It’s Christmas, still a week to go before the year is up, and already we’re waist deep in end of year reviews. If there’s one thing that they can be sure of, it’s that 2011 has been a better year for film / a worse year for film / another year with some films in (delete as appropriate). One thing I’m sure of, though, is that it’s never been a better time to have a copper-coloured top if you’re in films. This year has been almost unrivalled in the annals of history redheads, from the strawberry blonde to the bottle red, and so I thought it only sensible to pay tribute to the best stars in the world with hair the colour of ripe satsumas.
Thankfully, although being red on top is the result of a recessive gene, gingers aren’t likely to be dying out any time soon. Of course, I feel a certain affinity with the red-headed minority myself, as I had one blond and one properly ginger parent and so ended up at the strawberry end of the spectrum. Having lived a childhood mostly in denial, subjected to nicknames ranging from Carrot Top to Duracell, I’ve embraced my redness as I’ve become more mature, not least because as many of my contemporaries hairlines’ recede to the point of baldness, I still have a full head of hair; so what if it is the wrong side of auburn?
So Hollywood is also now embracing its redness, with not only a number of notable Reds – unthinkable in Hollywood sixty years ago, not only because of the McCarthy era but because Hollywood was mostly black and white back then, of course – but also those willing to cast aside more widely accepted hair colours in favour of a scarlet wig or a crimson mop. Others, like the genuinely red-haired Tilda Swinton, have been seen this year only in browner shades – you may as well be dead to me, traitors to the ginger tribe that you are. Here I count down the ten most notable gingers in film this year, and I also try to determine whether they are Red (born that way) or Dead (not genuine gingers, but infiltrators into the ginger camp).
10. Puss-In-Boots – Puss-In-Boots
The orangey cat who was undoubtedly the scene stealer in the last three Shrek films has earned his spin-off, but just as Jack Sparrow struggled front and centre earlier this year, this prequel didn’t quite work with the cat front and centre, as the comic relief had to carry his own story. However, it was still much more effective than Pirates 4, and you feel there could be more mileage to another adventure with the fearless feline.
Red or Dead? Most definitely red, this pussy is ginger and proud. (Oh, behave.)
9. Rene Russo – Thor
Having taken a six year break from acting, Rene Russo was back on the big screen this year as Thor’s mum, and if being shacked up with Anthony Hopkins doesn’t quite compete with Pierce Brosnan or Mel Gibson, it was still great to see Rene on screen again, even if it was far too briefly.
Red or Dead? Originally red, although if at least a little of that isn’t out of a bottle, then well done. Still looks amazing considering she has as many years as Heinz have varieties.
8. Emma Stone – Friends With Benefits; Crazy, Stupid, Love; The Help
Emma Stone is another name on the way up; having grafted her way through the likes of The Rocker and The House Bunny, she began to make her name with Zombieland and Easy A. 2011 marked another pinnacle in her career, but 2012 should see her carried even higher – quite literally.
Red or Dead? Dead to me. She might have been ginger twice this year, but a natural blonde and she’ll be seen that way again in next year’s The Amazing Spider-Man.
7. Leila Hatami – A Separation
Despite winning many plaudits and being a warm favourite for next year’s Foreign Language Oscar, the virtually Hitchcockian Iranian domestic drama A Separation had a slightly muted colour palette, making the deep red fringing of Leila Hatami’s Simin stand out all the more.
Red or Dead? Dead, sadly, as redness like that doesn’t grow on trees. Or indeed, people.
6. Christina Hendricks – Drive; I Don’t Know How She Does It
Best known before this year as Joan from TV’s Mad Men, Christina had two roles at polar opposites of the quality spectrum on the big screen this year, scoring a small role in Cannes fave Drive and also a role in Sarah Jessica Parker snoozefest I Don’t Know How She Does It. (Admittedly I haven’t seen the latter, but males aged 30 – 44 rated it 3.7 out of 10 on IMDb – that’s good enough for me. Sadly, IMDb doesn’t allow you to analyse demographics by hair colour – sort it out, Amazon!)
Red or Dead? Also dead. As is the career of many people who appeared in I Don’t Know How She Does It.
5. Simon Pegg – Paul, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
Britain’s premier movie geek gave himself over to Hollywood this year, with a starry cast assembled for Paul, his collaboration with Nick Frost, before his return to the Mission: Impossible franchise, his turn in Hot Fuzz no doubt giving The Cruiser the confidence to give him a bit more to do this time around.
Red or Dead? Tragically dead, as he first went red for Shaun Of The Dead but has stayed pretty much that way ever since. Ginger is the official colour of pasty geeks, don’t you know?
4. Amy Adams – The Fighter; about 300 different trailers for The Muppets
Another of the most prominent cinematic redheads of the past few years, Adams shot to prominence with the indie cred of Junebug and an Oscar nomination and box office success with Enchanted. A second Oscar nom followed for Doubt, and Amy’s been very busy over the past few years, with further Oscar attention this year and a big role in the pipeline as Lois Lane in the Superman reboot.
Red or Dead? Dead. Another, sadly, who seems to have only found credibility when taking on a red top, she’s been that way in most of her recent films.
3. Rupert Grint – Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Sadly it always seems the lot in life of the scrawny ginger kid to be the sidekick, if they’re lucky. Ron Weasley comes from possibly the most gingerly challenged cinematic family in history, with both parents afflicted with the recessive gene, but he had the last laugh in 2011, getting to hook up with Hermione Grainger, making him the envy of teenage boys across the land.
Red or Dead? Red! Hurrah! Was beginning to get a bit worried there. Whether after ten years of being the world’s most recognisable ginger kid Rupert wants to keep it that way is up to him, but if this list is any barometer it shouldn’t hurt his career.
2. Bryce Dallas Howard – Hereafter; The Help; 50/50
Not only suffering as the sidekick, the female freckly red-top is ever destined to be the bitchy girlfriend (50/50) or just the bitch (The Help). Bryce Dallas Howard also had a busy year, but at least she got to be the best thing in Hereafter in her relationship with Matt Damon – it’s a shame about the rest of Hereafter being so unremittingly disappointing.
Red or Dead? Red. Have you seen her dad?
1. Jessica Chastain – The Tree Of Life; The Debt; The Help; Texas Killing Fields; Take Shelter
But the hardest working actress in Hollywood – and probably everywhere else at the moment – is Jessica Chastain. Twelve months ago, you probably hadn’t even heard of her, as she’d struggled away in various tiny TV roles. But this year was her year – kicking off with a pairing with Brad Pitt and Sean Penn in Terence Malick’s The Tree Of Life, before a succession of increasingly impressive turns, making Sam Worthington look utterly wooden and mesmerising opposite Michael Shannon in Take Shelter. She was also by far the best thing in The Help, taking a potentially flimsy role and imbuing it with charm and a rich vein of emotion. She’s got even more in the can, with a role in Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus due early next year and an assured future in front of her.
Red or Dead? Most positively red, Jessica Chastain is a role model for reds across the globe. May she go on to conquer the world in 2012. Gingers of the world, unite!