LABEL NO RULE 1-36-3 on dark meg ryan role
By KAREN HELLER
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
This is how you, an average mortal, know when a movie star is being serious, and wants to be taken seriously as an "actress."
She dyes her hair dark.
Correction: She stops dyeing her hair blond. And goes back to her roots. Literally. She also removes half her makeup.
In other words: She starts to look a lot like an average mortal.
These are the dark months of Hollywood, when movie stars become serious actresses, letting their roots and the circles beneath their eyes grow dark all in an effort to have Oscar gold brighten their lives.
Meg Ryan appears as a brunette in the current dark thriller "In the Cut." She did this in "Courage Under Fire." She usually does this when she tires of being perennially perky, the box office's leading romantic comedienne. She might as well slap a "For Your Consideration, Academy Members" label across her chest.
In "The Hours," Nicole Kidman was a frizzy brunette with a sizable honker -- much worse than that of Virginia Woolf, the author she was portraying -- and ended up winning an Oscar. She also dyed her hair dark for her new film, "The Human Stain," which may net her another nomination.
Shedding her makeup and wearing frumpy clothing in "Monster's Ball," Halle Berry won an Oscar, though the truth is that even without much makeup she's impossibly gorgeous. Berry and the equally scrumptious Penelope Cruz, already brunettes and highly remunerated cosmetic and fragrance models, go makeupless mano a mano in "Gothika," opening later this month.
Cameron Diaz, with model's looks and azure eyes, went darker in Martin Scorsese's 1860s period piece, "Gangs of New York." (Manhattan didn't have many hair salons specializing in superior highlights back then.) And in Spike Jonze's "Being John Malkovich" she was downright frumpy. Translation: frizzy brown hair, baggy clothes, sensible shoes, brown contacts. In other words, she looked like someone you might actually know.
Charlize Theron, another goddess, goes brunette with less makeup as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in "Monster," opening nationwide early next year in most places.
The positive side of all this is that it indicates brunettes are worth taking seriously, perhaps more seriously than blondes.
On the other side, it means brunettes are dull and normal and average and common. And blondes still have more fun and become movie stars or models or cheerleaders. And nothing has changed since the advent of peroxide as a life-altering tonsorial tool.
Most male actors aren't blond most of the time, except Brad Pitt, who for serious roles retains his highlights, though fewer of them.
Male movie stars don't tend to go blond as much as bald, fat and gray. Plus they add glasses. Like real men. You can always tell when Bruce Willis is in a serious role because he sheds hairpieces or wears really weird ones. Or shaves his hair off entirely.
Such alterations, of course, are not limited to thespians.
Television reporters and hosts seems to change hair color depending on how seriously they want to be taken, the most famous case being Ashleigh Banfield of MSNBC and NBC, who went dark to travel to Afghanistan. "Saturday Night Live's" Tina Fey joked that Banfield lost her glamour by changing to resemble, well, Tina Fey. Humorist Andy Borowitz fantasized the headline "NATO agrees on interim hair color for Ashleigh Banfield."
Going in the opposite direction is NBC's Katie Couric, who gets lighter, flashier, and less anchor-next-door by the day -- as she competes with the fetching Diane Sawyer, her morning rival on ABC. Meanwhile, CBS deploys three dark-tressed women to battle both of them.
All this obvious manipulation is as irritating as it is fun. But it seems harmless enough, as long as we don't wake up one morning to find a raven-haired Kelly Ripa reporting from the Pentagon.