Movies

Five A-List Actresses Who Refuse to Take it Easy

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Katherine Heigl they are not.

1. Charlize Theron

Charlize Theron left her native South Africa to model and had a brief stint studying ballet before getting into acting via an argument with a bank teller (true story). After a few forgettable roles, she portrayed serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster, gaining weight and going through an elaborate makeup routine for the role. She won an Oscar for the role, and though she didn’t entirely shun big mainstream projects afterwards (she netted $10 million for Aeon Flux), she consistently chooses adventurous roles, like abused miner Josey Aimes in North Country, and the mentally-challenged Rita in Arrested Development. Her latest role in Diablo Cody’s Young Adult as a bitter, shallow novelist is firmly in the antihero tradition and expands on the comic range she showed in Arrested Development.

2. Kate Winslet

Born into a family of classically-trained thespians, Winslet was already booking professional gigs by the time she was eleven. Her star-making turn as Rose in Titanic made Winslet the youngest recipient of two Oscar nominations and got her a cool $2 million (not bad for a twenty-two-year old). Afterwards, Winslet retreated towards more independent productions for a few years, and her role as boorish extrovert Clementine Kruczynski in Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was the first of several offbeat roles. She continued on that road with characters like illiterate seductress (and, oh yeah, Nazi) Hanna in The Reader and a bored suburban housewife in Revolutionary Road, a role that prompted New York Magazine critic David Edelstein to call her “the best English-speaking film actress of her generation.”

3. Meryl Streep

Saying Meryl Streep is a good actress is kind of like saying Michael Jordan could play a good game of basketball, and she’s always chosen interesting roles. (Death Becomes Her, anyone?) But even after receiving $5 million along with revenue from The Bridges Of Madison County’s initial box office gross (which was probably equivalent to the GDP of some developing nations), she continued to play unique, challenging roles, like everyone’s favorite horrible boss Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada and the imposing Sister Aloysius Beauvier in Doubt. She also does stuff like Mamma Mia, but let’s just gloss over that. 

4. Cate Blanchett

Like Charlize Theron, Blanchett lost her father at a young age, but she overcame that tragedy and quickly rose through the ranks of Australia’s National Institute of Dramatic Art. In 1998, Blanchett broke out with Elizabeth, a Serious Biopic about the life of Queen Elizabeth the First. Other quirky turns included pregnant journalist Jane Winslett-Richardson in The Life Aquatic and Hollywood legend Katherine Hepburn in The Aviator. But her most daring choice was taking on mid-’60s drug-addled Bob Dylan in I’m Not There, during which she stuffed her trousers to help her “walk like a man.” The cognitive dissonance of seeing those famous cheekbones beneath that famous shock of hair, combined with her eerie nailing of Dylan’s mannerisms, made her a bright spot in that overstuffed experiment of a film.

5. Julianne Moore

Born Julie Anne Smith, Moore spent her first few years as a globe-trotting Army brat. After a stint on As The World Turns, Moore made it to Hollywood and, with 1995's Safe established her relationship with oddball director Todd Haynes. Then, in 1997, Moore appeared in two very different movies — The Lost World and Boogie Nights. While the former had her playing a paleontologist (and made her $3 million), the latter featured her as Amber Waves, a porn star with a progressively worsening drug addiction. She moved on to play conceptual artist Maude Lebowski in The Big Lebowski, and Linda Partridge in Magnolia. While she still makes bank as a distinguished cover girl, Moore’s still partial to work outside the Hollywood safe zone. Her most recent gig as the irresponsible, daydreaming half of a married lesbian couple in The Kids Are Alright is a testament to her ability to challenge herself rather than sit back and collect.