Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Screw You It Can be Done: Casting a Female Expendables

After news this week that a production company was looking to bankroll a female Expendables film the usual blogs started up discussion. Is it actually viable, would it have the star power to work? And who would we actually cast? The idea itself seemed to be met with incredulity, as though it were highly improbable that a cast of capable and appropriate women could be found, despite a reception that seemed to indicate that such a thing would find an audience. Even walking out of a showing of the Expendables 2 with a pair of my male friends when I broached the topic I got similar responses. They seemed to only remember the few females in action roles in 2012 and doubted a cast could be cobbled together. I like a challenge.

The premise of The Expendables was to throw together some aging/aged action superstars as mercenaries for hire, toss in some intrigue, add copious gunfire and explosion and a pinch or two of the wantonly ridiculous. Mix well with some jokes about their personal lives and previous roles and bake over an explosion while the Chef walks away without looking back and you've got yourself a nostalgic masterpiece you can shut your brain off and enjoy. Theoretically anyway.

The Expendables banks on nostalgia for films most of the readers of this blog/listeners of this podcasts are too young to have enjoyed without our parents introducing us to the franchises or catching a cable-TV neutered version of the originals. Speaking for myself, I do recognize most of the cast of the two films as big action heroes from the time I was a toddler. Sylvester Stallone, the co-writer, producer and Star has both the Rocky and Rambo franchises to his name, Arnold Schwarzenegger starred in Terminator, Conan and Jingle All the Way, Bruce Willis is known for Die Hard, recent old people action spy film RED, as well as acting, Jean Claude Van Damme played Guile once, Stone Cold Steve Austin was a professional wrestler AND THAT'S THE BOTTOM LINE, Dolph Lundgren was once He-Man, Mickey Rourke has acted a time or two, Eric Roberts has fed on sister Julia's table scraps and Jet Li was one of a few Chinese action stars to cross over to the US in the shadow of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, Chuck Norris has an action past, but is known to US largely for a TV series where he played a Texas Ranger and as an Internet joke. The cast is rounded out by an MMA fighter in Randy Couture, a former athlete turned sitcom Dad in Terry Crews (following in the footsteps of many athlete turned actors) and the only currently working action Everyman in The Statham.

Obviously, due to the rules of the game there aren't very many female action heroes who have held their own in multiple franchises. Most want to avoid the typecasting of their male counterparts or being lost along the way after they cease to fit perfectly into a catsuit. For a time we were in an alarming place where an increasingly waifish Angelina Jolie got what seemed like every desirable action role, and thankfully we're moving away from that though Zoe Saldana is fighting hard to take her place.

For this particular list I will be ignoring people with only one action role, especially if it is not a leading role, so you won't see Scarlet Johansson, Anne Hathaway or Chloe Moretz (whom I adore watching but is entirely too young for this sort of thing) below this sentence. The commentary in italics is from my co-contributor, @Inyrules

Our female heroes would have to be no nonsense, badass and able to take care of shit for themselves without need for rescue by some dude. As it stands we should begin at what ought to be the beginning, the blaxploitation era heroine, Pam Grier. If you don't recognize her name or face, get familiar with Foxy Brown or Quentin Tarantino's sendup Jackie Brown. This should be a no-brainer as it's a part of my very own screen name.

For mainstream audiences, Sigourney Weaver, playing Ellen Ripley took on and owned the first true action heroine in the Alien franchise. (Hilariously enough the tough chick died, leaving the more feminine Ripley to grow into the heroine.)
Legend Tier, she was one of the pioneers of the strong, capable, and resourceful female action hero. Notable movies: The Alien Series, Ghost Busters, Avatar.

Current actresses with their own franchises who cannot be ignored are Milla Jovovich in Resident Evil and Kate Beckinsale in Underworld. We know they have big enough names to draw audiences as each franchise has surpassed 4 films.

Arguably THE current female action hero thanks to the Resident Evil Franchise. Notable movies other than RE: The Fifth Element, Ultraviolet, The Messenger.

Star of the Underworld Franchise. They’re not great, but people keep watching, and they keep producing. Other notables: Upcoming Total Recall remake.

Linda Hamilton played Sarah Connor, holding her own alongside Arnold's Terminator in protection of her son John, savior of the Future. The character and her portrayal are so iconic that in Fox's attempt to green light action franchises only to doom them on Fridays they ran Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.
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Another list makes mention of Brigitte Nelson's past as Red Sonja, and while that is interesting and certainly harkens to The Expendables' motif of washed up action stars, Flavor Flav has pretty much tainted that for me.

