Switching genders: ‘Our Brand Is Crisis,’ ‘Roadhouse’ reboot put women in leading roles originally written for men

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There’s been a lot of talk this year about sexism in Hollywood, especially after the American Civil Liberties Union accused the entertainment industry in May of discriminating against female directors in recruiting and hiring.

Now, there are a lot of movies starring women – plus a good number written and directed by women – coming up this autumn as awards season starts gearing up. Bustle.com has compiled a great list of “14 Female Performances to Look out for This Season” that includes expected highlights like Emily Blunt in Sicaro, Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowsa in Crimson Peak, Carey Mulligan and Meryl Streep in Suffragette and Sandra Bullock in Our Brand Is Crisis.

The latter comes bearing one of the best signs I’ve seen that we might be witnessing real and lasting change for women in Hollywood: Bullock plays the leading role of a political strategist, a role that was originally written for a man.

“There’s so much talk of that right now, and it’s getting heightened, which makes me very happy,” People.com reports that Bullock told journalists Saturday at a press conference for the movie at the Toronto International Film Festival. “What I’d like to comment on is the fact that I was able to say: ‘Would you be able to take a role that was written and that you guys have worked on and cherished a long time and change it to a female?’”

“And there was not a lot of hesitation. The only hesitation was: Can the writer do it? So that, hopefully, shows a shift in the climate for women in film. We still have some climbing to do.”

Bullock said she and costar Zoe Kazan discussed the status of women in Hollywood, including the advances in the female characters depicted on cable and Netflix.

“There have been massive changes there. We still have some ways to go, but I don’t mind being the one to ask, ‘What do you got that you haven’t made yet, that you’d be willing to change for me?’” said Bullock.

“And hopefully, I mean, what would be very helpful was if this film has a level of success that makes the studio go: Okay, this is a viable thing for us. We want to make more of this for women out there. Hopefully those worlds will come together.”

The Oscar winner said she was attracted to the quality of the lead role in Our Brand Is Crisis.

“She was human. Flawed. We’re all flawed,” Bullock said. “I love how complex and human she was. She was unlikable, and she was struggling, and that, to me, is interesting to watch, because it’s in all of us.”

According to TheWrap.com, Our Brand Is Crisis producer George Clooney said the minute Bullock read the script, which had been languishing in development, and called him and his producing partner Grant Heslov, the movie got moving toward production. Clooney said a lot more roles written for men that could be played by women “if people just started thinking.”

Apparently, there are some folks at MGM that are thinking that way: Variety reports that UFC fighter Ronda Rousey will star in the reboot of the 1989 cult classic Road House, roundhouse kicking her way into the role Patrick Swayze made famous.

Sources told the trade publication that MGM is currently meeting with screenwriters, with production set to begin in 2016. Rousey recently reached out to Swayze’s widow, Lisa Niemi, to ask for her blessing, which Niemi gladly gave, according to Variety’s exclusive report.

The project would be the biggest acting gig to date for the fighter, who has appeared in Furious 7, Expendables 3 and the Entourage movie. It will be the fourth project being specifically developed as a star vehicle for Rousey, following her biopic My Fight/Your Fight at Paramount, The Athena Project at Warner Bros. and the STX action pic Mile 22, which Pete Berg will direct.

Hopefully, this idea of taking roles written for men and looking for opportunities to cast women instead will catch on with both male and female power-players in Hollywood – and even extend to switching out male directors and screenwriters with females. Then, we’ll start to see some progress. But I believe it has to become a conscious, deliberate choice until we narrow the gender gap.

But as Streep told the Los Angeles Times during an interview about Suffragette over Labor Day weekend at the Telluride Film Festival, we need both men and women in the industry to embrace the concept.

“Until men look around the table and say, ‘You know what’s weird? There’s only two women here and there’s eight men.’ When that feels weird to a man, we will have achieved something,” Streep said. “We need half. That’s all we ask. Half. In the House. In the Senate. At Universal. At Sony. If it were half, I can’t say the world would be better, but it would be representative.”

Quick hitters

- Julie Bloom of The New York Times gathered interviews with not just actresses but also with screenwriters and directors who have made several of this fall’s most highly anticipated femme-centric films into a must-read feature titled “Actresses on the Stubborn Sexism of Hollywood.” Those weighing in on the issue include Suffragette star Carey Mulligan, writer Abi Morgan and director Sarah Gavron; The Intern stars Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro and director Nancy Meyers; Carol stars Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara and writer Phyllis Nagy; and Freeheld stars Julianne Moore, Ellen Page and Michael Shannon and writer Ron Nyswaner.

My favorite quote from the Q&A comes from Moore: “Vote with your money. If there’s something you don’t like, don’t go, don’t pay for it. And if there’s a female-driven movie out there that you want to see, buy a ticket. That’s really what makes a difference. My husband laughs at me, but I just won’t go see movies with only men in them. I just can’t bear it.”

- Producer Deborah Snyder has confirmed that lensing for Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman solo film, which will be directed by Monster helmer Patty Jenkins (who replaced Game of Thrones director Michelle MacLaren), will begin in November, according to ComicBook.com.

“We still wanted a female director and we found Patty Jenkins, who had the right vision and the same vision as we had for the character,” Snyder said at Geena Davis Institutes’ Gender In Media event. “And we’re really happy to be going into production in November and it’s been a really great process. We tried to hire as many female people on the crew as possible.”

Gadot’s (Furious 7) Wonder Woman will be introduced in next year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as DC begins building a cinematic universe to compete with rival Marvel. The Wonder Woman solo flick, also starring Chris Pine (Star Trek), is due in theaters on June 23, 2017.

Meanwhile, there are so many rumors swirling around who might play Captain Marvel in Marvel’s well-overdue 2018 first movie built around a female superhero, I’m not even going to bother aggregating them at this point. Just stay tuned.

- Congratulations to actress-turned-activist Geena Davis, who will be honored for her work during the San Diego Film Festival, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

For her pursuit of gender equality in film, through the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, Davis will receive the Reframed Humanitarian Award, an accolade created in partnership with her Thelma and Louise co-star, Susan Sarandon, at the festival’s Night of the Stars Tribute ceremony.

Plus, Arbitrage actress Brit Marling will receive the Auteur Award, which is meant to recognize a multi-faceted actor. Marling is currently set to co-write, co-produce and star in the upcoming Netflix series The OA.

In addition, Adrien Brody will be given the Cinema Vanguard Award for his “tenacity to forge new ground within his craft,” and the 2015 Chris Brinker award will also be handed out at the Night of the Stars, to a first-time film director – who is yet to be announced – who is “not afraid to push the envelope in the cinematic world.

The Night of the Stars Tribute ceremony will take place on Oct 1 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla, Ca. The San Diego Film Festival runs Sept. 30 through Oct 4.

- BAM

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