Some characters are the ones that not only define the craft of an actor but also help the audience to live the life of the character through them. 2021 saw some commendable and appreciative women characters that are not only going to stick throughout the minds of people but also will be regarded as a turning point in the industry when women characters will be written down.
Whether it was Lady Gaga’s Patrizia Reggiani, or Nicole Kidman’s Lucille Ball, Rachel Zegler’s Maria, to Kristen Stewart’s Princess Diana or Jodie Comer's Marguerite de Carrouges, Penélope Cruz’s Janis, these actresses not only lived through their character but also have created a legacy or a benchmark for the others to reach.
Talking to Variety about her character Marguerite de Carrouges in ‘The Last Duel’, Jodie Comer shared, “The thing about the perspective is it has to be so subtle. The change has to be so minor for it to work correctly.” The Last Duel is a story that is narrated to the audience from three perspectives and one of the essential perspectives was of Marguerite de Carrouges(the wife) and the others were of the Knight Sir Jean de Carrouges, (husband of Marguerite de Carrouges and is played by actor Matt Damon) and Knight’s ex-friend Jacques Le Gris (who is accused of rape by the wife and is played by actor Adam Driver).
Jodie talks about a particular scene in the movie where the Knight asks his wife to kiss his estranged friend as a gesture of peace and explained, “I think it was very clear that, in her husband’s story, this is just the formality and you are expected to do as I tell you. While Le Gris feels an immediate connection and she is instigating openness. When, in reality, Marguerite feels how most every woman in such a situation, that this is absurd and I am not comfortable, and I am not OK with it.” The actress who has been appreciated for her acting in the movie shared with the publication that one of the hardest scenes for her was when the wife tells her husband that the friend with whom he had a rocky relationship, forced himself into their home and her.
Jodie added, “The most challenging part of this script was … always wanting to make sure that Marguerite’s truth was very clear and told so then I could feel comfortable in kind of giving the male characters what it is that they need in order for their story to ring true.” She further mentioned that in comparison to her husband who is full of rage, Marguerite is soft-spoken and softly crying as she knows that sharing this information is a lot harder than staying quiet.
Moving onto Penelope Cruz’s character Janis in ‘Parallel Mothers’, who accidentally brings a baby girl of a teen mother home and tries to slowly let her into her life before laying out the truth to her. Janis’ instant reaction on knowing that the baby girl she brought home is not hers is to run away or hide or probably call an attorney but she finds a way to let her truth out.
Talking about the risk that Janis takes to reconnect the baby girl to her biological mother and probably lose the baby, Penelope said to Variety, “Because she’s a good person, she’s forcing herself to be put in a situation where she will have to speak the truth. Imagine the process of going through something like that and putting together the strength to speak.” The actress shared that she spent about four to five months finding the characters for writer-director Pedro Almodóvar’s script which includes the “process of drying our own tears because he didn’t want our tears … to mix with, with whatever it was from the character.”
Penelope is a mother to two children and added that she is someone who cries a lot more than the character she played or would express her emotions differently. She added, “where Janis has that explosion and she’s not just crying, but throwing up on the floor and passing out. I think, also, the audience needs to have that with her.”
Lady Gaga’s character Patrizia Reggiani in ‘House of Gucci’ was famous for two reasons; her marriage to Maurizio Gucci and the fact that she was convicted for having Maurizio Gucci killed in 1995. The actress was criticized for her character but she shared with NPR that she had spent months studying Patrizia Reggiani and said, "I had to decide as an actress, 'Did she have the murder gene? Was she born a killer?' And I don't believe she was. I think that it was these trigger points of trauma throughout her life that turned her into what she became, which was a monster." She said that she completely understands that it is extremely painful to watch a true-life story come through in what is essentially a third person’s perspective or belief of truth but she had tried her best to make the story seem about women and survival.
Further in the interview, Lady Gaga shared that the role came to her at a difficult point in her life and explained, “I have a hard time with fame. I have for many years grappled with this sort of existential crisis of love and creating art and also longing for more private life. I found this character and I read it and I talked to Ridley, and Ridley said to me, "She loved him." And then I thought to myself, "that I know how to do," meaning to play a killer and to simply play something that lacks dynamics where you just play an evil person for the duration of the film that is uninteresting to me. I do think that that was the hat trick with this movie is that there was heart put into this film, and I think it could have easily been just something that was compelling to watch. But I think it became something that was compelling, but also something that provoked empathy for all the characters, meaning empathy for this family. This war, this war over their skins, and this war over Gucci."