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Monday
Jun242013

"It won't cost much... just your voice!"

I realize it's only* voicework but I'm bit sad that Samantha Morton's voice has been removed from the upcoming Spike Jonze picture Her. She was to voice the operating system that Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with in lieu of, one supposes, flesh and blood options. I thought Samantha was brilliant in insert anything from her filmography here, and even though it was only* voicework, I was anxious to "see" her again.

Morton has the most terrible ratio of talent-to-role opportunities. I don't quite get what's happened to her career as she's one of the best screen actors alive. Still, since the world has a very short memory I didn't notice much mourning online about her replacement when the news broke. Or maybe that's just because Scarlett Johansson, her replacement, is early Aughts popular again. Scarlett weathered the storm of a lame but lucrative patch in her career in which she seemed more model/spokesperson/celebrity than talent. She seems interested in actually ACTING again (see multiple trips to the stage and a wonderful spin on Black Widow the second time around) so I am free to root for her again, too.

Scarlett's voice is a wonder, it's true. But also quite an expected choice for this type of role since her timbre is so effortlessly sexy. I guess I didn't quite expect the obvious from Spike Jonze which is why I'm still processing this news.

Anyway, do you miss Samantha Morton? If you're asking "who?"... please state your age! She couldn't have faded from collective memory that quickly, could she?

When it comes to singing actresses, I'm as greedy as Ursula! In other Beautiful Voice News, Anna Kendrick has been cast as Cinderella in Rob Marshall's adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's fairytale mashup classic Into the Woods (2014)... a movie we're tracking closely but very worried about.

Since we first fell in love with Kendrick as evil scheming Sondheim-singing Fritzi in Camp (2003) and haven't ever felt quite that proprietary/excited about her again (but loved hearing the voice again in Pitch Perfect), this is potentially very good news. With Into the Woods and The Last Five Years (just discussed) both arriving in (presumably) 2014, and so quickly after Kendrick's first real success as a headliner (Pitch Perfect) will she be the first modern actress to really embrace becoming a star of film musicals?

Can you already here her version of "At the Palace"? (♥ that song!)

He's a very smart Prince,
He's a Prince who prepares.
Knowing this time I'd run from him,
He spread pitch on the stairs.
I was caught unawares.
And I thought: well, he cares-
This is more than just malice.
Better stop and take stock
While you're standing here stuck
On the steps of the palace.
-Cinderella in "Into the Woods" 

Everyone else in Mainstream Hollywood seems to think of musicals as one-off larks, something to do to say that you've done it or to demonstrate how "game" you are to mix things up. (Though Anne Hathaway won an Oscar that way she's built her massive career on diversity of genre so I'd say she's unlikely to stick to the form or even return to it for some time. Sad face. CZJ was obviously born to do them but it took how many years between Chicago and Rock of Ages?) If Kendrick makes a success of both of her plum movie musical gigs next year, I shall build a shrine to her.  

* I realize "only voicework" might enrage some readers and some voice actors! I don't mean it derogatorialy but for whatever reason I've observed that many TFE readers really value voice-only work in movies more than I do. Is this generational and tied to the second golden age of animation? I wonder... I mean I don't want there to be a whole Oscar category (do you?) but I do agree that brilliance is possible within the limitations of acting with one's voice alone. 

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Reader Comments (28)

Samantha Morton is famously difficult to work with, so that's one potential answer. But perhaps more telling is the fact that when The Messenger came out and she delivered her customary attention to detail and effortless-seeming sublimity, wise souls like Jeff Wells pointed out that she had put on weight. She may as well have announced her retirement then and there.

I am very much pissed off she's been cut out of Jonze's film. And seeing as how in interviews she has already expressed her barely suppressed fury at the impact the cutting room has on her performances, I worry that this might make her even less inclined to grant us snippets of her genius.

So yes, I very much miss her. The most recent film I saw her in was Cosmopolis, where she was typically solid but somewhat wasted. Even while watching it, I was missing her.

June 24, 2013 | Unregistered Commentergoran

Are you forgetting when Spike replaced Michelle Williams' voice for his Where The Wild Things Are adaptation? The quality of the actress doesn't matter when solely using her voice for a puppet or another inanimate object.

