Melissa McCarthy has just signed onto a film which will most likely shoot straight to the top of your anticipated indies. She’ll be playing the lead in an adaptation of Lee Israel’s memoir, Can You Ever Forgive Me? If you haven’t heard of Israel, she worked as a biographer of classic celebrities through the ’70s and ’80s, but when her career started to crumble, she began forging letters from deceased stars and selling them for small amounts, in an attempt to fly under the radar. After a while, when people began to catch on to the forgeries, she started stealing actual letters from various archives.
To make this even cooler, the film will be directed by Marielle Heller, of the spectacular Diary of a Teenage Girl.
But there’s another element that makes this a project to pay attention to. Because this project has been in development for a while, and was originally designed to be a Julianne Moore vehicle.
Now, I’m not breaking any ground here or exposing any secrets by reminding us all that Hollywood is a shallow goddamn place. Casting is— to generalize, but accurately— most often based in superficialities. It’s based on type, and that type is based in appearance more than anything else. If you’ve ever auditioned as an actor in Los Angeles, you know what it’s like to walk into a room and see every agent’s version of you. Emily Blunt recently talked about how small the pool is for female action stars, simply because the people in charge of these big casting decisions, with huge budgets on the line, exist within a bubble that leaves little room for risks of imagination.
So it’s a shitty, delicate subject, and to be perfectly honest, it makes me uncomfortable to have to devote so many words to pointing out that Melissa McCarthy and Julianne Moore are not the same type. They would not normally be at the same auditions. But it’s worth pointing out because THIS SHIT DOES NOT HAPPEN. Hollywood is not a meritocracy; it is based in superficial visuals and pre-imagined types. When we talk about wanting a female Doctor or a black James Bond, what we’re asking for is an expansion (or total demolition) of those rigid types. To have the person who’s actually best for the job get the job, rather than the same old line that ‘oh wow, once again, the best people for all the jobs were the same people who have always had them.’
McCarthy and Moore are both great actors with strong comedic abilities. They should be able to go up for the same roles. And the Hollywood so many of us have been saying we want for so long, feels a little bit closer knowing that at least this once, they were.