16 Times Women Played Roles Written For Men

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Shania said it best: Man, I feel like a woman.

It's no secret that Hollywood isn't exactly overflowing with empowering roles for women, particularly when actresses have passed the ingenue phase, or crave material that's more challenging and rewarding than that of the male lead's girlfriend. What's a strong, savvy female star to do? Push for change. Fight for a rewrite.

With a few taps of a keyboard, some of film's most iconic characters have gone from he, to she. Alien's Ellen Ripley was intended for a male actor. Tom Cruise was originally slated to play Angelina Jolie's lead role in Salt. And Sandra Bullock took over for George Clooney as a political consultant in last year's Our Brand Is Crisis. Somehow, the Earth continued to rotate.

Curious to see which famous roles were earmarked for men, until a more nuanced casting decision was made? Keep reading.

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Ellen Ripley, Alien (1979)
The human characters were originally written as generic men, allowing director Ridley Scott and his team to flesh out their identities later on. Sigourney Weaver was ultimately cast in the lead role, while Veronica Cartwright starred as Lambert.

Pictured: Sigourney Weaver as Ripley
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Evelyn Salt, Salt (2010)
Tom Cruise was originally attached to play accused spy Edwin Salt, a man tasked with saving his wife and child from the bad guys. When Cruise backed out, Angelina Jolie stepped in. The protagonist's name was changed, and the family-man story line was dropped.

Pictured: Angelina Jolie as Evelyn Salt
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Colonel Katherine Powell, Eye In The Sky (2015)
Helen Mirren's take-charge military colonel was originally envisioned as male, but director Gavin Hood has said he couldn't stop picturing Mirren playing the part. The actress told BBC News that the casting decision "changed the discussion" with regards to the film's morally complex themes.

Pictured: Helen Mirren as Col. Powell
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Kyle Pratt, Flightplan (2005)
The mother in search of her young daughter was originally written as a father fighting off terrorists. Once filmmakers decided Jodie Foster might be a good fit, the plot was tweaked, though the character name stayed intact.

Pictured: Jodie Foster as Kyle Pratt
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Dizzy Flores, Starship Troopers (1997)
In the Starship Troopers novel, Private Flores is male. In the film, Flores is female, and the love interest for Johnny Rico.

Pictured: Dina Meyer (Dizzy Flores) and Casper Van Dien (Johnny Rico)
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"Calamity" Jane Bodine, Our Brand Is Crisis (2015)
The role of a retired political consultant was originally earmarked for George Clooney. Though the actor produced the film, he passed on the role, which ultimately went to Sandra Bullock.

Pictured: Sandra Bullock and Anthony Mackie
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Hildy Johnson, His Girl Friday (1940)
His Girl Friday almost didn't have a girl at all. The play on which the classic film is based, The Front Page, centers on a male editor and reporter. Director Howard Hawks decided to do a switcheroo and introduce a rom-com twist after hearing his female secretary read Hildy's lines during auditions.

Pictured: Cary Grant with Rosalind Russell as Hildy
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Zula, Conan The Destroyer (1984)
Grace Jones' androgynous style and all-around badassery convinced filmmakers to cast her as the warrior Zula, portrayed in the comic books as male.

Pictured: Grace Jones as Zula
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Defense Secretary Delacourt, Elysium (2013)
Jodie Foster snagged another role intended for a man with her portrayal of a cold-blooded official. Her nefarious Delacourt was originally written as Secretary Rhodes, a man, until director Neill Blomkamp realized a woman could easily play the part.

Pictured: Jodie Foster as Defense Secretary Delacourt
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M, GoldenEye (1995)
James Bond's boss was a man for three decades before Judi Dench got involved. The British actress played the iconic part in GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, Die Another Day, Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, and Skyfall.

Pictured: Judi Dench as M
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Major Gwen Anderson, Ender's Game (2013)
Orson Scott Card's sci-fi book series presents Battle School's second-in-command as a male character, but that didn't stop Viola Davis from making the role her own.

Pictured: Viola Davis as Major Anderson
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Agent Sever, Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever (2002)
Lucy Liu beat out a host of male action stars to play Sever opposite Antonio Banderas. Alas, the creative casting couldn't save it from going down as one of the worst films ever made.

Pictured: Lucy Liu and Antonio Banderas
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Paula, The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005)
According to Jane Lynch, it was Steve Carell's wife who suggested that the comedy have more women in the cast. Carell's boss thus became a woman, though the sleazy jokes remained.

Pictured: Jane Lynch and Steve Carell
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Lex Murphy, Jurassic Park (1993)
Lex is a bratty young girl in Michael Crichton's 1990 novel, while Tim is the older brother with a passion for computers. Those roles were reversed for the film version.

Pictured: Ariana Richards and Joseph Mazzello
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Alicia Clark, The Paper (1994)
Managing editor Alicia Clark was originally Alan until filmmakers opted to make their newsroom more diverse.

Pictured: Glenn Close as Alicia Clark
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Lillian Hobson, Arthur (2011)
Helen Mirren took on Sir John Gielgud's Oscar-winning role of Hobson the valet in this 2011 remake starring Russell Brand.

Pictured: Helen Mirren as Hobson
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