Despite the recent media attention surrounding “Grace of Monaco,” the film that opened this year’s Cannes Film Festival in May, Nicole Kidman wasn’t the first blonde beauty to depict popular 1950’s movie star Grace Kelly.
Three decades earlier, former Charlie’s Angels’ star Cheryl Ladd appeared in “The Grace Kelly Story,” a 1983 TV movie that dealt with an early slice of the actress-turned-princess’s life.
“As an actress I wasn’t so much interested in Grace’s life as a princess, but her incredible rise to become one of Hollywood’s great beauties and an Academy Award winner,” said Ladd from her home in Los Angeles.
Kelly’s cinema fame rests largely on just 11 films she appeared in between 1951-1956, but many quickly became classics such as “High Noon,” “Rear Window,” “The Country Girl,” and “High Society.”
Casting Ladd as Kelly was a true “light bulb” moment for Ladd’s husband, writer/producer Brian Russell.
“Cheryl and I were in Monaco for a film festival in early 1981 and met Grace and her husband, Prince Rainer, at the palace,” recalled Russell.
“When I saw Cheryl and Grace standing next to each other in the reception line, ‘ping!’ it hit me,” he said. “While there was a slight physical resemblance, I was mostly struck by the dignity and serenity they both possessed. Cheryl thought I was crazy when I suggested she could play Grace, but by the time we were on the plane to leave, she was convinced.”
Back in the U.S., Russell took the idea to Brandon Stoddard, then head of ABC.
“I walked into his office and outlined the project, and before I could sit down he said ‘sold!’” recalled Russell. “It was the shortest pitch meeting in my life.”
But when news of the planned movie reached the Monaco palace, the opposition was strong.