It's easy to forget these days what a big star Bette Midler was for a period of time. A Broadway and recording star who made her movie debut with thinly-veiled Janis Joplin biopic "The Rose," Midler had a series of successes in the 80s and 90s, up to 1996's surprise smash "The First Wives Club," but since then, her few film appearances have underwhelmed, with a whole generation knowing her principally for seasonal Disney favorite "Hocus Pocus" over anything else.
And it looks like any talk of a Midler comeback may need to be put on hold: the actress (who's only one Oscar away from having an EGOT) was about to play Linda Kenney Baden, the defense attorney for Phil Spector in the Al Pacino-starring biopic for HBO that David Mamet has just started filming, part of a supporting cast that also includes Jeffrey Tambor. Midler was meant to start shooting yesterday, but didn't show up for her call-time, and Mamet told the crew two hours later that the actress had pulled out after suffering a herniated disc, on the orders of her doctor, and that the part would be recast.
While dropping out at such late notice won't win Midler any fans at HBO, there's no reason to believe for the moment that the reason is anything other than legit: we're sure Mamet, who scathingly responded to Jeremy Piven dropping out of his play "Speed-The-Plow" after suffering mercury poisoning by congratulating the "Entourage" star on his new career "as a thermometer," would have something to say on the matter otherwise. Nevertheless, HBO will need to act swiftly, with the cameras already rolling, so we'd expect to see a replacement announced in the next few days. [Deadline]