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Thursday
Mar152018

THE ACTRESSES WHO SPUN OSCAR CACHE INTO STUDIO PAYDAYS

Hollywood boardrooms court established brands to soften the ‘no one knows anything’ nature of studio hit-making. And next to money-spinners like Iron Man, Captain America and now, Black Panther, the brand Hollywood loves most is the little golden guy, Oscar. So Oscar Cred-plus-Pop Culture Icon would seem like a sure box office thing, right? With Supporting Actress darling Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl, 2015) about to debut as gamer-babe Lara Croft and 2015 Best Actress Brie Larson’s MCU shot Captain Marvel in production, we look at four Academy Award winners, each of them a Hollywood leading lady, who banked blockbuster bucks in the wake of Oscar glory. The question is, “Was it worth it…?

ANJELINA JOLIE
HER OSCAR WIN: Best Supporting Actress, GIRL INTERRUPTED (Dir: James Mangold; 1999)
HER FRANCHISE SHOT: As Lara Croft in Paramount Pictures’ LARA CROFT TOMB RAIDER (Dir: Simon West; 2001)
THE VERDICT: When Paramount poured US$115million into a female-led action film in a marketplace with a patchy track record for vidgame adaptations, the studio was banking that the red-hot Oscar winner’s penchant for publicity and four-quadrant appeal would pay dividends. A prime June 15 summer slot opened the door to a US$131million gross (a further US$144million internationally), spinning Jolie’s Supporting Actress cache into box office traction. The hastily cobbled-together 2003 sequel, overseen by Speed director Jan de Bont, killed off Croft’s bigscreen life until 2018’s reboot. (Pictured, right; Anjelina Jolie, with Daniel Craig, in 2001's Lara Croft Tomb Raider)
WORTH IT?: Yes

HALLE BERRY
HER OSCAR WIN: Best Actress, MONSTER’S BALL (Dir: Marc Forster; 2001)
HER FRANCHISE SHOT: As Patience Phillips/Catwoman in CATWOMAN (Dir: Pitof; 2004)
THE VERDICT: Warner Bros had been trying to greenlight a Catwoman feature since Michelle Pfeiffer set screens alight as the feline femme in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns, twenty years prior (both Ashley Judd and Nicole Kidman came close to donning the leather garb). When Halle Berry lifted the Best Actress trophy for Monster’s Ball, stardom beckoned in the form of DC Comic’s most complex female character; Warners sniffed a Batman-sized smash. Instead, the US$100million pic sulked to a US$60million worldwide gross, sunk by a wave of scathing reviews. In his New York Times review, A.O. Scott summed up the disaster that was Catwoman when he stated, “It made me think back fondly on ‘Garfield’”; the late Roger Ebert calls it one of the movies he hates the most. Berry took the response in her professional stride, even accepting in person the Worst Actress trophy at the infamous Golden Raspberry ceremony.
WORTH IT?: God, no.

CHARLIZE THERON
HER OSCAR WIN: Best Actress, MONSTER (Dir: Patty Jenkins; 2003)
HER FRANCHISE SHOT: As Aeon Flux in Paramount Pictures’ ÆON FLUX (Dir: Karyn Kusama; 2005)
THE VERDICT: Paramount sensed a new female-led action tentpole in Æon Flux, the long-in-development adaptation of MTV’s iconic 90s anime heroine; in Charlize Theron, the South African model-turned-Oscar winner due her studio blockbuster breakthrough, they had their dystopian future action lead. But the arthouse audience and critical community who warmed to her as serial killer Aileen Wournos in Patty Jenkin’s Monster (domestic gross, US$34million) showed little interest in her sci-fi action franchise gamble; nor did mainstream audiences, who largely turned their backs on the US$62million flop. An untested blockbuster director (Girlfight’s Karyn Kusama) and a studio regime change that took creative control of the film and dumped it into the early December multiplexes with little fanfare meant that Theron’s Oscar’s glow had long since faded. (Pictured, above; Theron as Aeon Flux)
WORTH IT?: It’s slowly developing the cult following (that it perhaps unconsciously courted), but ask the Paramount bean counters and…no, not worth it.

ANNE HATHAWAY
HER OSCAR WIN: Best Supporting Actress, LES MISERABLES (Dir: Tom Hooper; 2012)
HER FRANCHISE SHOT: As Selina Kyle/Catwoman in the stalled CATWOMAN reboot.
THE VERDICT: This one’s a mystery for the ages. When her take on Catwoman brightened up Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises (2012), the industry buzzed about the potential for a spinoff starring the Les Miserables trophy winner. She took the supporting role of ‘Fantine’ for its prestige value and was weighing up whether Catwoman would be her first post-Oscar leading part (that took another three years, in 2015’s The Intern). In 2012, Nolan stirred the casting pot when asked if Hathaway could carry her own Selina Kyle story. “I certainly think she deserves it,” he told The Gaurdian, “Anne is incredibly precise and articulate about the psychology of the character." As recently as 2016, Hathaway was keeping the dream alive; she told Variety, “I think the Chris Nolan chapter of the Batman story has been wrapped up and I’m part of that, but I love the DC Universe and it would be fun to take a trip back.”
WORTH IT?: We’ll see…

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