It took years for Hollywood to create the perfect woman. Now it wants the old one back.
In small but significant numbers, filmmakers and casting executives are beginning to re-examine Hollywood's attitude toward breast implants, Botox, collagen-injected lips and all manner of plastic surgery.
Television executives at Fox Broadcasting, for example, say they have begun recruiting more natural-looking actors from Australia and Britain because the amply endowed, freakishly young-looking crowd that shows up for auditions in Los Angeles suffers from too much sameness.
"I think everyone either looks like a drag queen or a stripper," said Marcia Shulman, who oversees casting for Fox's scripted shows.
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Independent casting directors like Mindy Marin, who worked on the Jason Reitman film "Up in the Air," are urging talent agents to discourage clients from having surgery, particularly older celebrities who, she contends, are losing jobs because their skin is either too taut or swollen with filler.
Said Marin: "What I want to see is real."
Even extras get the once-over. Sande Alessi, who helped cast the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies, said she offers to photograph actresses in their bathing suits, telling them they can keep the photo for their audition books.
Professional courtesy? Not exactly. Moviemakers prefer actresses with natural breasts for costume dramas and period films. So much so that when the Walt Disney Company recently advertised for extras for the new "Pirates" film, the casting call specified that only women with real breasts need apply. By taking a photograph, Alessi said, "we don't have to ask, we will know."
People can spot the fake
The move toward "less is more" is being propelled by a series of colliding social and technological trends, more than a dozen film and television professionals said.
Cosmetic enhancements remain popular, with 10 million surgical and nonsurgical procedures performed in the United States in 2009, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. At the same time, the spread of high-definition television - as well as a curious public's trained eye - has made it easier to spot a celebrity's badly stitched hairline or botched eyelid lift.
Men, of course, are not immune to the youthful lure of a surgeon's scalpel. But it is women, to the surprise of no one, who are being scrutinized most closely.
Botox now frowned upon
Botox is the enemy in a post-"Avatar," 3-D infatuated Hollywood, where the ability to crumple a mouth into a frown is as vital as remembering one's lines. More startling is how young the plastic surgery devotees have become. In January, the actress Heidi Montag was on the cover of People magazine touting the 10 cosmetic procedures she received in one day. She is 23.
"The era of 'I look great because I did this to myself' has passed," said Shawn Levy, the director and producer of "Date Night" and the "Night at the Museum" movies.
"It is viewed as ridiculous. Ten years ago, actresses had the feeling that they had to get plastic surgery to get the part. Now I think it works against them. To walk into a casting session looking false hurts one's chances."
With so many types of cosmetic rejiggering, results are often painfully obvious and difficult to correct.
An actor can even lose a role if a director suspects surgery, whether or not it was performed.
John Papsidera, a casting director for the "Batman" movies, said he and a director (he declined to say which one) recently debated whether to hire an actress in her early 20s to play a teenager falling in love. The actress was talented and naturally pretty.
But what stopped the director was his suspicion that, at such a young age, she already had breast implants.
There is something to suggest that the new attitude is beginning to take hold. Lisa Kudrow, in a recent interview with New York magazine, seemed happy to own up to the fact that the face viewers saw on an episode of "Cougar Town" was hers - age lines and all.
"Look, time marches on," Kudrow said. "You still want to look good, but there's a line between looking like yourself and looking like a character from a Batman movie."