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Why Drew Barrymore Turned Down Boogie Nights

When "Boogie Nights" debuted in 1997, it was a cinematic moment that helped shape and propel several careers. Paul Thomas Anderson's sophomore directorial effort, "Boogie Nights" served as a biting satire on the so-called golden era of porn and featured performances from Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds, and so many more. With tons of beloved actors steering the engine, it's surprising to learn that "Boogie Nights" almost featured Drew Barrymore. While speaking with Janet Jackson on "The Drew Barrymore Show," the host discussed which film she picked instead of the acclaimed comedy drama.

In the chat, Jackson discussed how she was initially considered for the role of Storm in "X-Men," which prompted Barrymore to reflect on the most iconic film she passed on. "I have so many of those experiences. ... I've never said this out loud, [but I turned down] 'Boogie Nights,'" the "50 First Dates" star revealed. "There was a moment where we were talking about 'Boogie Nights,' and I think it's when I went and did 'Ever After,' and I went in a very different direction," Barrymore added. 

John Lesher, who received a "special thanks" credit on "Boogie Nights," previously revealed that Barrymore was in contention for the role of Brandy, aka "the Rollergirl." The gig eventually went to Heather Graham. By choosing "Ever After" over "Boogie Nights," Barrymore continued to cement her status as a leading A-lister, propelling the fantasy film to over $65 million domestically. "Boogie Nights," meanwhile, grossed just $43 million worldwide, emerging as a mild success. 

Was Drew Barrymore right to turn down Boogie Nights?

It's not surprising to learn that Drew Barrymore passed on "Boogie Nights" in favor of the safer, more family-friendly "Ever After." Most of "Boogie Nights" focuses on Mark Wahlberg's character, and the role of Brandy is very much a supporting one. Compared to "Ever After," which put Barrymore at the forefront, "Boogie Nights" would have given the actress minimal screen time. While "Ever After" isn't what Barrymore considers her best role, the film was positively received and has a solid 91% Rotten Tomatoes score. 

For Barrymore, working on "Ever After" was a life-changing experience that manifested at the perfect time. "I was in my early 20s, and then I was trying to start a company and wanted to tell stories and make films, and that particular messaging that you can rescue yourself and you don't have to wait to be rescued is definitely the thing that set me up best in my life," Barrymore told Entertainment Tonight in 2023. 

While Barrymore has nothing but love for "Ever After," the same can't be said for the A-list stars who brought "Boogie Nights" to life. Burt Reynolds said he regretted filming the Oscar-nominated drama, expressing displeasure about working with director Paul Thomas Anderson. Wahlberg surprisingly called "Boogie Nights" his worst film, which was definitely unexpected considering it's one of the roles he received tons of acclaim for. It seems like Barrymore made the right choice by sticking with "Ever After."