There is something rather odd in the way Hollywood values the external beauty of its players, while simultaneously decrying it for being shallow and unrealistic onscreen. Have you ever noticed that? This came to mind when I was reading Changeling press a few weeks ago -- you might have read Clint Eastwood's sincerely lovely quote regarding his leading lady, Angelina Jolie: "She is an actress hampered by her gorgeous face, I think the most beautiful face on the planet. People sometimes can't see past that, to her talent. She's on all these magazine covers so it's easy to overlook what an amazing actress is underneath." It's an interesting thought, and a valid point when it comes to Jolie's career -- her looks and personal life outstripped her Oscar win long ago, and her acting talent was called into question soon after meeting Brad Pitt.

However, I don't really want to debate Jolie's talent, but rather the idea that an actor or actress can be hampered by their looks. (And yes, we discussed a variation of this in regards to Keira Knightley a few weeks ago.) Remember when Spike Lee didn't want to cast Halle Berry in Jungle Fever because he thought she was "too pretty"? The same problem nearly prevented Joe Wright casting Keira Knightley in Pride and Prejudice -- he thought she was too attractive to play Elizabeth Bennet. Unfortunately, I can't think of any comparable stories regarding male actors, and Google is coming up woefully short. Paul Newman always struggled against it, though, but I don't know if he was ever hampered by it.




I find it funny not only because it's difficult to make it in Hollywood without a pretty face -- but at the idea that certain characters, like Elizabeth Bennet, shouldn't be attractive. Of course, I'd like to see ordinary men and women onscreen more often -- European movies have always been wonderfully full of the kinds of men and women you'd pass on a street. But on the flip side, good looks actually do occur in nature (not all of them are plasticized in Hollywood), and they don't belong to actors or actresses, but to the kinds of people, lucky and unlucky, that Berry, Jolie, and Knightley have mimicked onscreen. Being amazingly good looking wouldn't prevent your child from being kidnapped, as in the Changling, nor prevent you from being a crack addict, like Berry in Jungle Fever. Just like ordinary or unattractive looks don't automatically make you unloved and unsuccessful in real life.

But what do you, the movie-going audience, think? Do you ever watch a movie with Angelina Jolie or George Clooney and find yourself unable to accept them as journalist, soldier, football player or what have you because they were so fantastically good looking? Do their good looks hamper their acting careers? Do you find it preposterous that directors try to "cast down" certain characters when it comes to looks? Talk to me in the comments below.