gallery Double act

Last month, I wrote a novel that is a comedy about two Jewish businesswomen. Originally, the protagonists were middle-aged businessmen. Besides wanting the film adaptation to be as commercially appeasing as possible, there is a lack of female-driven films in the mainstream marketplace along with the disparity in wages between the genders.

In comedy, the double act refers to the straight man and mad man. In this article, the 25 choices for the role of the straight woman will be provided on the left as you scroll down. The 50 actresses are not randomly picked. Their casting is based on how they’ve acted or who they are in real life.

The way that it works is that if you can’t get an A-list or B-list film star, you then concentrate on finding the TV equivalent (C-list). Straight-to-home (i.e. video and DVD) actors are D-list. A minor TV star is a rational choice compared to a stage performer, even if the latter has been nominated for (or won) a Tony. Different acting styles (stage acting is less subtle).

If all of them won’t be in it then I would have to focus on casting middle-aged women such as Jennifer Jason Leigh (the stern one), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (the silly one), Demi Moore, Gina Gershon, Marisa Tomei, Janeane Garofalo, Amanda Peet, Pamela Adlon, Ashley Judd and Melina Kanakaredes.

This article was almost titled The Parentheses Principle. It’s my term based on a theory that you sell somebody based on what they’ve done on screen or behind the lens. The below titles contained in the brackets tend to be either what made the actresses famous in the first place or what they’ve done currently that is in the media’s line of sight.

The logic behind each casting decision reflects two sayings from a man who went from being an actor to a director: “Use the right technique to fit the circumstance” and “What might work for one person might not work for another” – Bruce Lee.

1) Kristen Stewart (Twilight) and Emma Watson (Beauty and the Beast).

Their combined net-worth is 140 million dollars. Their individual net-worth is the same due to being the female leads of franchises based on beloved novels. Both are more likely to be mentioned on episodes of E! News and showcased on the covers of women’s magazines.

2) Vanessa Hudgens (Powerless) and Ashley Tisdale (Scary Movie 5).

Their combined net-worth is 24 million. The latter said in 2010: I love comedy, and I have nothing against commercial movies; but I’m more interested in making movies that I would want to see – things like Juno or Superbad that are darker, drier and more edgy.”

3) Olivia Cooke (Bates Motel) and Emma Roberts (American Horror Story).

Their combined net-worth is 17 million. In terms of wit, the former would be the relaxed insane one counteracting the sanity of the unwound extrovert. Usually, laughs are derived when the mentality is reversed.

4) Emmy Rossum (Shameless) and Allison Scagliotti (Warehouse 13).

Their combined net-worth is 15 million. This match makes me think how funny it would be to have a conservative Republican interact with the liberal rebel. This would be the oddest couple.

5) Nikki Reed (Sleepy Hollow) and Shannon Woodward (Westworld).

Their combined net-worth is the same but listed lower because Emmy is more famous due to being the female lead of Shameless, which is more popular than the similarly themed Raising Hope (featuring Shannon). Woodward should have been given a star vehicle a long time ago. She has a sassy yet savvy quality that would make her relevant among both regular and alternative women. With Nikki, the hook of this hook-up is that the straight woman only smiles at the end when her job is done (à la the bodyguard in God of Gamblers). Comedy doesn’t necessarily require a character to be smiling in order to warrant laughs.

6) Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect) and Christine Evangelista (The Arrangement).

The former’s net-worth is 14 million whereas the latter has no net-worth. Instead of typecasting Anna as a shrill shrew, she would be playing against type by playing an introvert. The contrast would be middle-class fragility versus working-class frivolousness. This means that it’s the straight woman who is more likely to be frazzled than the high-strung fashionista. I chose Christine because her lack of starring power was why she was rejected for the role of Tris in Divergent.

7) Lily Collins (Mirror Mirror) and Lucy Hale (Pretty Little Liars).

Their combined net-worth is the same but they are ranked lower because Lily is worth 8 million. Since they are friends in real life, it would be okay for them to incorporate their experiences into the script – whether it be in anecdotal form or reconstructive form. Dude will prove why Lucy should be the clown.

8) Aimee Teegarden (Friday Night Lights) and Sarah Hyland (Modern Family).

Their combined net-worth is 12 million, although this will change when Sarah stars in a profitable high school or college movie. Having a short person be the ball of energy gives it a childish quality.

9) Shenae Grimes-Beech (90210) and Krysten Ritter (Marvel’s Jessica Jones).

Their combined net-worth is 11 million. Krysten has a malicious face, so she will play the mean-spirited one. Shenae is believable as the innocuous one because of her bracketed series (a thinly-veiled reboot because of its insipid pretension as a sequel). As a result, it’s easy to imagine her being vexed by the bane of her life.

