The role of Mary Embrey in Will Smith's sci-fi action comedy Hancock was offered to Aishwarya Rai who turned it down. While Aishwarya may not regret her decision to do so, it was a huge opportunity missed, the like of which may not come her way again.
The film is a runaway success. Made on a budget of $150 million it has already grossed $344 million worldwide. But it is not just the success of the film that Aishwarya will rue.
Her role in it, which eventually went to talented South Africa born actress Charlize Theron, was challenging and powerful. Even amongst Rai's ardent fans, not many would bracket her histrionic talent with that of Theron, yet she was Will Smith's first choice! It does not get any better!
The film was launched with great fanfare across the world, the kind of fanfare that would have made Aishwarya a true Hollywood star, not the Mistress of Spices kind.
Besides walking the red carpet for the film's premiers in London, Paris, Berlin and Hollywood, Aishwarya would have been invited on all the major talk shows in the US. While that would not have made her a household name in the country, it would have brought her enough Hollywood film offers to keep her busy for a long time.
Whether Aishwarya would have matched the imposing screen presence of Charlize in Hancock is moot but largely academic because the film would have done equally well.
The bigger question is whether Aishwarya is really up to prime time Hollywood. Theron, 32, certainly is; she immigrated to the US and became a citizen last year in her single minded pursuit of a Hollywood career. Aishwarya, safely ensconced in marital bliss and the folds of the Bachchan family, probably prefers to stay in her comfort zone.
Will Smith, an ardent fan of Aishwarya, says he will continue to offer her more films. You would think Aishwarya will take his next offer a lot more seriously, but that may not be so.