Oscar Actors: Theron, Charlize–North Country

Charlize Theron should get her second Best Actress nomination for the fact-inspired sexual harassment drama, “North Country.” The movie didn’t ignite the box-office, but it’s the kind of deglamorized characterization, replete of big emotional scenes (with abuse, suffering, victimization, and crying), that tends to impress Academy voters.

Theron’s role (and the whole movie) resembles that of Sally Field’s in “Norma Rae,” for which Field won the 1979 Oscar. And it also echoes Meryl Streep’s working class employee in “Silkwood,” for which she Oscar-nominated in 1983.

Theron is a beautiful and talented actress, who has made mostly mediocre films. Her performance in” Monster,” for which she won the 2003 Best Actress, was impressive and attention grabbing. Like Badlands, Executioner’s Song, Monster was an unblinking portrait of a killer. Her performance went beyond weight gains and make-up tricks. But I can’t help thinking that all the ingredients of Oscar-caliber performances of yesteryear were evident in her work.

Theron played real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos, who was also a prostitute, one of the most prevalent screen professions (along with acting) among female Oscar-winning roles. Tranformation, both physical and psychological, and eccentricity, manifest in big hysterical scenes, are the key to understanding why Theron’s performances in “Monster,” and now in “North Country,” are deemed worthy of the Oscar

Hopefully, the second Oscar nomination will free Theron from playing such roles and would lead her to a different, richer career path. It’s too bad that Hollywood can’t find worthy roles that would take advantage (in the positive sense of the term) of Theron’s beauty, grace, and elegance.

Can anyone write a smart romantic comedy, the kind of which Audrey Hepburn made in the 1950s and 1960s, that would feature different facets of Theron’s considerable, multi-nuanced talent. And a personal advice to Theron: Beauty is an asset in an industry like Hollywood, not something to conceal or hide beneath layers of make-up.

If you want to read more about the kinds of roles that tend to win nominations and Oscars, please consult my book, All About Oscar: The History and Politics of the Academy Award (Continuum International, paperback 2004)