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Lucie Arnaz in "Grease"

Mot Morenzi

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I stumbled upon this trivia item on IMDb:


Stockard Channing was not the first choice for the role of Rizzo; Lucie Arnaz was allegedly dropped from consideration when her mother, Lucille Ball, called Paramount and said, "I used to own that studio; my daughter's not doing a screen test!" (Ball actually owned the studio Desilu which was bought by Paramount). The part went to Channing when the casting director remembered seeing her with Lucie in the play "Vanities" at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles (the third member of the cast was Sandy Duncan). 


Can anyone confirm/deny this claim?


Forgive me if this has been discussed elsewhere, but I didn't see it listed.

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Here's the full story from Lucie:


AC: I was poking around IMDB, and there was something new I learned about you today, because I do not remember this about you…

LA: Don't believe everything you read on Wikipedia or IMDB. (Laughter)


AC: Well I'm gonna ask you this then: Were you really in consideration for the role of Rizzo in Grease?

LA: I was, but the reason that's on there [Wikipedia] why i didn't get it, somebody made up: My mother wouldn't let me do it??? Are you kidding? She would never step in front of my career like that, ever. Ever! And who wrote that? I've tried to tell a million people, how do you get it off of there?


AC: Get your manager on that one...

LA: I was up for the role, but there's an even worse story though. I mean, if that was the truth, it would just be embarrassing because it would sound like she was still trying to mother me at age whatever. But there's actually a stupider story, and they should put that one… but I'm glad they didn't.

I auditioned for it. Randal Kleiser was the director, and Alan Carr was the producer, and Michael Eisner was the producer via Paramount Studios. I auditioned, and I got the part but Michael wouldn't actually sign on the dotted line. Michael Eisner would not say 100,000%: you have the deal. He wanted to see the other people in the cast, and Randal said, "Lucie, Lucie, trust me. I get the final say on this: You have the part. You got the part." I said, "Okay, okay, but listen I'm booked to do Bye, Bye Birdie at the Melody Top Theater in Milwaukee during the time that I have to start shooting, and I've already signed the contract, and I'm gonna have to pay 5,000 dollars if I don't get out of it by such and such a date. So, could you please let me know by such and such a date," 'Cause you know, I was young; this was my money. Nobody else was paying for it but me, and that was a lot of money to me. And he said, "Oh, absolutely, absolutely." Well the date came and went, and I'm calling him every week. "Can you please let me know…" "Well, Lucy trust me, trust me." "I'd like to trust you. Can you pay the $5,000 then...?" "Well, no I don't think we can agree to do that." Then I remember that I was with my mother in Palm Springs while this was going on, and I was having these phone calls back and forth and back and forth, and I hung up the phone, and I said I don't know what to do. And she said, "You have a committment, if they're not gonna pay it, and you don't want to pay five grand, you have to stick with your committment." So she advised me. Then I kind of called their bluff. And they wouldn't go against Michael Eisner. They wouldn't write it on the dotted line, and they said, "Well then, I guess you have to go do the play, but you would have had the part."


AC: I never liked that guy.

LA: It was just so silly, because I gave up Grease to go do Bye, Bye Birdie at the Melody Top Theater in Milwaukee??? Tommy Tune, he was gonna be my leading man, and then the joke of it was, even he backed out because he got a better gig. If it makes any difference, we did sell out the entire run, and I did get a Carbonell Award, that makes a lot of it worth it….


AC: (Laughter) Kinda heartbreaking. I could see you as Rizzo. Have you played it on stage?

LA: Nope. Nope, it would have been fun. You should have seen me; it was really great. (laughter) But here's another horrible story that goes along with that horrible story. I'm getting out all of my good stories, and I'm going to write a book now.


AC: Yay.

LA: You won't use it anyway, but I'll tell you just…


AC: I might, don't tempt me.

LA: Maybe I'd better not tell you.


AC: Tell me.

LA: Well, I auditioned for Mike Eisner in the big conference room at Paramount. Picture a conference room with probably 25 seats around the table, and he's at one long end and Randal and I are at the other, and I look just like Rizzo. I've got my hair in a pony tail, I'm wearing pink and black, you know, I'm Rizzo. And I read two scenes with Randal, and Randal said afterwards "You totally nailed it. That's exactly what you should be doing. That's it. You couldn't have done it better. It's perfect." So anyway I finished the scene, I looked down at Michael, had his head on his hand and he says to me, "Wow, that's amazing. The entire time you were reading that scene, you know all I could think about was your father used to own this studio, and now I run it."


AC: OH. MY. GOD. I told ya I never liked that guy!

LA: (Laughter) I looked at Randal, he looked at me, and he went, "Okay Mike, well, we'll talk to you later then. Thank you." It doesn't mean he didn't like it, doesn't mean… just means… You get it. (laughs) Yeah, I have a few of those where you just go, "Oooookay. Thanks for showing up." (laughs) All I could think of, especially the way he worded it, "The entire time you were doing that, all I could think of was… "


AC: That sucks! (laughter) What a… I don't even want to say the word that I'm thinking in my mind.

LA: It's okay. It is what it is; it was what it was. And I knew I did a good job, I knew I did a good job but then it was like weirder than weird that he wouldn't commit and then I had to not take it and then it didn't… (laughs)



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