Monday, July 28, 2014

The Ten Most Interesting Actresses Working Today


As with any list, this isn’t an exact science and it is something that could easily be altered tomorrow, but for some reason, I decided that I wanted to put down in writing a list of the ten most interesting actresses working in Hollywood today.  Note, this is not a list of the ten BEST actresses working today (although some of them would certainly constitute as such) but a list of the ones that I find the most interesting.  These are the actresses that I find to be challenging themselves from role to role; exploring new and fresh directors and characters.  They are actresses who I admire for their sheer aggression towards their craft.

So, while the rest of the world is swooning over Jennifer Lawrence and Shailene Woodley, I present to you the ten most interesting actresses Hollywood has to offer.

Oh, and before we get the rants from those suggesting that this list is too white and blonde, I just want to toss the conversation out there.  Finding women of color who are producing continually intriguing work is hard.  That isn’t to say that they aren’t out there, but they aren’t garnering the attention they deserve, thus not landing the roles they should be getting.  And while Zoe Saldana is certainly attempting to branch out, she’s not there yet, and Kerry Washington, who would have made this list a few years ago, is devoting her time to television pursuits, and this is about film.

But here’s to hoping that Lupita Nyong’o, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Carmen Ejogo and even Saldana can change things in the near future!


RUNNER-UP:


She has her fair share of detractors, and I can’t even say that they are unjust detractors because I can completely understand where they are coming from in some instances.  Wasikowska is an actress who has a specific style, and it’s a style that suits her well because she is continually cast for her ability to exude that style.  She’s mousy, contained and still.  She possesses an elegance that rests comfortably on her subtle gaze, but where many see an actress with limited range, I see an actress who is comfortable internalizing instead of externalizing.  What really earns a spot on this list for Wasikowska though, is less her actual talent and more her impressive resume.  Like I said, this is a list of the most interesting, not the best.  Her resume, between directors and roles, speaks for itself.  With work under the hand of Burton, Zwick, Van Sant, Fukunaga, Cholodenko and Hillcoat, not to mention an onslaught of films this year with established directors like Cronenberg and del Toro as well as well received performances in films like Only Lovers Left Alive and The Double, Wasikowska is quickly becoming a face we’re seeing everywhere. 

#10


While her big breakout certainly came with all the critical success her Cannes winning lesbian drama Blue is the Warmest Color garnered, the truth of the matter is that Seydoux has been working towards this breakout for quite a while.  She’s one of those faces that you know you’ve seen many times before, but placing a name with that face has been difficult.  Her vast number of borderline cameo performances has established her ability to work with a varied array of directors, and it has made this current transition from obscure actress to leading lady much easier.  Having worked with the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Ridley Scott, Woody Allen, Brad Bird and Wes Anderson; Seydoux has added spark to such small roles, but she’s past that.  Her astonishing turn under Kechiche’s direction is the mark of a new director for her career, and with two lead roles lined up (with two iconic characters, in Beauty and the Beast and Diary of a Chamber Maid) and notable fresh directors like Giorgos Lanthimos and Benoit Jacquot in her corner, she’s quickly becoming one of those actresses you not only recognize, but seek out!

#09


I think the truest testament to Mara actually deserving to be on this list is that fact that before 2010, the only Mara anyone knew of was Rooney’s sister Kate.  Now, no one knows who Kate is.  In a singular year, Rooney eclipsed everything her sister (who has been working since the late 90’s) had ever done and pretty much became the girl to get for serious, thought provoking work.  The crazy thing is that, in 2010 she was in The Social Network and had three scenes with very little actual screen time.  She made so much of those scenes, and with her naturally piercing presence, she established for herself a future in this business.  Since then, she’s capitalized on it marvelously.  She snagged an Oscar nomination for her very next role, under the guidance of David Fincher, when she took on Lisbeth Salander, proving that she is fearless and turns up her nose at vanity (she even had her body pierced and tattooed for the role).  Since then she’s worked alongside Spike Jonze, Steven Soderbergh and newcomer David Lowery and has films set to release under the direction of Terrence Malick, Joe Wright, Stephen Daldry, Jim Sheridan and Todd Haynes!  I mean, in just four years she has become a cinematic staple.  We all know who she is, and every director is dying to work with her.  She continues to stretch herself, finding truly interesting characters to embody, and I don’t see her slowing down anytime soon!

