Jolie Transcends Gender, Action Star Shortage, Banks as Tinkerbell

by Sophia Savage
July 15, 2010 3:47 AM
11 Comments
  • |

Thompson on Hollywood

- Angelina Jolie is the first actress to transcend gender. It's hard to argue that any other actress, dead or living, can do what she can. Sony paid her $20 million up front for Salt, reports THR. Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura agrees that it's unusual for a female to be an action star. But in Jolie's case, "She's not a female action star; she's an action star. She's really the first female to transcend gender. I don't think it's occurred before."

In the past decade Jolie headlined five action films that combined grossed almost $1.5 billion worldwide (Wanted [2008], Mr. & Mrs. Smith [2005], both Tomb Raider films [2001, 2003], and Gone in 60 Seconds [2000]). Not only does she out-earn every other actress in Hollywood (from Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock to the gold standard of actresses, Meryl Streep, who earns a reported salary of under $8 million [It's Complicated] - for example), she is doing it in a male dominated genre (in a male dominated industry).

Granted the above, Lori Watson (Ph.D and director of women's and gender studies at USD) says that she still "can't break through the expectations that women are supposed to be beautiful and sexualized and fit a certain mold and behave in a certain way." Perhaps, but Jolie - the movie star and the woman - hardly makes choices to please others or fit an outside expectation. And she is fully in charge or her sexuality and her sexual power. When Salt opens, it will compete against the second week of Inception. The dream may be real, but so is Jolie's star power.

Point is, action tentpoles pull the big bucks, which is why men have out-earned women for so long. Thus getting into actioners ups any actor's paycheck. Mark Ruffalo may take over Ed Norton's role as the Incredible Hulk in Joss Whedon's The Avengers. Why? Ruffalo is a 42-year old actor whose supporting roles in Collateral, Shutter Island and Zodiac are the closest he has come to action roles. He's a indie/drama/comedy gem, not an action star. That is not to say he can't do it (Norton isn't exactly an action star either) - but it is surprising that he may be transplanted into this genre. Has the lack of manly leading men to take on roles like this helped Jolie cement herself in a very powerful position? Her confidence, capability and attitude exudes the machismo that is lacking elsewhere.

Thompson on Hollywood

- On the other side of the spectrum, actress Elizabeth Banks can rejoice for landing the leading role of Tinkerbell in producers Adam Shankman and McG's romantic comedy Tink for Disney. In the vein of Enchanted (with Anne Hathaway), this could be a useful stepping stone for Banks, whose usual supporting roles (receptionist in the Spider-Man trilogy, W.) can only do so much for her. While playing the lead in a Tinkerbell movie for an actress like Banks is like moving from second base to third, it further proves that Jolie is the umpire of her own ballpark.

You might also like:

11 Comments

  • The big K | July 19, 2010 1:08 AMReply

    the first? Whaaaat? Whatever happen to The Weaver, she was KICK ASS. The only and ONLY. Jolie is unwatchable in 80% of her films. Ew.

  • Noah Harlan | July 16, 2010 12:41 PMReply

    Lisa - I'm not sure what jealousy you're alluding to as I think Angelina is amazing at what she does. I just was pointing out that there was a reasonable case to be made that there was actually another woman who came before her who deserves mention when an assertion like "The First" is made. David's points are well taken though in light of the fact that Angelina doesn't get solo top billing in three of the five action films cited (Wanted, Mr & Mrs Smith, Gone In 60 Seconds) and the other two are both part of one series (Tomb Raider) you can make a reasonable comparison between Sigourney and her.

    To Brian's point, there are certainly amazing examples outside of the US and Michelle Yeoh is somewhat of a crossover but at the end of the day, it's about Hollywood and Michelle has not toplined a Hollywood film. Long Kiss Goodnight is a fun film but I think to qualify in this category you do need more than one action film as a star. Nothing against Geena though, who owns it. You could also add to the mix Milla Jovovich who starred in a number of action roles including the Resident Evil series, The Fifth Element and (arguably) Joan of Arc.

  • david | July 16, 2010 5:56 AMReply

    Noah, the writer is speaking in terms of women able to draw an audience and get paid well in the action genre. Jolie really is the first to break that barrier.

    Weaver's character will go down as one of the best in the film canon, but her success was specifically as that character. In it was that character that deserves so much credit, even overshadowing the actress. Weaver herself was unable of unwilling to translate her convincing action heroine acting skills into other films.

    It's true that Weaver has more critical success, but that point is meaningless. She's more of a dramatic actress, who stars in few action films. And when she does, they tend to be as supporting characters without an action heroine persona.

