Since it was published in the late 1860s, Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women" has been regarded as a literary masterpiece and a novel that's given us some of the most beloved fictional characters ever created. The timeless book has been adapted for the screen on numerous occasions — most recently by filmmaker Greta Gerwig in 2019. To mark the release of her version — which stars Florence Pugh, Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson (all pictured), Eliza Scanlan, Timothee Chalamet, Laura Dern, Meryl Streep and more — on Dec. 25, Wonderwall.com has rounded up some of the actors and actresses who've previously brought the beloved characters from "Little Women" to life. Keep reading for a "Little Women" casting flashback…
Perhaps the most popular modern-day telling of the classic Louisa May Alcott novel, the 1994 movie adaptation of "Little Women," found its literary heroine, Jo March, in none other than '90s It girl Winona Ryder. At just 24, Winona earned an Academy Award nomination for best actress for her portrayal of the second-oldest March sister.
Elizabeth Taylor epitomized grace and exceptionality and was one of the most prolific stars to ever appear on screen. While crafting her legacy, she was cast as Amy March in the 1949 version of "Little Women." In the film, she had blonde hair, which was a stark departure from her signature dark brunette locks. She was 17 when the film debuted.
The legendary Katharine Hepburn starred as protagonist Jo March in George Cukor's 1933 adaptation of "Little Women." Katharine — undoubtedly one of the most iconic actresses to ever take on this role — is Hollywood royalty, a star with a successful career spanning more than 60 years.
Saoirse Ronan is the most recent actress to play Josephine "Jo" March. Greta Gerwig's 2019 adaptation of "Little Women" features the Irish-American star in the lead role, though this isn't the first time these two have worked together (Greta wrote and directed Saoirse in 2017's "Lady Bird too). In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Saoirse discussed her deep connection to Jo. "I felt like I had tapped into something I'd never gotten the opportunity to tap into before, or I just didn't have the guts to tap into myself," she admitted. "Finding that was just amazing."
Oh, goodness. Young Christian Bale — a fresh-faced heartthrob with luscious locks captured the attention of many when he played Theodore "Laurie" Laurence in Gillian Armstrong's 1994 film adaptation of "Little Women." The role not only solidified him as the ultimate '90s boyfriend but also proved just how talented the young actor really was when he starred in the project at 20. The beloved iteration was a total success too, earning $95 million at the box office and three Academy Award nominations.
Timothée Chalamet took on March family friend Laurie — a role that reunited him with "Lady Bird" co-star Saoirse Ronan as Jo — in 2019's "Little Women" remake.
In 1978, director David Lowell Rich brought the classic novel to the screen as a three-hour TV miniseries. It originally aired on NBC and starred actors including Susan Dey (as Jo March, pictured with William Shatner, who played Jo's eventual husband, Professor Friedrich Bhaer), Meredith Baxter (as Meg March), Eve Plumb (as Beth March) and Ann Dusenberry (as Amy March).
The much-hated-on Amy March was played by Kirsten Dunst in the 1994 big screen adaptation of "Little Women." Right around the same time, she also starred in "Interview with the Vampire" and "Jumanji." The adorable newcomer was actually the same age as Amy March — 12 — when the film debuted.
Joan Bennett graced the big screen back in 1933 as the youngest and often manipulative March sister, Amy. Though she played a 12-year-old girl, Joan herself was actually 23 — and secretly pregnant! Joan shared the screen with fellow Tinseltown icons like Frances Dee and Katherine Hepburn in the project. Little did these ladies know that their performances would set a precedent for many future "Little Women" adaptations to follow.
British sensation Florence Pugh is the latest actress to portray Amy March. She took on the role in Greta Gerwig's 2019 version of "Little Women." Entertainment Weekly reported that Greta Gerwig's adaptation sees Amy as a more nuanced character with far more depth than previous versions. When the outlet asked Florence to share her feelings about playing the youngest and least-liked March sister, she admitted she was actually excited to have a go at the character. "I love to run wild and rampant," she shared. "Being this little sassy girl, I love the scene where I go in and I apologize to Jo. That was actually one of my audition tapes. I loved it when I did it for the first time, and when we did it on the set, it was brilliant. She's so cold." The "Fighting with My Family" star also believes that a 2019 adaptation is certainly still appropriate. "I don't think we will ever stop needing a story about four women set in a time where they were told they couldn't do things, and yet they did."
