From Oscar winners and superheroes to Aussie rising stars and veteran performers, the female voice is being heard loud and clear on the big and small screen, with quality roles for women now far more prevalent. Discover these 12 leading ladies and more as part of JB Hi-Fi’s selection of wonderful women to watch.
MARGOT ROBBIE – BOMBSHELL
Although Bombshell (2019) is based on actual events – the Fox News scandal involving mogul Roger Ailes – Margot Robbie’s character in the film, weather-girl Kayla Pospisil, channels the experiences reported by a number of women that were caught up in the drama. Robbie relished the opportunity to portray a real-life persona rarely seen on screen – an evangelical millennial, albeit not a stereotypical one. “I love that about Kayla,” she says. “It’s great to have a Christian character who isn’t being made fun of and isn’t there for comic relief. There are a lot of different layers to Kayla and I find her reasons for being at Fox really moving because her main hope is to give a voice to people like her, people who she feels haven’t been represented in the culture.”
LINDA HAMILTON – TERMINATOR: DARK FATE
Key to the narrative of Terminator: Dark Fate is revealing what happened to Sarah Connor in the decades following the events of T2: Judgment Day. For Linda Hamilton, the idea of returning to the role after so long was intriguing. “After T2, I felt I had worked a very complete character arc from a nobody to a warrior woman,” she explains. “At that point I didn’t want to just keep doing it without the ability to add something new. But the last 28 years have changed Sarah dramatically and I was ready to explore that. When this film begins, she is lost, broken and rootless. She goes on another journey to try to reach that last little kernel of humanity inside herself.”
SAMARA WEAVING – READY OR NOT
Playing a new bride forced by her wealthy, eccentric in-laws to play a deadly survival game on her wedding night, Samara Weaving didn’t want her character to be a stereotypical damsel in distress. “In the script, there’s the idea that she was in and out of foster care so I figured she would know how to handle herself. She’s probably had to fight a couple of times,” she tells STACK. “So I wanted her to be quite logical and go from shock and fear into a determination and anger, which I think brings a lot of the comedic aspects into [the film].”
BRIE LARSON – CAPTAIN MARVEL
In preparing for the role of superhero Carol Danvers, Brie Larson naturally went straight to the source material – the comic books. “I wanted to know everything,” she says. “So, I read everything I possibly could. I had an app on my iPad that’s basically every Marvel comic that’s ever been created. I just spent hours upon hours going through it and reading everything. There are different illustrators in the comic books, which all have their own take on her. There’s a lot of material for me to work with to create something that can still feel personal to me and can still feel like it’s mine. It is smartly crafted, and Carol is incredibly dynamic, which leaves a lot of room to play.”
PAMELA RABE – WENTWORTH
Playing one of the most formidable women in Wentworth prison – Joan ‘The Freak’ Ferguson – gave Pamela Rabe the freedom to grow as an actor. A renowned stage performer with a number of feature films to her credit, the series offered Rabe an exciting opportunity to develop a character over a number of seasons. “It’s professionally fun and a great challenge to play such a complex and amoral character,” she tells STACK. “Joan’s resourcefulness and her indefatigable focus and ingenuity… I feel I have to approach the work with the same focus and desire to honour her unpredictability. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt as free and playful.”
TILDA SWINTON – SUSPIRIA
Tilda Swinton is a triple threat in this mesmerising remake of Dario Argento’s 1977 horror classic. As well as playing charismatic dance teacher Madame Blanc and the sinister head of a witches’ coven, Helena Markos, the chameleonic actress also appears as the film’s principal male character – elderly psychoanalyst Dr. Josef Klemperer – hidden under pounds of prosthetic makeup. The male role was credited to Lutz Ebersdorf, complete with bogus IMDb profile, before Swinton and director Luca Guadagnino confessed to it being a bit of a lark within a primarily female-driven film.
FRANCES McDORMAND – THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
Frances McDormand received the 2018 Best Actress Oscar for her performance as the robust Mildred – a grieving mother who uses the titular signage to send a message to the complacent local police force, who have failed to uncover any suspects in the brutal murder of her daughter. Mildred is a feisty, foul-mouthed force of nature in a boiler suit, whose grief has solidified into a diamond-hard determination to see justice done. But she’s also capable of compassion at the most unlikely moments, and it’s her unpredictable nature that drives this brilliant, pressure cooker drama.
ELISABETH MOSS – THE HANDMAID’S TALE
Brilliant as Peggy in Mad Men, Elisabeth Moss took it to the next level with her heartbreaking portrayal of the oppressed but resilient Offred in The Handmaid’s Tale, for which she has received two Golden Globes and an Emmy. The gruelling series sees her in the company of two other great women to watch – Aussie Yvonne Strahovski as her harsh keeper Mrs. Waterford, and the always wonderful Ann Dowd as the authoritarian Aunt Lydia.
TERESA PALMER – RIDE LIKE A GIRL
Three women to watch here: history-making jockey Michelle Payne, Teresa Palmer who plays her, and Rachel Griffiths making an accomplished feature debut as a director. “I’m a huge fan of Rachel Griffiths as an actress,” Palmer says. “She’s such an interesting person and then to hear that she was interested in me for this role! There was so much about the Michelle Payne story that really made me feel excited to be a part of the movie. First and foremost, just Michelle and who she is as a human being. She has a big beautiful compassionate heart. She’s a warrior, she’s very committed to her goals and she had belief in herself; I think that’s a beautiful message for young women.”
MIRANDA TAPSELL – TOP END WEDDING
Co-writer and star Miranda Tapsell’s delightful rom-com is a love letter to the Northern Territory and its Traditional Owners, as well as the importance of family ties and cultural connections. “Most people who have planned for a wedding know that it becomes less about them and more about the family,” she tells STACK. “We wanted to be authentic and honest about that, because weddings do make you reflect on the kind of life you want.”
JODIE WHITTAKER – DOCTOR WHO: SERIES 11
A female Doctor Who had been teased since the end of Tom Baker’s era, and in 2018 it finally happened! Broadchurch star Jodie Whittaker took to the role of TV’s iconic time traveller with gusto and was instantly recognisable as the Doctor – gender became irrelevant. “I approach every scene and encounter as completely brand new,” Whittaker told STACK. “It felt like the right thing for this Doctor, and really liberating for an actor stepping into a role that’s been played before.”
ANGOURIE RICE – LADIES IN BLACK
This Aussie rising star joined Julia Ormond and Rachael Taylor in Bruce Beresford’s critically acclaimed period drama. The then 17-year-old won the 2018 AACTA Award for Best Lead Actress for her performance as a bookish schoolgirl who takes a holiday job in a prestigious Sydney department store in 1959, where she is awakened to a world of possibilities by her co-workers. Just as the ‘ladies in black’ on the high-fashion floor have a big influence on her character, Rice’s co-stars were equally inspiring. “I was the youngest one, but I just felt so comfortable on set,” she told STACK. “I was excited to go to work every day. It really was just like working in a department store with four incredible women.”