Director Herbert Ross (who also did The Goodbye Girl and Footloose) perfectly assembled an all-star female cast of Hollywood’s most popular ladies. One of them was a special newcomer by the name of Julia Roberts. The film was an adaptation to Robert Harling’s play, also titled Steel Magnolias, and became one of the top-grossing films of 1989.
Many fans of the film don’t know that it was actually based on a true story. Harling wrote Steel Magnolias as his way of coping with the death of his sister, Susan. She had died from complications related to diabetes a few years prior in 1985. In the play, however, her character was named Shelby.
Here are a few more facts about the classic film…
“The events that inspired it were so powerful that, after I found the story arena, it just poured out into my typewriter in a 24/7 tsunami of Southernness,” Harling said in 2013 about his super quick writing process.
“I had no idea what I’d written. I asked the first person I gave it to if it even looked like a play. I wasn’t really sure. All I knew was that I felt it portrayed my sister’s life and spirit accurately, and that was enough for me.”
“He went after Julia with a vengeance,” Sally Field recalled of the director in reference to Roberts. “This was pretty much her first big film.” According to Shirley MacLaine, Roberts “would come to my house every night and say, ‘I think I’m terrible. What am I doing?’ and she really was in tears.”
The hard work paid off since Roberts earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nod. She lost, though, to Brenda Fricker for My Left Foot.