Some of Hollywood's biggest A-listers are female, but women as a whole are vastly underrepresented in the movie industry. In 2012, less than 29% of speaking roles in movies were portrayed by women. That's down from just under 33% in 2010. To combat this trend, some women are claiming roles originally intended for men, and making them their own. (The person in charge of the space paradise in Elysium was written as a man, but was brought to life on screen by Jodie Foster.) Actresses are increasingly taking over male roles, and some of them, like the women below, have become pros at it.
Before Elysium, Foster was already taking on Hollywood's boys' club. This movie was originally supposed to be about a father searching for his daughter on a plane, but as production moved forward, the director found that the setup didn't "ring true," and changed it to a mother and daughter. The character kept the original name, Kyle, despite the change in sex.
Salt's title character was originally named Edwin Salt, and had been created specifically for Tom Cruise. When Cruise passed on the movie, Edwin became Evelyn, and Angelina Jolie stepped into the role of an undercover Russian spy.
When Nancy Walls, an actress and the wife of star Steve Carell, said there should be more women in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, the store manager role was changed from male to female, and cast with the hilarious Jane Lynch.
The title characters in this film were both intended to be played by men, but lead Antonio Banderas suggested that Lucy Liu could improve the dynamic between the two characters. It's rumored that Wesley Snipes and Jet Li, and Vin Diesel and Sylvester Stallone were initially considered for the title roles.
The girl in His Girl Friday was a man in The Front Page, the play on which this movie is based
It takes a badass to play a role for which someone already won an Oscar. Helen Mirren is that badass. Sir John Gielgud won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Hobson in the 1981's Arthur. In 2011's Arthur, Mirren's Hobson was the eponymous character's nanny. She may not have gotten an Oscar, but she did get to say "winkie" while wearing a Darth Vader mask.
Audiences still have a little while to wait before they can see how Viola Davis' female version of Major Anderson compares to the male version in the book. Ender's Game comes out in theaters on November 1.
The Dizzy Flores character in Starship Troopers transitioned from male to female on the way to the screen, and the character's role in the story was greatly expanded. He dies in the first chapter of the book, but she lasts long enough to become one of the central characters of the film.
When Glenn Close took over the originally male role of a no-nonsense managing editor in 1994's The Paper, very little was done to change the character. Close even insisted that a fistfight in the script was left completely as written.
In The TV Set, Sigourney Weaver played a television producer who went from male to female during the film’s production. She requested that nothing about the character be changed when she took over for a male actor — including the character's obsession with whether women’s breasts are real.
Weaver's most recent portrayal of a character originally conceived of as male was in 2008's Vantage Point, where she also played a television producer.
Rounding out Weaver's hat-trick of roles is one of her most iconic performances, and arguably the greatest male-to-female character conversion ever: Ripley in Alien. In the film's DVD commentary, director Ridley Scott said that little was changed about the character when Ripley went from being a man to the woman embodied by Weaver. The female Ripley went on to be named the top female action hero and to be considered a feminist icon.