On the day after the inauguration many thousands are expected to take part in the 'Women's March on Washington". Organizers who began planning the event last November shortly after the presidential election say the objective is to bring national attention to women and other groups who feel they have been marginalized. We'll hear different perspectives on who's going, who isn't and its possible political impact.
The statistics on women in Hollywood are pretty dismal. Last year, only 12 percent of the top hundred grossing movies featured female protagonists. Behind the camera, the story isn’t any better. Of all the feature films released by a major studio in 2014, only 4 percent were directed by a woman. These trends have persisted for years but observers of the film industry say they may see signs of change. Leading female actresses are speaking out about the lack of roles available to them and many are working to counter the perception that movies made with female leads don’t bring in the dollars. We look at women in Hollywood.
- Bruna Papandrea president, Pacific Standard Production Company.
- Ann Hornaday movie critic, The Washington Post.
- Nicole Kidman actress
- Melissa Silverstein founder and editor, "Women and Hollywood". She is the co-founder and artistic director of the Athena Film Festival.
- Montre Aza Missouri associate professor in film, Howard University. She is the founder and creative director of the Parallel Film Collective.
The Best Movies By, And About, Women
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. This summer's box office hit is the goofy comedy "Spy." Unlike most other films in this genre, "Spy" stars a woman, actress Melissa McCarthy. That a movie with a female protagonist can be a big hit is no surprise, but for those who want to see more gender parity in Hollywood, the opportunities for women to make and star in blockbusters are few and far between. With me to talk about women in Hollywood, Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post and Montre Aza Missouri of Howard University. From Los Angeles, Bruna Papandrea of Pacific Standard Production Company, and from New York City, Melissa Silverstein of the site Women In Hollywood.
MS. DIANE REHMI hope you'll chime in this morning. Give us a call at 800-433-8850. Send an email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. And it's so good to have you all with us.
MS. BRUNA PAPANDREAThank you for having me.
MS. ANN HORNADAYThank you, Diane.
MS. MELISSA SILVERSTEINGreat to be here.
MS. MONTRE AZA MISSOURIThanks, Diane.
REHMGood to see you all. Ann Hornaday, give us a sense of the problem here. How much gender disparity is there in Hollywood, both on the screen and behind the scenes?
HORNADAYWell, it's sort of chronic and serious. I mean, we have these statistics that come out pretty regularly about how many women, what the percentage of directors are women, the percentage of cinematographers and editors and producers that are women, and it's pretty disproportionate in terms of women's clout in the market. I mean, we account for 50 percent of the audience. We influence decisions in households about what movies the family sees. And that market power and the fact that we have created, you know, the female audience has created so many hits in recent years, from "Bridesmaids" to "Twilight" to this year "50 Shades of Grey" and "Cinderella" and now "Spy," that is not being reflected in who is creating the stories, who's deciding what stories get told and then who gets to tell them, you know, on screen in terms of acting.
REHMMelissa Silverstein, turning to you, you talk about a false narrative about women. Give us an idea of what you mean.
SILVERSTEINWell, I think that Hollywood is based on false narratives. The first one is that women can't direct the big-budget films. The second one that they seem to -- seems to be persistent, like Ann said, is that women don't go to the movies, where we actually buy half the tickets. And the percentage of women is actually rising at the box office, that women are not a market. The film business seems to be the only business that doesn't realize that women buy 80 percent of all products everywhere in our culture, and the one thing that I feel is really important and we have to talk about is the lack of value in stories about women and the fact that the male narrative is seen as the norm, and women, who are 50 percent of the world, is seen as the other.
REHMBut there are some specific movies that have absolutely broken that mold.
SILVERSTEINAbsolutely, and that happens every single year, and I just can't wait until they say we're a trend and not a fluke anymore. It seems because we don't have a critical mass of movies by and about women coming out with regularity that every time a movie about women is successful, it's seen as this fluke. I'm really tired of that conversation. I think that this is a trend, and Hollywood really needs to figure out how to add more movies with women as protagonists.
REHMAnd "Shades of Grey" was certainly one of those movies. Let's hear a little clip.
MS. DAKOTA JOHNSONWhy am I here, Christian?
MR. JAMIE DORNANYou're here because I'm incapable of leaving you alone.
JOHNSONThen don't. Why did you send me those books?
DORNANI thought I owed you an apology.
DORNANFor letting you believe that I -- listen to me. I don't do romance. My tastes are very singular. You wouldn't understand.
JOHNSONEnlighten me, then.
REHMSo Melissa, how important was that movie to this whole conversation?
SILVERSTEINWell, we had the top opening weekend for a woman director ever, with $85 million for Sam Taylor-Johnson. But I think that "50 Shades of Grey" is actually consistent with Hollywood in the fact that it was a huge book with a huge audience, and the difference was it was a huge audience of women. And I think women made up, like, 75 percent of the opening weekend. So, I mean, "50 Shades of Grey" is like a stamp and says, okay, women have products that they endorse and enjoy and can be relied upon to go to the box office in the same way that men -- actually men and boys don't do. That is another narrative. They don't go in the same way.
REHMAnd Bruna Papandrea, given what Melissa has just said, number one, why do you think the issue persists? And number two, how are you and your partner, actress Reese Witherspoon, approaching this differently?
