Thursday, August 03, 2006

Anyone But Scarlett Johansson (With Apologies to Scarlett Johansson)

This post is directed towards Hollywood's casting directors. Of all employed movie types they are the people who I most regularly fantasize are visiting my blog. I like to think they're listening to my pleas for underappreciated actors, reading my countdown lists of most valuable players, and the like. Because sometimes... I just don't get where they're coming from. Take Scarlett Johansson, this week's "it" girl. She's a memorable beauty, sure. She can hold her own onscreen, mm-hmm. She has a great voice, yes. But should they really be casting her in everything? Is she right for every single role?

I imagine she's the most hated actress among the young female set in Hollywood. If you check out her filmography it really gives one pause. She has been featured in 22 films. In half of those she is either the lead or a prominent supporting player. She is only 21. To top it all off she has three more roles in the can and another four contracts signed. I'd argue that more than any other actor in Hollywood she risks complete backlash very soon.

In an effort to curb a quick downfall (I'd personally like ScarJo to stick around) I'd suggest a year off and for casting directors to give some other young ladies a reasonable shot at making a splash.

Now obviously among the 18 to mid20s set Anne Hathaway, Kirsten Dunst, Evan Rachel Wood, Keira Knightley, Natalie Portman, and Lindsay Lohan (and less explicably Jessica Alba, Kate Bosworth, and Emmy Rossum, with 5 facial expressions between them) have eked out careers while Scarlett has devoured every other role. Beyond about 10 girls, though, it seems Hollywood doesn't care...

Give these girls a shot!

Amanda Seyfried, 20. You've seen her on HBO's Big Love and as the dumbest of the Mean Girls. Why her? She's younger than Scarlett if you need the dewy freshness. And while Scarlett certainly isn't bad in comedies, her mellow character vibe in Ghost World and Lost in Translation isn't really the laugh generator. Next up for Amanda is the horror film Solstice. Casting directors please save her from a life of TV guest work and B-Movies.

Ludivine Sagnier, 26. She had a brief moment a few years back when it looked like she might crossover with high profile work in Swimming Pool, Peter Pan, and 8 Women. Why her? Say you're looking for someone who, like Scarlett, possesses potent sexuality that's still malleable to the character demands and who also can play several different ages? Ludivine's a slam dunk winner on both counts. Her beauty, talent, and star presence will keep her busy in French cinema for years to come but there's really no reason (given that she speaks English) for Hollywood not to borrow her more often.

Nathalie Press (age?) & Emily Blunt, 23. They made a mini-splash together in arthouses for the underseen but well received My Summer of Love. Why them? First and foremost the talent. For Press, both Summer and the Oscar short-film winner Wasp are potent performance films. She could be a highly regarded actress very soon with just one really high profile gig. Blunt proved this summer in Devil Wears Prada that she's a total chameleon, more muteable from film to film than Scarlett if you need a shapeshifter more in the line of Streep or Blanchett. Her bitchy comedic character in Prada is nothing like her dreamy seductress from Summer. I have a sharp eye for actors and I didn't even realize it was the same woman until after the movie was over. I can't wait to see what other forms she takes.

Kathleen McDermott (age?) I know zilch about her and she's barely ever worked in the movies. Why her? Anyone who can hold their own with the brilliant Samantha Morton as she did with sweet grounding naturalism in Morvern Callar deserves more opportunities on the screen. What gives? Seriously. I thought we'd be seeing her a lot.

Scarlett, with her old soul vibe, and is often cast older than she is. Lost in Translation was meant for a mid 20s actress and Scarlett made it when she was 18. These ladies are also worthy of your consideration...

Kerry Washington, 29. I might start crying. I think things have gotten a lot better for black male leads in the past decade. But the women? Not so much. Why her? Mostly for my sanity. Every time I respond to a young black actress I start seeing the fate of Angela Bassett all over again: big splashy success followed immediately by crap supporting roles. Very few actresses of any ethnicity have chops as powerful as Angela Bassett but still... Even when future Angelas work a lot, as Kerry does, they seem to get stuck in roles that don't require anything of them. Kerry started off strong in indies like Lift and Our Song (a great rental choice if you like under-the-radar indies) and scene stealing in big hits like Save the Last Dance but lately...ouch. I'll be the first to admit that she didn't really run with the Ray opportunity the way, say, Regina King did. But Scarlett doesn't hit it out of the park every time either and that doesn't stop her from attracting top filmmakers and big projects. Shouldn't Kerry be getting better gigs than cameos in Fantastic Four and Mr & Mrs. Smith and employment in Little Man?

