Since V for Vendetta was recently released on DVD, I've found myself asking a deep, philosophical question. How many other actresses shaved their heads or went totally bald for the sake of the cinematic arts? It turns out there were quite a few. I found nine worth mentioning and eventually decided to drop Robin Tunney (Empire Records) and Demi Moore (G.I. Jane) to runner-up status.
1. Maria Falconetti in The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
Falconetti set the tone for bald chicks for generations to come; many critics have singled out hers as the greatest movie performance of all time. Most of the movie is in close-up and you find yourself looking more at her haunted eyes than you do her close-cropped dome.
2. Constance Towers in The Naked Kiss (1964)
In the opening moments of Samuel Fuller's crime classic, prostitute Kelly (Towers) swings away with her purse at the camera, beating the living tar out of some john who refuses to pay her. At some point during the scuffle, the victim reaches out and snatches her hair right off the top of her head! She's bald as a cue ball! (She then spends the entire credit sequence re-arranging her wig.) It's likely that Ms. Towers actually wore a skin wig (Fuller probably didn't pay enough to warrant a real shave), but the force of this sequence alone earns it a spot on the list.
3. Persis Khambatta in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
The Indian-born actress (who died in 1998 at age 47) playing Lieutenant Ilea was really bald (no trace of stubble here). I remember watching the scene in which the Enterprise goes too fast and opens up a wormhole; the crew starts bouncing around in their chairs. As a kid, the image of Ilea bouncing with no hair always made me laugh, for no particular reason.
4. Sigourney Weaver in Alien³ (1992)
Weaver's clean, muscular face makes her possibly the best-looking bald chick in cinema history. In David Fincher's dark, moody, underrated sequel, Ripley must shave her head to avoid lice after landing on a prison planet. Oh, and that pesky alien is still around, too.
5. Julianne Nicholson in The Love Letter (1999)
Hong Kong director Peter Ho-sun Chan made a lovely, if inauspicious Hollywood debut with this quirky romantic comedy. Over the summer, in a small, seaside, Massachusetts bookstore, several characters fall in love with one another, but only Nicholson has the audacity to shave her head into a buzz when her lover of choice (Tom Everett Scott) does not return her feelings.
6. Samantha Morton in Minority Report (2002)
I guess I can't blame Morton for shaving her head for this, since she spends half the movie immersed in water. That's a lot of time under the hair dryer. We know there were no special effects involved because she appeared, a year later, in In America with a short little buzz cut, her locks just beginning to grow back.
7. Natalie Portman in V for Vendetta (2006)
Portman gets her hair shaved on camera for this excellent futuristic thriller, which made me nervous. What if the camera jammed? They'd have to wait a year for it to grow back just to re-shoot that one scene! Incidentally, the lovely Ms. Portman gives Ms. Weaver a run for her money in the fantasy bald chick department.