Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams were the envy of anyone longing for the ultimate Hollywood romance as young lovers Noah and Allie in The Notebook.
But a fabled audition tape, hidden for two decades by Hollywood casting director Matthew Berry and shared exclusively with DailyMail.com, reveals just how close a then-21-year-old Britney Spears came to clinching the lead role after putting on a stunningly emotional display during her screen test with Gosling.
According to Berry, the singer, now 41, beat out a slew of other hopefuls, including Claire Danes, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams and Jessica Biel, and was the front-runner for the part of Allie – before the movie’s creators ultimately settled on McAdams, now 44.
Spears’ fans have been desperately waiting to see the coveted 2002 screen test for years, with an eBay listing appearing in 2021 purportedly offering it up for $1 million.
Now, DailyMail.com can exclusively reveal the singer’s emotional two-and-a-half-minute audition, in which she slowly breaks down in tears in front of Gosling while reading through a particularly raw, and iconic, scene – just months after her ex-Justin Timberlake brutally ended their three-year relationship with a text message.
Britney Spears, 41, auditioned for the lead role opposite Ryan Gosling, 42, in The Notebook. DailyMail.com has the singer’s never-before-seen audition tape shot on August 18, 2002
Spears burst into tears as she brought her ‘A-game’ to the screen test, according to casting director Matthew Berry
The singer proved why she was in contention for the role as she put on an emotional performance in a casting studio in Los Angeles
Ultimately, it was Rachel McAdams, 44, who was cast opposite Gosling, pictured together in the film as Noah and Allie
The clip sees Spears, who is dressed in a white lace top and wearing her hair down, and Gosling, who is standing off-camera, reading through a scene together – with the popstar slowly tearing up as she goes through her lines.
‘I’m not staying,’ she begins. ‘I tried to call you to tell you that I wasn’t going to stay – but nobody answered the phone.’
Struggling to maintain eye contact as she deals the devastating blow that her character is going ahead with her plans to marry another man, Spears continues: ‘Noah, you can’t marry two people. And I’m marrying Lon, so I should go, okay?’
Proving why she deserved to be in contention for the role, she then starts crying as she tells Gosling: ‘I prayed for you to die in the war, really. Well not die. I would have felt completely horrible if you would die.
‘But I kinda didn’t want you to be alive anymore because I couldn’t bear the thought of you being with somebody else, or of us never seeing each other again. So I gotta go, okay?’
According to Berry, Spears’ breathtaking display of raw emotion ‘blew away’ the movie’s producers – and had all but secured her role in the movie, before McAdams stepped in front of the camera and was chosen as the ideal leading lady.
‘Britney wasn’t just good – she was phenomenal,’ said Berry as he recalled the audition in a Los Angeles studio on August 18, 2002.
‘It was a tough decision. Britney blew us all away. Our jaws were on the floor. I was blown away. Absolutely blown away. She brought her A-game that day.’
Based on the 1996 novel of the same name by Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook follows Allie and Noah who fall in love in the 1940s before being forced apart by her disapproving mother.
Spears with casting director Matthew Berry, who has finally unveiled her screen test after 21 years
At the time, McAdams, pictured during her 2002 audition, was relatively unknown
McAdams as heiress Allie in the hit film which helped to catapult her Hollywood career
Spears and Gosling met as children in the 1990s working on Disney’s The Mickey Mouse Club
They finally reunite seven years later, when she is engaged to wealthy businessman Lon Hammond Jr. – played by James Marsden – after she sees a picture of Noah outside the house he vowed to buy and restore for her.
Everyone vying for the role was presented with the same monologue – a twist on the scene in which Noah berates Allie into deciding which man she would rather be with.
Berry said: ‘Britney beat out several of the top female actresses at the time. Scarlett Johansson, Claire Danes, Kate Bosworth, Amy Adams, Jamie King and Mandy Moore auditioned for this role. Britney beat out all of them. Everybody who was anybody that year wanted this part.’
Also in contention for the role was Biel, 42, the current wife of Spears’ ex Timberlake.
Recalling Biel’s audition, Berry said: ‘The director Nick, Ryan and I actually flew to Texas where she was filming Texas Chainsaw Massacre and taped her in her trailer between shots.’
It finally came down to a ‘tough’ call between Spears and then-unknown actress McAdams, who bosses eventually settled on.
The decision was welcomed by Spears who said she would have felt ‘messed up’ spending weeks playing 1940s heiress Allie.
Recalling her screen test in her upcoming memoir, The Woman in Me, she said: ‘The Notebook casting came down to me and Rachel McAdams, and even though it would have been fun to reconnect with Ryan Gosling after our time on The Mickey Mouse Club, I’m glad I didn’t do it.
