Once upon a time, Julia Roberts was America’s sweetheart. (Hell, at one point, she even starred in a movie called America’s Sweethearts.) But because nobody can stay an ingenue forever, the 44-year-old actress has officially aged into the next phase of her career — one that’s filled almost exclusively with Oscar bait (see the upcoming adaptations of The Normal Heart and August: Osage County) and campy roles like her turn in this weekend’s Mirror Mirror. Let’s call this stage “the Meryl Streep juncture.”
And as Mirror Mirror‘s evil queen, Roberts has some wicked shoes to fill. In live-action movies inspired by fairy tales, the role of villainous queen/stepmother is generally taken by an acclaimed, respected actress — one who’s clearly having a ball playing a baddie. Susan Sarandon’s Queen Narissa (Enchanted), Helena Bonham Carter’s Red Queen (Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland), and Anjelica Huston’s Baroness Rodmilla (Ever After) are all charter members of the Oscar Winners/Nominees Turned Vile Villains club. On June 1, Charlize Theron’s Queen Ravenna (Snow White and the Huntsman) will join their ranks; in 2013, Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent (Maleficent) will become a member as well.
But which of these heartless fiends is the most deliciously evil of them all?We’ll have to leave Roberts, Theron, and Jolie out of the competition for now, since most of us don’t yet know the extent of their glorious wickedness. (For the record, EW’s Lisa Schwarzbaum says that the former Pretty Woman “enjoys herself immensely” in Mirror Mirror.) Even after putting these three heavyweights aside, though, it’s tough to pick a clear winner. Let’s consider these top five candidates:
Role: Enchanted‘s Queen Narissa, a sorceress who banishes sweet princess Amy Adams from Fairy Land to the real world.
Loves: Poisoned apples; goth-chic gowns
Most evil moment: Transforms into a dragon and nearly devours McDreamy. (Though really, who could blame her?)
Helena Bonham Carter
Role: Alice in Wonderland‘s Red Queen, a bobbleheaded wacko who employs frog as footmen.
Loves: A warm pig belly for her aching feet
Most evil moment: Her moat is filled with the heads of those she’s decapitated. Sounds more Game of Thrones than Disney, right?
Role: Ever After‘s Baroness Rodmilla de Ghent, the cruel stepmother of Drew Barrymore’s Cinderella-esque Danielle.
Loves: Her pretty daughter Marguerite; social-climbing
Most evil moment: Forces Danielle to choose between saving her mother’s shoes (the movie’s ersatz glass slippers) or the last book her father gave her.
Bernadette Peters (Here, we will assume that seven Tony nominations and two wins equals at least one Oscar nod)
Role: Cinderella’s Wicked Stepmother in the 1997 TV movie musical.
Loves: Extravagant balls; high notes
Most evil moment: Her biggest offense is ineffective scheming, so we’re going to go with crimes of fashion instead.
Role: 101 Dalmatians‘ Cruella de Vil, a fashion designer who wants a dalmatian-fur coat. (Sure, the movie isn’t really based on a fairy tale — but hey, neither is Alice in Wonderland.)
Loves: Cigarettes; henchmen played by Hugh Laurie
Most evil moment: Umm, did you hear about the part where she tries to turn the puppies into outerwear?
There you have it, PopWatchers: Our five favorite actresses who have played evil, cartoonish live-action villainesses. But which one reigns supreme? Tell us in the poll below — and if your favorite didn’t make it to the Top Five, feel free to name her in the comments.