June 24, 2013 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

Where the Wild Things Are is proof to me that Jonze is a wiz with voice-casting, so I trust this decision, though I agree Scarlett is surpridingly obvious for the role of sexy computer.
I miss Morton too! Her lovely performance in The Messenger was so long ago! And I just saw Mister Lonely which she's perfect in.

June 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

I love her since Sweet and Lowdown.

Oh boy, Morvern Callar!

Yeah, I've read she is bitchy and difficult, too (her fights with Tim Robbins when shooting Code 46 are notorious), but the actual reason of her slowing down was her health issues. She had that accident with her ceiling falling over her head, then a stroke, then the whole paralysis thing, having to learn to walk again... And then she decided to be a mother, and had two sons.

June 24, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

On the prospect of a voice and mo-cap category: If you included the truly exemplary voice and mo-cap work every year, NOT divided by gender, I think you could usually justify a five wide category. I would think it a bit pathetic (Douglas Rain in 2001, Andy Serkis in LOTR and Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Ellen DeGeneres in Finding Nemo, Peter O'Toole in Ratatouille, Dakota Fanning in Coraline and Kodi Smit-McPhee in ParaNorman), but I'd understand it, and it would be a first step to getting even consideration and possibly getting occasional people nominated in both categories.

June 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Samantha has like 3 or 4 films lined up and one of them is Miss Julie with Chastain.

June 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

Oh hallelujah re: Anna Kendrick in INTO THE WOODS! I think with Emily Blunt, Tracey Ullman and James Corden all four could do justice to the intelligence of Sondheim's material.

Let's just hope Rob Marshall doesn't fuck it up like he did to NINE.

June 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAle-Alejandro

It is my understanding that voice work is already eligible for Oscar consideration in the traditional acting categories. Unless we start to see a glut of animated releases on a regular basis (I'm talking about an average of a one or two a month at least), I don't see the justification for a separate category.

June 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

Troy-really? How does that work with the likes of Andy Serkis then? He's eligible for the voice work on Gollum, but not the stop-motion aspect?

And I agree with Nathaniel-four nominations is enough for acting. If there's someone truly extraordinary, they can get an honorary Oscar, or if Troy is right, get a nomination in the traditional acting categories.

June 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

How did I miss the fact that Johnny Depp was cast as the Wolf in Into the Woods? That right there instantly halves my interest in the project. I can't think of a single actor I feel less goodwill toward at the moment...

June 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

John T. -- I could be wrong. It's something I think I heard ages ago. Either way, acting is acting, and if one's work is that exemplary -- be it solely voice, movement, or a combination of the two -- then let it vie in the traditional categories. After all, there exist completely wordless live-action performances that were nominated, so what's the diff?

June 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

Jessica Lange: (94) Actress;
(82) Sup Actress
Kathy Bates: (90) Actress

June 24, 2013 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

I think Samantha Morton is awesome in Cosmopolis (not wasted, thank you very much, her role is great, to me she deserved an Oscar nomination), in my opinion, her best performance to date. I've loved her in Synecdoche, Control, Minority Report and Movern Callar. I liked her in Sweet and Lowdown and The Messenger (though I always found that Film Bitch Nomination just too much).

Nevertheless, she's always been an actress I find difficult to love, because I'll never forget her AWFUL performance in In America. Her acting is so irritating, I would slap her in every frame of the movie, and not just because of the character. To me, that performance would easily be among the Top Ten Worst Best Actress Performances Ever Nominated.

June 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDeivith

Re: Kendrick.

Totally excited about her upcoming slate of projects. An enormously appealing actress who stole 50/50 away from the boys and gave it incredible, sincere heart. Waiting for her moment with bated breath.

June 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBeau

I am totally in love with Kendrick trying to find a niche as a musical actress. You're right-CZJ was born to be an actress in the studio system, where she would have been hoofing it up for the past decade. It'd be exciting to see an actress genuinely embrace the musical genre in that way.

Also, Nathaniel-did you get a chance to watch the Oprah interview with Rashad, Woodard, Union, and Davis? I found it utterly fascinating, and instantly wanted to write a screenplay that featured all five women.

June 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

I miss Samantha Morton so much, and it's a pity that she wasn't even recognized by the Academy by her best work (i.e. Morvern Callar, Under the Skin, and The Messenger). I still need to see her in Jesus' Son.