Lucy Punch, 28. Her biggest claim to fame is the 'humiliate the golddigger' role in Being Julia Why her? if you were paying attention you probably noticed that she actually knew what she was doing with the role. However thankless the part was, that was no phoned-in performance. Next up for Ms. Punch is a comedy with the makers of Shaun of the Dead called Hot Fuzz. Lucy is also very at home in period films as her filmography suggests. Now I know that Scarlett can do that too (Girl with a Pearl Earring) but, again, you can't cast her in everything. Or at least you shouldn't.

Other Posts From "Scarlett Johansson Week"
It's a Wrap Scarlett Week Concludes with Lists Galore
A History Of... Scarjo
'Scarlett Fever' Poll Which is her best performance?
Hugh Jackman her current co-star in Scoop
My Endless Link Two Scarlett links & other random goodies.

tags: Scarlett Johansson, movies, films, casting director, cinema, acting, Young Hollywood


par3182 said...

damn that scarlett woman - next she'll be having entire weeks devoted to her

Alanna said...

I think things have gotten a lot better for black male leads in the past decade. But the women? Not so much.

Right on, Nathaniel. Hollywood seems to think that Halle Berry is the only black actress in the whole wide world.

Anonymous said...

I would add Naomie Harris to your list. I have the feeling she will be the one person to reap any sizable rewards (career-wise) from Miami Vice.

Plus she's great talking about Fassbinder in scene from Tristram Shandy that any film geek who has ever embarrassed him/herself can appreciate.

Also, she wields a mean machete.

Anonymous said...

Great post. There isn't much I don't agree with. Yeah, she is overexposed. And she's also very limited.

However, I can't say any of those actresses listed come close to her sexual energy and ability to make all the Hollywood execs spooge in their slacks like she does. And, THAT, is why she just keeps getting cast, IMO.

adam k. said...

Yeah, this seems a weird backhanded addition to ScarJo week. I agree that she's super sexy and that's why they keep casting her. But maybe they should just stick to casting her in sexy roles?

And I hate to say it, but it seems to me that her own lack of ambition is why Kerry Washington isn't getting bigger, better roles. She seems like she's just not trying hard enough. Great actress as she is, she's just... too nice. She doesn't seem to care. From what I've seen.

And I HATE how Halle Berry is seen as the only black actress anywhere. I don't like that woman. She is just not classy... or very talented.


well i'd say ludivine can match her sexual potency. and who knows on emily blunt (if summer of love is an indicator maybe she can --though one film is not a lot to go on in that regard)

but yeah, it's an area where Scarlett definitely has an advantage over the other 20somethings. Even the 10 I mentioned who are successful don't seem to have her potency there (not even Alba who is almost entirely loved for just that reason alone --but it's totally surface --and doesn't have any of the undercurrent/hypnotic affect of Scarlett's sex appeal)

Andy Scott said...

I love Kerry Washington! I was hoping they'd give her a role in Dreamgirls. Oh well.

Glenn Dunks said...

The Kerry Washington thing that Adam mentioned is what's bugging me about Rachel McAdams atm. She just doesn't seem to want to act, let alone be a movie star.

I can't say I'm infatuated with Kerry - the only thing of her's I've seen is Save the Last Dance and Mr & Mrs Smith.

Anon 10.48 put in a great suggestion. I really liked Naomie Harris in 28 Days Later and am happy she's getting more roles. Black British Actresses are the best. See also: Marianne Jean Baptiste.

The black hole of african-american actresses is disconcerning. Even Halle Berry is sort've disappearing now through too many bad choices. Could be there that, *gasp*, Beyonce could become a fully fledged pro after Dreamgirls? I like Regina King though. And CCH Pounder. Is Rosario Dawson black? I'm sorry, but I can't tell. :P

I'm with you on Lucy Punch. The role was written like the character was meant to be (second fiddle to Annette) but she was ace. Ludivine is great! Loved her in Peter Pan. Ann is cool too! You forgot her role as a modern day Laura Palmer on Veronica Mars though!

Speaking of which I think THE best up-and-coming young actress (now that the likes of Scarlett and Rachel are THERE) is Veronica Mars herself - Kristen Bell. Holy hell that girl has some acting chops on her.

