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    Who Would You Pick To Play Marie Curie?
    By Hank Campbell | May 18th 2011 02:46 PM | 9 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hank

    I'm the founder of Science 2.0®.

    A wise man once said Darwin had the greatest idea anyone ever had. Others may prefer Newton or Archimedes...

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    First, a cultural fact: The NFL Draft can be seen for three solid days by every cable subscriber in America.   This is hours and hours of nothing but 30 seconds of reading out a name punctuated by 14.5 minutes of nothing - actually, brief bursts of activity separated by committee meetings sounds a lot like most football games, but it consumed an entire network a short while ago even though the sport may not even be played this fall.

    How is that relevant on a science site?

    I'll get to that, but first you should know Meryl Streep is not going to play Marie Curie in a performance none of you are going to see anyway.    And I want to discuss why that's good - not the not seeing it, that is bad, but I will get to that also, rather how Streep not playing Curie will be a good thing.

    The World Science Festival kicks off in a few short weeks, in New York City.  I am a big fan of science outreach and Brian Greene is a terrific communicator about theoretical physics so when he got the idea to promote science in a big way a few years ago, I was an immediate fan.

    They have a variety of events that mix together science and culture and art and they bring in a lot of people who love science, even though they aren't in the field.    This year, what caught my attention was a few press releases from Goodman Media (thanks, folks!) about the opening night at Lincoln Center.    It's a posh affair in its own right, we (marketing savant Kristina and I ) went in 2009 because we wanted to check the events out and E.O. Wilson was having his 80th birthday party and we'd never had the opportunity to be sneered at by Nobel laureate James Watson before, so we have that as a memory.

    This year they are doing something a little different; Alan Alda, actor and fan of science, has written a play (is that the word? What do they call it when they read the dialogue but there is no set?) called Radiance: The Passion of Marie Curie.   Alda is, to some, an insufferable lefty do-gooder and part of him tackling the subject has to be because she did brilliant science despite being a woman in a field of mean old men(1) but there really is no stronger advocate for science out there, and he is always literate and funny and engaging.   Basically, if Alan Alda were moderating a consumer science talk and endorsed Hitler and vampire babies, I would probably nod my head and agree those were pretty good things.    And he loves Bloggy, our mascot:

    Alan Alda with Bloggy the Science 2.0 mascot at the World Science Festival

    The cast sounded terrific; Amy Adams and Allison Janney and Alda and then Meryl Streep as Marie Curie.    But Meryl Streep made me 'meh' just a little.  Obviously, she is a terrific actress(2), arguably the greatest of her generation, but it was hard for me to 'see' her as Marie Curie but it was also a non-issue to me, since no one better came to mind(3) when I thought about one of the most famous scientists of the last century.   Everyone knows her story; she got two Nobel prizes, one in physics and one in chemistry, and had a tumultuous private life.

    marie curie
    Marie Cure

    But today I got another press release saying Steep had to "bow out due to a sudden and unforeseen scheduling conflict" which sounds to me like "she got a paying gig" and was being replaced by Maggie Gyllenhaal, who has not impressed me in anything I saw but everyone seems to think is terrific.

    However, having seen her in a few movies, she struck me as the perfect person to play Curie, better than Streep.   Why?   Any story of Curie has to begin in her early 30s, and Streep is not going to work there but Gyllenhaal is and, like her movies or not, she has always had a convincing sort of pathos, which will be required for the story.  She looks intelligent, as did Curie.

    maggie gyllenhaal
    Maggie Gyllenhaal

    But I am not a casting expert so I figured I would ask and see if anyone notices; who would you pick to play the definitive Marie Curie?   

    Back to my first paragraph and onto a second question; seeing that cast, including Amy Adams, who will be talked about the way Meryl Streep is soon enough, you want to see this reading, or play, or whatever it is, right?   I know I do.   How come we can find a network to televise 3 days of choosing unknown football players but we can't get anyone to take a shot at televising programs like this?
     

     NOTES:

    (1) Regardless of her gender, she became Professor of General Physics in the Faculty of Sciences at La Sorbonne and militants will insist it was because she was 50X better than the worst man there or whatever, but in reality she knew her stuff and gender was a non-issue, at least there. The French Academy of Sciences couldn't let it go, of course.

    (2) And Streep was in Mamma Mia! with Science 2.0 fave Christine Baranski, who is a 4-tool actress, being able to sing, dance, act in drama and in comedy.  She also loves Bloggy:

    Christine Baranski

    (3) For a clever take on both Curie and Einstein, rent or buy Young Einstein on DVD, where he invents carbonated beer and she helps him invent rock and roll, along with the usual science stuff.

    Comments

    Greer Garson

    Hank
    That's certainly an old school choice but I was thinking of, someone, you know, still alive.  On our Facebook page, Charlize Theron was an interesting choice but otherwise I haven't seen anything better than Gyllenhaal.
    Then you probably won't go for Walter Pidgeon for Pierre Curie either?
    How about Johnny Depp and Keira Knightley in "Scientists of the Radio Active: In Search of the Lost Element"? Pirates of the Caribbean is getting a bit long in tooth. Tim Burton or the Cohn brothers directing. That should be cutting edge!

    That's Coen brothers:)

    Hfarmer
    I lol'd at the "Hitler and vampire babies" line and you are the only person I have seen mention "Young Einstein" in ages.   :)  What I remember from that movie is that somehow a huge keg of carbonated beer == "a giant atomic bomb".   When will they ever let  physicists get past that one? 

    Good article.

    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    Hank
    I loved that film - and the soundtrack - back then it was a big hassle because it was only an import, and the music feels 1980s (not new wave or pop, I mean the style) but it's still pretty good.  
    Hfarmer
    I know, I know.  They don't make movies like that anymore.  These days it's mostly about visual effects eye candy and 3D.
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    Helena Bonham Carter

    Hank
    But does she do anything without Tim Burton?   With him, France of the period will be all Dada-ist Gothic buildings and people with odd physical tics.    Of course, it could be worse - Wes Anderson would have that plus make none of their clothes fit, give them funny nicknames and end the picture in slow motion.