Also, it seems like ScarJo is getting her groove back. I just saw "Don Jon" and she is absolutely great in it. She hasn't been so good in a role since . . . dare I say "Girl with a Pearl Earring." So be optimistic

June 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

that awkward moment when you realise ScarJo was an eye-candy in "Iron Man 2" and a smiling zookeeper in "We Bought a Zoo" right before being a female superheroe in the third highest-grossing movie ever (The Avengers), Janet Leigh in a Alfred Hitchcock kind-of-biopic (Hitchcock), Joseph Gordon-Levitt's girlfriend with a funny accent (Don Jon), Maggie "the Cat" in a Tenessee Williams Broadway revival (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof), Jonathan Glazer's alien with existential issues (Under the Skin) and now a sexy voice who seduces Joaquin Phoenix (Her).... WOW!

June 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTyler

John T.: If this is reacting to what I said, my provisional suggestion is not a jump (whether Captain America big or Hulk big) from four to eight or twelve. Even for what I want, that's REALLY pushing it. My ideal suggestion is ONE additional category, not divided by gender, and incorporating mo-cap and voice only acting to open the discussion. So, a bunny hop from four to five. My bet if it were incorporated the past two years:

2012:

Secure:

Seth McFarlane, Ted
Kelly McDonald, Brave
Kodi Smit McPhee, ParaNorman
Emma Thompson, Brave

Possible:

Sarah Silverman, Wreck it Ralph, Andy Serkis, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey aka. LOTR 4: "We've got to have Mon-ay" or Hugh Grant, The Pirates: Band of Misfits/An Adventure with Scientists.)

2011 List:

Andy Serkis, Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Jim Cummings, Winnie the Pooh (He's Winnie AND Tigger in it, so, even though he's not a "name", it's a slam dunk.)
Johnny Depp, Rango
Isla Fisher, Rango (I'd think a one woman minimum is safe in this category.)
Timothy Olyphant, Rango

Across 2 Years: That's 3-4 women to 6-7 men and 2-3 mo-cap to 7-8 voice only. I'd say the former statistic isn't exactly great, but it would improve with a larger sample of years, but respectable at least and the latter is to be expected regardless of cultural standards.

June 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Volvagia, I was actually referring to the comment Nathaniel made in the article about wanting to add a new category, though I do have trouble believing that that balance would be more gender-even over years. Most categories that combine genders (for major film award shows, this is typically only honorary awards) predominantly favor men to women (is there a major honorary award that is 50/50, much less favoring women?). And the Emmys do have this category for voiceover (appropriate considering there are considerably more Emmy categories than Oscar), and only one woman (Anne Hathaway) has won in the past decade and only three women (Hathaway, Brenda Strong, and Kirsten Wiig) have been nominated in the past four years.

And I guess of those performances you listed, none scream "Oscar should honor me," with the possible exception of Serkis, who is really the only person in the past 15 years I think deserved to be considered "the best of the year," and if he continues at this pace, deserves an Honorary Oscar.

June 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

One thing that makes me constantly sad is the fact that Hollywood has given up on the idea of creating original musicals. It's not surprising since even Broadway now looks constantly to movies and pre-existing material for inspiration, but I think the genre would truly benefit from original work being done for the screen.

A stage musical and a screen musical are different beasts, but Hollywood doesn't seem to notice (or care). Singin in the Rain and Moulin Rouge wouldn't have worked on the stage the way they do on screen. The same goes for the numerous disappointing stage-to-film translations.

June 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterConrado

It's an interesting issue (voice work only) and I think that since we wouldn't say Janet Gaynor got an Oscar only for body/face work, then we shouldn't say only voice work. I don't think one instrument is more important than another. Face, hands, voice etc.

Can't wait for Into The Woods.

June 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

John T: Okay. Let's take, say, my bets for how 2009 and 2010 would have gone down:

2009:

Dakota Fanning, Coraline
Teri Hatcher, Coraline
Meryl Streep, The Fantastic Mr. Fox (What? Don't look at me like that, you know they'd do it if they had the category then.)
Ed Asner, Up
Christen Mooney, The Secret of Kells
(7-8 women to 7-8 men)

2010:

America Ferrara, How to Train Your Dragon
Jay Baruchel, How to Train Your Dragon
Ned Beatty, Toy Story 3
Jodi Benson, Toy Story 3
Michael Keaton, Toy Story 3
(9-10 women to 10-11 men. Not exactly even, but the years, like 2009, where the women are just ON FIRE will help balance things out.)

