I, for one, have always been a big fan of movies with a female lead, be it Scarlett Johannson donning her costume for the formidable Black Widow in the MCU or be it J-Law being absolutely herself in any of her portrayals – Tiffany in ‘Silver Linings Playbook’, Joy Mangano in ‘Joy’ or Katniss Everdeen in ‘The Hunger Games’ or be it Meryl Streep who is often regarded as the epitome of performance arts of modern times, and who has always stood tall amongst all the actors in the otherwise male-dominated industry. While there are umpteen comparisons made on “which actor could possibly replace who” in movies nowadays, we often fail to look at the other side of the coin, which is, what if the male leads are replaced with female leads altogether?
While some naysayers may call it out as a disaster, it might still bring upon an unprecedented likeness for the otherwise stale movie roles, which is a good start. We bring to you a list of such movies and their leading roles which should’ve been offered to and played by a female actor instead, although, it didn’t happen and somehow we are forced to live with the “history” that’s been already created. Alas, we cannot change what’s out there in the open, but a lot is always left to our imagination. Protagonist or antagonist alike, some of such roles have forever been etched in our memories based on these so-called gender stereotypes. We’ve tried our best to think of an alternative to such stereotypes, and that’s about it.
And by the means of this list, we mean no disrespect or disregard to what have been unequivocally some of the greatest roles of the century. So, behold and brace yourself to make sure you don’t fall off your chair.
12. Sherlock Holmes in and as Sherlock Holmes (2009)
From industrial-era England to modern England, and from Robert Downey Jr. to Benedict Cumberbatch, we have cherished the role of Sherlock Holmes, the private investigator, as a male-dominated one. After the advent and popularity of the likes of Jessica Jones, there’s a strong need to rely on the female leads to portray such cherished super-spies; female personas are naturally wired to be spies and investigators. Questions, Sherlock?
11. James Bond in Casino Royale (2006)
Although it is clear that James Bond had always been, from the beginning of time, the symbol of ingenuity, valour, marksmanship, and patriotism combined in one person, it is his quivering discontent with his superiors (notably M) and his sense of humour that often takes away the prize, along with his deeply envied masculinity. After Pierce Brosnan’s stint into the modern-day spy-soldier, filmmakers should’ve thought of a female lead instead of a male actor and ultimately giving it to Daniel Craig (who was beyond awesome by the way and no offense intended), given the rising clout of powerful female-roles we’ve been seeing these days (‘Tomb Raider’, for example). Though there may be a lot of ifs and buts and there may be a lot of initial disdain for casting a female lead for the popular role, things do settle ultimately (as did with the casting of Ben Affleck for the role of Batman or Michael Gambon for the role of Albus Dumbledore). It is high time a female lead with a chaste British accent is given the “license to kill”, rather than them playing mere “objects” of indulgence for the “manly” James Bond in the franchise.
10. Thor (2011) in the Marvel’s Cinematic Universe
It is no secret anymore that Jane Foster, Thor’s love interest in the superhero’s movies so far, has been deemed “worthy” of the Mjolnir as the Thor as we know him is no longer able to wield the mighty hammer anymore (thanks to the formidable antagonist and Thor’s sister, Hela). Based on several comic versions, including Earth-616 by Marvel, Jane Foster assumes the identity of Thor. Though it would be interesting to see Jane’s character development for the new role in the upcoming comics or movies as appropriate, it would be definitely hair-raising to see Natalie Portman don Thor’s costume and kick some serious ass of the MCU villains while wielding the mighty and forever-missed Mjolnir. Fingers crossed. Perhaps this is the right moment to say, “Oh, my Goddess!”.
9. Black Panther (2018) in the Marvel’s Cinematic Universe
I know that Captain Marvel a.k.a. Carol Danvers is just around the corner and is being played by Brie Larson for the big screen (oops, spoiler alert!), but we’ve recently gone through a phenomenon that was ‘Black Panther’. Speaking of my personal “view” on the highly “acclaimed” superhero movie, as all the origin movies go, ‘Black Panther’ was a bit of a drag in its first half and focuses on establishing its characters. After the arrival of the antagonist on-screen, things get slightly better. Almost certainly, from an ethnic point of view, ‘Black Panther’ is the best effort of the MCU, but speaking of the movie as a whole, considering all its pros and cons, I’d still rate it lower than a bunch of other movies including the likes of ‘Captain America: Civil War’, ‘Ant-Man’, ‘Doctor Strange’ etc.
All said and done, after Black Panther’s first appearance in ‘Captain America: Civil War’, followed by a solo movie this year, the character gives a feeling of ‘Catwoman’ of sorts in its all-suited appearance and one cannot differentiate by Black Panther’s demeanour and external appearance on whether it is a “he or a she”. If you ask me, it wouldn’t have made much of a difference if the role is played by either a male or a female actor, as long as the storyline holds enough water.
8. Chris Gardner in The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
Okay, I know that it is a biographical film and the scope for an alternative “wishful” imagination would be meagre, but hey, picture this – a single, homeless mom, struggling her way out of the male-dominated society by selling weird bone-density scanners while trying to support her kid’s education and pursuing her higher dreams of becoming a high-profile stockbroker, and the story goes on. Sounds way too better and striving right? I am sure real-life Chris Gardner would’ve himself agreed with the idea of casting a female actor to step into his shoes and doing that would’ve made the movie even the more inspiring and deeply moving. What do you think?
