In the glitz and glamour of awards season Supporting Actresses – cpn

Aunjanue Ellis in her film debut, “Girls Town”

In the glitz and glamour of awards season it can be hard to remember that today’s most celebrated performers were once just starry eyed hopefuls trying to land a movie role. For this four-part series, a look back at the films that launched each of our acting nominees, some more auspiciously than others. Because acting is a three medium art form (stage, tv, screen) we’re sticking to their first feature film role to make it easier. Some of the nominees had acting gigs before landing their first film. We’ll take them in chronological order of their debuts and share a screen shot of the very first credited moment on film.

We begin with Supporting Actress which we’ll be discussing at length on the Smackdown this weekend. But first a look back at their very first roles…

JUDI DENCH as “Miss Humphries” in The Third Secret (1964)

first shot of Judi Dench in a movie

detail… she’s Acting even in the background. No dialogue in this scene.

First line in a film: “They’ve practically disappeared.”

Judi Dench had been a regular on London stages and on British television for a handful of years before she made her first film. She turned 30 a month after the film opened in the UK. She was 12th billed in this noir about the apparent suicide of a psychologist and his American patient (Stephen Boyd) who doesn’t believe the coroner’s ruling. Dench plays an art gallery assistant and you can see what a consummate professional she already is, rounding out her character sometimes in the background of scenes. She’s always reacting to the other actors, and using her full body to tell you what Miss Humphries is thinking or feeling; That’s those years on the stage already. She doesn’t get her first line until 39 minutes into the movie when she’s discussing paintings with Boyd and proceeds to diss Americans ‘They’d buy Nelson’s Column if you let them’ until she realizes she’s talking to one. Oops!

KIRSTEN DUNST as “Campbell McCoy” in The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990)

first official shot of Kirsten Dunst in a movie, descending a staircase. “I’m outta here!”

our first good look at her, trying to read her unhappy parents

first line in a film: “I’m outta here!”

Her first line in a movie may have been to announce her exit but she was very much arriving. Now, in truth, you can spot tiny Kiki Dunst a year earlier in an uncredited role as Mia Farrow’s daughter in Woody Allen’s section of the omnibus film New York Stories (1989) but she made her official debut in this one, at age 8, as the daughter of Tom Hanks and Kim Cattrall. The film was a very high profile bomb, adapted from Tom Wolfe’s much-celebrated bestseller. It’s difficult to recognize her in long shot, descending the staircase and off to school, as her hair is dyed darker to match Hanks & Cattrall’s brunette looks. Later she gets closeups and screentime, usually listening to her mother demean her father in creatively bitchy ways. By the mid 90s, just a few years later with the 1-2-3 punch of Interview with the Vampire, Little Women, and Jumanji, Kirsten Dunst was a famous child star with three hits under her belt and a Golden Globe nomination. Still this first Oscar nomination for The Power of the Dog took an awfully long time to arrive, didn’t it?

AUNJANUE ELLIS as “Nikki” in Girls Town (1996)

first shot of Aunjanue Ellis in a movie

Her first line in a movie: “What style? What style?”

Jim McKay’s Girls Town (1996) begins with a slow-motion shot of Aunjanue Ellis walking down the street carrying a notebook. The sound doesn’t match as if she’s remembering an obviously traumatic event — it sounds a lot like a rape. In the first scene after the subsequent opening credits, a group of girls are making fun of Patti’s (Lili Taylor) overalls when she says “it’s my style”. Then Patti asks Nikki what she’s writing in that notebook she carries around. “None of your business” is the reply though the two are clearly friends. Due to the narrative of Girls Town (no spoilers) Ellis isn’t in very much of the film but it was a moving debut. Over the following 20 years she’d become an enduring and very reliable character actress. The NAACP Image Awards caught on quickly nominating her as early as 2000 but it took the big awards shows much longer. Happily in the last few years she’s finally being recognized for those gifts with two recent Emmy nominations (When They See Us, Lovecraft Country) and now an Oscar nod (King Richard).

JESSIE BUCKLEY as “Moll” in Beast (2017)

first shot of Jessie Buckley in a movie (she’s second from left) though the choir director will single her out immediately

first film, first billed!

Her first line is a voice-over narration as she stares in the mirror and awkwardly smiles

First line in a movie: “I was obsessed with killer whales when I was a kid. They always seemed to be smiling.”

Buckley was not a star overnight even though her film career would suggest otherwise. Her debut film, the romantic drama Beast (released in 2018) in which she is romantically paired with a suspected killer (Johnny Flynn) was a hit with British critics earning her multiple critics nominations and the British Independent Film Award for “Most Promising Newcomer” as well as the London Critics Circle win for “Best British/Irish Actress of the Year”. She chased it immediately with a Best Actress BAFTA nomination for Wild Rose (2018… released in 2019). Interestingly she’s a singer in both roles; What a voice…someone get her a movie musical! But starting with two lauded lead roles is not as shocking as it sounds given that she’d already acted in British stage productions (two of which were filmed) such as The Tempest (2014) and The Winter’s Tale (2015) and made two mini-series (2016’s War & Peace and 2017’s Taboo) and a few short films.

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