#08


Much like Mara, Fanning has eclipsed a famous sister.  What is more impressive is that Elle’s sister was actually really FAMOUS.  Dakota Fanning was arguably the most famous child star in the history of child stars up to that point in time, and in a few years with some really smart choices, Elle edged her own sister out of the way to become the most talented child star working today.  I look at Fanning’s career and her film roles and I listen to her on talk shows and I sit back completely blown away with how real this girl is.  She’s so damn smart!  What is so cool about Elle is that, even before we knew that we loved her, she was making an impact on our film-viewing.  She was building a resume at such a young age, taking on those thankless kid roles where she just had to walk past the screen once or twice while another actor or actress (sometimes her own sister) chewed up all the scenery.  Remember when she asked a naked Jeff Bridges what a penis was?  Remember when a distraught Adriana Barraza carried her across the desert?  Remember when Mira Sorvino taught her to play the piano?  Remember when she grew up to look like Cate Blanchett?  Yup, before she started OWNING her films, she was already kicking ass and taking names alongside great actors (Pitt, Phoenix, Blanchett, Bridges, Washington) and inspired directors (Fincher, Scott, Inarritu).  And then she met up with Sophia Coppola, and everything changed.  She did Somewhere in 2010 and it became obvious to the world that this girl had it.  She had finally reached that point in her career where she was a real actress.  Since then she’s been on a roll.  With great notices for her work in Super 8 (where she should have been Oscar nominated), Ginger & Rosa and Low Down, as well as continued work alongside respected directors like Francis Ford Coppola and Cameron Crowe, not to mention voice work in the upcoming Boxtrolls and the part of Mary Shelley to her name, Fanning just keeps getting better and better. 

#07


In 2011 no one knew who Jessica Chastain was.  We hadn’t ever heard of her.  I remember seeing the picture of this red headed woman floating around the internet and speculation as to who exactly she was and why she had FIVE films slated for release in a single year, and a slew of others in talks.  While I personally have not been her biggest fan (I kind of hated her work in Zero Dark Thirty, and find her sudden legion of fans and deity status among cinephiles to be ridiculous), there is no denying that she is really working to build a VERY inspired resume for herself, and this list is all about who is the most interesting actress…and she’s certainly interesting!  It doesn’t hurt that every year she gives us 3-5 performances to choose from, and while I’m critical of her, I can’t deny that she truly tries to stretch herself with every performance.  Her work in 2011 proved her range.  From Malick’s tortured housewife to Taylor’s ditzy outcast, she turned in some truly inspired work that set a precedent for what she had to offer.  Working with directors like Hillcoat, Bigelow, Ullmann and Nolan isn’t going to hurt her career any either, and continuing to seek out as many different characters and genres as she can (political, war, sci-fi, period, gangster, western, comedy, horror) she etching out a career that is truly admirable, even to those who are yet to fall completely in love with her.

#06


I’ve been a serious fan of this girl from the beginning.  She’s been smart since the very start of her career, and I’ve always applauded her for that.  Her big break came back in 2003, with the first Pirates of the Caribbean film taking off like gangbusters, and while she had a built in franchise to rest on from the get-go, she decided NOT to coast, like her beloved co-star Johnny Depp.  She showed right off that she had not only range, but a desire to explore different characters and important directors.  Tony Scott, Richard Curtis, David Cronenberg, Kenneth Branagh and John Carney have all come calling her name, but Knightley has also been known to seek out un-established directors in order to work with a fresh face and an interesting role.  The biggest example of this is her pairing with Joe Wright (who also happens to be one of the ten most interesting directors working today).  Back at the start of her career, she met with this first time director on his adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and their iconic director/muse pairing is one of the greatest in recent memory.  The two have made three films together, all three absolutely stunning.  Knightley can play period well, but she’s not a one trick pony.  Whether she’s the coy love interest, the rebellious badass, the opinionated feminist, the conflicted adulteress or that quirky sidekick you can’t help but fall for; Keira Knightley is a talent we all too often take for granted.  She’s one of the very best in the business; period.

#05


We are getting into the top five, and this is where personal preference is going to play a little bit of a role, despite trying to look at everything objectively.  In fact, this pick in particular may feel a little bit of a stretch, especially ranking higher than Chastain and Knightley and yet I can’t help but give Mulligan a little bit of an edge for the fact that, in my eyes, her two greatest performances are better than nearly everything that anyone has done on this list, and that’s including the rest of my top five (sans a few performances).  Her breakthrough Oscar nominated performance in An Education was one of the greatest performances of the aughts, and in my eyes she was the greatest find of the aughts.  The way that she possessed such innocence, tattered and torn apart and yet somehow preserved in its established ferocity was just brilliant to witness.  The fact that she has since then shown so many layers to her persona is even more admirable.  You can’t look at any of her performances and see the same actress.  She just melts into every role.  An Education’s Jenny has no similarity to Shame’s Sissy, who is completely polar opposite to Gatsby’s Daisy, who would never be caught dead in the same room with Llewyn Davis’s Jean.  She’s the definition of chameleon, and while she may not be as ‘in-demand’ as someone like Chastain, her resume is nothing to scoff at.  With Oscar winning directors like the Coen Brothers, Oliver Stone and Steve McQueen under her belt, alongside cult favorites like Refn, Mann and Luhrmann, Mulligan has proven to be devoted to her craft, even throwing herself in the face of directors she wants to work with, making it known that she cares about where her career goes.  The fact that she delivers every time is icing on the cake of her own success!

