Angelina Jolie is the only actress in Hollywood who can convincingly play a tough, gun-wielding action hero despite her frail frame and otherworldly beauty, say film execs. "It's definitely unusual that a female has become an action star," producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura tells ABC News. "But it's a funny thing. She's not a female action star; she's an action star. She's really the first female to transcend gender. I don't think it's occurred before." [Note: Di Bonaventura produced Jolie's new film, Salt]. Interestingly, the role of CIA agent Evelyn Salt in Angelina's upcoming spy thriller, was originally written for a man, with Tom Cruise cast in the lead. But after Tom dropped out of the project, studio execs rewrote the part to accommodate Jolie in the role. 'THE PHYSICALITY CHANGED' The slender Angelina modified the character's demeanor to convincingly play a gun-slinging super-spy. "The physicality had to change," she says. "I’m smaller than everybody, so how do I go up against a bunch of men without looking silly? How do I fight?" She adds: "We made her meaner than a guy, and dirty. She uses the walls, the fact that she’s lighter and can throw herself around. It’s the Chihuahua up against the big dogs.” Fortunately, Angelina didn't mind the stunt work at all. "I'm slight, but I've always loved to run, jump around and be physical," she says. Jolie, who got lots of cuts and bruises during the shoot, was paid a cool $20 million for Salt -- a coup in Hollywood, where women get paid less than their male counterparts (and when they do, it's because they agree to do nude sex scenes, as Demi Moore did for the 1996 flop Striptease). "The fact that she is in the entertainment industry and can approach a male salary is an anomaly," says Lori Watson, director of women's studies at the University of San Diego. "Maybe she can command a salary, but she can't break through the expectations that women are supposed to be beautiful and sexualized."
HER STRONG PERSONALITY INTIMIDATES WOMEN Still, experts say Angelina's beauty and strong personality can work against her in romantic comedies, for example. "She's too strong, she's too forceful," says Hollywood historian David Thomson. "And that's not just her screen character. It's her public character, too. She isn't really sentimentally appealing [for a romantic comedy]. She needs to be doing strong things -- crazy things, sometimes -- to work on screen.
" Angelina_Jolie_August_2011_Vanity_Fair Meanwhile, Jolie has hinted that she plans to cut back on acting within the next few years (as she approaches 40--which, in Hollywood, makes an actress (but not an actor) over-the-hill). But producers say there's no other female who can step in and play the action roles that Angelina now embodies. "I don't see anybody right now," di Bonaventura says. "Will there be more female action heroes? There will be another one, yeah, I believe that. You look at these things as a progression." He adds:" With Angie, you're just letting her be what she is. We've gotten away from that male classification of what is an 'action star.' And that means that will open possibilities for somebody else. You just needed somebody to break the ground.