By Erick Johnson
Now more than ever before in the history of Hollywood, actresses who show audiences and industry insiders alike that they have the ability to "kick butt," are quickly rising to superstar heights.Take Jennifer Garner
, star of the ABC spy drama "Alias." As globetrotting, sexy-but-deadly secret agent Sydney Bristow, Garner has managed to pull in consistently strong ratings for the show and at the same time use it as a platform for larger success. For it was those very same butt kicking skills combined with her acting talent, not to mention beauty, that landed her the role of Elektra in this year's big screen "Daredevil." And due to her success in that role, she's been awarded her own "Elektra" film franchise from 20th Century Fox, with the first feature due out in 2005.
Not since Lindsay Wagner in "The Bionic Woman" or Linda Carter in "Wonder Woman" has there been such a big-time female super hero sort on the small screen. And it's obvious that ABC wants to keep her on their network, with the recent negotiation of Garner's "Alias" contract. She recently signed with the drama until 2008 and more than tripled her per-episode paycheck, from $40,000 to $150,000.
And don't think that other networks, as well as actresses, haven't been quick to capitalize on the girl power trend in today's pop culture. There are several action series ahead that feature women as leads. Carla Gugino (a.k.a. Mama Cortez in the "Spy Kids" movies) stars as female FBI agent "Karen Sisco." In January, Jerry Bruckheimer's "Fearless" series debuts on the WB. The show centers on a young woman, played by Rachael Leigh Cook, who is born without the fear gene, who becomes an agent for -- you guessed it, the FBI.
One can't forget the ladies who started the trend, "Charlie's Angels" Drew Barrymore
, Cameron Diaz
and Lucy Liu
Liu is surely not letting all the hard work she did in martial arts training go to waste. Besides starring in the "Angels" sequel, she also nabbed a supporting role in the upcoming Quentin Tarantino martial arts/action drama "Kill Bill Volume One," due in theaters Oct. 10. A job that was twice as nice, given that distributor Miramax will follow-up with the film's second installment six months later.
Speaking of "Kill Bill," another one of the actresses who also stars as a member of the film's Deadly Vipers all-female assassination team has parlayed her martial arts training into more onscreen success. Vivica A. Fox, who plays Vernita in the film, underwent nearly a year of training in the U.S. and from martial arts masters in China, where quite a bit of the film shot.
Declares Fox of the experience, "There were times where at the end of the day I had to soak in bath salts because I was so bruised up from training and shooting, but for every bruise and scar I felt like I was earning my stripes. I'm very, very proud of this character. I've never played anyone this strong before."
However, it looks like Fox just might get the chance to play a character of the same sort on cable television. She's currently developing a series in which she'll produce and star that will be a remake of the short-lived 1970's soul sista' detective series "Get Christy Love."
And last but not least, look at what being able to kick some super serious butt has done for the career of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" star Zhang Ziyi, whose martial arts moves are based in the dance training she received at the China Central Drama College.
In "Rush Hour," her first English language film, Zhang had to have everything translated to her by co-star Jackie Chan, because she spoke no English. That was back in 2001. Now, just two years later, the 24-year-old Zhang is set to star opposite Adam Sandler -- in a comedy no less -- as his mail order bride in "Good Cook, Likes Music," due to begin production next year.
Yep, kicking a little butt can take a girl a long way in Hollywood.