10) Hayley Orrantia (The Goldbergs) and Hailee Steinfeld (Pitch Perfect 2).

Their combined net-worth is the same but listed lower because neither of them have proven to be profitable lead stars. Hailee as the plight-driven lead in The Edge of Seventeen would make her unpredictable as the foil. The take on the comedy would be a shy woman brought out of her shell by a shyster.

11) Alexis Bledel (Gilmore Girls) and Alison Pill (The Newsroom).

Their combined net-worth is 10 million. Alexis was convincing as the sensible half of the TV show that made her a name. Alison has a perkiness about her that hasn’t been fully exploited. She usually plays deadpan characters in comedies such as Zoom. The chemistry that I’m thinking of is the comedic archetypes being in reverse when drunk. The straight man becomes a lunatic whereas the mad man becomes a pessimist.

12) Jessica Szohr (Gossip Girl) and Nina Dobrev (The Vampire Diaries).

Their combined net-worth is the same but ranked lower because Alexis is worth 8 million whereas Nina is worth 6 million. The rapport that I’m thinking of is the dry diva interacting with the foolish femme, especially in light of the Vin Diesel xXx threequel that has made Nina more familiar outside those who watch the CW channel.

13) Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Fargo) and Lizzy Caplan (Masters of Sex).

Their combined net-worth is the same but ranked lower because Mary is worth 6 million like Nina but less relevant in terms of mainstream cinema. Mary played the stooge in Scott Pilgrim versus the World. Lizzy is primarily known among the same crowd, although she has enough hit comedy credentials to make it a hit. This meeting of the minds would allow for adversarial interplay, especially since they were competing for the role of Domino in Deadpool 2.

14) Chloe Bennet (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and Erica Dasher (Guidance).

Their combined net-worth is the same as the pair below but the difference is that Chloe looks set to become an action movie star sometime in the not-so-distant future. It’s only a matter of time before she climbs the lucrative ladder.

15) Meghan Markle (Suits) and Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation).

They have the same net-worth as the below pairing but their combined net-worth will increase as Aubrey’s role in Legion continues to the extent that she will eventually be given her own vehicle in a multiplex movie.

16) Annabelle Attanasio (Bull) and Kat Dennings (2 Broke Girl$).

Kat’s net-worth is 8 million. Annabelle has yet to have one. The concept would be Annabelle being a mild-mannered working-class tomboy facing off against Kat as a middle-class woman who is streetwise instead of book-smart. Instead of Kat playing a naughty character (such as the sleaze in her sitcom), she will be haughty.

17) Zosia Mamet (Girls) and Jemima Kirke (Girls).

Their combined net-worth is 6 million. Their individual net-worth is 3 million whereas Allison Williams (their Girls co-star) is only worth 2 million. The conflict would be indie pop versus indie rock. This would be another example of playing against type because Zosia played the kooky one in Girls.

18) Ophelia Lovibond (Elementary) and Ashley Rickards (Awkward).

Their combined net-worth is 4.5 million. Ophelia’s strait-laced wit as a detective in her bracketed series would make for a sardonic counterpart to Ashley’s offbeat part. Ashley is slightly more valuable, so she would get top billing.

19) Shelley Hennig (Days of Our Lives) and Danielle Panabaker (The Flash).

Their combined net-worth is 4 million. Danielle’s charm as the most flustered character in the D.C. universe makes it almost too easy to perceive her as the focus point of the laughs. Shelley would provide a sharp counterpoint. With this union, the humour would come from Danielle being irritant without being intentionally funny. The more unassuming and unaware that a character is, the more that the other character thinks it’s coyness or sarcasm.

20) Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development) and Angela Trimbur (Community).

The former’s net-worth is the same as the above partnership. Ironically, her bracketed series isn’t as relevant in the populist psyche. The featured image is of herself and Aubrey Plaza, but they were already in a movie together. Angela’s potential as a comedy lead is untapped.

21) Aimee Carrero (Young & Hungry) and Emily Osment (Young & Hungry).

The latter’s net-worth is 3 million whereas the former has no net-worth, which is strange given that she is doing double duty as the lead of a Disney animated TV series as well as co-leading the bracketed ABC (Disney) sitcom. Maybe my novel should become a Disney movie.

22) Lindsey Morgan (The 100) and Alycia Debnam-Carey (Fear the Walking Dead).

