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Creator / Faye Dunaway

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"You are not an extra in somebody else's film. You are the star in your own life."

Dorothy Faye Dunaway (born January 14, 1941 in Bascom, Florida) is an American actor.

Dunaway began acting on Broadway in the early 1960s, and following a couple of minor appearances on television made her film debut in 1967 with The Happening (not the one you're probably thinking of), immediately followed by a role in Otto Preminger's Hurry Sundown. Her performance in the latter got people talking, and earned her a Golden Globe Award nomination for Most Promising Newcomer.

But it was Dunaway's next film that would take her career to the next level. She'd been turned down for Bonnie and Clyde when the casting director felt she didn't have the right face for the movies. But after watching The Happening, director Arthur Penn was instantly persuaded to let her read for the role of Bonnie Parker, and subsequently cast her. Despite the film initially earning a negative critical reception for its violent content, it became a hit. Dunaway was now a star and earning rave reviews.

She followed this up with another smash hit, The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), in which she starred opposite Steve McQueen (who would later call Dunaway the best actress he ever worked with). Her next films didn't quite set the world on fire, but she hit it big again with Roman Polański's Chinatown. Things escalated even further when she lobbied for the role of a ruthless TV programming executive in Sidney Lumet's Network, in the face of insistence that it could do harmful damage to her career. She won an Academy Award for her performance.

Things took a sharp U-turn as the '80s began, however. Christina Crawford, the adopted daughter of Hollywood legend Joan Crawford, had published Mommie Dearest, a scathing memoir recounting her abuse at the hands of her stepmother. Seeing gold, producers greenlit a film adaptation of the book. Coincidentally, Crawford herself, shortly before her death, had cited Dunaway as one of the only New Hollywood actresses who "had what it takes" to become a true star and portray her in a movie about her life. Dunaway, certain the film would be hard-hitting and provocative, immediately agreed to take on the role. Unfortunately, the result was a hammy melodrama that turned Crawford into a deranged cartoon character, leading the studio to change its strategy and market the film as a campy comedy. But the damage was done, and audiences proved unable to take Dunaway seriously afterwards. Still, she was nominated for a few awards. (The film has reportedly become her personal Berserk Button, and interviewers are forbidden to ask her about it.)

Depsite all this, she's still acting away in independent films, in television and on the stage. In fact, she won three Golden Globes post-Mommie Dearest. She also released a memoir in 1995 called Looking for Gatsby and was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1996.

Films with TV Tropes pages:

Faye Dunaway's work provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Awesome, Dear Boy: Supergirl was her wanting to ham it up and be goofy.
  • Billing Displacement: She's billed above the unknown Helen Slater in Supergirl. Faye plays the villain Selena.
  • Dyeing for Your Art:
    • She lost thirty pounds to play Bonnie in Bonnie and Clyde, since she had to look like a starving woman during The Great Depression. She accomplished this by repeated fasting (with the occasional salad) and walking around with a weights belt on, which she only took off to sleep.
    • She had to gain weight for Hurry Sundown, which nearly made her lose out on the role of Bonnie Parker.
  • Enforced Method Acting: After several takes in Chinatown that didn't look right, she told Jack Nicholson to actually slap her. The take is used in the finished film.
  • Hostility on the Set:invoked Hoo boy...
    • Her arguments with Roman Polanski on the set of Chinatown were legendary. At one point during an argument he even pulled some of her hair. While filming a scene in a car, he refused to let her pee so they could finish the scenes - so afterwards she did so in a cup and threw it in his face.
    • With everyone on Mommie Dearest, thanks to the stress of becoming a new mother and the intense method acting that it took to act like Joan Crawford.
    • Initially with William Holden on Network, as she had wanted Robert Mitchum for the role of Max. But they put aside their differences and got on well during filming.
  • I Am Not Spock: For years people heavily associated her with the Camp portrayal of Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest.
  • Jossed:invoked
    • Reports circulated that several name actresses turned down The Thomas Crown Affair before Faye was cast. However, Norman Jewison later said in a feature for Biography that she was the first and only choice after he'd seen her in unreleased footage from Bonnie and Clyde.
    • Similarly, there were reports that Jane Fonda had turned down the role of Bonnie. She later said in an interview that she'd auditioned and lost to Dunaway — and was still annoyed about it.
  • Method Acting: A notable practitioner of it, having trained with Elia Kazan. One of the main reasons Mommie Dearest became such a Troubled Production is that she immersed herself so much in the character she basically became Joan Crawford.
  • Old Shame: She blames Mommie Dearest for ruining her career and refuses to talk about it.
  • The Red Stapler: The beret she wore in Bonnie and Clyde was sold worldwide in the thousands.
  • Remake Cameo: She appears in the 1999 remake of The Thomas Crown Affair.
  • Role-Ending Misdemeanor: She was fired from the Broadway play Tea at Five for assaulting crew members.
  • Scully Box: Inverted. Warren Beatty (6 ft. 4) was afraid of being upstaged by Faye (5 ft. 7) in Bonnie and Clyde — so the costume designer kept her in flat shoes for the whole film.
  • Star-Derailing Role: Mommie Dearest, of course. She blames the film for wrecking her career, as no one could take her seriously afterwards. She did earn more accolades on TV, but she's still heavily associated with the film.
  • Star-Making Role: Bonnie and Clyde instantly put her on the map and made her one of the recognisable faces of New Hollywood.
  • Typecasting: She tended to be cast as bitches and other nasty characters.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • She wanted Bonnie to wear slacks, since she would have to quickly race in and out of cars. But the costume designer—feeling a more glamorous look was a better fit for the character—came up with the iconic wardrobe of long skirts, beret and short jacket.
    • She heavily lobbied for the role of Daisy in the 1974 adaptation of The Great Gatsby. She later titled her autobiography Looking for Gatsby.
    • She turned down a role on Guiding Light in order to be taken seriously as an actress.
    • In her autobiography she claims that she pushed for Robert Mitchum to play Max Schumacher (William Holden's part) in Network.


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