Glenn Dunks said...

lol, i just checked and Rosario Dawson is not black. Lol, I'm just like a character out of Crash! I CAN'T TELL THE DIFFERENCE.

I could show you the difference between any number of Europeans though! We have a lot of Europeans down here (and they're hot to boot!)

Anonymous said...

Rachel McAdams ... I didn't "get" her in Wedding Crashers. She did nothing for me. I thought she was decent in Mean Girls. She was no Heather Chandler (may Kim Walker rest in peace), but, come on, no one is or will ever be.

However, in the surprisingly enjoyable Something's Gotta Give for the Holidays (or whatever it was called), I thought she was infectious. She took a very bland role and added A LOT of nuance to it.

So, maybe she isn't a big deal, yet, but I don't exactly think she's small potatoes either, IMO.

Anonymous said...

I'm totally feeling the sentiments expressed here (though still very much pre-lash with Scarlett).

I know this is quirkily English of me, but...

I'd like to see Martine McCutcheon do something great on the big screen. Oh I know she has a prima-donna attitude that's turned off the Hollywood bigwigs. And I know she lost a lot of goodwill when she missed the majority of her performances of My Fair Lady in the West End and hasn't stopped complaining/justifying it since (still won the Olivier Award though). And I KNOW she could have made more of her best career opportunity to date - the romantic lead in a Hugh Grant/Richard Curtis movie.

I know, I know, I KNOW these things shouldn't be forgivable.

BUT she was sooooo popular in the UK a few years back, and that's precisely because she captured the heart of the nation, week in, week out on EastEnders - the highest rated TV show in the UK (at that time) - with a character we loved.

SOMEONE could use that charisma and figure out how to channel it appropriately.


Anonymous said... pains me to read anything that expresses reservations about this girl's talent. I think she has tremendous range that has only been scratched at. But I have to agree she should probably take a deep breath and slow down. Yet even as overexposed as she is in multiplexes this year you can't say any of these projects look like they could be less than great. I'm eagerly awaiting the release of both The Black Dahlia and The Prestige. And, judging by her past work as well as my believe in her bottomless talent, she has the potential to elevate each with a stunning performance.

As for the rest of the girls mentioned. I'll have to accept the scorn heading my way in stating that I find Hathaway little more than "vanilla" (she was pushed entirely into the background by Streep, Blunt, and Tucci in The Devil Wears Prada), I find Lohan to be little more than just charismatic, and actually think Rossum and Bosworth can act when given the right role. Remember Rossum in her small but memorable turn in Mystic River or Bosworth's effective performance in Wonderland.

I also remember reading an interview with Sagnier where she stated she had no desire to enter into Hollywood productions and would prefer to stay in small films based out of France. Finally I'd like to add the following names to the list of actresses who should be given more of a chance: Ellen Page, Anna Paquin, and Zooey Deschanel (the last two need something more than just throwaway supporting roles even if they manage to outshine everyone else in the production while in them).


anonymous --this is not really questioning scarlett's talent (which is obvious) just her output level and just --i'm beginning to have reservations about her never saying no. If that becomes a habit you end up some crazy stinkers (think Michael Caine and Gene Hackman). Celebrities have to be really careful about this or the public/media does turn on them.

witness nicole kidman and jude law in 2004.

some people try the every few years only thing but unless your Jodie Foster that's dangerous. Some people try the one a year thing which works IF the movies are good (Russell Crowe) . But I'd say any more than 5 in a two year period is really pushing your luck -- IF you're already a big star that is.


i meant to say unless "you're" obviously. ugh.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Nathaniel, I seem to take anything that isn't overt praise of Miss Johansson as a backhand to her ability as an actress. Whew...time to calm my fanaticim down.

Oh, I also would have liked to have seen Thora Birch and Erika Christensen grab more juicy roles after their turns in Ghost World and Traffic.

Reel Fanatic said...

You're dead right about Scarlett .. I would have loved Woody Allen's Match Point, rather than just liking quite a bit, if I didn't have to put up her with her kvetching throughout the whole thing .. big thumbs up to Ludivine Sagnier (forgive me if I misspelled her name) .. she was just stunning in Swimming Pool

Anonymous said...

On Match Point ...