Their combined net-worth is 2.4 million. At that point, it might be a TV movie (which is still better than a NetFlix movie). Even a TV movie can drive a good bargain for those who want novels to gain an audience outside of literary circles, which is what happened to Terry Pratchett before he died. Danielle Steel pretty much made her fortune from TV movies (even if they were feature-length soap operas). Also, a TV movie can sometimes get released in the cinemas (as was the case with Hocus Pocus).

23) Lauren Summers (Popular) and Scout Taylor-Compton (Nashville).

The latter’s net-worth is 2 million. The dynamic of this daring duo would be a pop snob and a horror-loving metalhead. If Scout was to wear 20th century Halloween T-shirts, it would be a way to reference her presence in the 2007 remake. By this point, it would be a TV series (which is still better than a NetFlix series).

24) Molly Ephraim (Last Man Standing) and Alexandra Krosney (Last Man Standing).

Their combined net-worth is 1.5 million. Characteristically, it will be a major role reversal to their sitcom where Alexandra was more mature. By this point, it would be a NetFlix series (which is still better than an Amazon movie) because of how many episodes of Last Man Standing that they were in together (the first season).

25) Alexandra Socha (Royal Pains) and Sarah Steele (The Good Wife).

The latter’s net-worth is 300,000 dollars. Sarah is worth fighting the good fight if the casting directors were to clash with the producers and executives. Because of their limited net-worth, it’s more likely to be an Amazon movie (which is still better than a Hulu series).

Net-worth is never set in stone. The best example is (and always will be) Lindsay Lohan. She used to be an A-lister but now she is only worth half a million.

At 25 million dollars, Hilary Duff (who was the star of a Disney sitcom called Lizzie McGuire) has found herself to be more relevant than someone who was once her commercial elder. If she had been the star of Juno (the Oscar winner which Ashley Tisdale referenced), the poster wouldn’t have advertised the movie as a double act. Instead of being an off-the-cuff suggestion, this coincides with what I’ve read in a 2009 Reed Martin book titled The Reel Truth: Everything You Didn’t Know You Need to Know about Making an Independent Film.

Lianne Halfon, the main producer of Juno, divulges: “We opened up the casting a bit on Mark and Vanessa, but we knew that we didn’t want Hilary Duff to play Leah or Juno.”

She discloses the budgeting: “We were always thinking about the film rather than the budget, which was around 7 million dollars. At one point, there was an opportunity to make the film at nearly twice the budget, but the concessions that demanded of the casting ruled it out for us. We knew it would undermine any feeling of authenticity in the final film. There’s a budget level that is dictated by the cast we wanted to pursue and we were okay with that level.”

She defines the term of her conditions: “It is a kind of Darwinian economy. It wasn’t the other way around where you get a certain actor and then raise the budget to accommodate that casting decision. If you’re going to make a film for a lower budget, the director has to feel like he or she can actually make that film at that budget and the producers have to feel that they can deliver the film for that. We all felt we could do so without compromise.”

She details how comfortable they were: “In fact, it served as a safeguard. It was not so expensive that the studio felt it had to offset risk by making any of the decisions which so often conflict with the filmmaker’s intent and muddy the creative integrity of the film.”

She describes how justified they were in casting the titular teen: “Sometimes a certain actor will seem like the right person as far as marketing or drawing an audience is concerned, but casting them can be shortsighted because once the audience is in their seats, they are unconvinced of the appropriateness of the choice. On the other hand, if the audience believes that the actors are those characters and that belief is consistent in the supporting roles as well, the result is a sense of truthfulness that has a tremendous effect because it makes the fiction resonate.”

She differentiates: “The intent is not to cast someone who makes the film seem real or like you’re watching a documentary. Moviegoers don’t need reality; they don’t rely on fiction for that, but they do need truthfulness, and audiences have a remarkable sensibility to it on the screen. It’s not as if people see The Philadelphia Story and think it’s realistic, but it touches you because it is truthful. That truthfulness has a tremendous power that transcends accuracy. It’s why we respond to Katharine Hepburn’s Tracy Lord, decades after most of the details of setting and character have disappeared from the audience’s frame of reference.”

She develops her argument: “A classic example is trying to cast two actors as husband and wife – both perfect for their respective roles but imperfect as a couple. A red flag immediately goes up for the audience – those two would never be married. No matter how good they are independently, you are already behind the eight ball.”

She delineates the casting process: “People often will say they can’t imagine anyone else in a certain role, and that especially happens after you see a finished film, but when you’re having early discussions with studios, there are actually a lot of discussions about cast and they can imagine a lot of people in the various roles. It’s part of the juggling that you do in preproduction. Often, producers and directors will find themselves in a situation where they are thinking – This person brings these two things and that person brings those two things, so we have to choose between one interpretation of the role versus another.”

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