Hollywood is nothing if not an ‘invite only’ event that, unless you are a rebranded Coppola (Nicolas Cage et al.) or literal aristocracy (Guy Richie, I see you) you do not get an easy ride to. In the podcast ‘Happier in Hollywood’, writers Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain describe life in Los Angeles as a “chaotic, unpredictable, backbiting and war of attrition”, especially if you’re a woman. And it doesn’t stop there.
If as an actor you somehow ‘make it’, covered in lipstick and battle scars, to Hollywood, you also have to contend with constant pigeonholing. From Bette Midler to Margot Robbie, actors can spend their whole careers swimming upstream to avoid being cast as ‘the sexy one’, ‘the fat one’, ‘the black one’, ‘the gay one’. The list goes on and we can all think of some of our most talented heroines who have been roughly jammed into one category and never allowed to leave. This can be seen in painful clarity with the career of Judy Greer. Stuck in the ‘best friend’ role for years, Greer then made the mistake of ageing and turned 40. The very same year she was cast in three separate films as ‘the mum’ and has been stuck there ever since.
Though I think this makes an excellent case for us to march on the boulevard, once travel restrictions lift, I would like to celebrate one actor who has escaped this tyrannical fate. Who is seemingly able to seamlessly swim through these troubled waters, talented and tenacious enough to turn their hand to any role without being caught and neatly boxed. I give you Amy Adams.
In her first break-through role in Spielberg’s iconic Catch Me If You Can, you would be forgiven for assuming Amy Adams is just a pretty ditz – for that is the role she is playing and that is how she looked. Even in one of her other earlier roles as Princess Giselle in Enchanted, it seemed that Adams was indeed destined to play ‘pretty comedic roles’, the latest Katherine Heigl or Isla Fisher. However, therein lies her talent. Because Amy Adam can be and can look like anyone. Even in these roles, Adams is able to bring a sensitivity to characters that might otherwise seem vapid, a vulnerability that others would simply play up as naivety, that ensures that even in small roles, her characters are special.
This couldn’t have been truer for her incredible performance in Doubt, where Adams stepped up to play Sister James alongside some of the biggest heavy hitters in Hollywood; Meryl Streep, Philip Seymor Hoffman and Viola Davis. Adams proved her ability to hold her own amongst actors with careers longer than my Friday night Dominoes receipt – Hollywood sat up. Since then, Adams has been unstoppable playing everything and everyone. From innocent catholic in Doubt to cold cult leader in The Master and sexy con woman in American Hustle, Adams has earnt six Oscar nominations for her roles across drama, comedy and biopic. If you haven’t seen her in my favourites Nocturnal Animals and Arrival then I implore you to drop everything to do so!
Adams is undoubtable, an actor like no other, a talent that I feel is unmatched. Yet despite 134 award nominations and 37 wins, she has never won an Oscar. She has never received the recognition she deserves from Hollywood’s oldest institutions, despite her epic ability to do what every actor dreams of; truly being able to become anyone. In a world where Hollywood seeks to pigeonhole every female actor, I cannot help but wonder; is it Adam’s refusal to conform the reason behind this snub? And if so, I wonder, what is the future of an industry that doesn’t nurture and recognise the talents of its most accomplished members, simply because they do not fulfil an arbitrary standard designed in a bygone era?
Hollywood is still an exclusive party that you don’t get an invite to unless you are part of a dying dynasty (sorry Alec Baldwin) or high society (yes you Drew Barrymore). But in this new era, where we value actors for their ability to act, not just their ability to look a certain way, one has to ask; is it a party I still want to go to?
By Ella Spottiswood
Ella is a Freelance Director/Producer and the co-founder of Soldi Films. When she isn’t making, watching or talking about films, she is writing about them here!