For Seven seasons Buffy the Vampire Slayer frequently raked in 4-6 million viewers per episode, was a critical darling, cemented Joss Whedon's career, and held it down for The WB (now CW). It was popular enough to be serialized in comic book form after ending and is in talks to have the initial film rebooted, albeit without the creator's blessing. The show is consistently ranked as one of the greatest shows of all time and Sarah Michelle Gellar is one of a few incredible reasons why. Despite being one of many of Joss Whedon's small, thin, heroines who have no business beating up much larger and in this case supernatural creatures. Gellar delivered the witty lines with natural aplomb and whupped more than her fair share of ass for someone who got her start on All My Children.
She’s Buffy.

Just as we can't have this conversation without Beckinsale, Jolie, or Jovovich, we can't exclude Michelle Rodriguez even though she hasn't had a leading role since 2000's Girlfight.  Michelle's eyes speak volumes as to how precisely she will murder whoever stands in her path, and despite her characters' penchant for death, she doles out copious amounts of ass-kicking on her way out.
For obvious reasons, she needs to be a main character in this film. Since the 2000 movie Girl Fight, Michelle has been a staple of the “tough chick” cast. Notable movies: The Fast and the Furious, Resident Evil, Avatar, Battle: Los Angeles

Gina Carrano is a newcomer to the field, but being as she's an MMA fighter I'm going to give her the Randy Couture slide in. In Haywire's opening scene she beat the shit out of Channing Tatum in a pre-21 Jump Street World, and that was really all I could ask for.

The following 3 selections might be low hanging fruit, but ask me if I care. (Spoiler: I don't). Maggie Q, who I first noticed in Live Free or Die Hard (because I'm blind or something), but she's also had roles in Mission Impossible 3 and plays the lead in the reboot of La Femme Nikita, simply known as Nikita.

And now two in one because I can. They both starred in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and for a movie with a budget of $15million and originating in Chinese, it took in over $128 million dollars in the US alone.  Zhang Ziyi and Michelle Yeoh.  Michelle is the more experienced of the two and probably should take the nod, but I fear it's Ziyi that audiences may be more familiar with.

Lucy Liu kind of frightened us as O-Ren Ishii in Kill Bill Vol. 1, and arguably had the best backstory of Bill's minions. She was also involved in Charlie's Angels, which like The Expendables was a mindless, explodey action flick that banked heavily on nostalgia.  She will also feature in The Man with the Iron Fists, directed by The RZA and written by Eli Roth.  She also starred in Ecks vs. Sever which HOLY FUCK that existed.

This is the one you were expecting to read, the other no-brainer, the one that's burned into the brains of 90's kids, Lucy Lawless.  As Xena she flossed Leather Armor, fought with a Chakram (a weapon I'd never seen in my life) and had the yell of death. Sure the show very often didn't have a brain, but she gutted so many people it didn't need to have one.  I would love to see her in a villain role here.
She’s Xena. Other notable series: Spartacus, Battlestar Galactica
Embedding Disabled here too

PS. Sigh. Because of the above, I don't really want to discuss Angelina Jolie, but you can't deny that she has been doing it for blockbuster action films when no one else could quite fit her ridiculously skinny pants. Mr & Mrs. Smith, Salt, Tomb Raider, Wanted, etc.
Angelina oozes sexy woman who can kill you just as quick as she’ll have sex with you, but when she’s not adopting random kids from third-world countries. Notable movies: Tomb Raider, Wanted, Salt, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Gone in Sixty Seconds.

There are many more I could mention, Uma Thurman, Up and Comer Noomi Rapace from the Original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, Prometheus, the Iron Man plays Sherlock Holmes Sequel and soon to be many more, Jessica Alba (<--I don't want to see this one, but it's likely to happen).

We also posited as to why there aren't many more women in leading roles in action films. My gut tells me it's the studios underestimating audiences. In the past by some insane metric we didn't support those films enough, so now they believe male audiences won't see an action flick (primarily a man's genre) starring a lady and that for female audiences, Romantic Comedies are all the action we need. There's also an alleged lack of leading women willing to turn up film after film for the exact same character, but Jovovich, and Beckinsale prove that theory wrong. And audiences continue to show up despite the suspect quality of each series.

In short: I write too much, and screw you if you think there aren't enough famous ladies around to fill the old worn out dilapidated icy-hot ass needing shoes of the Expendables.

~Drops mic~

Bonus Trailer for The Man with the Iron Fists


Anonymous said...

Glad you did not include the woman who dooms shows, Summer Glau.

Ashley said...

You already know you forgot her, but GINA TORRES!!!!

Mrs.RZ said...

I'm glad that you included Michelle Rodriguez. I really liked her in LOST and wish she didn't die.

Anonymous said...

It schould definitely include Richie McBeefy, he is a pussy afterall so it would totally fit

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