The top 10 actresses you don’t know – but should

Saint Paul Pioneer Press
April 30, 2004, Friday

The top 10 actresses you don’t know _ but should

by By Chris Hewitt


Tilda Swinton is the best actress you’ve never heard of.

The Scottish Swinton, who earned raves for “Orlando” and
“Adaptation,” knows exactly why she isn’t a star: She can’t stomach
it. “Sometimes, these scripts come to you. You know the movies will
be made, you know they have the money to make them, you know they’ll
win Oscars, and you just can’t do them.”

For her, it’s an issue of taste (she says, “I was too
well-brought-up” to reveal titles). The movies Swinton’s interested
in making are not the kinds of movies 15 million Americans are
interested in ponying up 8 bucks for on opening weekend. In other
words, they’re nothing like the last several Angelina Jolie movies.

Other factors work against some actresses: Sandra Oh and Paula Jai
Parker get pigeonholed by an industry where women of color who aren’t
named Halle don’t sell tickets. Judy Greer’s ability to do comedy,
like Joan Cusack and Janeane Garofalo’s before her, may have typecast
her before audiences could even figure out who she is.

And, of course, all of these talented women are competing for a
limited number of roles. Although the movie audience is 60 percent
female, the percentage of female characters is much lower (of this
month’s 30 movies, only 11 feature prominent female roles). Swinton,
who generally appears in independent films such as the new “Young
Adam,” says “industrial scripts” from Hollywood reveal how
marginalized women are there.

“The leading man is always described as ‘ruggedly handsome,’ so
everyone from Tom Cruise to Dustin Hoffman can see themselves in the
role,” she says. “The script will say he’s just a ‘regular guy,’ but
at the same time, every single woman in the script _ mothers,
daughters, waitresses, all of whom are described as incredibly
beautiful _ will go weak in the knees the minute they set eyes on

Swinton believes Hollywood _ and, to a certain extent, Joe Moviegoer
_ isn’t sure what to do with women whose looks are unconventional by
Hollywood standards. Her character in “The Deep End,” for instance,
is a mother who goes to extraordinary lengths to protect her young
son, who she believes is guilty of murder. When the character is
described as “ferocious,” Swinton disagrees.

“I don’t think of her as that way at all. I don’t think any woman has
ever described the character that way. She does what a mother does,”
says Swinton. “But the male American critics all said she’s
ferocious, and I think that’s because she didn’t wear makeup and
doesn’t look gorgeous like women are supposed to in the movies.”

Maybe it’s the rough edges and surprising behavior that keep so many
fine actresses below Hollywood’s radar. Maybe if they were getting
hired for big roles in big movies, they wouldn’t be able to do what
they do best. That’s how Swinton sees it, and that’s why she says
she’s “very happy” right where she is.

“I would like to see more women on film, and, of course, I would
absolutely love to have a six-picture deal and be paid a lot of money
by Warner Brothers,” says Swinton. “But I’m not naive, and I’m not
willing to do that if it means leaving myself outside the door.”

She’s not the only one. Here are nine other actresses who _ so far,
at least _ are unwilling to check their unique talents at the door.


She’s prolific _ seven films in 2002 alone _ but if a big part of
what makes a star is a larger-than-life quality, then it’s no mystery
why Henderson remains virtually unknown. Her characters are exactly
life-sized. Moviegoers may know her face _ she was the title
character’s best friend in “Bridget Jones’s Diary” and Moaning Myrtle
in the second “Harry Potter” _ but they aren’t getting the full
picture. She’s a woman who seems to have become a good mother just to
spite her ex-husband in “Wonderland,” a drug-addicted tearstain of a
singer in “Topsy-Turvy” and an achingly vulnerable survivor of the
romantic wars in this year’s “Intermission.” Bruised and battered,
her prickly character spends all of “Intermission” being teased for a
mustache she’s told resembles either Burt Reynolds’ or Tom Selleck’s
(glamour is another Hollywood quality Henderson lacks). She only lets
down her defenses in the lyrical finale, in which Henderson reveals
the hurt beneath her bravado.

You’ve seen her in: “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”

You should see her in: “Intermission”


Her high-profile role as Jack Nicholson’s whiny daughter in “About
Schmidt” and the one-two punch of last year’s “American Splendor” and
“The Secret Lives of Dentists” _ both well-reviewed, underseen films
_ helped her line up four big movies in the next 19 months. In those
films, which include “Proof,” opposite Gwyneth Paltrow, and “The
Weatherman,” opposite Nicolas Cage, audiences will get a chance to
see how wry and down-to-earth Davis’ talent is. When she’s miscast,
as she was as the shrewish mom in “Hearts in Atlantis,” it’s as if
she’s wearing a straitjacket. But put her in the right part _ as the
beleaguered mom in “Dentists,” coping with three daughters, her
confused husband and her own malaise _ and Davis fills in the margins
with humor, determination and a weary sense of having seen and
learned too much.

You’ve seen her in: “About Schmidt”

You should see her in: “The Secret Lives of Dentists”


She almost got left off this list because “Dawn of the Dead” has
given her enough oomph to merit an Entertainment Weekly puff piece.
But even “Dawn” fans probably aren’t familiar with Polley’s best
work. A look at her resume makes it clear she’s attracted to
iconoclastic, personal films by directors with skewed visions. Not
exactly the stuff of big box office, but this former child star in
Canada (she was Ramona Quimby in the “Ramona” series that also aired
here) hasn’t made a false move since “The Sweet Hereafter” in 1997.
That movie established her ethereal, deceptively steely, presence.
Polley has excelled in small roles in surreal experiments (David
Cronenberg’s “eXistenZ”), large roles in riskier Hollywood comedies
(“Go”) and _ when a director is smart enough to cast her _ huge role
in dramas that reveal painful, complicated emotions (“My Life Without
Me,” where she’s a woman figuring out what she wants to do before she
dies of cancer).