#04


It’s really weird for me to think that, until her Oscar nominated turn in Michael Clayton, I really didn’t even glance at Tilda Swinton.  I mean, I knew her face (how could you not at least know it), but I didn’t have any desire or motivation to find out who she was.  Since then though, she has proven herself to be such an intriguing presence.  This is an actress who is beyond the vanity of stardom and completely engulfed in her own craft.  She selects such interesting roles, such inspired and different choices, that once can’t help but be compelled to explore.  Then, when you realize that she’s been at this since the mid-80’s and you start to notice her in her pre-stardom (because, let’s be honest, she’s achieved stardom whether she likes it or not) roles you begin to see the whole of her range take shape before your eyes.  She startling to look at, which really bodes well for many of the characters she takes on, because she forces you to notice every tick, ever expression.  Whether she’s giving us dead-pan comedy, broader caricatures, burning intimate dramatics or passionate desperation, she sells it every time.  Her ability to anchor independent cinema while fluidly transitioning to mainstream cinema is uncanny.

#03


Back in 2003, Scarlett Johansson went from ‘child star with talent no one wanted to use’ to ‘bonifide bombshell with serious Oscar potential’.  It took a single year and an Oscar snub heard all around the world to do it, but she followed up her star making turn in Sophia Coppola’s masterpiece, Lost in Translation, by becoming Woody Allen’s muse and every straight male’s spank bank queen.  Sadly, her reputation became that of a screen siren, a sex icon who was used more for her bodily presence than her talent, and a string of poorly received turns in films like The Black Dahlia, The Other Boleyn Girl and The Spirit seemed to bring a career of wasted potential…and then 2013 happened and everything changed.  With the success of Iron Man and her role in The Avengers film, Scarlett Johansson became a household name again, and this afforded her the opportunity to branch out and experiment, this time extremely successfully.  Of all the renaissances happening today, Johansson’s is by far my favorite.  Her recent output has been remarkable, with such intimate work in Jonze’s Her, sex personified (with total personality) in Don Jon and a brilliantly nuanced turn in Glazer’s Under the Skin.  She has work with the Coens coming up, as well as more Marvel work, including her OWN Black Widow film and she’s riding high on action superstardom with Lucy.  She’s reclaimed her spot in Hollywood, and I couldn’t be more pleased!

#02


Cate Blanchett is easily one of the most respected actresses working today, and alongside Meryl Streep is often considered the best actress working today.  What sets her apart from Streep (who is an extremely talented actress) is that Blanchett is a more interesting actress.  She works with better directors, finds better roles and diversifies her choices without relying solely on generic biopics or heavy makeup to constitute a change of role.  If you scroll down through her resume, I’m tempted to say that it rivals (in whole) anyone in the history of cinema.  She’s done everything from comedy (sometimes even broad comedy) to biopic, to sexy thriller to B-grade drama to fantasy and sci-fi and film noir and experimental and her ability to draw a general audience and excite cinephiles alike is nearly unmatched.  Directors like Wes Anderson, Anthony Minghella, Peter Jackson, Todd Haynes, David Fincher, Ridley Scott, Joe Wright and Woody Allen have all used her beautifully and she continues to reach further, with upcoming projects with Malick and Branagh and another with Haynes in the mix as well.  This is what happens when undeniable talent and true thirst (ambition) collide.  She’s a force, and I haven’t even mentioned her stage career.

#01


I’m going to say this now and you can disagree all you want, but you’d be wrong.  Marion Cotillard is not only the most interesting actress working today, she’s the best.  There, I said it.  I remember seeing her for the first time alongside Russell Crowe in A Good Year and thinking “I hope she has an amazing career, because she is smoking hot”…then she won an Oscar the very next year and I knew that God was smiling (and by God, I obviously mean Russell Crowe).  Since her Oscar win, she’s really the only actress who has taken that win (Lead Actress win, obviously) and carved a career that is not only admirable, it’s damn near scary how diverse, creative and interesting it all is.  She’s made English language films with Scott, Mann, Nolan, Marshall, Allen, Soderbergh and Gray, as well as Foreign films with the likes of Audiard and the Dardenne Brothers.  She’s done musicals, gangster flicks, thrillers, comedies, dramas…she’s played infirm, sick, helpless…powerful, sexy…abused, frail, heartbroken.  She’s done it all, and she does it all well (you know, aside from that ONE scene in The Dark Knight Rises).  With Shakespeare and voice work on the horizon, and a reputation as one of the very best in the business (beauty AND talent personified), there is no one working today who has built the range, prestige and respect in the industry that Cotillard has.  This is the face of cinema today!