  • Brian | July 16, 2010 2:46 AMReply

    I recently saw Sammo Hung get a lifetime achievement award at the New York Asian Film Festival. And the surprise guest who came out to present it was none other than the greatest female action star ever--Angela Mao. She was a kung fu star in the 1970s and was the central figure in many of her films (Her best film, IMHO, remains BROKEN OATH, 1977, which includes Sammo in a villain role). She's known to American audiences chiefly for ENTER THE DRAGON in which she played Bruce Lee's sister in a flashback.

    Other great female martial arts stars of the era include Cheng Pei Pei (who starred in King Hu's COME DRINK WITH ME in 1965), Chia Ling (aka Judy Lee, QUEEN BOXER), Shih Szu (THE YOUNG AVENGER), Lily Li (EXECUTIONERS FROM SHAOLIN), Kara Hui Ying Hung (MY YOUNG AUNTIE) and a host more. In the '80s we saw a bunch of other great female action stars emerge in Hong Kong: Michelle Yeoh (MAGNIFICENT WARRIORS), American karate champ Cynthia Rothrock (YES, MADAM), Cynthia Khan (IN THE LINE OF DUTY), Moon Lee (KILLER ANGELS), Yukari Oshima (BURNING AMBITION), and, still later, a few others who were not martial artists, but turned up in plenty of action roles anyway--Anita Mui (A BETTER TOMORROW III), Maggie Cheung (THE HEROIC TRIO), Shu Qi (SO CLOSE), Vicki Zhao Wei (RED CLIFF), and the irreplaceable, unforgettable Brigitte Lin (SWORDSMAN III: THE EAST IS RED). And I've left out quite a few names. This was all just to put things in perspective.

    I loved THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT, with Geena Davis, and I thought it was the closest thing to a Hong Kong action film we'd gotten in the U.S. outside of John Woo. I'm looking forward to SALT, which strikes me as somewhat similar to LONG KISS, which would, today, make a great vehicle for Angelina. And I wouldn't mind seeing a remake of it with Jolie, provided it had a good director.

    I wish WANTED had been a vehicle for Angelina and not for that little putz who played the main character. God, he was annoying. If she'd been the star and his character reduced to a very small supporting role, I would have been much happier with it.

  • lisa | July 16, 2010 1:22 AMReply

    (Lisa cont'd)...Girl Interupted. Talent is in the eye of the beholder, and EVERY actor has done 'junk'...but to me, it's the myriad of roles an actress plays and the excitement and curiousity that actor generates in that role. Angie passes that test with flying colors, and contrary to popular belief, Angie doesn't always play a Spy in her action roles! SALT is the first time she will be playing a CIA/SPY character! In Lara Croft she was an action heroine/tomb raider, in WANTED and Mr. & Mrs. Smith she was an ASSASIN, and in Gone in 60 seconds she was a car theif/mechanic

  • Lisa | July 16, 2010 1:21 AMReply

    For people like Noah Harlan who feels the need to overstate your point by posting it TWICE, you thereby render your point invalid, and 'out' yourself as a person unable to be objective because of your overriding jealousy. That said, I too give Sigourney Weaver props for her contribution to the success of the Alien movies, however, in my opinion, Angelina brings MUCH more ton the table on and OFF the screen. In know no other woman who's adventures and fearlessness in REAL life actually rivals that of her on-screen characters in the movies! Angelina OWNS her sexuality, as well as her ability to fire a weapon, and you never get the feeling that she is being controlled or 'handled' by the Hollywood system...THEY WOULDN'T DARE! And she also doesn't apologize forn her way of life or any of her choices, yet she seems intelligent and empathetic, without feeling conflicted about the aggressive roles she's portrayed in films.
    Angelina is a contradiction. An action star, and an humanitarian. A tough-girl, and a nurturing mother of six. A glamourous movie star, yet a woman visiting refugees andn the military troops. She's never what you expect her to be. In during all of thisn she's managed ton win ann Oscar, Golden Globes, SAG awards, and to garner over a billion dollars in ticket sales at the box office. When you consider how much she's grown in the last decade, and consider the fact that she's only 35, you realize that no one else has managed to maintain the sex-appeal and command the salary and the publics fascination on an international scale like Angelina Jolie. Those mentioning like 'joe valdez' who accuse Angelina of getting popular by always playing the 'spy babe', Would anyone know who Sigourney Weaver was if it wasn't for the ONE 'Alien' series?? I can barely watch her in an interview cause it's so boring, and I'm certainly not running out to see her movies like I am Jolie's! Angie compelling in an interview, in an action movie like MMS and Wanted, as well as Drama's like Changeling and Girl Interupted.

