It almost happened.
I just caught up with Altered States, the autobiography of the late visionary director Ken Russell, and he talks about being assigned to do a movie of Evita in the early 1980s, possibly with musical theater actress Elaine Paige as the leading lady.
But he felt Paige was not nearly earthy or moving enough to pull it off.
Russell asked Barbra Streisand if she might be interested, but as he wrote, “I don’t think the idea of a Jewish princess playing a Catholic whore exactly appealed to her.” No kidding.
And then he tested Liza.
The producer, Robert Stigwood, rushed the Oscar winner into a screen test–time was running out on the search and they were getting frantic–so she had to perform it in an ill-fitting wig they stuck on her, plus jeans and a T shirt.
And she was astounding.
“Here was a woman who could start a revolution and sway a nation,” wrote Russell.
“And when she reached her climax with an orgasmic ‘I’m coming,’ so was everyone else in the place–man, woman, or dog.”
Well, Stigwood watched all the screen tests and Russell waited for him to say “It’s Liza, obviously.” But he bizarrely insisted on Elaine Paige.
Russell refused and the movie was never made.
Until Madonna did it, of course, and she was fine, but I’m suddenly haunted by what could have been if Liza had played the part.
(And she and Goldie Hawn were all set for Chicago at one point too.)
Oh, well. Woulda shoulda coulda. Don’t cry for her, Argentina.