Though Friends was a who’s who of ‘90s and early-aughts guest talent — Julia Roberts! Reese Witherspoon! Brad Pitt! — some of the show’s proposed guest stars never even made it to production.
According to Saul Austerlitz’s book, Generation Friends: An Inside Look at the Show That Defined a Television Era, Owen Wilson was being eyed for a guest role on the sitcom but was ultimately passed over for an incredibly meta reason.
As you may recall, in season 2 of Friends, Joey is dropped down an elevator shaft on Days of Our Lives after telling Soap Opera Digest that he writes most of his own lines.
Joey wasn’t the only one to get the shaft … “There was some talk of recruiting Owen Wilson to play a role, but after the writers read an interview in which Wilson said his biggest fault was giving writers a hard time, everyone collectively agreed that life was too short to deal with Owen Wilson’s demands on the twentieth episode of the season,” Austerlitz wrote.
Though a guest spot on Friends was the ultimate status symbol, the environment on set wasn’t ideal for outsiders. “Actors who had been on the show in its more playful early years noticed an increased distance from its stars in later seasons. The stars now read lines together in their dressing rooms. Guest stars were not included in these rehearsals and while everyone was cordial and polite, there was little chance to get to know their costars or socialize with them,” Austerlitz wrote.
Adding an additional hoop to jump through, many of the movie stars to take on guest roles were unaccustomed to performing before a live audience. Even Julia Roberts — Julia! Roberts! — was nervous to step on stage. Backstage she squeezed director Michael Lembeck’s hand “fiercely.”
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Michael Sheen, too, dealt with stage fright on set. He actually had to leave the stage between takes because “his body was shaking uncontrollably.”
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