FAVORITE FEMALE LEADS

This is a tribute to some of my favorite female leads of all time. These talented women command the screen, steal the scenes, disappear into their characters, and have the acting chops to pull a lame film up simply by their presence. 


HELEN MIRREN 

With a screen career starting in 1966, Mirren has worked her way up the ranks of Hollywood in so many splendid roles that it would be hard to narrow down her best part. She first rose to fame in the UK with her starring turn as Detective Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect. She's been nominated for an Oscar 4 times, and the Golden Globe and BAFTA 11 times each. But it was her role as Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen that won her awards in every category and catapulted her to international fame. Who can forget this acting homage that opened a window into the life of the world's most famously private monarch. I have relished her work for many years, but at the age of 67 she took the world by surprise playing a retired assassin in Red and Red 2 proving that kick-ass chicks can carry an AARP card. Now, at an incredibly sexy 69 years old she's one of Hollywood's hottest commodities and shows no signs of stopping. Here are some of my other favorite Dame Mirren roles. 

My Fave Roles: Queen (2006), Hitchcock (2012), The Debt (2010), Red (2013), Gosford Park (2001), Hundred Foot Journey (2014), Woman in Gold (2015).

Fascinating Fact: She and her husband Taylor Hackford are both Oscar winners.

JUDY DENCH

This ten-time BAFTA winner is probably best known for her recurring role as M in the James Bond franchiseShe is the only over-60 actress to have collected seven Oscar nominations. If you are any fan of the Britcom (British sitcoms) then you have probably seen her in As Time Goes By (1992-2005) as the irrepressible Jean Hardcastle. But, her Shakespearean background and stage performances have made her a strong fixture since 1959 when she debuted as Ophelia in Shakespeare's Hamlet. Judith Olivia Dench worked steadily in the business for 40 years before she came to fame playing the aging Queen Victoria in Mrs. Brown. International fame ensued in 1998, when she won the Best Supporting Actor award for just seven-minutes of screen time in the iconic "Shakespeare in Love." Her trade mark roles are usually playing formidable women who rule their sphere with an iron fist. Yet, it is her lesser known characters I have cherished the most; such as the gentle and determined Philomena Lee searching for the child stolen from her and placed into adoption in the 1950's in the recent Philomena. It's been a long journey to the top and Judy is first to admit it's hard to believe. But, there's one thing for sure; her characters are almost always indelibly carved into your memory banks.

My Fave RolesNotes on a Scandal (2006), Mrs. Brown (1997), Tea with Mussolini (1999), Philomena (2014) , The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, (2012), Skyfall (2012), Cranford (2011).
Fascinating Fact: Her very first stage role was as a snail in her junior school play.



VIOLA DAVIS

This heart-stopping actress has only been in the field for 18 years, but she catapulted to national attention with her break out role in Antwone Fisher. Hollywood stood up and took notice of her small but powerful role. But, it was Doubt that firmly placed her on the national grid as the long-suffering mother Mrs. Miller. She then went on to star in the ultra surprising hit The Help as Abileen for which she received a Best Supporting Actress nomination. She has also taken home two Tony awards for her Broadway roles, the most recent for Fences in 2010 opposite Denzel Washington. Glamour Magazine named her "Film Actress of the Year" in 2012. She has taken the small screen by storm in the Shonda Rhimes break out hit "How to Get Away with Murder." Her character Annalise Keating, is a brilliant and complex professor of law; a part that has already garnered attention during the 2015 awards season. Yes, this 1965 South Carolina born actress continues to prove she has staying power by consistently turning in riveting performances that have us shouting for more.

My Fave Roles: Doubt (2007), The Help (2011), Get on Up (2014), Antwone Fisher (2002).
Fascinating Fact: She is close friends with George Clooney.



CATE BLANCHETT

Beauty, grace and a chameleon's ability to completely inhabit a role are the trademark of this Australian born actress. Whether she's playing a commanding queen or an Elfin sage you believe her. Blanchett is clearly one of Hollywood's "IT" girls with a repertoire of parts guaranteed to make the head spin. Who can forget her as the Tudor Queen of England rallying her forces to war against the Spanish Armada in Elizabeth? Or, as the down-on-her-luck New York Socialite in Blue Jasmine? Born in 1969, she graduated from Sydney's prestigious NIDA, then jumped into critical acclaim in little over a year with her theatrical performances. Hollywood came calling after her screen debut in the 1997 Paradise Road. She shot to stardom and nomination status with the critically acclaimed Elizabeth in 1998 and has continued to dazzle, surprise and delight ever since. She has only ever gone six years without an Oscar nomination between roles and is the only actress to have won an Oscar for playing an Oscar winning actress (as Katherine Hepburn) in The Aviator. With two Oscars, three BAFTA's, and three Golden Globes under her belt, she proves repeatedly that she's a force to be reckoned with in the industry. 

My Fave Roles: An Ideal Husband (1999), Elizabeth-the Golden Age (2007), Charlotte Grey (2001), Lord of the Rings (2000-3), The Aviator (2004), Robin Hood (2010), Blue Jasmine (2013).
Fascinating Fact:  She took the role of Galadriel in Lord of the Rings because she wanted to wear the pointy ears. 



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