58 comments:

  1. Great idea for a list Drew! Oh I like your picks for #1 and 2, both Blanchett and Cotillard are sublime... incredibly beautiful AND massively talented, and they both have great sense of style, too! I think Seydoux is lovely, she's intriguing and the more you look at her the more interesting she is. I first noticed her in Midnight in Paris & her performance in Farewell My Queen definitely made an impression.

    Now I'm not fond of Wasikowska nor Mara, I dunno, they both just seems cold an inexpressive to me. I've seen quite a few of their work but none really make me like them. I'd probably swap Wasikowska with Saoirse Ronan who's similar in age.

    ruth

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    1. Yeah, Wasikowska is not really everyone's cup of tea, and she didn't make my actual Top Ten either, but looking at her body of work and upcoming projects, she really is building an interesting resume, which is what I was trying to focus on.

      But, like...my #1 and #2 were way out in front ;-)

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  2. That is a great list as I'm definitely for all of these actress with the exception of Keira Knightley who I'm often mixed about. There's some things that she did that I like but there's stuff that she did that I didn't like. For me, Scarlett would be #2 as I'm sure you know who #1 is since she is THE BEST IN THE WORLD!!!!!

    If she and Scarlett did a film together, they would destroy.... everyone!!!!

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    1. I had a feeling you'd mention Malone, but then I thought...is her career all that interesting? She has talent, but I feel like she has yet been given the opportunity to really show it. I'm hoping that her work alongside PTA this year could change things for her. I'd love for her to finally be taken seriously.

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  3. I agree 100% with your #1 choice! Marion Cotillard is by far one of the best actresses working today and it's so wonderful that she does movies in English as well as foreign movies. I can't help but feel that that gives her a bit of an edge over other actresses but she's extremely talented!

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    1. The great thing about Cotillard is that she sells both. Some actresses (Ziyi, Cruz) have done both English and Foreign fare and failed at one...both of them struggling to connect in English, but Cotillard has proven that she can excel in either language.

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  4. Interesting list, and whilst I'm not inclined to agree with Cotillard, I reckon most of these picks are on point! Personally, Johansson has a lot going for her right now and it's amazing how she's able to mix franchises (Marvel) with indies (Under the Skin, Her) and low-budget action (Lucy) and still pull it off. She'd be my pick for No. 1 :)

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    1. Johansson's career resurgence is just incredible! I wouldn't argue with her being #1 at all.

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  5. Oohhh, this list is BRILLIANT! Mine would be almost identical, except I might change the order.

    Haha, I thought the same thing when I saw A Good Year. In fact, Crowe and Cotillard are why I love it. It's a breezy little film, and they're just having fun.

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    1. You know, I really expect you to put a list like this together now ;-)

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    2. Ok, I did one. But it looks VERY much like yours. :)

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  6. Great post! I like your choices. I have never warmed up to Scarlett Johansson -- I'm not sure why. Maybe I should try Under the Skin.

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    1. There are quite a few who have yet to warm to Johansson. Give Under the Skin a try. It's unlike anything she'd done before.

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  7. Great list, you make good arguments for their inclusions, and I get these are YOUR choices for most interesting, and not necessarily the BEST actresses. Many of these would be my choices too.Although I would place Meryl Streep in my top 10, so the over 50s are represented. She's done interesting, varied work for decades, and rarely gives a bad performance, in drama, action, thriller, musicals, biopic, comedy, and she has a sci-fi (The Giver) and fantasy (Into the Woods) out in 2014. Although I'm being unfair as those two films aren't out yet, so don't deserve praise :)

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    1. I love Streep, but the biggest complaint always heaped upon her is that she doesn't work with interesting directors or really chose any interesting characters. Her 80's work aside, her roles feel sort of lazy. She always delivers, but with her reputation you'd think she could get a director like Anderson (either, but she'd work well with Wes), Scorsese or the Coens to give her a role.

      But she's an extremely good actress, so if I were to make a list of the ten best working actresses, she'd certainly be on it.

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  8. Cool list. I agree with most of your picks. I have to admit I'm rather indifferent toward Wasikowska and Knightley, though. Neither strikes me as particularly interesting.

    The one I'm torn on is Carey Mulligan. I'm not the biggest fan of hers and don't really get the hype around her. I hated nearly everything about An Education and thought she was pretty good, not special in anything else. I take that back, she was amazing in Shame, I'll give her that.

