In a recent interview with the Associated Press to promote his new film Savages, Oliver Stone was asked to pick his favorite 5 films featuring strong women. For a man, who primarily focuses on hyper violent male characters or our former Presidents, his new film Savages has been seen as a departure for Stone with a primary focus on the film’s female characters, O (Blake Lively) and Elena (Salma Hayek). Having Stone discuss strong women is laughable, considering his usual construction of male dominated worlds in which the female characters exist solely (if at all) in definition to their male counterparts.
Stone’s choices include Marlene Dietrich in both Josef von Sternberg’s Dishonored (1931) and The Scarlet Empress (1934), where Dietrich portrays Mata Hari and Catherine the Great in the former. He also picks Faye Dunaway in Network (1976) and Mommie Dearest (1981), Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce (1945) and Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit (2010). Stone also gives honorable mention to Barbara Stanwyck in Stella Dallas (1937) and Double Indemnity (1944).
Stone’s choices cannot be argued against. However, in his discussion of Dunaway in Mommie Dearest, his condescension oozes through.
Dunaway was priceless because she was not looking to gain the audience’s love or sympathy in any way. Actually, it works that way better. I don’t think that a lot of actresses today have the guts to approach what she did, except for [Charlize] Theron in some of her recent efforts.
In the last year alone, I can name some incredible performances by women in both film and television that encompass what Stone claims they don’t have. Watch Lena Dunham in Girls, Tilda Swinton in We Need to Talk About Kevin, Rooney Mara in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Elizabeth Olsen in Martha Marcy May Marlene, Claire Danes in Homeland—all roles that don’t expect the audience to completely love or sympathize with them.
And if Oliver Stone doesn’t think that actresses have the guts, maybe he should write some parts that do.