Seven plus-sized actresses with big careers.

Seven plus-sized actresses with big careers. (photo)

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Last week, Howard Stern got ruder than usual on the topic of recent Oscar nominee Gabourey Sidibe. Overweight people, he said, can’t have acting careers: “She should have gotten the Best Actress award because she’s never going to have another shot. What movie is she gonna be in?” But, of course, obesity is not an automatic impediment to thespian success, male or female — one need only look at Sidibe’s “Precious” co-star Mo’Nique for an example of a full-figured actress who has collected a steady paycheck from the movie business. True, it’s rare to see an onscreen presence bigger than a size two, but a life on the character actor margins can be eked out at the very least. So here’s a list of seven actresses that prove Stern wrong:

03152010_grapes.jpgJane Darwell

Arguably the most famous person from Palmyra, Mo., Darwell is uncharitably described on Turner Classic Movies database is kinder: “A heavy-set character player with a hearty voice and a slightly worried expression.” Darwell worried herself into somewhere around 170 film parts, including the iconic turns as the Bird Lady in “Mary Poppins” and Ma Joad in John Ford’s “The Grapes of Wrath,” where the only thing that exceeded her presence was the film’s incredibly hyperbolic trailer:

03152010_eightandahalf.jpgEddra Gale

Little is known about the enigmatic Gale, except that she was an opera singer Fellini discovered on a trip to Milan and ultimately threw her weight around the in film world, racking up a string of supporting credits in American films through 1980, most notably as Peter Sellers’ wife in “What’s New Pussycat.” But she’ll always be best known for her debut in “8 ½” as La Saraghina, the monstrously voluptuous prostitute who warps Marcello Mastroianni’s childhood on the beach:


Ricki Lake

Best remembered for playing the Hefty Hideaway-sponsored dance queen Tracy Turnblad in the original “Hairspray,” Lake went on to a successful career as a daytime talk show in the ’90s and slimmed down as a result, blaming child abuse for her one-time weight of 260 pounds. Frankly, some fans liked her heavier, such as Elizabeth Turnquist, who felt betrayed by the former plus-sized teen queen, writing on WeAreTheRealDeal.com, “I was 15 in 1989 when I watched the made-for-TV movie ‘Babycakes,'” she says. “It was the first time I was able to identify – as a fat girl – with an actress.” However, judging by how Lake stares off into the distance like patience on a particularly painful monument and the less-than-dignified song choice of “Big Girls Don’t Cry” in “Babycakes”‘ opening scene, perhaps it was the actress who wasn’t able to identify with the fat girl:

03152010_bringing.jpgQueen Latifah

Speaking of “Hairspray,” Latifah stepped into the shoes of Motormouth Maybelle for the 2007 musical remake, capitalizing on the success of her Oscar-nominated turn in “Chicago” and her abilities as an acting/singing double threat. But if you think about it, there’s really no one physically resembling Latifah at the same level of prominence, which may be why she’s been so prolific in recent years, mostly in pretty dubious material like “Bringing Down the House” and “Mad Money,” and has also become a controversial figure in the eyes of Turnquist (see above), who sees the actress as a turncoat for endorsing Jenny Craig. Not that Latifah sees it that way: “[The fans] see that I’m doing this for the health reasons but also say, ‘She’s still representing for the big girls.'”

03152010_misery.jpgKathy Bates

Until she won an Oscar for “Misery,” the brash and always fun Bates had been known for her ability to seamlessly fuse acid sarcasm and barely concealed warmth for much of her career. Fortunately, she didn’t allow herself to be typecast as the fat psychopath in subsequent pictures, instead carving out memorable appearances as Molly Brown in “Titanic” and, of course, getting naked with Jack Nicholson in “About Schmidt.” Upon her third Oscar nomination for the latter, Bates remarked, “I think the Academy gave me a nomination for that one so that I would never take off my clothes on camera again.” As if Jack looked any better.

03152010_margo.jpgMargo Martindale

Like Bates, Martindale fit the bill when Alexander Payne was looking for a hefty middle-aged Midwesterner and gets the full seven minutes to herself in “14th Arrondissement,” Payne’s contribution to “Paris je t’aime,” in which she plays Carol, the real American in Paris who wants badly to connect with another culture but doesn’t know how. Charges of condescension were leveled against Payne as they always are, but this is a great empathetic showcase for the longtime character actress who is probably known to most as the woman behind the dry cleaning counter in that ubiquitous Yoplait commercial:

03152010_fat.jpgKirstie Alley

What can we say about Kirstie Alley that she hasn’t said herself? After sailing past the 200-pound mark in 2005, Alley hope to reboot her flagging career with the meta Showtime series “Fat Actress” after her last shot at a movie career peaked with “Drop Dead Gorgeous” in 1999. Lasting all of seven episodes, Alley took the Charlie Kaufman approach to the half-hour comedy, playing herself and pluckily confronting the struggle with weight that made her catnip for the tabloids, but with none of the awkwardness. So what’s a fat actress to do when her show’s cancelled? Jenny Craig, of course. Those are the breaks.

[Photos: “Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire,” Lionsgate, 2009; “The Grapes of Wrath,” 20th Century Fox, 1940; “8 1/2,” The Criterion Collection, 1963; “Hairspray,” New Line Cinema, 1988; “Bringing Down The House,” Buena Vista, 2003; “Misery,” Columbia Pictures, 1990; “Paris, je t’aime,” First Look International, 2006; “Fat Actress,” Showtime, 2005.]

