You may have watched it a number of times and still not grown tired of it. Now, join the celebration of the classic's 30th-anniversary.
It's the movie that showed you how deep and meaningful friendships can be. And now, you can catch the all-time favorite classic, Steel Magnolias, in theatres this weekend. It's hitting theatres across the country on May 19, May 21, and May 22, according to 9NEWS. But before you round up your entire family to join the 30th-anniversary celebration of Steel Magnolias, here are the facts you need to know to fall in love with the movie even more.
Steel Magnolias is based on a play that was written by Robert Harling. Through the play, he retold experiences of losing his sister and best friend, Susan to diabetes. Because the story meant so much to him, he found the emotions pouring out of him through his words. "It was written in about ten days. 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," Robert Harling told Garden & Gun. "...All I knew was that I felt it portrayed my sister’s life and spirit accurately, and that was enough for me."
The iron-willed characters in the movie are played by equally iron-willed women, Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, Olympia Dukakis, Daryl Hannah. and Julia Roberts. And people thought that bringing them together to shoot a movie would mean chaos. But when they all had to stay in Natchitoches, Robert Harling's hometown, they all grew closer and offscreen friendships bloomed. "The only battles we had were with water pistols. Everybody got along great," he told The Morning Call.
The stars rented out homes for the shoot in Natchitoches and they often had cookouts and potlucks together, while Harling's mother treated everyone to coconut cake. "I'm sure if we'd have been shooting in Los Angeles, some people would have spent their free time at home... But in Natchitoches, everyone knew what everyone else was doing. Olympia would call up and say 'Come over, I have some leftover squash soup.' Or (co-star) Tom Skerritt would whip up some hot fudge sauce. Or we'd hang out on Shirley's porch, which overlooked a lake. We always had a ball together."
Yes, the movie had some of Hollywood's most famous names. But the director, Herb Ross was extremely hard on them. "My deepest memories of the film were how we bonded together after he told one of us or all of us we couldn't act," Shirley MacLaine said, according to Us Weekly. "I remember the day Herb said to Dolly Parton, 'Why don't you take some acting lessons?' You don't say that to Dolly Parton!" She added. "Dolly Parton is absolutely the funniest, wittiest and filthiest, and she will cut you to ribbons."
While director, Ross was harsh with the stars, Julia Roberts was left doubting herself as she played the role of Robert Harling's sister, Susan. "He went after Julia with a vengeance. This was pretty much her first big film," Shirley MacLaine said, added that she "would come to my house every night and say, 'I think I'm terrible. What am I doing?' and she really was in tears." But she stuck through and gave such a memorable performance in the movie, earning herself her first Oscar nomination at 22.
Despite all the drama they faced with the director, the leading ladies will always cherish Steel Magnolias for all that it gave them. "For me, it is the story about the power of friendship," said Sally Field, while Shirley MacLaine said, "And we stayed friends after the movie." Robert Harling also recalled it as "an extraordinary time". While "Julia would come over to the house to see my mom and dad all the time", he said, "Dolly would come over with her guitar". He added, "They were crazy days," according to the Daily Mail.
Robert Harling's sister, Susan, whose death inspired him to write the play, was portrayed by Julia Roberts as Shelby in the movie. And the medical staff who took care of Susan in real life were the same medical staff who took care of Shelby in the movie. The nurse who turned Susan's life-support off played the nurse who did the same for Shelby in the movie.
When that scene was shot, Robert Harling's mother insisted on watching it all despite him telling her not to, thinking it would be too much for her to see. Once the shot of the life-support being switched off was taken and Julia Roberts got up from the bed, Robert Harling went over to his mother. "I said, 'I can’t believe you put yourself through that.' She said, 'No, I wanted to see Julia get up and walk away.' The things we impose on situations, but Julia had become so special to my parents. She took some peace with that," Robert Harling said, according to HuffPost.
Robert Harling would often pick up magnolia blossoms for his mom when he was young. He recalled that while they were gorgeous, they were also fragile, just like the women in his life. "My extraordinary life experiences with my sister and mother showed me that the women I’ve known are indeed gorgeous, but their lives can be fragile," he said. "But if you look underneath, you realize they possess a tensile strength stronger than anything I could ever muster. I wrote of their strength, joy, and laughter that rang out no matter what life threw at them." He dealt with the death of his sister by celebrating women.
Robert Harling described Susan as "stubborn and wonderful", and she wanted a child of her own despite her medical condition. The thought the best thing would be for his nephew, also named Robert, not to see the film. He said, "...we never made him go and see Steel Magnolias. It’s unfair to make a four-year-old think ‘my mom died because of me’." But he couldn't be kept away from it. "Robert’s a very handsome man now, but he was a preemie, and at that age, he was skinny – not the definition of cool! But he told me ‘Everyone likes me - I’m the only kid in my class whose mom’s been played by Julia Roberts’," Harling said.