13 Surprising Things Most Fans Don’t Know About ‘Steel Magnolias’

Sometimes, you just want to sit down and have a good cry. There doesn’t have to be any particular reason, but every now and then we all just need a little emotional relief. When I’m in that mood, I always pop in one of my favorite tear-jerker films: Steel Magnolias.

However, for as many times as I’ve seen it (and it’s a lot), there was still so much trivia behind the scenes with the cast and crew that I had no clue about! For instance, I had no idea it actually started as a play rather than being adapted after the fact — or how personal a story it was for the writer to tell.

Take a look below to see even more heartwarming facts about the beautiful film that you probably never knew either.

Let us know in the comments if we missed any other fascinating pieces of Steel Magnolias trivia and be sure to SHARE with your friends!

1. The Writer Thought Julia Roberts Reminded Him Of His Sister

Julia Roberts in Steel Magnolias

Robert Harling, who wrote the play and film based on his sister’s real-life health struggles, confessed about Julia, “She walked into the room and that smile lit everything up and I said ‘That’s my sister.’”

2. However, Meg Ryan Was Initially Cast As Shelby

Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally

She was under contract to perform the role, but the producers allowed her to back out of her contract in order to star in another iconic film that same year: When Harry Met Sally… with Billy Crystal.

3. The Director Questioned Dolly’s Acting Talent

Dolly Parton in Steel Magnolias

After she messed up one take, Herbert Ross actually asked her if she even knew how to act. Of course, she had the perfect comeback when she responded, “No, but it’s your job to make me look like I can!”

Of course, we all know that’s simply not the case — Dolly is a great actress! Most of her co-stars also later revealed how difficult the gruff director was to work with on the film.


4. Dolly And Daryl Hannah Took Lessons From Stylists

Steel Magnolias salon scene

In order to make sure their performances didn’t look out of place in the beauty salon, the actresses spent time with actual stylists before filming to study their methods.

5. The Director Thought Daryl Was Too Pretty

Daryl Hannah in Steel Magnolias

He wasn’t convinced that the bombshell could effectively play Annelle, whose looks were supposed to be more subdued and modest.

To convince him otherwise, Daryl showed up on set dressed as the character and was so unrecognizable that security almost wouldn’t let her in.

6. There Are No Men In The Original Script

Julia Roberts, Dylan McDermott, and Tom Skerritt in Steel Magnolias

All of the women appear in the original stage adaptation and they discuss the men in their lives at length, but none ever appear on stage with them.

7. Producers Thought Sally Field Was Too Young

Sally Field in Steel Magnolias

Producers thought that no one would believe the actress was the mother of the 22-year-old Shelby. Sally kindly pointed out to them that her eldest son, Steven, was just shy of 22 himself.

8. The Cast Stayed In Local Lake Homes

Shirley MacLaine in Steel Magnolias

When they arrived in Natchitoches, Louisiana, for filming, most of the principal cast rented property available on the water, including Shirley MacLaine who reportedly asked her realtor, “Would my nude sunbathing cause any problems?”

Luckily the realtor also had a sense of humor and simply said, “Only a traffic jam on the lake.”

9. Princess Diana Attended The UK Premiere

Princess Diana

While still married to Prince Charles, the royal couple made an appearance on the emotional film’s red carpet when it made its way across the pond in 1990.

10. The Hospital Staff Onscreen Were Not Actors

Steel Magnolias hospital scene

The film hired the actual doctors and nurses who helped care for Robert’s sister, Susan, to give the scenes an authentic emotional weight.

11. The Writer’s Parents Found Peace From The Film

Sally Field and Tom Skerritt in Steel Magnolias

The writer was concerned about his mother being on set for one of the more heartbreaking scenes involving Shelby, particularly as her own daughter had passed.

When he asked how she could put herself through the emotional moment and still have dry eyes, she explained, “I wanted to see Julia get up and walk away.”

12. Dolly Wrote A Song For The Movie

Steel Magnolias cast

Unfortunately, it didn’t make the final cut, but Robert remembers her coming into his family’s home nearby while filming and announcing that she had written a song for Susan titled, “Eagle When She Flies.”

The song can be heard on Dolly’s 1991 album of the same name.

13. The Success Of The Film Fulfilled Susan’s Wishes

Steel Magnolias funeral scene

During their last conversation together before her passing, Susan expressed how she wished she could help her struggling brother with his writing career but had no idea how.

Following her death, he channeled his grief into the script — writing the whole thing in only 10 days. With both the hit play and feature film under his belt, Robert was undeniably able to fulfill one of his sister’s last wishes.

Did we miss any impressive facts about this beautiful film? Let us know below and be sure to SHARE with your friends!

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