Carol Cate Blanchett

Spirit Guide

Check Out the Spirit Awards Nominees for Best Male and Female Leads

Catch the 2016 Spirit Awards live Feb. 27th at 5P ET/2P PT on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Wilson Webb/©Weinstein Company/Courtesy Everett Collection

From Jason Segel’s somber character study of author David Foster Wallace, to Brie Larson’s devastating portrayal of a mother in captivity, the 2016 Spirit Awards nominees for Best Male and Female Leads represent the finest in the year of film acting. Take a look at the Best Male and Female Leads in action, presented by Jaguar.

Best Male Lead 

Christopher Abbott, James White
Abraham Attah, Beasts of No Nation
Ben Mendelsohn, Mississippi Grind
Jason Segel, The End of the Tour
Koudous Seihon, Mediterranea

Watch more Male Lead nominee videos here.

Best Female Lead 

Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Rooney Mara, Carol
Bel Powley, The Diary of A Teenage Girl
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Tangerine

Watch more Female Lead nominee videos here.

The Mayans predicted it: “Titanic” in 3D.

The Mayans predicted it: “Titanic” in 3D. (photo)

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For his next trick, James Cameron intends to grace us with a 3D version of “Titanic.” He’s aiming for 2012, which he says is both a realistic technical target and the 100th anniversary of the actual Titanic’s sinking.

Cameron seems to have missed a self-aggrandizing trick for once by failing to mention the surprisingly large numbers of people who sincerely believe the Mayans were right and the world will end in 2012 (an idea so surprisingly robust NASA had to issue a statement debunking it). “Titanic” is nothing if not an elegant apocalypse: the destruction of the ship has real heft to it, a bravura extended sequence in which Cameron flexing his action muscles towards a darker purpose.

Despite all those stupid CGI extras, much of “Titanic” has a compelling verisimilitude — few high-grossing blockbusters have ever looked so real. Cameron basically blew up the blockbuster paradigm he helped solidify with “Terminator 2″ — something he’s also done with “Avatar,” which has to be one of the most long and indulgent movies to inspire conversations among complete strangers.

03162010_ghosts.jpgWill people go crazy for “Titanic” all over again? When the film hit theaters in 1997, it was a rare national collective moviegoing moment, and I assume most people have good memories of whenever they saw it (I did). The unusual set-piece nature of the action stuff made it hard to rip off, which will also prove true with “Avatar.”

But it’s fashionable now to hate on the film and call it silly (it’s really not bad at all), so you have to wonder how the re-release will play. James Cameron, for whatever reason, draws even more ire for his ego than George Lucas. A “Titanic” victory lap will probably launch more exclamation points and angry, all-caps posts than you’ve ever seen. Angry online types — you’ve got two years to prep.

[Photos: “Titanic,” Fox, 1997; “Ghosts of the Abyss,” Disney, 2003]

A good editor can be a bad sign.

A good editor can be a bad sign. (photo)

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This Friday sees the release of the by most counts wretched rebooted “The Wolfman,” whose long and troubled production is no secret. The man who walked the movie through its final cut? Walter Murch, a golden god among editors for his pioneering work with sound design on “THX 1138,” “American Graffiti,” sound and editing on “Apocalypse Now,” and so on.

Yet Murch — who I presume commands a high fee for his participation on projects that, unlike “Tetro” and “Youth Without Youth,” are pretty useless — has some other notable flops he’s worked on: 1994’s Julia Roberts fiasco “I Love Trouble,” 1995’s “First Knight.”

Generally speaking, the presence of a legendary editor on an unlikely project spells trouble, a mess that called for the finest hands possible to attempt salvage it. Take Anne V. Coates, whose place in film history would be assured just for “Lawrence of Arabia”‘s match cut. (For good measure, her other credits include “The Elephant Man” and “Out Of Sight.”) Her latest film? “Extraordinary Measures,” the forgettable Brendan Fraser-Harrison Ford movie that’s already come and gone.

02112010_gadget.jpgMore examples: once, Dede Allen edited “The Hustler,” “Bonnie and Clyde,” “Serpico,” “Dog Day Afternoon,” “Slap Shot” and (just for good measure) “The Breakfast Club.” In the past decade, she’s been lured out of inactivity just a few times: for “John Q,” the failed Robin Williams sci-fi drama “The Final Cut” and a Julia Roberts movie so bad (“Fireflies in the Garden”) it never even saw domestic release.

Or Jerry Greenberg, Murch’s colleague on “Apocalypse Now,” the guy behind “The French Connection”‘s legendary car chase and a De Palma veteran (“Scarface,” “The Untouchables,” “Body Double”) whose credits over the last decade include “Inspector Gadget,” “Bringing Down The House,” and “Get Carter” with Sylvester Stallone.

Once you become awesome enough, it seems, you no longer edit good movies. You’ll be paid well to try to salvage the unsalvagable in post. And that’s the only good thing about terrible yet unamusing movies: they give editing legends the paychecks they deserve. And warn you to stay far, far away.

[Photos: “Apocalypse Now,” Paramount, 1979; “Inspector Gadget,” Disney, 1999]

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