Last year, when Jessica Chastain accepted an award at the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, she told Elle that she’s in the process of scouring scripts for male roles that could be converted to female. “I think it’s an interesting idea because there are so many films written for and about men,” she said. “There are hundreds and hundreds of scripts yet to be produced that are just sitting there. Maybe we should go back and look at those scripts and say, ‘Which of these characters can we actually change to a female?'”
This idea is becoming more popular in Hollywood recently as actresses are fed up playing wives and mothers on the sidelines. They are seeking out ways to gender swap roles to make films more complex.
Just before Our Brand Is Crisis was released, there was drama that Sandra Bullock nabbed the role originally intended for George Clooney. It’s a history in the film industry where women are pulling the rug out from under their male counterparts.
Salt was originally intended for Tom Cruise. CIA agent Edwin Salt became Evelyn Salt and the entire script was restructured for Angelina Jolie. Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura told the LA Times, “When you look at it from a dispassionate business point of view, it’s a better way to do the genre. With Mission [Impossible] and Bourne and Bond, you’re going to be the fourth spy guy. We thought, ‘Let’s be the first spy girl.'”
Deadline recently reported that Charlize Theron was to come aboard the adaptation of the novel The Gray Man. The role was developed with Brad Pitt in mind but Mad Max: Fury Road action-star Theron may make for a CIA op-turned assassin.
In the 994 comedy The Paper, Glenn Close plays a managing editor who is the nemesis of Michael Keaton’s metro editor. The role was initially written for a man, but writer Stephen Koepp said in an interview, “We did some polishing of the script after Glenn was hired, but essentially it’s the same character. The character is an archetype—the bean-counter who keeps the pens and pencils in a vault.”
Judd Apatow’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin switched the role of the store manager from male to female. Jane Lynch was cast as Paula after Steve Carell’s wife suggested the cast needed another woman in the movie. Lynch said, “Well why not? I audition for guy’s stuff a lot, for authoritarian characters. They’ll say, ‘Oh, throw some women into the mix, and every once in a while I’ll get one.”
In the original script for last year’s Interstellar, Christopher Nolan wrote the character of Matthew McConaughey’s child, Murph, as a boy. However, he told Dazed that as the story progressed, he changed his mind. “Maybe because my eldest child is a girl, I decided to change Murph into a girl.”
“I found that came very naturally to me, writing that relationship between a father and a daughter.”
Director Robert Schwentke’s first choice for the star of the 2005 thriller Flightplan was Sean Penn. However, the role was rewritten for Jodie Foster to highlight the maternal instinct of the character, Kyle. In an interview with BBC, Foster said, “I was just looking for things that were going. When I approached them and thought it was perfect to flip the gender, coincidentally the producers felt the same thing.”
In Our Brand Is Crisis, Sandra Bullock plays the role originally intended for the producer, George Clooney. “I put my blinders on and blazed forward. Sometimes you get a no. But I expect the no,” the actress told Glamour. “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.'” Very little was changed in the script to accommodate her playing Jane Bodine. “You just change the sex; that was pretty much it,” she said. “She’s human.”
1979 Alien was one of the most famous gender swaps in Hollywood history. Director Ridley Scott explained to Empire, “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.”
Sigourney Weaver added, “Ripley is much bigger than what I brought to it. She is an iconic person. But I’m grateful to her. Who knows if I would even have had a career without her?”