In an interview with MTV’s Alexa Chung, Sebastian Stan says the most dramatic alteration of his appearance was for his play Talk Radio. According to Sebastian, the blond hair he had for 6 months was the biggest change he had to go through for a role.
Mae West was born in 1893 in Brooklyn. She began her career on the stage at the age of seven, winning prizes in talent contests and performing at church socials. By 14 she was part performing in vaudeville and in burlesque houses when work was slow. By 1911 she would be cast in her first role on broadway and although the show closed after eight performance, this would not be the last show to have Mae West among its cast. By the 1920s West had begun to write her own shows under the pen name Jane Mast. In 1926 her play which she wrote, directed, and coproduced, Sex, would premiere on Broadway and would be a box office hit although it received backlash from religious groups and conservatives for its risqué subject matter. The city would receive so many complaints from religious officials over the content of the show that police would raid it during a showing and arrest West along with the rest of the cast. She spent 10 days in jail. For most, this would be a publicity disaster, but West used it to her advantage telling reporters she wore silk panties while in jail. By the time she was released West was a bigger star than she had been when she entered. West would face further controversy with censors when she attempted to open the play The Drag which focused on homosexual characters. It would close in two weeks. West would continue to write for the stage.The controversy these plays brought her only made the public more interested in seeing them. These plays may not have done so well critically but almost all her plays did incredibly well commercially. In 1932 West was finally given a contract in Hollywood with Paramount. The fact that West was almost 40 is significant because, in an industry dominated by looks and youth, it was incredibly rare for any woman of that age to be offered a contract. Usually, the studios were dropping contracts with women that age not signing them. But Hollywood saw how popular West’s innuendo filled plays were and in a time before strict censorship, they knew this would draw in massive audiences to the theaters. She first appeared in the 1932 film Night After Night, which she rewrote the lines of when she didn’t like the character. This film and the witty dialogue her characters spoke made her one Hollywoods top comediennes. She would go on to write and star in a number of films such as She Done Him Wrong, which costarred a not yet famous Cary Grant, I’m no Angel and Belle of the Nineties. But by 1935 the Hays Code had come to Hollywood and had begun to be heavily forced. West found her films being edited by censors and because of this her film’s quality were often affected. Post-1935 films by West were surrounded by immense controversy and often boycotted by more conservative audiences. The censorship and controversy that surrounded her films cause West to eventually retire from the screen and move on to a successful career in Las Vegas, Nightclubs and on Broadway. By 1959 West had released a bestselling memoir, she had also worked successfully on Broadway, television, radio, and in music. She invested her money in land in LA and began to act in films again during the 1970s. In August 1980, Mae West would pass away from a stroke at the age of 87. Mae West contribution to not just film but to the stage, to comedy, and to music is huge. She was also an avid supported of both Women’s Rights and Gay Rights in time when these issues (particularly gay rights) were hardly on the mind of anyone in a public role. She had a fairly short career in the film industry but she left a huge mark.The comedies audiences watch today would not be the same without West’s influence. She was a woman of all trades.