Most roles in Hollywood are specifically written for a man or a woman, though, on occasion, during the production process, things change. Later this year, when director David Gordon Green’s political drama Our Brand is Crisis hits theaters, audiences will see Sandra Bullock in a role that was originally written for a man, one initially earmarked for George Clooney.
In a recent interview with Glamour, the Academy Award-winning actress talked about the process of finding roles. She told her agent to look at roles specifically written for men, and when they found the Our Brand is Crisis script, they asked if the producers were willing to make the lead character a woman. She said:
I did as my mother did: I put my blinders on and blazed forward. Sometimes you get a no. But I expect the no. I don’t expect the yes. With this I got very nervous. I didn’t know if George had made this for himself. But the response was "We’re cool with it."
It probably didn’t hurt Bullock’s chances that she has that Oscar on her shelf for The Blind Side, or that she’s a huge star beloved by millions. That probably factored into the decision to change the gender of the lead character. If the request didn’t come from Sandra Bullock, it very well may have met with a different response entirely.
But the producers were open to it, and now Bullock joins a list of actresses who have taken notable roles originally written as male. The part of Ripley in Alien was originally male before Sigourney Weaver came along, and that worked out pretty well for everyone; the same goes for Angelina Jolie’s badass character in Salt; and this winter, we’ll see another addition to this list as Gwendoline Christie’s Captain Phasma in Star Wars: The Force Awakens was also reportedly originally envisioned as a man.
Sometimes switching between genders is a tricky proposition, one that requires a great deal of rewriting and a reimagining of the character. In the case of Our Brand is Crisis and political campaign advisor Jane Bodine, however, there wasn’t much work required at all. Bullock continued:
And then the role—I mean, it was so beautifully written for a man. It wasn’t one of those things where you go, "Hmm, how do we change it to a woman?" You just change the sex; that was pretty much it. She’s human. She deals with addiction; she deals with mental illness. She’s brilliant at what she does, and she gets lost in the fact that all she cares about is a win. You look at our world—and back to my son: How do you raise a child to not make it all about the win when all we see in our world is people saying, "In order to have success, you have to win."
Our Brand is Crisis follows a disgraced American political consultant who is hired by a Bolivian candidate to get him elected. This puts her up against her old archenemy, and she eventually realizes that the stakes in this particular race are so much higher than simply winning and losing. Check out the trailer below.
The film debuted last month at the Toronto International Film Festival and has received mixed reviews. For her part, Bullock’s performance has been praised, and the character has been called one of the best female roles in recent years, but the overall film has been called toothless and hollow. We’ll get to see and judge for ourselves when Our Brand is Crisis goes wide on October 30.