    One I'd definitely find a spot for is Ellen Page. She chooses interesting and challenging roles and nails all of them, in my opinion. Her problem is she doing stellar work in often less than stellar films.

    You mentioned Zoe Saldana in your intro. I'd probably give her a spot, too. Like ScarJo she's very talented, beautiful, has done a number of big action flicks, and indie flicks and has been good in all of them. The difference is that none of her indie and/or dramatic roles have been in movies that have captured the public imagination like ScarJo.

    Another woman of color I'd likely include is Rosario Dawson. She is an amazing talent but has toiled away in lots of indie flicks.

    Viola Davis is another. Her resume speaks for itself.

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    1. I love Viola, and considered her for this, to be honest. My only thing with her is that since The Help, she seems to have been chasing that Oscar in films that look really, really bad. She kind of reminds me of Meryl Streep in a way, which is a compliment on one hand and kind of a reprimand on the other. She always sells it. She's great in everything...and yet half of what she does I have no desire to see.

      Dawson, at one point, was one of the most promising actresses of her generation. Like you said though, most of what she does seems toiled away in films no one sees. That was why Saldana didn't make this list. She is carving it out for herself though, and once she works with a few high profile directors in films that don't involve guns and aliens, she'll make the top ten for sure!

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  9. I can't think of anything wrong with this list, not even the order. The only one I'm not really a fan of is Swinton, even though I think she's an incredible actress. I think I'm just terrified of her.

    Anyway, this is a brilliantly thorough piece. Can you believe I've never seen anything with Lea Seydoux in it? Is this blasphemy?

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    1. Awesome! Glad you like the list :-D Swinton can be terrifying, especially in certain roles, but she's so talented...just melts into everything...and her resume is certainly interesting!

      And, I bet you have (seen Seydoux)! Like I said, she had boderline cameos in so much. Have you seen Robin Hood, the one with Crowe and Blanchett? She's the hot young thing banging the Prince. Have you seen Midnight in Paris? She's the girl who sells Owen Wilson the diary. Have you seen MI: Ghost Protocol? She's the chick that meets them in the hotel room.

      If you haven't seen those movies then...maybe you haven't seen her in anything.

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    2. Damn you! I have seen Midnight and MI:GP, but I can't place her in either. I own Robin Hood...but never cracked it open.

      Hmm. I want to check out Blue...but that bitch is epic.

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    3. Um...you NEED to see Blue is the Warmest Color for so many, many reasons.

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    4. Oh yes you'd enjoy it :P

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  10. Great list! I love all of these ladies. It took me awhile to warm up to Scarlett Johansson, I think she's usually mediocre, but she's really been impressing me these past few years.

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    1. Her dry spell she hit from like 2007-2012 was really sad, because her initial output (2003-2006) was really strong. Her work in Lost in Translation and Girl with the Pearl Earring was stunning, and then her work with with Woody was really nice (and yes, I loved her in Scoop and VCB)...but then she just kind of coasted or was severely miscast.

      But her current output is shockingly impressive. She's back on top, where she belongs, and I'm so happy about that!

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  11. A great list, my friend. Love that Wasikowska got a shout out. If you’re a fan of her work, definitely check out her breakout turn on HBO’s In Treatment. Still the best acting I’ve seen from her. Wow.

    I love every gal mentioned here, but am obviously thrilled by your top pick. She is the face of cinema today, no question. And, you know, as much as I adore her, I would love to hear the justification behind that scene in TDKR. I really enjoy that movie and her in it, but that is a very poorly executed scene, and I’ve always wondered why Nolan chose that precise take. Could it have really been the best one? Hell, who knows? If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that an entire career cannot be judged by one five second moment on screen. There’s much more to Marion than that.

    Great work here! Love the stills as well.

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    1. Yeah, that ONE scene is so...WTF. Like, how did that get in there? I choose to believe that Nolan is just a lazy editor and didn't think about it much, because I know that she can die better than that!

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  12. Oh yeah no J.Law and Woodley so glorious!

    Love your picks here and I agree on Chastain, sweet baby Jesus, that scene where they were shooting at her character in the car in ZD30? I actually hoped they'd kill her off because she was so dull. not Chastain fault, her character was so boring I was so sleepy I only awoke when Dillane was on the screen, I think his scenes resuscitated me.

    Cotillard is just fantastic! I hear Macbeth may be pushed to next year which is a shame :/

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    1. LOL, I knew that you'd like their absence!

      Yeah, I really liked ZD30 in spite of her. I mean, her character was just so dull...and every time Chastain tried to do something with it, it came off so forced and uncomfortable. That Oscar nomination baffles me, and the fact that she was close to winning is ridiculous. I know you hate Lawrence as a person, but she was at least entertaining in her Oscar winning performance. The right actress (in that lineup) won.