I thought that we're supposed to not like her kvetching (at least a little bit) so that we are annoyed to the point of being minorly complicit in JR-M's finally doing her in. (i.e. she bitches and moans so much that 'enough already, just shoot the c*nt to make the bitching and moaning stop') I felt the same way about Angelica Huston's character in Match Point's progenitor Crimes & Misdemeanors (msp).

That's what I thought. Or else, I wouldn't have felt connected in anyway to JR-M's character. Maybe I saw it differently than everyone else. But, at police headquarters, I actually found myself rooting for him to get away with it and was angry with him when he slipped up. And, then, when he did get away it, I was mad, because he was "lucky" (and not crafty).

Anonymous said...

Lea Downey.

She has done some cool indie flicks, she's is sexy and funny and snarky, a tomboy in a playmates body

and I second Anna Paquin, and Zooey Deschanel

Anonymous said...

I loved Naomir Harris in 28 Days Later, just like everyone else seems to. I was wondering where she dissapeared to and then I found out she was in the Pirates movie. Not exactly my dream role for her. I hope she gets more good roles. It's so frustrating when people you like disappear.
Halle Berry, meanwhile, is very pretty, and I don't dislike her as strongly as some, but she is pretty bland. What happened to Angela Bassett anyway?

And since a number of people are mentioning Rachel McAdams, this is a random time/place to mention it, but my dream is to see Rachel McAdams and Hugh Jackman in a good old-fashioned, well-written, well-directed screwball comedy.

Anonymous said...

kamikaze camel - I thought Rosario Dawson was half black, half hispanic?

Anonymous said...

I'd like to agree with the post that mentioned Ellen Page. Anyone who wants to see talent that goes far beyond her years should check out Hard Candy asap. I don't think there's anyone on screen currently who competes with her...

Anonymous said...

What about Eva Green? I didn't catch her performance in Kingdom of Heaven, but her work in The Dreamers certainly oozed sexual energy on par with that of Scarlett. Maybe sexing it up with Daniel Craig in the new 007 will get her more work out there.

adam k. said...

I read on Joe R's blog that Rosario Dawson is of wildly diverse mixed ethnicities, including black, cuban, irish and others.

Anonymous said...

Hugh Jackman + Rachel McAdams?

... = Fireworks!

Anonymous said...

Scarlett Johansson is one of the least sexy actresses out there today, I think. Sure, she's got huge boobs, but everyone in the world has seen them, and there's something about her that makes me want to holler "smug alert". She has this cocky "whatf*ckever" aura that really makes me want to hit her.

Glenn Dunks said...

Oh, that thing about Rosario is good then. Take that Paul Haggis! I'm not racist!!!

I agree with what Vince said about Match Point. Me and the friends I saw it with were really barracking for JRM's character to not get caught. It shocked us at the end and we were like "WHY did we want him to get away with it so much?"

Man, I loved Match Point. I loved seeing the entire audience's reaction when JRM shot her with that giant rifle. You could tell everyone was thinking "No! He wouldn't do that" and then he did and everyone was just shocked.

Allen working his audience like a puppet.

Anonymous said...

geetch ... jealous much? LOL! Just kidding.

I love her sassiness. She doesn't give a f*ck. It's refreshing. Maybe it's an act. And if so, then, maybe she's not as limited an actress as I think she is. lol

Anonymous said...

silly me ...

Hugh Jackman + [INSERT NAME HERE] = Fireworks. (He could make sex w/anyone hot.)

Glenn Dunks said...

*head explodes*

Vince! Don't put those images in my already quite warped mind.

Anonymous said...

sorry, Glenn, Hugh makes me act all funny. I just can't help myself.

BTW, While you're dead, can you PLEASE speak to the creator or whomever and ask them about sending a special fleet of Jackman clones? That would be so cool ! I understand if you can't do it right away because you're busy getting another head ... oh, um, wait a minute ... that didn't sound right. I meant getting another noggin' ... okay kind of didn't work either ... well, you know what I mean!

Jill said...

I myself hope I live long enough to see Scarlett turn 40 and the roles stop coming fast and furiously, after the nasty cracks she made about older actresses when she was all of 18.

It also occurs to me that the glorious Kate Winslet is now a midcareer actress.


Anonymous said...

jill ... what were the nasty cracks?

Anonymous said...

Dude, on that list... Nicole Kidman is your number one pick? What the hell?

Maybe you failed to notice that she is practically incapable of neutralizing her Australian accent?