Claire Danes, 44, was one of a handful of actresses who auditioned for the role of Allie
Jessica Biel, 41, who went on to marry Spears’ ex Justin Timberlake, auditioned while filming The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Scarlett Johansson, 38, was also beat by Spears who came closer to landing the role
‘If I had, instead of working on my album In the Zone, I’d have been acting like a 1940s heiress day and night.’
Spears had been left overwhelmed by the acting process after playing Lucy Wagner in coming-of-age film Crossroads.
She continued: ‘I hope I never get close to that occupational hazard again.
‘Living that way, being half yourself and half a fictional character, is messed up. After a while you don’t know what’s real anymore.’
As well as Berry, Gosling also previously praised Spears, claiming she did an ‘excellent job’.
‘We met with a lot of actresses, and they were all very good,’ he told Entertainment Tonight in 2013. ‘I hadn’t seen her really since she was about 12 — we were both 12 — so she’s grown up, but she was really good, actually.
‘She did a really nice job. We were 12, I don’t remember much from when I was 12, but yeah, no, she did an excellent job, actually. That was cool.’
Britney went on to become an international superstar following the release of her first single …Baby One More Time in 1998, building up an estimated net worth of $70 million, with nine studio albums to her name, a Grammy Award, and a $138 million-grossing Las Vegas residency.
The Notebook was an immense success and is considered one of the best romantic films of all time.
Aside from grossing $118 million at the box office on a $29 million budget, the movie helped to catapult both Gosling and McAdams into superstardom.
The Canadian actor, who has an estimated net worth of $70 million, went on to star in Drive, Blue Valentine, Barbie and La La Land, for which he earned an Oscar nomination in 2017.
McAdams landed roles in About Time, The Time Traveller’s Wife and Game Night, and received a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her turn in Spotlight.
The pair enjoyed their own real life love story after working on the movie and dated for two years before calling it quits in 2007.
In an interview with GQ Magazine, the Hollywood heartthrob praised the film for bringing them both together.
‘I mean, God bless The Notebook, it introduced me to one of the great loves of my life,’ he said, before insisting that it did not hold a candle to their true-life romance.
‘People do Rachel and me a disservice by assuming we were anything like the people in that movie. Rachel and my love story is a hell of a lot more romantic than that.’
Spears auditioned for the film just five months after her ex Timberlake, pictured together in 2001, broke up with her via text message
The Notebook led to a real-life romance between Gosling and McAdams, pictured in 2004, before they called it quits two years later
Although Spears may not have been accustomed to a life on screen, Berry, who teaches acting classes, believes the Grammy winner shouldn’t throw in the towel.
‘I hope she goes and gets back to it. She has the talent to do this,’ he said.
Addressing the hit singer directly, he said: ‘Come back to us. You are an was an inspiration to so many young women.
‘Britney, come work with me again. I will whip you into shape in a month and I would absolutely cast you in my next movie. Talent like yours does not go away.’
Spears is currently gearing up for the release of her eagerly-awaited tell-all memoir which promises to lift the lid on her harrowing 13-year conservatorship, her relationship with Timberlake and her marriage to Sam Asghari.
Explosive excerpts published in the lead up to publication on October 24 have seen her accuse Timberlake of cheating on her with a celebrity during their relationship, and she has also revealed how she had an abortion when they were both 19 years old as he ‘wasn’t ready’ to be a father.
She shared a cryptic message with her more than 42.2 million Instagram followers on Sunday.
The mother-of-two, shared a photo of a pink heart-shaped cake with ‘see you in Hell’ written in pink frosting.
While it is unclear exactly who she is addressing, the mother-of-two did insist to fans on Friday that her bombshell memoir was not intended to ruffle any feathers or hurt anyone’s feelings.
BRITNEY’S MONOLOGUE – IN FULL:
‘I’m not staying. I tried to call you to tell you that I wasn’t going to stay but nobody answered the phone.
‘Look Noah, I can’t be here. Not the way I feel about you, it’s not fair to Lon.
‘Noah, you can’t marry two people. And I’m marrying Lon, so I should go, okay?
‘I prayed for you to die in the war, really. Well not die. I would have felt completely horrible if you would die.
‘But I kinda didn’t want you to be alive anymore because I couldn’t bear the thought of you being with somebody else, or of us never seeing each other again. So I gotta go, okay?
‘Noah I’m so confused. It may not seem like it but I really am. For seven years no matter what I did I couldn’t get you out of my mind. And then I met Lon and I told him that I would marry him and I want to marry him. I really do.
‘But then I saw your picture in the paper, and I knew I had to see you again because we never really finished things, not really. And now I am here and it’s like I feel so much, and all of these adolescent feelings have come back and I don’t know, but I still love Lon. And I would never break off our marriage. I would never do that.
‘But basically, all I want to do is crawl in a hole and stay there for the rest of my life.
‘You tell me what I should do. Tell me.
‘Should I leave before I make a total mess of things, or just stay here and absorb whatever time we have left together?
‘Please, tell me, what I should do?’