You’ve seen her in: “Dawn of the Dead”

You should see her in: “My Life Without Me”


Being married to a great director may hurt Khanjian’s career more
than it helps. Yeah, she gets to be in all of Atom Egoyan’s features,
but that’s practically all she’s been in. Do people assume she’s busy
working on his films? Or don’t the other movies she is offered
measure up? The Canadian-Armenian Khanjian has intriguing roles in
the French films “Late August, Early September,” “Irma Vep” and “Fat
Girl,” but her fierce intelligence is best showcased in Egoyan’s
films. Check out “Felicia’s Journey,” where she wittily hinted at the
dark side of being a domestic goddess long before Martha Stewart’s
downfall. And “The Sweet Hereafter,” where she plays a mother,
grieving for a child killed in a bus accident, who challenges the
platitudes of a lawyer urging her to file suit against the bus
company. Alone among that film’s mournful characters, she recognizes
immediately that finding someone to blame will bring her no comfort.

You’ve seen her in: “The Sweet Hereafter”

You should see her in: “Felicia’s Journey”


It always gives me a little lift to see Parker’s name in the credits
because I know that, even if the movie stinks, she’s going to do
something fresh and surprising. And, by the way, virtually all of the
movies she’s in do stink _ she’s at her most inventive in otherwise
worthless comedies such as “Sprung” or “My Baby’s Daddy.” As a black
woman, she’s in a double minority, movie-wise, which means she’s
competing with a very talented group of actresses for a limited
number of roles. She doesn’t end up with the best roles, but she can
make even the cliched role of a saucy hooker in “Phone Booth” seem
vivid and funny by attacking it like a dog devouring a bone. Humor
and perseverance are her weapons, and there isn’t an actress with
more energy in the movies today.

You’ve seen her in: “Friday”

You should see her in: “My Baby’s Daddy”


Wry, straightforward Oh made a bewitching debut as a young woman
rebelling against the Chinese traditions of her uptight family in
1994’s “Double Happiness,” and she hasn’t had a well-rounded role
since. It’s a common malady for actresses who make big, early
splashes: “Welcome to the movies, and don’t slam the door on your way
out.” Oh has taken what she could find, including providing what
humor and class she could to the wretched HBO series, “Arliss,” and
small roles in “The Princess Diaries” and “Under the Tuscan Sun”
(where she was Diane Lane’s wise-cracking pal), but here’s hoping
marrying Alexander Payne, who wrote and directed “About Schmidt,”
will lead to better roles. Anyway, she’s in Payne’s next film,

You’ve seen her in: “Under the Tuscan Sun”

You should see her in: “Double Happiness”


I’ve seen Huppert in at least 40 films, and I still can’t get a bead
on her. Her characters usually have secrets _ whether it’s the
privately tormented title role in “The Piano Teacher,” the homicidal
mom in “Merci pour le Chocolat” or the prim nag in “8 Women” _ and
they’re almost always upper-class, maybe because Huppert’s slightly
turned-up nose and delicate features have a patrician air. France’s
top actress for more than two decades, Huppert wouldn’t have to take
chances at this point in her career, but she’s drawn to dark stories
that explore the extremes of emotional behavior. And her gift goes
deeper than simply protecting her characters’ secrets; by artfully
revealing and withholding information, Huppert shows us the secrets
the characters keep from themselves.

You’ve seen her in: “Heaven’s Gate”

You should see her in: “The Piano Teacher”


A native of London, although she has a flawless American accent,
Mortimer belongs in the women’s role hall of fame for her work in
“Lovely and Amazing,” in which she played a woman who has gravitated
to a job guaranteed to make her feel rotten about herself: acting. In
a breathtaking scene in which she strips and demands that her
boyfriend tell her everything that’s “wrong” with her body, Mortimer
shows a woman coming to terms with herself. That character has formed
a template for Mortimer. In the upcoming “Bright Young Things,” where
she’s a British party girl who’s tired of martinis and cocktail
dresses, and in the musical version of “Love’s Labours Lost,” where
her charming voice doesn’t seem to match her uncertain footwork, she
seems intent on reminding us that not being sure of ourselves is a
fact of life.

You’ve seen her in: “Scream 3”

You should see her in: “Lovely and Amazing”


The go-to person for Joan Cusack roles that Joan Cusack doesn’t want
to do, Greer has made a nice little career out of playing the ditzy,
slightly pathetic sidekick. She’s made 20 movies in the past six
years, playing that part in virtually all of them, most memorably as
the suicidal woman who helped Mel Gibson figure out “What Women
Want.” Hollywood often slots funny women into that Eve Arden/Joan
Cusack/Janeane Garofalo role, but her career is taking a turn for the
better. In the current “13 Going on 30,” she’s still the best friend,
but a hilariously mean one. And the current “Hebrew Hammer” is no
classic, but it lets Greer play something higher-profile films
haven’t: a romantic lead, a film noir-like mystery woman who is
complicated enough to be sexy, confused and _ yes _ funny, too. Greer
has a bunch of stuff lined up, including the next film by Cameron
Crowe (“Elizabethtown”), who has a history of finding interesting
ways to use the talents of offbeat actresses such as Lili Taylor and
Frances McDormand.

You’ve seen her in: “What Women Want”

You should see her in: “The Hebrew Hammer”


Chris Hewitt: [email protected]

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS