Movies are in Gwyneth Paltrow’s blood. The daughter of actress Blythe Danner and director Bruce Paltrow, it was inevitable that she would end up a jobbing actress. Not that Gwynnie didn’t have her rebellious phase – she first chose to study art history at the University of California.
After that brief glitch, Paltrow dumped the course in pursuit of acting instead, and made her stage debut in 1990. Just a year later she jumped into films with Shout , which features John Travolta as a music teacher who introduces rock and roll to a West Texas home for boys.
Period Garb? Not yet.
An early stab at a British accent had Gwynnie making a brief appearance as a very sleepy, very coy Wendy in Steven Spielberg’s sequel to Peter Pan . She appears in just one scene – a flashback in which we see a youthful Peter first encounter a youthful Wendy and her brothers, who are whisked off to Never Never Land.
That her character would grow up to be played by Maggie Smith is surely some kind of strange casting compliment.
Period Garb? Getting there, though this could really take place anytime.
Flesh And Bone (1993)
After a small appearance in mummy’s TV movie Cruel Doubt , and a role in other TV movie Deadly Relations (gotta love the superlativity), Gwynnie took a small part in this Meg Ryan rom-dram.
Paltrow plays a thieving drifter who has no limits when it comes to getting her mitts on a bounty – she even pinches jewellery from a dead body at a funeral home. It’s an unusual role for the burgeoning actress, giving her plenty to chew on as a young woman whose cynical take on the world is only matched in pessimism by her hatred of men.
Period Garb? Nope, this is bang up to date (in an early ‘90s way).
Jefferson In Paris (1995)
Gwynnie tries her first historical drama on for size, playing the domineering elder daughter of lonely widower Thomas Jefferson (Nick Nolte). Set in the 1780s, it’s a semi-fictional account of Jefferson’s time as Ambassador of the United States before he was elected President.
Cue ravishing, bosom-heaving dresses and finely-detailed costumes in the court of Versailles, where Jefferson embarks on a love affair with musician Maria Cosway (Greta Scacchi). But when his daughters sway him into abandoning the affair, Jefferson becomes more interested in his daughter’s nurse Sally (Thandie Newton).
Period Garb? Finally, Gwynnie gets her corset on. It’s about time.
“What’s in the box?!” (Spoilers beware!) Gwynnie becomes an unfortunate, unwitting accomplice to a serial killer in David Fincher’s moody, unrelenting, unrepenting thriller.
As the lovely, flaxen-haired wife of Brad Pitt’s detective, she gets caught up in one of his more grisly cases as hubby tracks a killer known as John Doe. Doe is using the Bible’s seven deadly sins as a basis for his grisly pseudo-religious work. Gwynnie ends up helping Doe complete his cycle when she’s butchered and has her head put in a box.
Period Garb? It’s back to modern day here.
Moonlight And Valentino (1995)
A drama adapted from Ellen Simon’s stageplay, which made its theatrical debut six years previously at Duke University.
Gwynnie plays a supportive chain-smoker who’s spent the past 14 years attempting to come to terms with her mother’s untimely death. She could find salvation in an unusual place, though, when she becomes part of a support system that rallies around friend Rebecca (Elizabeth Perkins), whose husband dies while out jogging.
Period Garb? The mouthful of a title make it sound like there should be some gowns here, doesn’t it? Sadly, there are none.
Hard Eight (1995)
The inimitable Paul Thomas Anderson makes his feature film debut with this crime thriller, and packs it out with a formidable cast that includes Paltrow, John C. Reilly, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Samuel L. Jackson.
Gwynnie plays Las Vegas waitress (and moonlighting prostitute) Clementine, who strikes up a relationship with sadsack John (Reilly) when he’s taken under the wing of gambler Sydney (Philip Baker Hall).
Period Garb? Just a waitress outfit. Sad face.
The Pallbearer (1996)
Paltrow works with another directorial debutante, with Matt Reeves ( Cloverfield , Let Me In ) helming his first feature film after directing a segment in Future Shock two years previously.
Gwynnie stars opposite David Schwimmer as his unrequited high school crush, who re-enters his life years after they’ve graduated. He, meanwhile, is now 25 years old and still living with his mother. When he gets a phone call telling him that an old high school friend has died, he agrees to be a pallbearer at the funeral even though he has no memory of said friend.
Period Garb? Nope, this is pure ‘90s.
Gwynnie takes on the title role in this adaptation of Jane Austen’s well-known tome. Emma Woodhouse is a well-intentioned but undeniably naive young woman who fancies herself something of a matchmaker. Sadly, she’s not as good at finding love for her friends as she thinks.
Not that she’s any good at finding love for herself, either – when Mr Knightley comes along, Emma doesn’t even realise that she’s in love with him. Paltrow bagged the Golden Satellite’s Best Actress award for her role.
Period Garb? Yep, Paltrow gets back to what she does best in some fine old school garb.
Sliding Doors (1998)
Twisty mind-bender in which Helen Guilley (Paltrow) is fired from her job as a PR, at which point Peter Howitt’s film splits in two, following two different version of Helen’s life from that point on.
The Helen who manages to catch the train meets a nice man on her journey home, and then discovers her boyfriend in the sack with another bird. On the flipside, the Helen who misses her train gets mugged and ends up in hospital, eventually returning home oblivious of her boyfriend’s infidelity...
Period Garb? Nope, but we do get two Gwynnies for the price of one.
Great Expectations (1998)
Another book adaptation, this one obviously based on Charles Dickens’ masterpiece. Except this adap from Alfonso Cuarón transports Dickens’ original text to a modern setting, while Gwynnie appears naked on the film’s poster.
Paltrow plays Estella, the niece of Ms Dinsmoore (who’s based on Dicken’s Ms. Havisham). She becomes close to Finn (originally Pip), but plays on his affections under her aunt's instruction. The film divided critics, with its overly romantic script blamed for its shortcomings.
Period Garb? That modern setting pretty much puts the kibosh on any period finery.
Attack of the psycho mother in law! When Helen (Paltrow) and Jackson (Johnathon Schaech) fall in love, they couldn’t be happier. Their romance blossoms nicely, and soon they’re pregnant and married.
But things turn sour when the newly married couple return to Jackson’s hometown to raise their child, where his mother (Jessica Lange) makes her dislike of Helen all too apparent.
A moody alternative to J-Lo's later, similar-plotted Monster-In-Law .
Period Garb? Still no more corsets. Sigh.
A Perfect Murder (1998)
Paltrow takes home a Blockbuster Best Actress award for her part in this remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M For Murder.
She plays Emily, the much younger wife of Wall Street hedge fund manager Steven (Michael Douglas). Emily is unhappy in her marriage, and is having an affair with painter David (Viggo Mortensen). Then Steven, who knows all about the affair, approaches David with an offer to kill his unfaithful wife...
Period Garb? Who needs corsets when you have Viggo Mortensen as an accessory?
Shakespeare In Love (1998)
Gwynnie has fun getting made up in both gorgeous frocks and fake moustaches as she plays Viola, the pretty object of William Shakespeare’s affection. But Viola's creative juices are blocked thanks to a rule that women aren’t allowed to act in the theatre – causing Viola to dress like a man.
Later, Paltrow won the Academy Award for Best Actress, and gave a weepy, histrionic acceptance speech that has become the thing of movie legend. It was only trumped for screechiness by Halle Berry three years later.
Period Garb? Ravishing and sumptuous – a personal wardrobe best.
The Talented Mr Ripley (1999)
Adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s 1955 novel by Anthony Minghella, this ‘50s set crime drama follows the efforts of Tom Ripley to retrieve rich playboy Dickie (Jude Law) from Europe and return him to New York.
Gwynnie turns up as Marge Sherwood, Dickie’s girlfriend. When Dickie is killed by Ripley, she believes her boyfriend is still alive as Ripley assumes the richboy’s identity and communicates with her via typed messages.
Period Garb? The period garb’s back with a vengeance, particularly in the appearance of a gorgeous opera frock.
Gwynnie establishes herself as queen of the karaoke, playing Liv, the long-lost daughter of karaoke hustler Ricky Dean (Huey Lewis). When they run into each other in Vegas, they decide to hit the road together.
It’s the first film to fully utilise Paltrow’s microphone voice – and what better way to do so than with a co-star like Huey Lewis? The San Francisco Chronicle heralded Duets as “an appealing, and ultimately moving, ensemble comedy/drama”.
Period Garb? No corsets, dangit, just lots of flowery numbers.
Paltrow’s smooch with one-time-lover Ben Affleck earned the pair an MTV nomination for Best Kiss. Sadly they lost out to Julia Stiles and Sean Patrick Thomas for their lip-locking action in Save The Last Dance.
In Bounce , Paltrow is the ex-wife of a man who has just died in a plane crash. The only reason her ex was on the flight is because he swapped plane tickets with advertising exec Buddy (Affleck). Oh what tangled webs they weave. Needless to say a romance soon stirs between Paltrow’s divorcee and Buddy.
Period Garb? Looks like she’s graduated from costume fare for good.
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
Third feature from indie darling Wes Anderson, and Paltrow’s first proper foray into high class indie fare. She plays Margot Tenenbaum, a playwright who was adopted into the Tenenbaum clan as a youngling. Margot once ran away from home in order to track down her biological family, and mysteriously returned with half a finger missing.
Now she generally ignores her husband, sulks in bath suds and keeps her nicotine addiction a secret from the rest of her brood. The film is now something of a cult classic, though some critics opined its precious nature.
Period Garb? Sort of - that fur coat is totally vintage.
Shallow Hal (2001)
Fat suit! Gwynnie takes the Mickey out of herself (not to mention her iron board figure) by piling on the prosthetic pounds as a giant love interest for Jack Black in this Farrelly Brothers comedy.
Watching Paltrow talk about the film behind the scenes – including her harrowing experiments of wearing the fat suit in public and being ignored by everybody – it sounds like she thinks she’s in a sensitive, weighty (ahem) drama. Instead, she’s in a silly but mildly amusing comedy in which Jack Black is hypnotised only to see people’s inner beauty.
Period Garb? We’re told they couldn’t find a corset big enough...
Austin Powers In Goldmember (2002)
The comedy keeps on coming as Paltrow stars in the epic, tongue-in-cheek opening sequence for Austin Powers’ third big screen outing.
She appears opposite Tom Cruise in Austinpussy , a fictional movie-within-a-movie that’s being directed by a cartwheeling Steven Spielberg, and based on Powers’ intriguing life. Gwynnie appears as a motorbike riding, leather-clad vixen, and even gets her own silly pseudo-Bond name – Dixie Normous. Awesome.
Period Garb? Mmmm, leather...
Gwynnie plays a scholar alongside Aaron Eckart. They're Maud and Roland (seriously), who are investigating the affair between Victorian poet Randolph Henry Ash and Christabel LaMotte.
But as they dig deeper into their investigations, Maud and Roland find themselves becoming hypnotised by a passionate, era-spanning spell. Gwynnie opts for another indelible English accent, with director Neil LaBute’s film a quiet slowburner.
Period Garb? There is some, but Gwynnie doesn’t really wear it.
View From The Top (2002)
Gwynnie attempts to replicate the moderate success of Shallow Hal with this ill advised comedy, with really should be re-titled to the more fitting ‘over the top’. She plays a small town chick who dreams of becoming a flight attendant (presumably just so she can get her mitts on those little bottles of JD).
Paltrow has herself branded this a “terrible” movie, revealing that “Harvey Weinstein talked me into doing [it]”. She’s long since filed it in the “shite” category in which she dumps all the films she’s not proud of.
Period Garb? Bright, candy-striper costuming and massive, hurricane-proof hair.
After her various book adaps, Paltrow next opts for playing a well-known author, taking on the real-life role of poet Sylvia Plath.
Set in Cambridge, Christine Jeffs’ film tracks the troubled poet’s romance with Ted Hughes (Daniel Craig) after their meeting in 1956. As Sylvia battles with depression, it seems that she’s doomed to a life of tragedy. The real-life writers' daughter Frieda Hughes accused the filmmakers of attempting to profit from her mother’s death.
Period Garb? Yes! At last, Gwynnie returns to her period roots for this ‘50s tale.
Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow (2004)
A well-intentioned experiment gone wrong, Sky Captain is a pulp sci-fi that was shot almost entirely against blue screen, with extravagant special effects all added in during post-production.
Set in an alternative 1939, the plot finds Gwynnie playing reporter Polly Perkins, who is investigating the disappearances of several well-respected scientists. The film itself was a box office dud, earning just $37.7m in the US on a budget of $70m. Happily for Gwynnie, she got another Best Kiss MTV nom thanks to her smooch with Jude Law.
Period Garb? Gwynnie’s impeccable style makes up for the lazy storytelling.
Based on David Auburn’s play of the same name, this drama from director John Madden has Gwynnie starring it yet another adap.
She plays Catherine, who’s been caring for her father Robert (Anthony Hopkins), a once-brilliant mathematics professor who's now almost entirely lost his marbles. When Robert dies, one of his pupils (Jake Gyllenhaal) begins searching through his notebooks in search of a previously undisclosed mathematical gem. Paltrow landed a Golden Globe nomination for her role.
Period Garb? We’re back in modern day once more. Dullsville.
Paltrow takes up a mike on stage once more for a cameo in this biopic based on the life of journalist and author Truman Capote.
The film spans the 1950s and ‘60s, when Capote was researching and writing his criminal bestseller In Cold Blood . During his research, he forms a bond with convicted murderers Dick Hickock (Lee Pace) and Perry Smith (Daniel Craig). Sandra Bullock plays author Harper Lee.
Period Garb? Forget the frock, just look at that ‘do!
Running With Scissors (2006)
Glee creator (remember that) Ryan Murphy adapts the memoirs of Augusten Burroughs, which drew on the author's own unconventional childhood.
Paltrow plays Hope Finch, who belongs to the peculiar and borderline outrageous family of Dr Finch (Brian Cox). A psychiatrist, Dr Finch is handed the young Burroughs when he’s offloaded by his alcoholic father and unstable mother.
Period Garb? Lace! Lace everywhere we look!
The Good Night (2007)
The blonde locks are turfed out as Gwynnie plays the mousy, neurotic, long-suffering girlfriend of Martin Freeman’s dreamer.
Escaping his boring relationship, Gary (Freeman) becomes obsessed with lucid dreams in which he encounters the beautiful, exotic Anna (Penelope Cruz). As he spends more and more time in his dreamworld with this enticing creature, Gary begins to leave the real world behind. Gwynnie keeps it muted playing a fearlessly annoying character.
Period Garb? A far cry from it, this lady preferring oversized, frumpy jumpers.
Iron Man (2008)
It’s comic book time, as Paltrow signs on to play the love interest/foil of the titular Iron Man, aka phenomenally successful businessman Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). She plays Pepper Potts, and despite the silly comic name, manages to bring credit and smarts to the role.
The plot follows Stark’s transformation into Iron Man after being kidnapped in the Middle East, where he first uses the suit to escape his captors. When free, though, Stark realises he could use his new identity to become a superhero.
Period Garb? Comic book fashion and a stunning strawberry blonde rinse.
Two Lovers (2008)
Before Joaquin Phoenix went off to make nutso mock-doc I’m Still Here , he made his apparent final movie Two Lovers with Gwynnie.
Directed by We Own The Night filmmaker James Gray, Paltrow plays her own icy manic pixie dream girl as the new neighbour of bachelor Leonard (Phoenix). He’s supposed to be interested in family friend Sandra (Vinessa Shaw), but he just can’t get his neighbour out of his head. Gwynnie keeps it reigned in for an old-fashioned, unconventional love story.
Period Garb? Sadly not. Great puffer jacket, though.
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Pepper Potts receives a promotion, becoming the CEO of Stark Industries, which is seeing business boom in light of Stark’s revelation that he is Iron Man. But Potts has got competition in the power suit department herself when cute-as-a-button Natalie Ruchman (Scarlett Johansson) is appointed as Stark’s new personal assistant.
Made on a budget of around $200m, Iron Man 2 was one of Marvel’s most expensive films to date – but managed to gross four times that budget in worldwide gross revenue. That despite divided reviews, with some critics bemoaning the fact that the film mostly works as a set-up for The Avengers .
Period Garb? Power suits only.
Having shot new musical Country Strong (see next entry), word gets out that Gwynnie has her heart set on more parts that allow her to trill like a bluebird. Hence a phenomenally well-received guest spot on this bubblegum teen soap series, in which Paltrow plays saucy supply teacher Holly Holliday.
Lending her vocals to two episodes in the show’s second season, Paltrow’s jived to her own renditions of ‘Do You Want To Touch Me There’ and ‘Forget You’ among others. Her chemistry with lead teacher Mr Schuester (Matthew Morrison) means that the show’s producers can’t wait to get her back for more episodes.
Period Garb? Certainly not, this is a cool show for cool people.
Country Strong (2010)
Gwynnie straps on a guitar and some snakeskin boots for a rootin’, tootin’ ho-down. As Kelly Canter, she’s a down in the dumps crooner who’s just getting out of rehab, and wants to make a country comeback.
Which she can do with the help of rising young star Beau ( Tron: Legacy ’s Garrett Hedlund). But when the two start having an affair, Kelly’s marriage to James (Tim McGraw) hits the rocks. The film’s out this Friday 25 March. Next up for Paltrow is Steven Soderbergh’s thriller Contagion , a possible role alongside Tom Cruise in musical Rock Of Ages , and more Glee guest spots.
Period Garb? Countrified, yes. Period, no.