      But alas, they can't all be Marion Cotillard! Yeah, I hear Macbeth is next year. Sucks, but we still have The Immigrant and that Dardenne brothers film this year, so I can wait for Macbeth!

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  13. Such a great and interesting list! I appreciate your shout-out for diversity because several of the actresses of color that I love, their careers haven't been given the opportunity to take off or they stopped acting by their own choice. Sometimes the nature of Hollywood makes it hard for equality on lists such as this.

    Not going to touch on the Shailene Woodley comment because I think she is interesting on and off camera - much more so than Jennifer..but we can let it be. :)

    All of your picks are so well justified, though I wouldn't necessarily agree with Carey or Scarlett. I just haven't been able to find roles by either that have really surprised me, but Scarlett's longevity speaks for itself. I remember when she was "up and coming" and people argued how long she'd prove to be a one hit wonder. I don't think anyone can argue for your placement of Cotillard as #1; she's magnificent.

    I would like to add Emily Blunt though as a Runner-Up though. Her career has really taken off with different genres and she's proven to create well-diverse characters. She's someone who doesn't seem to be limited by anything or anyone, and I look forward to her every career move. :)

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    1. I love that you mention Blunt, because I contemplated her. I'm really interested to see where her career goes post-Into the Woods. She has a killer character, and if she nails it (and Oscar nominates her), I can see her finally getting the roles she deserves. She's done some great stuff, but she deserves better.

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    2. I was also thinking, with regards to your first paragraph and the subject of diversity, it's really a shame that a lot of the roles mentioned on this list didn't go to some women of color. Considering that this was a list of INTERESTING actresses, many of the roles tackled here are original thoughts, not standard biopics, and they could have been given to anyone with talent. Why not Saldana? Why not Viola Davis or Kerry Washington? Why do they continually have to play slaves or real women of color? Why can't they snag these impressive characters?

      Hollywood should be ashamed.

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  14. Nice list, I'm not sure of who else I might add to the list. I've enjoyed pretty much every performance I've seen from Tilda Swinton and she's always a completely different (though usually odd) character. I also haven't seen much of many of these actresses and what I have seen are usually their weaker performances, like Elle Fanning's rather boring Sleeping Beauty. Oh, here's another one though I'm not sure how much she's done and that's Emma Thompson.

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    1. I love Thompson, especially her 90's work. If I had made this list mid-90's, she'd be on it for sure. Lately though, she's getting less and less interesting roles, and despite how much I loved her in 'Saving Mr. Banks', she really hasn't had a lot to chew on lately.

      You really should see Fanning's other work, especially 'Ginger & Rosa' and 'Somewhere'.

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  15. You've got some excellent choices. I personally like Jessica Chastain and her range of diverse but consistently strong characters. Even in Take Shelter she had an interesting role as the wife constantly trying to deal with the strain of her husband's apparent mental illness but at the same time constantly trying to make it work. Then of course she was tough and determined but still human in Zero Dark Thirty.

    Tilda Swinton had certainly had an interesting career given the weird characters she's played. She had a rather interesting role in Orlando, where she played a man who somehow never ages because Queen Elizabeth I said so and then spontaneously transforms into a woman for no apparent reason.

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    1. Orlando is a really bizarre film, and one that I don't feel worked as well as it could have. The story is truly rich with ideas, but it doesn't work them out in an engaging way.

      But it's yet another example of Swinton challenging herself and picking yet another interesting character. It's not her fault the film crumbled around her.

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  16. Solid list here! I think the most impressive of the lot (most notably due to being most improved) would be ScarJo. She definitely slumped in the past decade with B/C-list movies and wasn't taken seriously because she's so damn hot. But she's definitely turned everything upside down with Her and Under the Skin. I have to give a big bravo to her and happy to see her so high on your list :)

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    1. I don't know if you had a chance to read this, but back in April of last year I wrote this article about the end of ScarJo's career and how it pained me that she went from this actress with so much potential to basically being used for her body...

      http://afistfuloffilms.blogspot.com/2013/04/scarlett-fever-look-at-how-having-boobs.html

      ...and now we've come full circle, back to where she belongs, and I'm eating crow because here she in, on my list of the ten most interesting actresses working today...and I never thought I'd see the day where she'd be back here!

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  17. Great idea for an article. Although it would take some time for me to iron out my opinions, I think my list would likely look fairly different. I agree with you, Courtney and everyone else that Scarlett has shown incredible improvement in her selection of roles. I would go so far as to wonder if she fired her agent. I will get back to you with my list and have already started an outline for Most Interesting Directors today. I will be sure to credit you with the idea and link to this article. I look forward to more from you Fisti.
    Keep them coming,
    Derek Laplume
    onthescreenreviews.com

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    1. Thanks Derek! I'm excited to see your list for the most interesting directors. I've been toying with that idea as well. I also look forward to seeing your list on the actresses. There are so many, and the beauty of film discussion is the diversity in the answers!

