In Sandra Bullock’s upcoming film, Our Brand Is Crisis, she plays a ballsy political strategist, leading a campaign against her foe, played by Billy Bob Thornton.
She’s revealed the role was originally meant for a man. Unfortunately, men usually get stronger characters with more depth in blockbuster films. But female actresses cast in roles meant for men can use that as an asset and, hopefully, that will encourage more complex roles to be written for women.
Women landing roles meant for men isn’t as uncommon as you’d think. We’re listing seven films with roles meant for males that went to actresses.
Angelina Jolie in Salt
This action-packed blockbuster starring Angelina Jolie was actually never meant to star a leading lady. The screenplay was given a major overhaul when Tom Cruise dropped out of the film. The original script was written with Edwin Salt, a super spy and dutiful dad, as the lead character. After Cruise dropped out, the film turned into a movie about a childless female super spy, Evelyn Salt. Who better to embody such a badass than Angelina Jolie?
Jodie Foster in Flightplan
Jodie Foster’s 2005 thriller about a mother whose daughter goes missing during a flight was originally planned for a male lead. Filmmakers say they did one shot with a male actor, and were reportedly in talks with Sean Penn for the role, but the story just didn’t feel right. The film’s director believed that the bond between a mother and a missing daughter would feel more authentic. While the character of Kyle changed genders, filmmakers still kept the name for Foster’s portrayal.
Sigourney Weaver in Alien
Alien director Ridley Scott made what seemed like a simple change to his main character by forgoing his plan to have a male lead and casting Sigourney Weaver instead. As Ellen Ripley, Weaver became synonymous with badass feminist action heroes in the horror film genre. Ripley, a character that didn’t really change much in the screenplay after Weaver was cast, helped lead the way for future generations of strong female characters.
Sandra Bullock in Our Brand Is Crisis
Sandra Bullock stars in the upcoming film Our Brand Is Crisis, but the role was written for its producer, George Clooney. It was reportedly Sandra Bullock who approached Clooney to recommend a gender role reversal because she wasn’t interested in any films offered to her. Clooney’s said in the past that to fix Hollywood’s shortage of great female lead films, the roles need to be reversed, so it’s great to see he practices what he preaches. It seems to have worked out well, with Variety saying Bullock’s role is one of the best female characters in the past decade.
Viola Davis in Ender’s Game
Viola Davis’ character, Major Anderson, appears in the novel as a man. Filmmakers decided that Major Anderson could be a woman in the film adaptation because a woman could be just as rough, tough and powerful as a man. Oscar nominee Viola Davis is just that.
Lucy Liu in Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever
Lucy Liu is no stranger to playing roles traditionally meat for men (i.e. her role as Watson on the Sherlock Holmes adaptation Elementary) nor is she a stranger to the action film genre (Kill Bill, anyone?). It was her role as Sever in the 2002 action film Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever that started her down the role reversal path. Her co-star, Antonio Banderas, suggested Liu as his counterpart lead and the film’s director agreed, thinking a female lead over a male lead would create more conflict between the lead foes.
Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday
This classic flick is based on the play The Front Page, about two male reporters. The fast-paced film adaptation featured a major change: a female lead who was once married to the main male character. Rosalind Russell’s character kept the original name from the play, Hildy Johnson. Nowadays, we’re amazed by gender role reversals, so think about how groundbreaking this was back in the 1940s. Without Rosalind’s role in a cinematic classic, this list may not have existed.