Let’s look at women’s movie roles intended for men. Somewhere along the way in the development process, filmmakers have switched male roles to female, giving the world some of the most iconic screen characters of all time. Could you imagine Ripley in the Alien franchise as a man? How about Paula in the The 40-Year-Old Virgin?
Sigourney Weaver has played three roles that were intended for men. Glenn Close insisted that her character in The Paper stay the same, including a fistfight with Michael Keaton’s character. Ron Moore’s Starbuck, from Battlestar Galactica is still a cigar-smoking, sexual predator fighter pilot, she’s just got ovaries. Game of Thrones chieftain, Karsi, showed us that Wildling leaders can be a woman or a man because it doesn’t matter when you’re facing off with white walkers.
Even back in 1940, director Howard Hawks made the bold choice of making a prominent character in the screen adaptation of The Paper a female. Now, we can’t imagine His Girl Fridaywithout Rosalind Russell as Hildy Johnson.
Helen Mirren and Dame Judi Dench have taken on roles previously played by men. Mirren’s Hobson in the remake of Arthur was just as deadpan and engaging as Sir John Gielgud’s. Dench’s has M spanned seven Bond films.
Women in film may face many challenges when it comes to pay, but hats off to the directors, writers, actors, and producers who create opportunities for women who are more qualified to play authority figures, villains, and tough characters rather than, say, a damsel in distress or run of the mill wife, girlfriend, or best friend.
What are your favorite male to female film roles? Upvote those you are most glad went to a female actress.
Despite his sort of sexist comment on the way to creating Ripley, Scott said, “I just had a thought. What would you think if Ripley was a woman? She would be the last one you would think would survive—she’s beautiful.”
When she learned that her time in the role would wrap up with Skyfall, Dench wasn’t thrilled with the news. “They told me gently and I laughed through my tears. Seven films is a long time. But MI6 would have given her the push by now, don’t you think?” Dench worked with a 24-year-old Sam Mendes in the theatre years before, and it was fitting that he be the director on her last Bond film. Still, Dench said she wasn’t ready to go. “Certainly not. No, certainly not. I could go on for years. Maybe I’ll come back as a ghost. Now that would be Shakespearian.”
Dench’s Bond films as M:
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
The World Is Not Enough (1999)
Die Another Day (2002)
Casino Royale (2006)
Quantum of Solace (2008)
Director Howard Hawks quickly cast Cary Grant, but finding Hildy became problematic. When he heard his secretary read Hildy’s lines during auditions, he switched the character to female. Even then, he had a hard time casting the role. Carole Lombard, Katharine Hepburn, Claudette Colbert, Margaret Sullavan, Ginger Rogers, Irene Dunne, Jean Arthur, and Joan Crawford all passed on the role. Even after landing the role, Rosalind Russell had to fight for screen time and even hired her own writer to beef up her lines.
The switch was a bold choice for 1940. The film is considered one of the best comedies of all time and is an excellent example of onscreen chemistry.
Karsi in Game of Thrones, Played by Birgitte Hjort Sørensen
She only appeared in one episode in season five, but Karsi left an impression with viewers. In “Hardhome,” Sorensen’s clan chief and Wilding elder was tough and ready to kick white walker butt. Miguel Sapochnik, who directed the episode, said that Karsi was originally written as a man.
They wanted to show another dimension to the Wildling plight as the dark forces closed in on the north. When the warrior and mother faces off with white walker children, the end result is powerful.
Director Phillip Noyce caused a stink when he said that didn’t want the male characters to “castrated” by a female hero. Jolie got that point, saying, “When they write something on purpose for a woman, it’s always about being a woman — using your femininity, all these kind of female obvious things. So we said let’s just keep all the things about it that are tough, and it’s about being what she is, it’s about the journey. And if anything, we have to make it darker and we have to make it meaner than the boys.”
Starbuck was still a cigar smoker, highly sexual, hard drinking fighter pilot with blonde hair.
Casper Van Dien and Meyer reunited 15 years after the movie at Phoenix Comicon.
Jane Bodine in Our Brand Is Crisis, Played by Sandra Bullock
“I put my blinders on and blazed forward. Sometimes you get a no. But I expect the no,” Bullock said. “With this I got very nervous. I didn’t know if George had made this for himself. But the response was, ‘We’re cool with it.'”
There wasn’t anything to change when the character became female. “You just change the sex; that was pretty much it,” Bullock said. “She’s human.”
“We sort of took one shot with an actor, and then we had the idea that this is maybe [the wrong story] to do with a man — maybe we need to do this with a mother. It’s much more archaic; the bond between a mother and daughter is a different one than the father and the daughter. Thinking along the lines of how we can make this the most emotionally impactful movie possible, we started thinking about Jodie and, thank God, she was interested in doing it,” Schwentke said.
Foster agreed. ”I was just looking for things that were going,” she said. “When I approached them and thought it was perfect to flip the gender, coincidentally the producers felt the same thing.”
They did keep the original name of the male character, though.
Delacourt in Elysium, Played by Jodie Foster
Foster’s Delacourt proves women can be just as elitist as men when it comes to sharing snooty orbiting space real estate.
Jennifer Goines in 12 Monkeys, Played by Emily Hampshire
The Ghostbusters Reboot Gals
Erin Gilbert, Jillian Holtzmann, Patty Tolan, and Abby Yates, played by Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and Melissa McCarthy, respectfully.
The making of the new Ghostbusters with women in the lead roles caused quite a stir. Kristin Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones will not kill anyone’s childhood. They are comedy pros, and Paul Feig knows what he’s doing. There’s room for everyone in this world. It’s going to be fine. And probably awesome.