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  18. I love your list and I know you mentioned this, but this list is really in need of some color. I get your point, I do. However, I think you're selling Saldana short. IMO, Zoe Saldana is one of the most interesting actresses out there, given her popularity and her roles. I've seen her smaller (quieter) films, that didn't garner as much attention as Columbiana, Avatar, or Star Trek. I would more so put Gugu in the category of needing to branch out a bit more, not Saldana. Gugu and Lupita are up and comers.

    That said, I wholeheartedly agree about Tilda Swinton. She's actually probably #1 for me. I find her incredible. Simply for the length and diversity of career. ScarJo is probably one of the most underrated actresses out there. People give her a hard time b/c she's so pretty.

    I'm not really a Keira fan. She's way too pouty and she seems to have limited herself to period films. If Zoe is all about guns and aliens, Keira is always in a corset.

    Carey Mulligan and Mia are too mousy for my taste, but I think they're decent actresses. I'm just not a fan. I much prefer Kate Mara to Rooney. Although Rooney was great in "The Girl w/ Dragon Tattoo" remake.

    I would have to add Tao Okamoto, Viola Davis, Olivia Spencer, Eva Mendes, Michelle Rodriguez, and Anne Hathaway to this list. Hathaway would probably be #3 and Saldana would be #2.

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    1. I'm actually inclined to agree with you regarding Saldana. The more I think about it, the more I'm wishing that I had made her my runner-up in the least. While we do tend to focus on her 'aliens and guns' movies (I mean, she's played an alien in three franchises now), I forgot that she also did Blood Ties and Out of the Furnace last year, proving that she is expanding her cinematic horizons, and she has that Nina Simone biopic coming. I just pulled up her IMDB page and saw Avatar 2, Avatar 2 and Avatar 4 at the very top of her list and thought, 'this girl needs to break contract and try something else'.

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  19. Nice job with this list. It's so hard to define what makes certain actresses interesting. The role can often define it for me, which is definitely the case with Keira Knightley, Scarlett Johansson, and Carey Mulligan. Still, they've all been great in certain roles. I'm definitely with you on Mia Wasikowska, Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett, and Tilda Swinton. Elle Fanning is great, though I think it's too soon to tell at this point.

    You mentioned Zoe Saldana in the introduction, and I wouldn't have an issue with her on this list. Part of it relates to some recent interviews about her choice of roles, and I think her potential is really high.

    Finally, I think Jessica Chastain has been in some incredible films and done a good job. Still, I'm unsure if I'm finding her one of the most interesting actresses at this point. Still, she's brought a lot to several roles in the past few years.

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    1. I guess, for me, I was defining 'interesting' by the roles and directors they were working with. For me, an actress who takes hold of her career, seeks out respectable, talented and experimental directors and finds varied roles that challenge her range are, in effect, proving themselves interesting. That's how I tried to compile this list.

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  20. A very intriguing list. As we've spoken about, I whole-heartedly agree with your #1 pick. Cotillard is a marvel and there isn't a role she is afraid to tackle. I love Chastain as well. She is a strong female performer who I also think shows good range. Anxious to see her under Christopher Nolan's umbrella come November.

    I was a bit surprised to see ScarJo so high. I think she's a good actress but she doesn't really interest me as some of the others do. I think I prefer Mia to her. I like Mia quite a bit.

    Another actress I love and champion any chance I get is Emily Blunt. I believe she is criminally underrated and she has an amazing range from comedy to drama to action. I think she is fantastic and deserving of bigger leading roles.

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Keith! I knew you'd agree on my #1 placement.

      For me, ScarJo deserves to be listed (and in my eyes ranked this high) due to her determination to remain in the game and her recent output. Her past two years have been so full of rich characters, directors and performances. She has stretched herself and bounced back in a way that many didn't see coming.

      I love that you mention Blunt. Katy also did. She is one that I really did consider for the list, and one that I wholly anticipate breaking out in an even bigger way post-Into the Woods.

      I'm glad to see that you're a Mia fan. She deserves to have more.

