December 3, 1995
Web posted at: 2:30 p.m. EST
From Correspondent Sherry Sylvester
HOLLYWOOD, California (CNN) -- They are killers, quilters, crime solvers, computer geeks, casino hustlers, lovers, lobbyists, wives, and daughters. They are women on the big screen. And after many false starts, they finally may be able to celebrate 1995 as the Year of the Woman.
Actress and producer Demi Moore said so-called "women's films" reflect what women are really doing. "In many different outlets," she said, "we've heard women being encouraged to be with women -- girls night out, trips together, bonding." (68K AIFF sound or 68K WAV sound)
Actresses say they are finally finding characters as diverse, complex, and interesting as they are in real life. Anne Bancroft, who is in two recent releases, "How to Make an American Quilt" and "Home for the Holidays," said the lack of such roles has been a longtime problem. "Since I started in the business, I don't think I've ever done more than one or two things a year. I never could find anything, really, that excited me -- that wanted me to explore me, that helped me in any way to enrich me."
While the meaningful roles have not been numerous, actresses have been preparing to play them. "I had done a lot of work in my acting class and I played a lot of different parts that I never in a million years would have been cast as," said Sharon Stone, who stars in the new Martin Scorsese film "Casino." "So I knew to a certain degree that I could do all kinds of things that I didn't have a chance to do before."
Women behind the scenes are partly responsible for the equal opportunity. Diane Keaton, Barbra Streisand and Jodie Foster are directing. Demi Moore and Meg Ryan are producing. And Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson is writing. Over the past five years, she worked on a screenplay based on the Jane Austen novel "Sense and Sensibility." "It's been a long and often despairing process ... but it's been fantastic," she said.
Novelist Terry McMillan adapted her best seller "Waiting to Exhale" for the screen. (94K AIFF sound or 94K WAV sound) The late December release stars Whitney Houston and Angela Bassett. "Whitney said, 'Oh, what a relief to go to a movie and not see a gun or some guy shooting himself in the head,'" recalled Bassett.
Ensemble films like "Waiting to Exhale" can get women to the theaters, but Entertainment Weekly's Anne Thompson said a lot of men won't go to the so-called "women's films." To keep the genre alive, she said, women must support it. (68K AIFF sound or 68K WAV sound)
Bigger box office receipts are won by films that are equal in their appeal to both men and women. "The American President," for example, is about the commander in chief and the women who change his life. "They're flawed, which is refreshing," said Annette Bening, who plays the leading woman to Michael Douglas' president. Her role is that of "a strong -- whatever that means -- a strong woman who is intelligent (who) can be frail and make mistakes and be sensitive and have vulnerabilities and fall apart. To me, that's human," she said.
It was 1993 that was supposed to be the Year of the Woman. It fell a bit short of that in Hollywood. But just two years later, Demi Moore is making $12 million for her next feature, as is Sandra Bullock. And Whoopi Goldberg has a multi-picture deal. Women are redefining their roles in the movie business.
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