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Wicked women The greatest female villains on the big screen

Stars relish roles as Hollywood's cruelest characters

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Maleficent

Maleficent

Maleficent

SHE’S one of cinema’s greatest ever baddies and Emma Stone is set to dazzle movie fans when she plays Cruella De Vil in a new origins movie.

Cruella — which lands on Disney+ next weekend — will see Stone embrace her wicked side in a movie described as “dark” and “bold” in early reviews.

The film’s makers have vamped up Stone’s Cruella with the use of stylish and outrageous costumes — prompting one quick-witted fan to call the movie ‘The De Vil Wears Prada’.

“There is something about Cruella that’s pretty enticing because she just kind of is who she is,” said Stone of the role.

“I don’t think I would ever be able to play a character if I truly thought ‘they’re just bad, they’re just a villain’. Do you think anybody evil walks through the world thinking they’re evil? I don’t think so. I think they think they’re right.”

Early buzz on the movie has been strong and Stone has big shoes to fill — Glenn Close’s take on the puppy thief is regarded as one of her most iconic roles.

Ever since she first surfaced in animation form, the glamorous Londoner who steals Dalmatian puppies for their fur has become one of the movie villains we most love to hate.

As she prepares to return to the screen, we remember some of cinema’s most infamous vixens.

Michelle Pfeiffer — Batman Returns

Pfeiffer’s career is jammed with great performances but her turn as Catwoman in Batman Returns was the best characterisation of the anti-heroine.

The scene where she takes a whip to decapitate a series of store mannequins is the stuff of movie infamy. A behind-the-scenes video showing her do it in one take recently went viral.

“I love playing that character, and I got really good at that whip,” she said recently.

“I was very pleased with myself, because it was something that my stuntwoman actually couldn’t do that I could do.”

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Pfeiffer stole the show and there have been increasing calls recently for her character to return as part of the DC movies’ multiverse.

Sharon Stone — Basic Instinct

Her recent revelations that she had been duped into the film’s most famous shot makes it problematic, but Stone’s killer Catherine Tramell remains one of cinema’s greatest baddies.

Her serial killer was a devil-may-care murderess who killed men with a retractable ice-pick, often while having sex with them.

The movie was Stone’s 18th and transformed her from a jobbing actress into the biggest female star on the planet.

In her new memoir, as crowds screamed her name, she recalls turning to actress Faye Dunaway. “‘What now?’ I said to Faye, to which she replied, ‘Now you are a big star and they can all kiss your ass.”

Glenn Close — Fatal Attraction

Stone’s co-star Michael Douglas had to take on another villainess in Close, whose character spooked a whole generation of married men from even considering a one night stand.

She played Alex, a woman who has a brief affair with her colleague, and becomes increasingly obsessed with him when he tries to walk away.

The movie even coined the term bunny boiler following one infamous scene. But Close feels to this day that the film was hard on Alex, and she later revealed that she fought with the studio for two weeks over the film’s ending.

“It was going to make a character I loved into a murdering psychopath,” she said in 2017.

“I felt from all my research, I just didn’t think she was a psychopath,” she said.

“I thought she was a deeply disturbed woman.”

Angelina Jolie — Malificent

Jolie embraced her dark side to play one of Disney’s most notorious witches in alive action remake and later returned for a sequel.

The first movie was a huge hit and gained Jolie some of the best reviews of her career.

Her over-the-top outfits and realistic-looking leather horns helped.

“We went online and found these great leather workers and people who do these more kind of elegant fetish clothes,” she said at the time.

“First they were too heavy then we got them softer, and then we found ones that snap off because I kept banging into things.”

Rosamund Pike — Gone Girl

The movie loses its way despite that twist but Pike was excellent as the femme fatale at the centre of David Finch’s movie.

She shone as Amy, the missing wife of Ben Affleck, who it emerges has a level of scheming that is truly disturbing.

Pike managed to take the over-the-top character and keep her believable.

Kathy Bates — Misery

Bates gave the performance of her life in the chilling adaptation of Stephen King’s thriller in 1990.

She was terrific as Annie Wilkes, a nurse who takes in her favourite novelist after he has a car accident.

Incensed that he’s killing off her favourite character, she takes him prisoner and tortures him into writing her into another novel.

Annie’s violent and temperamental nature make her even more frightening.

Louise Fletcher — One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

It’s one thing to be a killer, another entirely to make a whole hospital system work to your nasty nature.

But Nurse Ratched knew how to work the system and coolly became one of cinema’s greatest villains, wielding her power through the use of lobotomies and electro shock treatment.

A little-known actress who had been begging for the role, Fletcher landed it after other leading ladies turned it down.

She later said she knew she had touched a nerve when an audience member shouted: ‘kill her!’ at the screen of a premiere she attended.


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