I recently saw two films vying to be the indie hit of the summer: Ruby Sparks and Celeste & Jesse Forever. I was struck by just how similar these films are: both set in Los Angeles, both about 20/30 somethings struggling to find or keep love, and both are written (at least partially) by the lead actress. There are more similarities on that front as well. Zoe Kazan is the daughter of two screenwriters and the granddaughter of Oscar-winning director Elia Kazan. Rashida Jones is the daughter of Grammy-winning composer Quincy Jones and actress Peggy Lipton. Also, both films feature one of my favorite, underappreciated actors Chris Messina, who I first noticed in the 2006 indie film Ira & Abby written by and starring Jennifer Westfeldt, which brings me back to the initial point. Sisters are doing it for themselves by writing films with roles to showcase their talents.
Jennifer Westfeldt has been doing it for years, in addition to the aforementioned Ira & Abby she recently found success again as both writer/ director/ lead actress in Friends with Kids although she is probably still best known for her writer/actress indie breakout Kissing Jessica Stein (and for being the lucky girl to land Jon Hamm). Speaking of Jon Hamm… he provided one of the bright spots in last year’s comedy hit Bridesmaids, co-written by and starring Kristen Wiig. Brit Marling had just two minor credits to her name when she co-wrote and starred in last year’s Another Earth and Sound of My Voice. Now her upcoming projects include a role in Robert Redford’sThe Company You Keep, and her next actress/ screenwriter project will also feature Ellen Page, Alexander Skarsgard, and Julia Ormond. Actress Zoe Lister Jones co-wrote the recent indie release Lola Verus. Although Greta Gerwig took on the lead role, Lister Jones created a juicy supporting role for herself.
Even established actresses are getting into the actress/ screenwriter game. After auditioning for a play based on the same story nearly 30 years earlier, Glenn Close finally brought the story of Albert Nobbs to the screen by co-writing and producing, and Isabella Rossellini has recently focused her career on writing and starring in experimental film projects.
Among the current and upcoming actress/ screenwriter projects that will soon be hitting the big screen are: For a Good Time Call… co-written by and starring Seth Rogen’s wife Lauren Miller (the film also features an appearance by noted actress/ screenwriter Nia Vardalos) and Julie Delpy takes on directing as well in 2 Days in New York.
Also,Tina Fey, Lena Dunham, and now with her own show Mindy Kaling will be pulling double duty on TV this fall. So whether it’s happenstance, a passing fad, or the beginning of a new and vibrant trend, actresses on the big and small screens are using their pens to carve out roles for themselves.