My dad used to take me to Sunday matinees to see old black and white movies. The first film I ever saw was National Velvet, starring Elizabeth Taylor. My classmates in high school would sneak into theaters to catch the ultra R rated Blue Lagoon; I snuck into the living room late at night to watch reruns of Peyton Place. The guys in my college film classes would rave about this guy named Spielberg; I used my mom’s free airline passes to fly to Paris so I could see old Cassavetes and Fellini films on the large screen.
I am now in the midst of casting Manson Girls, my next feature. There is a cameo role available for an actress around the age of 60. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the first submission, Terry Moore, Oscar nominee for Come Back, Little Sheba and star of Peyton Place. I continued down the page, where there were more Oscar nominees, Diane Ladd, Diana Scarwid, and Oscar winner Shirley Jones. Anina Lincoln, who worked with Fellini. Next came the television stars, Cheryl Ladd, Cybil Shepherd, Lee Meriwether, and the diva herself, Joan Collins. The list went on, too many for me to name. I was in shock. Then I turned the page. There she was, an actress on my dream list to play the part, Kathleen Turner. This had to be a prank, the two young guys I have working with me in casting must be pulling one over on me. I thought about it, would a couple of twenty-something year old guys even know these fabulous actresses? This was the real deal.
200 submissions later, the names kept coming. Good for me, a disgrace for Hollywood.
If this was the trend, in another 15 years, Hillary Swank and Charlize Theron would be competing for the same five-minute role and Sandra Bullock and Jodie Foster wouldn’t even be able to get in the room. Hollywood - Shame On You!
I decided at that exact moment, that I had to write a screenplay with multiple roles for actresses over 50. I would call it “8 ½”. Am I crazy, using the same title as one of Fellini’s greatest films? Of course not, I’d have 8 ½ of Hollywood’s greatest actresses by my side. How could I fail? We’d make it a detective story, a true crime about the murder of a sadistic Hollywood studio head, a new style of noir that I’ll dub a Nouveau Noir. Wait, how can I have 8 ½ actresses, you’re wondering? Let me paint the picture…
INT. HOLLYWOOD MOTION PICTURE AND TELEVISION RETIREMENT HOME, LIBRARY – MIDNIGHT
The room was dark, an occasional splash of red, from cars on the street as they hit the brakes, illuminated the room like a blood-soaked lantern flicking on and off. DETECTIVE JACK MARLOWE stepped into the library. The nostrils on his flattened, once-a-prize-fighter nose flared for a second then settled back into place. He was the type of guy they called a Gumshoe back in the day, the type of guy the ladies would regret the morning after. When he spoke, his lips barely moved.
I smelled the stench, like the cold, metallic core of a sewer pipe that needed to be replaced. It could only be one thing: blood. The body laid on the ground, in a pool of sticky liquid; hairy, white gut protruding from the loosened red, velvet smoker’s robe. I knew the nine broads that stood around the body meant business. Actually, 8 ½ broads, the one closest to the body was that Oriental lady who starred in South Pacific and those Hawaii Five-O episodes…
Indeed, the only thing worse than being a mature actress in Hollywood, is to be a mature actress of color. Listen up, Hillary, Charlize, Sandra, Jodie, and you too, Drew Barrymore. It’s brilliant that you have your own production companies and produce films for yourself to be in. More power to you. But the next film you produce, consider hiring a writer who’s not afraid to write a story about a bunch of buxom broads over 50. Don’t just take care of yourself; pay it back to the ones who paved the road for you. All you studio execs who have the power to greenlight a film, I’m coming your way and I’m bringing along a whole team of Hollywood’s legendary actresses. Consider this my official pitch: there’s close to 750,000,000 women in the world over the age of 50, do you really think they want to see Transformers 3? If that doesn’t sell you, think about this; Kathleen Turner AND Joan Collins after your ass because you won’t finance their next flick…
Susanna Lo is an award-winning director and screenwriter. Her upcoming film, Manson Girls, is scheduled to begin shooting in 2011. Her novel, Alma Of My Heart, was released by Stay Thirsty Press in November, 2010.
All opinions expressed by Susanna Lo are solely her own and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.