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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

"A Great Year For Actresses"–Really?

Has 2006 really been a great year for actresses?
Christopher Goodwin of the Times of London thinks so. There are so many great leading parts for women this year.” he writes, above and beyond the the frequently mention big names like Helen Mirren (THE QUEEN), Penelope Cruz (VOLVER) and Meryl Streep (THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA), “that other favorites may end up competing in the best supporting category.
And who are these women? He names Kate Winslet as an adulterous housewife in LITTLE CHILDREN, Sienna Miller as Edie Sedgwick in FACTORY GIRL, Beyonce Knowles in DREAMGIRLS, Nicole Kidman, who plays Diane Arbus in FUR, Annette Bening from RUNNING WITH SCISSORS, Abigail Breslin, the little girl from LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, and even Julie Christie who has a relatively small role as an Alzheimer’s sufferer in AWAY FROM HER.
What’s notable about these roles, writes Goodwin, is how well written they are. “The perennial criticism of the major Hollywood studios — for not creating good parts for women, and for not making films that women (and I don’t mean teenage girls) want to see — is still valid. In 2005, for example, women were not the protagonists of any of the films nominated for best picture. Reese Witherspoon won best actress Oscar for playing June Carter Cash, the endlessly supportive wife of WALK THE LINE’s real subject, Johnny Cash. And the only actress over 50 to win an Oscar in either acting category in the past two decades is Judi Dench, best supporting actress for SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE in 1999.”
“It’s Hollywood’s fault,” says Pedro Almodovar, the Spanish director of VOLVER, who knows a thing or two about creating great roles for women. “In other countries, we encourage diversity and want to tell stories about all kinds of women. In the past decade, you can count the number of Hollywood dramas that have revolved around women. The studios have forgotten that women are fascinating, more than just mannequins.”
Goodwin also gets into the profitability of these films, which appeal to an underserved market. “Producer Laura Bickford (TRAFFIC, FUR) believes that, lamentable as the studios’ neglect of the female audience is, it may be the main reason we are now seeing so many terrific films starring women. “As the studios have become more intensely focused on male-oriented blockbusters, it has opened up a huge area for the independents to exploit. Clearly, the studios have underestimated the potential buying power of the adult — non-teenage — female audience. .. And the thing about the baby-boom female audience is that if the price is right, it is very lucrative.” The Devil Wears Prada, for instance, which was targeted strongly at older women, has taken $125m at the US box office, much the same as Mission: Impossible III, which cost five times as much to make. You do the maths.”

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon