There are some truly legendary Hollywood weirdoes: Nicolas Cage is beloved not just for his scenery-chewing acting, but also for his wild off-screen antics, including everything from buying a pet octopus to cultivating a collection of shrunken heads. Joaquin Phoenix’s press tour for his mockumentary I’m Still Here came complete with a an infamously strange interview, and literally no one can forget the Tom Cruise Couch Jumping Incident (or, yeah, the Scientology thing).
Despite their notorious idiosyncrasies, these odd-ball actors have two things in common. First, they’re all still bankable in one way or another. Nicolas Cage keeps getting hired; in 2019, he had parts in no fewer than six films. Joaquin Phoenix just won an Oscar for his role in The Joker, and Tom Cruise is, well, Tom Cruise. The second thing they have in common? They’re all men.
So where are all the women weirdos in Hollywood? Good question.
Justice for Sean Young
It’s not there haven’t been some incredible lady eccentrics in Hollywood history; it’s that they tend to drop off when they become the permanent laughing stock of cinema. Sure, we’ve all chuckled at actors like Cage, Phoenix, and Cruise before, but they’ve nonetheless somehow managed to be in on the joke. Not so for women.
Take Sean Young. If you don’t know her name, well, I’m about to explain the reason for that. In the early 1980s, Young was a bona fide star, giving memorable performances in the Bill Murray comedy Stripes and, most famously, the classic sci-fi flick Blade Runner, where she played the clone Rachael. Yeah, that girl. For a brief moment, Young was everywhere—until a cruel twist of fate ruined everything.
In 1989, Tim Burton cast Young as Vicki Vale in his new Batman film, alongside Michael Keaton. The movie became an iconic piece of comic book cinema, but Young never got to be a part of it. During rehearsals, she broke her arm, forcing Burton to replace her with Kim Basinger in a star-making turn. To put it lightly, Young did not take the disappointment well.
After missing her shot, Young tried desperately—and infamously—to get another one. When Burton was making the sequel Batman Returns a few years later, Young openly campaigned for the part of Catwoman. Uh, very openly. She built a homemade Catwoman costume, kept calling up Burton and Keaton to consider her, and even made the talk show rounds, in costume, to plead her case.
Instead of landing her the role (it went to Michelle Pfeiffer), her efforts spelled the end of her mainstream career. To say her work cooled off in the 1990s is an understatement, and today, she mostly stars in self-made promo videos and fan projects. When people do speak of her, it tends to be as the butt of the joke. Yet though Young might be the most illustrative example of “don’t stay weird, women,” she’s far from the only one.
A Rogue’s Gallery
Before becoming an established A-list star, Angelina Jolie earned long-lasting ridicule during her relationships with both Jonny Lee Miller and Billy Bob Thornton. After all, both couplings involved weird amounts of blood: Jolie wrote Miller’s name in the red stuff on her wedding get-up, and she and Thornton memorably wore vials of each other’s blood. In fact, Jolie arguably only earned “respectable” status after marrying Brad Pitt, losing the blood magic, and becoming a mother of six.
Megan Fox, once dubbed “the next Angelina Jolie,” has suffered similar issues. Fox gained notoriety when director Michael Bay fired her from the set of her third Transformers movie for calling him Hitler, but this outspokenness really took a turn in her 2013 Esquire interview. In the article, which one publication called “the worst thing ever written,” Fox claimed she can speak in tongues, believes in magic, and is (somehow) similar to an ancient Aztec sacrifice. Believe me, it’s no coincidence that Fox has had very few starring roles since 2010.
Of course, these are only the “weird” women”; in Hollywood, there are seemingly a myriad of ways an actress can be difficult and unemployable. Barbra Streisand famously struggled while making Prince of Tides because, even though she was the director, her cast and crew thought she was too demanding. Amanda Bynes, while suffering acute mental illness, became the Twitter class clown of 2013. If women are eccentric or critical, they are “crazy”; if they are actually mentally ill, we still laugh at them.
Sure, there are some strange, successful women in Hollywood. Helena Bonham Carter and Tilda Swinton both have delightfully odd fashion senses and red-hot careers. Nonetheless, they crucially keep much of their personal life and opinions private. If anything, their designations as “weird” based on clothing choice alone only proves how little it takes for a woman to go from bankable to embarrassingly odd.
This isn’t to say we should absolve strange women of all their sins. Lindsay Lohan, though a victim of the life-ruining affliction called “child stardom,” is not winning any Greatest Human Awards for some of her bizarre antics. More pertinently, just before her Catwoman ploy, actor James Woods accused Sean Young of stalking him and even leaving a mutilated doll on his doorstep. Not a good look. However, this is to say that odd men are not subject to the same scrutiny as these women; Cage, Phoenix, and Cruise have all had questionable moments, but they remain stars.
But is it any wonder actresses get contorted into eccentric, sometimes damaging, shapes? They are under constant, gendered, and unequal pressure in the industry to stay youthful, normatively beautiful, and relevant. What results is a Hollywood that produces desperate women and then punishes them for any excess. After all, Sean Young’s fatal error was simply wanting something too much. So one more time for the back: Where are the women weirdoes in Hollywood?