– Angelina Jolie is the first actress to transcend gender. It’s hard to argue that any other actress, dead or living, can do what she can. Sony paid her $20 million up front for Salt, reports THR. Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura agrees that it’s unusual for a female to be an action star. But in Jolie’s case, “She’s not a female action star; she’s an action star. She’s really the first female to transcend gender. I don’t think it’s occurred before.”
In the past decade Jolie headlined five action films that combined grossed almost $1.5 billion worldwide (Wanted , Mr. & Mrs. Smith , both Tomb Raider films [2001, 2003], and Gone in 60 Seconds ). Not only does she out-earn every other actress in Hollywood (from Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock to the gold standard of actresses, Meryl Streep, who earns a reported salary of under $8 million [It’s Complicated] – for example), she is doing it in a male dominated genre (in a male dominated industry).
Granted the above, Lori Watson (Ph.D and director of women’s and gender studies at USD) says that she still “can’t break through the expectations that women are supposed to be beautiful and sexualized and fit a certain mold and behave in a certain way.” Perhaps, but Jolie – the movie star and the woman – hardly makes choices to please others or fit an outside expectation. And she is fully in charge or her sexuality and her sexual power. When Salt opens, it will compete against the second week of Inception. The dream may be real, but so is Jolie’s star power.
Point is, action tentpoles pull the big bucks, which is why men have out-earned women for so long. Thus getting into actioners ups any actor’s paycheck. Mark Ruffalo may take over Ed Norton’s role as the Incredible Hulk in Joss Whedon’s The Avengers. Why? Ruffalo is a 42-year old actor whose supporting roles in Collateral, Shutter Island and Zodiac are the closest he has come to action roles. He’s a indie/drama/comedy gem, not an action star. That is not to say he can’t do it (Norton isn’t exactly an action star either) – but it is surprising that he may be transplanted into this genre. Has the lack of manly leading men to take on roles like this helped Jolie cement herself in a very powerful position? Her confidence, capability and attitude exudes the machismo that is lacking elsewhere.
– On the other side of the spectrum, actress Elizabeth Banks can rejoice for landing the leading role of Tinkerbell in producers Adam Shankman and McG’s romantic comedy Tink for Disney. In the vein of Enchanted (with Anne Hathaway), this could be a useful stepping stone for Banks, whose usual supporting roles (receptionist in the Spider-Man trilogy, W.) can only do so much for her. While playing the lead in a Tinkerbell movie for an actress like Banks is like moving from second base to third, it further proves that Jolie is the umpire of her own ballpark.