October 2, 1977 (USA)
Julien Derode, Tom Pevsner, Richard Roth
The film traces the lifelong relationship between playwright Lillian Hellman (Jane Fonda)
and Julia (Vanessa Redgrave), a wealthy girl who turns her back on her upbringing to
follow her ideals. In the 1930s, while the adult Hellman struggles to establish herself
as a playwright with the help of her lover, Dashiell Hammett (Jason Robards), Julia battles
the exigencies of the Nazi regime. Visiting Julia in Germany, Lillian realizes how much
her friend's idealism has cost her. She is asked to smuggle money from Paris to
Germany. It is a dangerous mission for a Jewish intellectual on her way to Russia.
Cast & Characters
Jane Fonda (Lillian Hellman), Vanessa Redgrave (Julia), Jason Robards (Dashiell Hammett), Maximilian Schell (Johann),
Hal Holbrook (Alan Campbell), Rosemary Murphy (Dorothy Parker), Meryl Streep (Anne Marie)
Based on "Pentimento", the memoirs of playwright Lillian Hellman, Zinneman's film is in the grand tradition of epic
movie-making. The film focuses on Hellman's relationship with lifelong friend Julia, who became a member of the European
Resistance during World War II and drew Hellman into her cause. Actresses Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave were on board
early on, but when Redgrave considered to drop out after script changes, director Fred Zinneman offered the titular role
to Meryl Streep, whom he's seen in a production of Shakespeare in the Park. Producers vetoed to give the part to an unknown
actress, and Redgrave soon returned for the part (which can be considered a wise choice, as she won the Best Supporting Actress
Oscar for playing Julia). Still, Zinneman cast Meryl in the part of Anne-Marie, Lilian Hellman's socialite friend.
Fred Zinnemann was looking for an unknown to play Julia. I was on Broadway then. I flew to England and
had a great meeting with him. A few weeks later he called and said that Jane Fonda was going to do the part, but would I
accept a smaller part. It was a great part, but it was cut back. Jane Fonda was great. When I work with young actors, I
think about how she was to me. She would encourage me to improvise. I'm sure all the British people shooting the movie
were appalled. I was going on and on, being a real a**hole and having a great time. Jane was laughing until tears came
out of her eyes. She would tell me stuff like, 'When you're standing over here, step over in the light because that's
where they'll see you. (Meryl Streep, Premiere Magazine, March 1997)
Most of her scenes were cut from the final film, so Meryl's motion picture debut takes only a little longer than a minute.
"Julia" was a success with critics and received 11 nominations for the Academy Awards - winning three for Best Writing,
Best Supporting Actor (Jason Robards) and Best Supporting Actress (Vanessa Redgrave). However, members of the Jewish
Defense League (JDL), led by Rabbi Meir Kahane, chose to picket the awards ceremony in the spring of 1978 to protest
against both Redgrave and her support of the Palestinian cause. Aware of the JDL's presence outside, Redgrave, in her
acceptance speech, denounced all forms of totalitarianism, and noted that she or the Academy (who had received
death threats if she won)would not be intimidated by "a small bunch of Zionist hoodlums whose behavior is an insult to
the stature to Jews all over the world." Her statement was greeted by both applause and boos from the audience.
Simply Streep's Review
"Julia" feels fully committed to its story and its actors. It shouldn't be watched in expectation of seeing plenty of Meryl though. Her motion picture debut has been cut down to roughly
a minute - once she's passed by Jane Fonda at Sardi's, in a second scene they're having a little chat at a bar. But before
you notice it's really Meryl Streep under that black wig, her character has vanished from the film again. But "Julia" has
other actors with enough screen time to shine - Jane Fonda, Maximilian Schell as well as Jason Robards and Vanessa Redgrave
in Oscar-winning performances. Still, I couldn't find much in this film that interested me. I'm sure anybody with an interest
in Lilian Hellman or stories about World War II will find "Julia" more entertaining than I did.