|"The more I see of men, the more I like dogs"|
-Clara Bow, silent-screen siren
Maybe only America Ferrera, whose introduction to us was as the title character of Ugly Betty, had as ignominious an introduction to the entertainment public as Heather Matarazzo.
Heather's first major role was the "unattractive" pre-pubescent lead, Dawn Weiner in Todd Solondz's Welcome to the Dollhouse. Early on, we learn her nickname has become "weinerdog."
I've told the story before that when I was up to line produce the film (I didn't get it-check out links), I thought finding a girl at that impressionable age who could handle the negativity would be challenging. As Heather has pointed out more times than she cares to remember in interviews, she just saw it as acting.
Movies are illusions, and the illusion works both ways. Lucille Ball was known as a comic, so she always toned down her looks; I've met a few actors who met her in person when she was younger who said she was a knockout. That didn't work for her comic image, so we think of her a lot plainer.
Phyllis Diller found a hard time getting work as a woman and a stand-up comic until she decided to make herself look unattractive and thus unthreatening. Again, she was far more attractive in person.
Subsequent roles for both Heather and America have shown off their beauty.
I was lucky enough to work one day with Heather on a short, so I was happy when I saw that she is starting a blog, and, in true honest fashion, she starts with a bang. A woman who spent a good deal of time doing inversion training so she could hang upside down naked and come to an unpleasant end in Hostel II was not about to pull any punches in her inaugural post, linked here.
In it, she tells of being a 19-year old who had been attached to a film project for two years, only to find out she was being replaced a month before production because some investors felt she was an not, um, an object of their desire.
Heather puts it much better - but I won't even try to steal her thunder.
It's certainly not unheard of, and sometimes can even apply to men. I did a short once with a very talented and nice gay male director who, when casting his lead man, wanted to know if he was attractive to women.
One after another, he asked female members of our staff, "Would you fuck him?"
However, as men are still the predominant power players in film, it is women who have to not only be pretty enough, but desirable enough. This goes back to the silent days, when Clara Bow was referred to as the "it" girl, with little doubt as to what the "it" was. Our great-grandparents weren't as prudish as we would believe.
Girl-next-door works for rom-coms; for meatier female roles, it is preferable that you look good in tight clothing.
Anyway, I won't go on about women and casting here. My point of this impromptu post was to introduce you to a blog you may want to follow. Heather has had an interesting career, and after years as a New Yorker, has just recently made the movie to LA. I've never seen her be boring in a movie, and I doubt her blog will be.
I will add it to the list soon. In the meantime, check it out.