7. Patrick Bateman in American Psycho (2000)
Christian Bale’s Patrick Bateman was touted as a tribute to Norman Bates of the slasher-thriller ‘Psycho (1960)’ by filmmaker extraordinaire Alfred Hitchcock. Bateman, an affluent investment banker is also suffering from bi-polar and multiple-personality disorders, as soon he gets himself on a killing spree, thus eliminating many of his colleagues, in brutal and gory ways of murdering them. Given the strength of the character and the eerie thrill that is built up prior to all the crimes, it would make all the more sense to have a female lead play the titular role, in a bone-chilling, ‘Gone Girl’ kind-of a manner.
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6. John McClane in Die Hard (1988)
Another flagship movie on which Bruce Willis’ entire career was based and built on, ‘Die Hard’ could’ve been easily and brilliantly led by a female lead. Though we have seen many movies with a badass, undying male protagonist who cannot take no for an answer and won’t die come what may, we’re still looking forward to such instances with female actors in the lead. ‘Die Hard’ could’ve set one such example of movies with tough, and mentally strong yet slightly edgy female protagonists who can turn the world upside down with their formidable demeanour, like we have seen in ‘The Edge of Tomorrow (2014)’ or ‘Zero Dark Thirty (2012)’ or the ‘Kill Bill’ franchise.
5. Jake Sully in Avatar (2009)
Even to this day, many consider ‘Avatar’ as an animated film as most of it consists of special effects and motion-captures. Regardless, the role of Jake Sully, a cripple marine, who turns out to be the nemesis of his own kind on Pandora, is only as strong as his character (with his Na’vi version being only a near-animate enlarged, blue alien version of his own). As with other Na’vi characters, including and especially Neytiri, who turns out to be the decisive figures in winning the battle against the invading humans and given the ethnic upper-hand of females in the Omaticaya clans, it was only logical to cast a female lead for the film. And moreover, we have seen many female actors play US Marines on-screen, so that should be a myth-buster for the “gentler” and “softer” perceived notions played by female actors of the industry.
4. Harry Potter in the Harry Potter Franchise (2001-2011)
Frankly, when I started watching the Harry Potter films and reading J.K. Rowling’s novels for the first time, I was of the strong opinion as to why isn’t the movie called ‘Hermione Granger and the Sorcerer’s Stone’. And so on. Perhaps this was one of the classic examples of a movie franchise which had a male actor as a lead (and the same goes for the book) to garner popularity and dollars and nothing else. One of the reasons why Joanne Kathleen Rowling used the pen-name J.K. Rowling was because she was wary of the fact that young kids (especially boys) may not be very interested in a book written by a woman, with a female lead in it, and hence used a male-like name instead, with her initials. Yes, you read that right. Hermione Granger has more often than not, proven her mettle across all the movies of the franchise and had an upper hand, all the freaking time, over everybody else, protagonists and antagonists alike. Might as well, she must have had the movies named after her, if not for the “becoming famous” gimmick.
3. Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings Franchise (2001-2003)
It doesn’t really matter to me or anyone else as to who puts the ring in the Fire of Mount Doom if the only purpose that remains was to destroy it. And given the timid and weakling hobbits’ quest to destroy the ring, might as well cast a female actor instead of a male actor, for the outcome, the storyline, and the motives are going to be the same. If, Frodo Baggins, despite all the skedaddling and giving in to the ring’s power, could have the guts to put off with the ring finally (with Sam’s incessant prodding, of course), a female actor could’ve done much better, along with being a love interest of Sam, and many subplots branching out therein (Wink! Wink!). That changes a lot of things, doesn’t it?
2. Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Back in the 90s, we didn’t have an ‘Orange is the New Black’ or ‘Weeds’ having their successful runs in the television, else, I am pretty sure the role of Andy Dufresne would’ve landed to the kitty of a female actor (Meryl Streep, maybe? Or Jodie Foster?). What has been claimed to be the unchallenged numero uno movie of all time and based on a Stephen King novel, ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ featured Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman in leading roles, with a prison-break story and a long-awaited redemption in the background. Though the movie has garnered a ton of accolades since its release more than two decades ago, it was regarded by many as a “male-oriented” movie as it had only a handful of female actors with relatively negligible screen-time. Had it been a female-centric movie, with an OITNB-like setup, the stature of the movie, the dynamics of performance arts, along with the relative importance given to female co-stars nowadays would’ve been way too different altogether.
1. The Joker in Suicide Squad (2016)
After Heath Ledger, Jared Leto stepped into the shoes of the formidable enemy of our beloved Batman, and boy he is good, much more than we expected him to be. While Jared Leto continues his critically acclaimed stint as the feared superhero’s adversary, filmmakers (especially DCEU) should’ve mulled on the idea of casting a female actor for the role, maybe for a change (as done by Marvel for Thor). And hats off to them for casting Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, the bewitching, insane, and psychotic love-interest of Joker. The crazy, relentless, and goalless Joker can be as hysterical and paranoid as a female as it is currently in the form of Mr Leto. I know I might have crossed a few lines in overkilling this, but aren’t we talking of options here? And if Jane Foster can be Thor, Harley Quinn can as well assume the Joker’s role, can’t she? And she’d be an amazing one at that, I tell you.
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