Seven Actresses Not Afraid To Pick Incredibly Challenging Roles

I cannot imagine how tough it would be to try and attempt to be a successful and respected actress in Hollywood. Not only because I am a man and it would be physically impossible for me, but also because of the difference in gender roles in Hollywood. The roles that will be asked of you if you are a woman will often require nudity and dehumanization.

You will often be paid less to do roles that, in every way, would be more demanding than what is expected from your male counterparts and co-stars. And on top of it, you can change the world and make truly amazing films as a woman, and magazines like Maxim will still (and media always will) reduce you to little more than an object. Hell, I try and even I’m not above it, sometimes.

But there is no denying that some actresses go above and beyond and take roles most people, male OR female, would be broken by. Here are a few actresses who never fail to raise the bar on what can be delivered in a performance, and, at the same time, blow my mind for how far some people are willing to go for the sake of art.

Meryl Streep

When I was young, I had no scope for just what actors or actresses were doing. Ultimately, they’re playing pretend, just like we all did when we were kids. But does anyone have the bravery required to go to the places Meryl Streep has gone, time and time again?

No one does an up close celebrity shot quite like Martin Schoeller. Trust me, Google him.

Just think about the dilemma she gets faced with in the movie Sophie’s Choice. I would say SPOILER ALERT, but the truth is, if you need spoiler tags for a film that is thirty years old, you should probably be catching up on your classic cinema instead of reading about it.

Sophie’s Choice is boils down to her character being asked which one of her two kids she would choose to be killed in the gas chamber during World War 2. Yeah, a real family friendly film. People will want to comment and say her choice was which child LIVED, but when you have two kids, it is the same question.

It is like that game show, Deal or No Deal. Except there is no money.  And they kill one of your kids. So it is nothing like that show, actually.

And that was me just plucking one film from her history. Meryl Streep has so many roles that are breathtaking (Silkwood, The Deer Hunter, Kramer vs. Kramer) I felt I had to mention her here because I know that most of the younger generation who reads this site only knows her from The Devil Wears Prada. And to only know Meryl Streep from The Devil Wears Prada is to not know Meryl Streep.

She is an actress famous truly embedding herself in her performances (think method acting on par with Daniel Day Lewis) so think what she had to do to make herself endure these roles. And the crazy thing is, Meryl Streep has been doing this, good and consistently, for thirty plus years. How amazing is that?

Monica Bellucci 

In beauty, most woman can rest enough knowing they will sway men and alter moods just by walking in a room. But Monica Belluci clearly wasn’t comfortable resting on that fact alone. While she did rise to fame as an Italian supermodel (and justfiably so), she wanted to take it further and start acting. But Belluci didn’t do what most would have, which is jumped right in to making romantic comedies. No, Monica has followed a very different ideal than that when choosing her films.

This picture’s very existence proves my theory about the objectification of strong actresses in Hollywood.

While I can list quite a few roles she has stood out in(not enough of you guys appreciated the embraced insanity of Shoot ‘Em Up with Clive Owen), we all know she is here because of the movie Irreversible. A movie so brutal, that the end result is that is oft misunderstood. Irreversible is about a day in the life of a couple, as told in reverse. When I say a day in the life, please know, it is a day in the life that you would not wish upon your worst enemy.

Though I recommend the film to few for its unflinching glimpse into the hopelessness that permeates daily life, Monica Bellucci is undeniably staggering in the film.

So people who have seen Irreversible are thinking one thing right now: So you think she is brave for doing a nine minute rape scene? Yes. Yes, I do.

I think rape is a facet of life, maybe the worst aspect, actually, and we all know that it exists. But I feel like we dance around it would rather pretend it doesn’t, which is an understandable coping technique. But as far as actresses, or anyone in general, I feel only the bravest and strongest woman are willing to “go there”. See Jodie Foster in The Accused, for example. When you see a face, and you see a victim, I think  it makes it more real. And again, I don’t think you would find many modern actresses who were willing to do this role.

The red alleyway scene will ruin you, though. Make no mistakes.

Like I said, I recommend this movie to very few people. But everyone who does see it seem to walk away from it feeling like this woman truly got destroyed, mentally and physically. And it sickens us as viewers, as it should. I watched it and had to remind myself: Remy, she is acting . It’s like I wanted to tweet her after watching the film and see if she was OK, even though I knew she was. Now that’s powerful acting.

Naomi Watts

If you were to sit down and watch all of Naomi Watt’s movies consecutively, in a row, at the end of that period, you would feel suicidal. But if anything, that stands as a testimony to just how demanding the roles she picks are, and to the same extent, makes us wonder how her film choices haven’t caused all her hair to turn gray yet.

In pics like this, I always imagine something amazing is happening off frame. Here, I imagine it’s a monkey fight.

I could sit here and list all the films Watts has done that have been emotionally intense (21 Grams, Mulholland Drive, Stay) but I want to focus on one performance from one film in particular. As much as I never tell people to see movie remakes (especially when foreign films are made into American films, as was the case here) but Naomi Watts delivers a performance in the movie Funny Games (along with Tim Roth) that induces chills. And every point, you can feel this woman’s suffering. And it sticks with you.

It never gets gory, it never has an ‘action scene’ or a ‘kill scene’, but  Funny Games stays with you, forever.

Most of you guys probably don’t know it, and how could you, but it was Funny Games that got me the job at Unreality.  And now I think: HOW? I look at that article now and I see it as damn-near unreadable (format wise), so I thank all of you who actually read it. And again, Paul for taking the shot (and taking my advice and watching this film, which, in his own word, made him angry) But confession time: I saw this American version of Funny Games long before I saw the original.

I only watched the original because of how floored I was by this version. It actually matters little because both are frame for frame, word for word, and by the same director ( this may seem strange, but the satire was aimed at American audience’s obsession with violence) And it was Watts who really sold the movie to me. Seeing Mullholland Drive and 21 Grams also drove home the point to me that Naomi Watts seemed to be willing to go where very few woman (or anyone, for that matter) would dare tread.

First rule about this scene from Mulholland Drive is that we don’t talk about this scene.

Naomi Watts is the only character I can ever remember actually feeling genuine fear and sadness for in a horror film. What she goes through is insane, and the fact that the whole time you believe, it only shows you how amazing and brave of an actress she truly is.


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