“I’m not crazy, I’ve just been in a very bad mood 40 years!”
Twenty-five years ago ‘Steel Magnolias’ captivated audiences with its heartbreaking and yet witty plot line based on how playwright Robert Harling lost his sister, Susan Harling Robinson.
It centres on how a small group of women in a southern town cope with such a tragic loss.
Many people can quote the movie line for line, but don’t realise how the fictionalised group of women are grounded in reality. Besides being based on the true story of his sister, Susan, the playwright Robert Harling shared 13 other things fans might not know about the movie.
13. The title was inspired by real life.
Harling said the title, Steel Magnolias, is the perfect description for the women it profiles: they’re both delicate like a flower, but also hard as steel.
12. Harling wrote the play in 10 days.
Many writers take months or years to write a play. But Harling wrote Steel Magnolias in only 10 days. “Ten days later, that’s all it took because I had lived the story.”
11. It was originally going to be a short story.
Harling said when he began putting his sister's story down in writing, it began as a short story. "But I was missing the sound of the wonderful vernacular," he said. "It became a play because I wanted to hear the dialogue. And that was it."
10. Harling at first thought his story was a drama.
When the play was first in rehearsal, Harling says they thought it was strictly a drama, and they were performing a dark, emotional story. That all changed when an audience was brought in. "When the first preview audience came in, there was all this laughter, and we had no idea," Harling said. "We were completely thrown back because we thought we were doing a drama."
9. Meg Ryan was originally approached to play Shelby.
Only a few days after Ryan was approached for the role, she declined the role of Shelby to star in When Harry Met Sally.
8. But Julia Roberts was perfect as soon as she walked in for her audition.
Before Steel Magnolias, the Oscar winner was only really known for her role in Mystic Pizza, but Harling said she was perfect for the role of Shelby as soon as she walked into the room. "When she walked in, somebody just turned the lights on in the room," he said. "She flashed that smile and ... that was my sister."
7. And it pays to have your mum played by Julia Roberts.
Harling told Erica Hill about one time when his nephew, Susan's son, had trouble with school. Harling asked his nephew if everything was OK, to which the then-teenager replied, "Oh no. Don't worry about me. Everybody likes me. They think I'm really cool."
The reason why everyone at school thought he was cool: His mum was played by Julia Roberts. "That hit me like a tonne of bricks," Harling said. "He doesn't remember his mother, but he does know as a teenager that his mother was so cool, it took the biggest star in the world to play her."