One of Titanic’s most memorable characters is Molly Brown, played by Kathy Bates, but this character was almost played by a very different actress.
Although the main story in Titanic, along with its protagonists, is fictional, it featured various characters based on real-life people, among those Molly Brown, who was wonderfully played by Kathy Bates, but she wasn’t the producers’ first option for the role. Although James Cameron is mostly associated with the sci-fi genre nowadays thanks to movies like The Terminator and Avatar, one of his biggest and most beloved projects is far from that genre: Titanic, a disaster drama movie released in 1997.
Titanic is based on the accounts of the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912, but its main story is that of Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) and Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio), two passengers from opposite social classes who fall in love aboard the ship during its ill-fated maiden voyage. Jack and Rose are fictional characters, but through them, the audience meets a variety of characters based on real-life people – some of them “allies” of Jack and Rose, and others involved in the building and even the sinking of the Titanic. One of the most notable and beloved characters from Titanic is Molly Brown, who was played by the legendary Kathy Bates.
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Thanks to Rose, viewers get to meet various characters from the first-class side of the Titanic that are based on real-life passengers of the ship, such as Molly Brown, who is looked down upon by other first-class women, including Rose’s mother, Ruth (Frances Fisher). Molly helps Jack get ready for his first and only dinner at the first-class dining saloon and guides him through the night, and when the ship is sinking, she encourages the official in charge of the lifeboat she’s in to go back for more survivors. The “Unsinkable Molly Brown” is one of the most memorable characters in Titanic, but she was almost played by a very different actress, who would have given her a different type of charm: Reba McEntire.
Reba McEntire is best known for her career as a country music singer, and she’s often referred to as “the Queen of Country”, but she also has a career in acting. Some of McEntire’s most notable acting roles are Heather Gummer in the western horror movie Tremors, A.J. Ferguson in the comedy The Little Rascals, and of course, Reba Hart in the sitcom Reba. McEntire’s biggest big-screen project could have arrived in 1997 as she was offered the role of Molly Brown in Titanic and she accepted it, but production was delayed a couple of times, and as McEntire had her music career too, she had three months scheduled for filming so it wouldn’t interfere with her tour. The delays in the production of Titanic ended up clashing with her schedule, so McEntire took the wise decision of turning it down as they couldn’t reschedule arenas and all for the tour she had coming up and she “had a lot of people on the payroll”.
Speaking about this situation on Watch What Happens Live, McEntire admitted that the decision hurt when Titanic became a massive hit, but she stood by her decision saying that “you have to take care of your people”. In the end, Reba McEntire went on tour and the production of Titanic cast Kathy Bates instead, but it wasn’t really a loss for McEntire, as she not only got to go on tour without any delays and obstacles, but she went on to star in Reba in 2001. As for Kathy Bates, her performance as Molly Brown won over the hearts of viewers thanks to her kindness and strength and was one of the most memorable performances in Titanic.
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About The Author
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Adrienne Tyler is a features writer for Screen Rant. She is an Audiovisual Communication graduate who wanted to be a filmmaker, but life had other plans (and it turned out great). Prior to Screen Rant, she wrote for Pop Wrapped, 4 Your Excitement (4YE), and D20Crit, where she was also a regular guest at Netfreaks podcast. She was also a contributor for FanSided’s BamSmackPow and 1428 Elm. Adrienne is very into films and she enjoys a bit of everything: from superhero films to heartbreaking dramas, to low-budget horror films. Every time she manages to commit to a TV show without getting bored, an angel gets its wings.
When she’s not writing, you can find her trying to learn a new language, watching hockey (go Avs!), or wondering what life would have been like had Pushing Daisies, Firefly, and Limitless not been cancelled. Breakfast food is life and coffee is what makes the world go round.
Guillermo del Toro said “hi” to her once. It was great.
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