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  21. I'm very much on the fence about Rooney and Elle (especially Elle, who I find generally boring to watch). But I agree with the rest of this list. I would add America Ferrera, Melonie Diaz, Michelle Yeoh, Ziyi Zhang, Lupita Nyong'o (she just bought the film rights to Americanah), Danai Gurira, Tessa Thompson, Kerry Washington (she was just in Django Unchained), Saoirse Ronan, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Regina Hall, Carmen Ejogo, Tika Sumpter, Naomie Harris, Gabourey Sidibe, Quvenzhané Wallis, Octavia Spencer, Natalie Portman, Yaya DaCosta, Viola Davis, Anika Noni Rose, Salma Hayek, Penelope Cruz, Alison Janney, Toni Colette, Rosario Dawson, Eva Mendes, Waad Mohammed. You know, to name a few LOL.

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    1. LOVE all the suggestions. I can't wait to see where many of these names go, especially Exarchopoulos, Ejogo, Harris and Nyong'o, as they are raw talents that have yet to be proven due to lack of film credits. Still, they have delivered and look to be on the track to deliver again!

      Good call on Mendes. She's a face that has been around for a while, and she's always good, and she really does find quality and varied projects.

      Thanks so much for weighing in!

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  22. I agree with Candice that Rooney and Elle don't do much for me; I can't say that they really excite me at all.

    I love Keira and Carey; they are probably my two favorite actresses today in that generation. So poise yet relatable. They are really positioning themselves to do even more great things in the future. I find myself favorite British actors at times (and Pride & Prejudice is one of my all time faves) so maybe that has something to do with it... :)

    Scar Jo is a tricky one. I do think she is talented which is really evident in her earlier work and in her most recent work. I do think she went through a period in the middle where she wasn't putting much effort into her acting (similar to McConaughey) and relied too much on her sexy appeal but I'm glad she is seemingly back to taking on interesting and meaningful projects.

    Piggybacking off of Candice's proposed list, I think Tessa Thompson is flying under the radar but has been doing some sensational things lately (she was the best part of 'Dear White People')

    I'm so glad there is no JLaw or Woodley and I know she has been mentioned but I'm glad there is no Rosario Dawson, who I do generally like but I think she's mediocre as an actress. Oh, God, no Eva Mendes please... iCan't with her.

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    1. I am loving how divisive the discussion on Knightley and Mulligan are. You either love their style, or find them uninteresting. I'm glad you love them too!

      I agree with you, that ScarJo rested for quite a while, but her recent output is stunning. I mean, if I made a list about actors, I'd probably have to put McConaughey on it, based on the VERY interesting and varied roles he's been picking up lately...even though I don't think he's done anything special with them. I don't like him as an actor, but even I have to admit he's interesting.

      Thankfully, I really like ScarJo as an actress ;-)

      I'll have to look up Tessa Thompson, as I'm unfamiliar with that name!

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  23. As far as interesting goes, I'd definitely stump hardest for Keira for many reasons but mostly because despite the odd criticism she attains of being trite with her alleged multiple period pieces I think of the way she defied expectations with roles in films like A DANGEROUS METHOD and ANNA KARENINA by playing so different from her perceived images and giving prickly and challenging performances in ways I find many of her peers don't.

    (I love Cate, but she hasn't worked in a bit I don't know if I'd say her filmography warrants a "most interesting" title. As far as her contemporaries go I thin Nicole's dogged pursuit of films in basically every genre, and Naomi's insistence on going completely 100% on even the most seemingly misguided projects would make me list them both first.)

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    1. YAY, another Knightley supporter!

      I think that, while Cate took some time off, she's come back with a vengeance. Just this decade she's worked with Scott, Wright and Allen, won and Oscar and begun work with Malick and Haynes, not to mention snagging a role in the upcoming Cinderella. She's continually working, and she's having this surge of support, proving that women of a certain age (she's not old, but she's not young anymore) can still get interesting roles and work with interesting directors if they have the talent to back it up!

      I was waiting for someone to mention Nicole. She has been trying to pick interesting roles, but I always find myself put off by her as of late. I haven't really been interested in her since the early aughts.

      Naomi was close to getting mentioned here. I actually love her, especially when she has a strong role to work with. It was really hard to narrow this list down from my initial top 20!

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  24. Love this list! Neat to see names like Lea Seydoux, Rooney Mara, and Carey Mulligan on here. I also agree with your inclusions of both ScarJo and Keira Knightley. Those two are brilliant actresses. I don't give a flying frig what all those jealous haters say.

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    1. The Knightley haters baffle me...because she's so versatile and has proven that time and time again. The fact that she'll do big budget popcorn flicks, small independent films, Oscar bait and art house films and NAILS THEM ALL shows she's so much more than a the one trick 'period actress' so many try and pencil her in as.

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    2. Yeah. Since you are a huge fan of Marion Cotillard, I recently stumbled across a hilarious fake ad she did that you might get a kick out of.

      Here's the link:

      https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=SGoRNg3qSH0

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    3. LOL, I figured that was the link. She's amazing.

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