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Is Hollywood no longer in the leading-lady business?

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Brave_l

Brave_lAfter the disappointing box office of The Invasion (starring Nicole Kidman) and The Brave One (starring Jodie Foster, pictured), Warner Bros. is denying the rumor in the blogosphere (that is, in Nikki Finke’s “Deadline Hollywood” online column for L.A. Weekly) that the studio has decided to stop greenlighting actress-driven films. In fact, Warners tells Variety, it has a bunch of female-centered projects in the pipeline, which the Variety article goes on to list. Look at the list yourself, though, and you’ll see a lot of opportunity to say “Yes, but…”

For one thing some of the projects look, on the surface, like attempts to recapture old fizz in new bottles — re-teaming Unfaithful‘s Diane Lane and Richard Gere in a drama, and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days‘ Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey in a romantic comedy. Plus, Warners cites two upcoming superhero projects that both feature a group of male heroes and one heroine: Justice League and Watchmen (the latter directed by the guy who made 300, the manliest movie of the millennium). The studio also mentions women in supporting roles in upcoming movies (but supporting roles shouldn’t count as lead roles, should they?) and its ongoing efforts to mount a Wonder Woman movie; does Warners really want to boast of its inability to get that invisible plane off the ground after 10 years of trying?

I don’t mean to single out Warner Bros. (which, like EW.com, is part of Time Warner) because I’m sure that all the other studios have the same problem developing movies built around female leads that don’t involve Spandex or guns or shopworn chick-flick formulas. Whether or not Finke’s report is correct, there seems to be an industry-wide myopia that makes it plausible. A couple of high-profile flops featuring name actresses, and studio execs seem to think all female-driven movies are box office poison, instead of seeing the individual movies themselves as flawed in execution, or seeing that there’s a lack of imagination or variety in the roles being made available to our top actresses. The industry is so busy trying to lure the young male quadrant away from their Xboxes and into the theaters that it’s given up on trying to draw the rest of the potential movie-going audience. You’ve heard movie critics whine before that there was a time, long ago (from the ’30s to the ’70s), when comedies and dramas built around strong female characters were as much a part of Hollywood’s bread and butter as westerns and war movies, but it’s true, and there’s no reason why it couldn’t be true again.

addCredit(“The Brave One: Abbot Genser”)