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29 January

Ana de Armas, Hollywood’s rising star

 

First brought to light as an AI entity in “Blade Runner 2049” (2017), currently starring in “Knives Out”, by Rian Johnson and “Cuban Network” by Olivier Assayas, the young Cuban actress is also the next Bond Girl in “No Time to Die”, in theatres in April 2020. Portrait of a young actress set to become Hollywood’s new darling.

By Margaux Coratte

Ana de Armas in “Knock Knock”, by Eli Roth (2015)

Make no mistake, the rich old man's nurse in Knives Out is no virginal ingénue. An attitude fully assumed by Ana de Armas, who plays the (main) role of Marta. Caught up in the torrent of the venal interests of a bourgeois family without scruples or tenderness, this young nurse is the key figure in Rian Johnson's latest film. But more than just a pretty face, the young woman stands out for her moral and pugnacious character. By accepting the role of this “pretty Latina caretaker” as she is described in the script, Ana de Armas suspected a role without depth, oscillating between sexism and barely disguised stereotypes. However, while the fragile appearance of this (not so) innocent young woman with a pronounced accent might lead to hasty conclusions, Marta is in reality a character far more complex than at first glance. Ana de Armas shines with her subtle and convincing acting, which earned her a nomination for the Golden Globes 2020.

 

For the 31-year old Cuban actress, embodying the lead character of a full-length feature film isn’t just about ego, but a reflection of the combat to rehabilitate Hispanic actors in rewarding roles. This should delight an American movie industry undermined by its own self  (cf. the 2020 Oscar nominations). After starting her career in Spain, she arrived in Hollywood in 2015 for her role as Bel in Eli Roth’ movie Knock Knock – the man behind Cabin Fever (2002) and Hostel (2006). With Keanu Reeves as her victim, the curvaceous young woman, in a vulgar and malicious attack, punishes a married man incapable of resisting her charms. A character that's ultimately insignificant -just like the story - whose relief we fail to understand due to an excess of contradictions. But Hollywood, not always willing to admit the hypocrisy of a falsely feminist cinema, does know how to recognise a godsend when it sees one. Beautiful, talented, Hispanic and outspoken, Ana de Armas has everything to make it in an American movie system terrified of being reproached for racism.

Ana de Armas in "Blade Runner 2049", by Denis Villeneuve (2017)

Blade Runner 2049 by Quebecois director Denis Villeneuve released in 2017 bathed in the soft light of the actress’s face, as she embodied a polymorphous form of artificial intelligence, between fantasy hologram and devoted companion. While her virtual appearances alongside Ryan Gosling won over a large number of spectators, they remained limited by the deliberately smooth character of a non-human character. Starring in War Dogs by Todd Phillips the same year, it would be wrong to say that she has always been well served by cinematographic offerings. In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, she revealed her regret that there are so few “active” roles for woman in the movies. “That’s my fight and I always try to go for them when they come up. As a woman and a Latina, it’s pretty challenging.

 

Complex roles like that of Isabelle Huppert in Elle by Paul Verhoeven aren’t exactly abundant. Undermined by a hackneyed feminism, at odds with films riddled with good intentions, the female roles in mainstream cinema often suffer from a very sexualised image unfortunately perceived as inherent to the profession of actress. As the next Bond Girl in No Time to Die by Cary Joji Fukunaga, Ana de Armas is the umpteenth victim of this phenomenon… that is ever so slightly evolving. The role, which any young actress eager to prove herself would be foolish to decline, is the very prerogative of a film world dominated by men. However, after Eva Green’s role as a tortured paramour for whom the famous agent 007 was ready to give it all up, we can only hope that Ana de Armas will offer a more interesting version than the traditional arm candy previously embodied by James Bond’s lovers.

 

Ana de Armas' revendications suggest that she is already choosing more rewarding roles than those she played in the past, having to get through that lamentable almost obligatory early career phase of most foreign actresses in Hollywood. Starring in two films scheduled for release over the next few years, it would seem that the actress is fast becoming a hot name in cinema. Playing the role of Marilyn Monroe - a figure that couldn’t be more dear to American cultural heritage - in Blonde by Andrew Dominik and starring in an erotic thriller directed by Adrian Lyne, Deep Water, we’ve certainly not heard the last of Ana de Armas.

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