In Praise Of The Atypical Female Lead

charlize theron mad max

Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road

It’s still challenging to be cast as an atypical female lead in Hollywood. Female leads comprised 12% of the top grossing films of 2014, but with the help of directors and actors, times are gradually changing. Female actors are getting roles traditionally meant for men (see: Emily Blunt in Sicario), and leading a charge of more exciting roles for both genders.

Mad Max: Fury Road, Jennifer Lawrence’s Hunger Games trilogy and Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck are pushing the limits of traditional gender expectations in film. The result has been strong films that are entertaining and financially successful, which is great news for actors and audiences alike.

Female stars deliver

Time and time again, brilliantly cast female actors have proven they deserve more credit for filling theatre seats. The Mad Max reboot topped $300 million, with Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy sharing top billing for the action flick. What sets these films apart from other lady lead films (think the latest Cinderella reboot), is these women were in control of their lives, which is still considered atypical in mainstream Hollywood film.

When put to the test, Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa delivers just as much firepower as Mad Max, Amy Schumer was brilliantly funny in Trainwreck and Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen won The Hunger Games. Filmgoers didn’t care that the hard warrior or comedian was a woman, only that she made the feature more interesting on screen. These female stars were cast on the basis of their talent, and not their outfit, which is an encouraging step forward.

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Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games


Keep Hollywood going in the right direction

As actors, there are many ways to ensure a dynamic range of characters in film and TV. Look out for strong female roles, and audition for as many of them as possible. If you aren’t seeing the roles you want, take a page from Brit Marling’s playbook and write them yourself, or work with a writer to create a role for you to perform.

The thing about dynamic gender roles in film is that they benefit everyone. Offering creative characters to males, female and other gender identities create a new opportunity for unique films and compelling storytelling. Instead of seeing yet another renewed franchise, these new stories offer the chance to bring us back to the magic of moviemaking, offering potential for surprise and wonder once again.

As an actor, you can encourage the creation and develop of dynamic characters whenever possible. On your own, one option is starting your own web series. Even if you’re not a woman, being a male actor that shares the goal of creating interesting characters for everyone is a much needed influence. It’s all about making movies more fun to watch!

Are you in?

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