Can You Ever Forgive Me? star Richard E. Grant has revealed why Julianne Moore was fired from the film. A memoir about biography author-turned forger Lee Israel, Can You Ever Forgive Me? earns loads of critical acclaim upon its release last year and went on to secure Oscar nominations for its writing and performances, including Melissa McCarthy and Grant's turns as Lee and her friend Jack Hock. Director Marielle Heller was likewise celebrated for her work on the film and is expected to be a contender in the next awards season too, thanks to her Fred Rogers memoir A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (which opens in November).
However, before Heller and McCarthy signed on, Can You Ever Forgive Me? was slated to be directed by the film's co-writer, Nicole Holofcener, with Moore starring as Lee. The latter confirmed that she was fired from the movie during a recent appearance on Bravo's Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen, explaining that "I think that [Holofcener's] idea of where the character was, was different than where my idea of where the character was". Well, according to Grant, that's not altogether accurate.
The Daily Mail is reporting that Grant spoke to Empire's Editor-In-Chief Terri White during Advertising Week Europe at Picturehouse Central, London, and said that Moore had wanted to wear a fat suit and fake nose to bring Lee Israel to life in Can You Ever Forgive Me?. Holofcener didn't approve of the idea and ended up firing Moore from the project less than a week before production was scheduled to begin. Fox Searchlight and Holofcener went back to the drawing board after that and eventually recruited Heller to direct instead, with McCarthy starring.
While actors wearing fat suits to bring their characters (be they based on real people or not) to life is nothing uncommon in Hollywood movies and TV shows historically, it's a practice that's become frowned upon in recent years (see also: the controversy around the use of fait suits in Netflix's Insatiable series). Increasingly, people have come to recognize that fait suits are inherently problematic and contribute to fat-shaming in mass media, while at the same time further popularizing false body images. Indeed, it would've been all the more inappropriate in this case, considering that Can You Ever Forgive Me? makes a concerted effort to be truly authentic in its portrayal of Lee and her life. In other words: if what Grant said is accurate, then Holofcener (arguably) made the right call in not moving forward with Moore playing the character.
In hindsight, it's also difficult to imagine anyone but McCarthy as Lee Israel in Heller's biopic. The role plays to the Oscar-nominees strengths as someone who specializes in evoking pathos in both her dramatic and comedic performances alike, even she's playing otherwise over the top characters. She also has great chemistry with Grant in Can You Ever Forgive Me? and their onscreen friendship is one of the most delightful and charming, yet poignant platonic relationships featured in a movie in some time. So, again, it's hard to argue that things didn't work out for the best, in this case.