George Clooney, one of the producers behind the film Our Brand Is Crisis, told a panel at the Toronto International Film Festival that the movie’s protagonist was originally written as male. Clooney himself planned to star, but scheduling conflicts prevented his participation. The film sat on a shelf for several years, according to the Los Angeles Times, until Sandra Bullock asked if she could play the part.
On the issue of few roles for women in Hollywood, Clooney said the switch-up with Our Brand Is Crisis is just an example of thinking outside of the box.
“There’s a lot more out there if people just started thinking.”
Patricia Arquette, who made waves earlier this year for raising the issue of pay equity in her Academy Awards acceptance speech, told a Hollywood Reporter panel in June that she often asks for plum roles to be made female so she might have the option of playing them.
“Many times I remember when I was in between jobs or looking for a job, I would say to my agent, ‘Well, are there any good parts in that?’ ‘Well, not for women.’ I would say, ‘Are there any good parts for men?’ ‘Oh well, yeah.’ I was like, ‘Well can that character be a woman? Can you call them and ask, “Can that character be a woman?”‘ I would do that all the time. It never worked.”
Bullock told Entertainment Weekly that two and a half years ago, she wasn’t offered any appealing roles. So, she started asking what kind of male parts might be available. Clooney and Grant Heslov, his producing partner, had Our Brand In Crisis in development. They did the gender swap after Bullock got in touch.
She described her character, a political consultant, as a “female Karl Rove,” referencing the senior adviser to President George W. Bush.
Clooney is not alone in his willingness to switch things up. Director Billy Ray pursued Julia Roberts for a role in Secrets In Their Eyes when he heard she might be available, even changing the character to be a woman. Ray told EW Roberts impressed him with her approach to the role.
“What was most impressive to me was, she didn’t want much tailoring at all. She didn’t want the dialogue changed. She wanted to say it in the same way the character did when the character was a man, and we locked in on that idea.”
Variety reported that women were the protagonists in only 12 percent of the top-grossing films of 2014, according to a study out of San Diego State University.
Our Brand Is Crisis opens October 30.
[Photo by Jason Merritt / Getty Images Entertainment]