Susan Sarandon was enshrined as the affectionate and wise Marmee March in the 1994 film adaptation of "Little Women." Marmee is a precious literary symbol for maternity, and the "Thelma & Louise" actress's skillful portrayal merely enhanced that notion. Susan's agents reportedly cautioned her against taking on this project, fearing the role would decelerate her movie star momentum. Luckily, that wasn't the case!
In the 1933 movie adaptation of "Little Women," director George Cukor found his Mrs. March in Broadway-turned-movie star Spring Byington. Spring's heartfelt portrayal of the matriarch was widely praised, with critics acknowledging how well-suited the skilled comedian was for the role. Spring would go on to star in many other projects released that decade, often playing the role of a compassionate and understanding mother.
OK, so the 2018 "Little Women" film wasn't exactly well-received, but we can't help but give a nod to "Back to the Future" alum Lea Thompson, who played the March family matriarch, Marmee, in the modern-day retelling. "It's still such a classic story about women and female empowerment and it's really great to kind of dust it off and show it," Lea told "Today" before going on to praise the literary classic. "It's a great book, it's great to see it put in this time."
Many know Laura Dern her as Renata Klein on HBO's hit series "Big Little Lies," and in 2019, they'll also get to know her as Mrs. March, otherwise known as Marmee, in the 2019 version of "Little Women." In an interview with The New York Times, Laura shared how this role was, in many ways, a breath of fresh air after she wrapped the second season of "Big Little Lies." Marmee March "is a very beautifully healing person," she shared. "Empathy is the No. 1 goal. That's all of it."
Beth March was an absolute darling, and Claire Danes did the character justice in the 1994 film adaptation of "Little Women." This was an exceptional year for Claire: She also debuted as the ever-moody and ever-grungy Angela Chase on the cult-classic coming-of-age drama "My So Called Life."
In the 2019 adaptation of "Little Women," Eliza Scanlen plays Beth March. In a 2018 interview with Vanity Fair, Eliza disclosed that in preparation for her role, she actually learned piano and practiced between two and three hours a day. "[Director] Greta [Gerwig] wants me to learn quite a few songs," she said. "I've played piano since I was probably 6 or 7 but stopped when I was about 13 and I couldn't be bothered to do the exams or learn my scales. Now I'm coming back to it, and it feels good."
Jean Parker starred as the beloved Beth March in the 1933 version of "Little Women." She appeared in a variety of hit movies that year including "Sequoia" and "Lady for a Day." Over the course of her fruitful career, Jean amassed over 70 film credits!
Before there was Emma Watson, there was Frances Dee (right). Before she played the eldest March daughter, Meg, in the 1933 adaptation of "Little Women," Frances was already a well-known and beloved movie star who'd appeared alongside Philips Holmes and Sylvia Sidney in 1931's "An American Tragedy." She would go on to star in a variety of other notable films like 1934's "Of Human Bondage" and 1943's cult classic "I Walked with a Zombie."
Trini Alvarado starred as the eldest daughter, Meg March, in the 1994 film and it remains one of the roles she is best known for. "Little Women" wasn't the first project Trini worked on with director Gillian Armstrong — the two previously came together on Gillian's 1984 drama "Mrs. Soffel." A couple years later, Trini memorably starred in 1996's "The Frighteners."
Emma Watson plays Meg March in the 2019 adaptation of "Little Women." She told British Vogue that Jo isn't the only feminist amongst the March sisters. "With Meg's character, her way of being a feminist is making the choice — because that's really, for me anyway, what feminism is about," she explained. "Her choice is that she wants to be a full-time mother and wife." In the same interview, the "Harry Potter" alum noted that the role also gave her the opportunity to spend time with activists she deeply admires, like Meryl Streep and Laura Dern. "We met in activist spaces, so we had the allyship and solidarity as activists that had been part of a certain movement before we ever worked together."
Douglass Montgomery was cast as Laurie in 1933's "Little Women." The actor was 26 when he played the far younger boy next door and the age disparity was noticeable — he made a much-too-mature-looking Laurie. The actor is also often remembered for his role in the film "Waterloo Bridge," in which he starred alongside Mae Clark.