June 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

volvagia -- but hte point is it wouldn't matter. Awards which are gender neutral favor men. That's the way it is historically. I mean it is RIDICULOUS how few women are ever given honorary oscar in comparison to the men.

June 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

So, both of you, tell me: How would you see 2009-2012 going? 2008? 2007? (The earliest point I'll concede they might have justified the category's introduction.) The issue with animated TV is THERE'S A LOT MORE OF IT and a lot more notable performances IN IT and not a lot of visibility paid TO IT. (And I'd argue that there's actually so much more content and performances in animated TV that they DO actually deserve multiple categories (let's say six: Leading, Supporting and Guest, just like Comedy and Drama), unlike film.) Film is picked over, obsessed over and raked over the coals by EVERYONE these days. If it didn't balance out (over time) to something APPROACHING EQUALITY, there WOULD be mounting anger. Some years men would get four. Others women would. Maybe men get two this year and three the next. That's what fair is. So, why do I think that this weird "equality on a graph" would result? The Honorary Oscar and having TV animated performances be ONE CATEGORY cause these overly MASSIVE pools to actually draw from and that unfortunately perpetuates the vicious cycle where we undervalue women. But the amount of worthy V/O work in film is MUCH LOWER, let alone worthy motion-capture work, and the pool would likely remain, relatively, small enough for quite a while that women would not only get nominated with even amounts over periods of time but they'd probably win on an even keel as well.

Actual Projected WINNERS in this category for my four years of it having a use:

2012: Kelly McDonald
2011: Andy Serkis
2010: Ned Beatty
2009: Dakota Fanning or Teri Hatcher (Up won for that mostly silent opening sequence that had NOTHING TO DO with Asner, whether or not you feel as "meh" on the overall package as I do, so I see this category as being, pretty starkly clearly this year, as between the female characters of Coraline. Either could have wound up snagging it due to their strongly voice work.)

June 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Conrado - I agree with the lament against general quality of contemporary movie musicals, but really original movie-musicals have always been few and far between. Even classics like "Singin' in the Rain" and "Meet Me In St. Louis" were really just jukebox musicals using recycled songs. Now, they happened to be *extremely* well-written/produced/directed/performed musicals, so don't think I'm insulting them. "Pitch Perfect" has a lot more in common with "Swingtime" than "Les Mis" ever did.

June 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Marie

Despite having many of the gifts I cherish in any actress, I hardly find myself rooting for Samantha. Don't know why. Loved her T-Shirt at the Oscars though. Anyway, I'm pretty sure she will steal the show in Miss Julie. Chastain and Farrell are just an impossible duet.

I never thought Kendrick would get this two roles at once. I'm not crazy about that. Considering musicals are rare these days, I rather spread the wealth. Two more things: I agree that Anne seems to be over with the genre, which is tragic, and I really don't like the cast for Into the Woods. Don't they realize that we prefer semi-well known Broadways stars to Chris Pine?

June 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Volvagia-I'm not going to pinpoint exact guesses, but I think you're being far too generous to supporting players in those years (Tom Hanks would have been nominated for Toy Story 3, for example, considering his Oscar pedigree). Looking at the Annie Awards for guidance (a very loose one and one that's nomination count varies pretty dramatically per year), the past five years they had looked like this:

2012: 5/8 men (man wins)
2011: 6/7 men (man wins)
2010: 4/5 men (man wins)
2009: 2/5 men (woman wins)
2008: 5/5 men (man wins)

So in five years, 75% of the nominees were male. This is how this always works when you put men and women up against each other in the same competitive category at an acting awards show. Even if you assume that the Annies are disproportionately against Pixar, it's safer to assume that Hanks/Allen (the leads) would get in for Toy Story 3 over Jodi Benson and that Christopher Plummer in Up or George Clooney in The Fantastic Mr. Fox would be a more likely nominee than Christen Mooney.

June 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

I really like Mickey Rourke voice over work in Sin City. Terrence Malick should call him ;)

Michelle Pfeiffer has a sexy voice. The same with Robin Wright, Cate Blanchett, CZJ, Angelina Jolie and Olivia Williams

Dudes: Richard Armitage, Benedict Cumberbatch, Idris Elba, Mickey Rourke,

June 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterManuel

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