Beverly D'Angelo Nearly Turned Down Playing National Lampoon's Vacation's Ellen Griswold

It's a little hard to imagine anyone but Beverly D'Angelo playing the role of Clark Griswold's long-suffering wife Ellen in National Lampoon's "Vacation" franchise, isn't it? At this point, she's appeared as the character in five movies, and even voiced Ellen in an episode of "Family Guy." Ellen has always felt like a great mom, and a wife who's probably a little too good for her buffoonish husband — and there was nearly another sequel in which she finally realized it. It's a role D'Angelo nailed from the first time she appeared onscreen in the original "Vacation" installment in 1983.

But as perfect as she's always been for the role, there was a time when there was some doubt as to whether she was the right choice to portray Ellen. And as it turns out, the doubt was coming from inside the Family Truckster the whole time! Or, more accurately, from inside the woman who would eventually ride shotgun in that Truckster all the way to Walley World.

There were a couple different reasons she initially tried to pass on the script, including the fact that, given she was only about 30 at the time, D'Angelo thought she was too young to be playing the mother of teenagers. Fortunately, she was eventually convinced to take the part thanks to an assist from a fictional character you might not expect. In fact, you might say you wouldn't be more surprised by which character it was if you woke up tomorrow with your head sewn to the carpet.

You serious, Clark?

Despite all of her reservations, Beverly D'Angelo's agent continued to push her to take a closer look at the "Vacation" script and really consider the role. Broad comedy wasn't necessarily in her wheelhouse, which was another hurdle to getting her aboard the production. After all, at that point in her career, D'Angelo was mostly known for "Hair" and "Coal Miner's Daughter." In fact, she was so adamant she was all wrong for the part that she even tried to provide alternatives for the studio, as she told People in a 2022 interview:

"I was so sure that I wasn't the right person. I even suggested somebody else to my agent and he went, 'No, no, no. Really, take a look at the script.'"

And yet her agent, who we sure like to believe knew his client's strengths as a performer, insisted she look at one character in particular, who he found positively hilarious. That character was Randy Quaid's Cousin Eddie, who her agent, as well as her husband, found to be both outrageous and uproariously funny. But what really sealed the deal for D'Angelo was meeting the man who would become her long-time onscreen husband, Chevy Chase. As she told People, their chemistry was immediate: "It was like meeting my brother." Given the many, many behind-the-scenes stories about how difficult Chase can be to both work and get along with, that right there alone was the clearest sign no one else could have ever played Ellen Griswold.