  • Lisa | July 16, 2010 1:14 AMReply

    For people like Noah Harlan who feels the need to overstate your point by posting it TWICE, you thereby render your point invalid, and 'out' yourself as a person unable to be objective because of your overriding jealousy. That said, I too give Sigourney Weaver props for her contribution to the success of the Alien movies, however, in my opinion, Angelina brings MUCH more ton the table on and OFF the screen. In know no other woman who's adventures and fearlessness in REAL life actually rivals that of her on-screen characters in the movies! Angelina OWNS her sexuality, as well as her ability to fire a weapon, and you never get the feeling that she is being controlled or 'handled' by the Hollywood system...THEY WOULDN'T DARE! And she also doesn't apologize forn her way of life or any of her choices, yet she seems intelligent and empathetic, without feeling conflicted about the aggressive roles she's portrayed in films.
    Angelina is a contradiction. An action star, and an humanitarian. A tough-girl, and a nurturing mother of six. A glamourous movie star, yet a woman visiting refugees andn the military troops. She's never what you expect her to be. In during all of thisn she's managed ton win ann Oscar, Golden Globes, SAG awards, and to garner over a billion dollars in ticket sales at the box office. When you consider how much she's grown in the last decade, and consider the fact that she's only 35, you realize that no one else has managed to maintain the sex-appeal and command the salary and the publics fascination on an international scale like Angelina Jolie. Those mentioning like 'joe valdez' who accuse Angelina of getting popular by always playing the 'spy babe', Would anyone know who Sigourney Weaver was if it wasn't for the ONE 'Alien' series?? I can barely watch her in an interview cause it's so boring, and I'm certainly not running out to see her movies like I am Jolie's! Angie compelling in an interview, in an action movie like MMS and Wanted, as well as Drama's like Changeling and Girl Interupted. Talent is in the eye of the beholder, and EVERY actor has done 'junk'...but to me, it's the myriad of roles an actress plays and the excitement and curiousity that actor generates in that role. Angie passes that test with flying colors, and contrary to popular belief, Angie doesn't always play a Spy in her action roles! SALT is the first time she will be playing a CIA/SPY character! In Lara Croft she was an action heroine/tomb raider, in WANTED and Mr. & Mrs. Smith she was an ASSASIN, and in Gone in 60 seconds she was a car theif/mechanic!

  • DavidC | July 15, 2010 12:04 PMReply

    "Wanted" hit me the way "A Better Tomorrow" did the first time I saw it -- as a great leap forward in bravura action moviemaking.

    Not junk, in other words.

  • Noah Harlan | July 15, 2010 9:58 AMReply

    One additional note. On 'Gone in 60 Seconds' Jolie was really co-star with a top-lining Nicholas Cage. Cage was above the title, Jolie was below:

    http://thestoryofswimwear.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/gone_in_sixty_seconds1.jpg

    She was also co-starring in 'Mr & Mrs. Smith' with hubby-to-be Brad Pitt though they seemed to share equal billing.

  • Joe Valdez | July 15, 2010 9:03 AMReply

    I realize that Jolie won an Academy Award and think it's great she's so highly paid. Also, her charitable work and her role as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations doesn't get mentioned enough. That said ...

    ... Jolie's action movies and a good portion of her other projects have been junk, Anne. You could never say that about Sigourney Weaver, who as Noah pointed out, really set the bar that Jolie has either been unwilling or unable to live up to in terms of her film work.

    I realize no two actresses have the same background, skills or taste, but I can't think of many stars who have gotten so popular from playing the same role every time, the spy babe.

  • Noah Harlan | July 15, 2010 8:29 AMReply

    I'm not sure I'd totally agree with the title of "The First" woman to transcend gender. I would nominate Sigourney Weaver for that title. While I admit that her action cred is limited largely to one series (Alien 1-4), she did headline action films that were monster hits (at least the first two) and she headlined much more feminine roles in films like Gorillas In The Mist.

    Certainly Jolie has had more success in every way and more diverse success as a lead but to nominate her as "The First" I think overstates it a bit and overlooks a bit of history.

Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    

Email Updates

Most "Liked"

  • LISTEN: On KCRW's The Treatment, Mindy ...
  • Brad Pitt to Star in David Michôd's ...
  • Arthouse Audit: 'Only Lovers Left Alive' ...
  • Fox's Jim Gianopulos to Deliver USC ...
  • Pulitzer Prize Winners Unveiled
  • The Highs and Lows of the Meaningless ...
  • Watch: Highlights from Seth Rogen's ...
  • Box Office Top Ten: 'Captain America' ...
  • Career Watch: As 'Mad Men' Enters Its ...
  • WATCH: Guillermo Arriaga's Anthology ...