Another tough part to cast given original star Sally Field’s unique on-screen presence, Angela Bassett is a very different actress than Field, but also just as talented and versatile. She’s also the perfect age to play Shelby’s clingy, neurotic mother, and she has the chops required to pull off the character’s big, tearjerker moments.
Who would you cast in the “Steel Magnolias” remake? Sound off in the comments with your own picks!