PAPANDREAWell, firstly I agree with everything Melissa said so eloquently. You know, I think that how we're approaching it is that -- how the full vision of our company came out of a frustration with exactly what Melissa was talking about. And Reese, obviously as an actress, myself as a producer, who has also, you know, been reading scripts for actress friends for a long time, it's come out of a kind of sheer frustration of where the not just roles for women but flawed, complicated, you know, heroines of our movies.
PAPANDREAAnd so, you know, we really felt kind of very compelled that it was our job as women. If we weren't going to tell these stories, then who was? And that's kind of been the mission of our company. (unintelligible) this morning, it's interesting that, you know, there are many male filmmakers, male producers who just make movies about men, but they actually don't have to define that as a mission because I think that's just a presently acceptable state of being.
PAPANDREAIt's interesting that we do have to define it as a mission, and we've been very kind of clear about that. And, you know, what we've -- really our biggest mission is to also break down this idea that movies about women are only for women, again because of the thing that frustrated reason in most is that that label gets put on movies with male protagonists ever. People assume women will go. I think that's been the biggest thing.
REHMAnd you made both "Wild" and "Gone Girl," and both were very successful at the box office.
PAPANDREAYes, yes, and I think we -- we, you know, with -- the critical success is wonderful. I mean it's, you know, it doesn't always happen, and it's amazing, but we also knew that it was very important, particularly with a movie like "Wild," that it found commercial success so that, you know, again, as Melissa says, there's no excuse to not keep making them and not be defined as a fluke.
REHMBut Bruna, does it then all come down to money?
PAPANDREAI don't think -- I actually don't believe it just comes down to money. I think there's just a big cultural shift that has to happen in our society. I -- if it was about money, I think that, you know, people would have woken up a long time ago. And, you know, as Ann said, too, I mean, women buy -- you know, they are the decision-makers, and they do buy 50 percent of the tickets. So I think if it was about money, it would've shifted. I think again, there's just a big cultural idea of, like, what men and women want to go and see and that those two things can't coexist, which as we know they can.
REHMAnd to you, Montre Aza Missouri, you're a director. Why does it matter who makes and who stars in a film?
MISSOURII think it is, it's very important, just again agreeing with what's been said so far this morning in terms of the narrative and the character. Film is probably one of the most powerful mediums we have in terms of constructing or defining our identities. So to have this predominant image of the white, American male, the straight, white, American male, it then informs who we are.
MISSOURIAs a professor at Howard, I jokingly tell my graduate film students, the majority of whom are African-American, that they themselves are white, American men to a certain extent because they have grown up with this predominant Hollywood image, and it has informed who they are and how they see themselves. So it's essential that we see larger or greater diversity in terms of those who are crafting the image and the images that they portray. And it's not simply for women. It's for men, as well, to get this broader sense of identity and of the complexity of humanity.
REHMBut why do you think Hollywood has been so slow to adopt the female director?
MISSOURII think it does, as was previously said, I think it does come to the idea of the culture within the industry. Men are oftentimes the ones making these decisions, and...
REHMAnd they call other men.
MISSOURIRight, exactly. It's who they're familiar with, and again it's the images that they themselves have grown up watching.
REHMAnd that is the voice of Montre Aza Missouri. She is an associate professor in film at Howard University. Short break here. We'll be right back.
REHMWe're talking in this hour about women in film, both on screen and behind the cameras. Here in the studio, Ann Hornaday, movie critic for The Washington Post. Montre Aza Missouri, associate professor in film at Howard University. Bruna Papandrea joins us from Los Angeles. She's co-president of the Pacific Standard Production Company. Her partner in the company is actress Reese Witherspoon. They produced "Wild" and "Gone Girl." And from the studios of NPR in New York City, Melissa Silverstein. She's founder and editor of "Women in Hollywood," and the co-founder and artistic director of the Athena Film Festival.
REHMMelissa, you wrote an article recently titled, "Gender Quake." Talk about that.
SILVERSTEINWell, I was at the Cannes Film Festival this year for the first time and I was on the Red Carpet when the heel-gate broke loose and -- actually not on the Red Carpet, I was already in the theater. And what I noticed at the Cannes Film Festival this year is it seems that with the ACLU request of the EEOC to look into the discrimination against women directors, it seems that, you know, a valve has been opened for women in Hollywood. I think it started a couple of years ago with Cate Blanchett, when she spoke at the Oscars, saying women are not a niche. But really what has happened is that enough women -- a critical mass of women -- have been talking about this. These are women with power.
SILVERSTEINI was at a talk where Salma Hayek said things that I had never heard...
SILVERSTEIN...anyone ever say before. The fact that the male directors in Hollywood have the opportunities to change the scripts and make the women less, you know, real, authentic and powerful. How they have the opportunity to veto their co-stars. How they all make more money. How, you know, if -- so many things. You know, how she didn't get a job because a producer actually said they could not picture a Mexican woman in space. I mean, things that you -- that you can't even imagine people thing, people said out loud. And I think, the whole context of this gender quake is the fact that now, after many, many years of taking it, women are tired of it. And they believe they should be paid equally. They believe they should have equal opportunities on screen. And all of us, as audience members, are feeling it too.
HORNADAYYeah, I was at Cannes as well. And I went to a panel where Salma Hayek spoke and it was just galvanizing. And she added another hair-raising, eyebrow-raising fact, was that the only area in film where women are paid more than men is pornography, which just speaks such volumes.
HORNADAYAnd, you know, at that same panel, she was on with the actress Parker Posey and the producer Christine Vachon. And Christine made the very salient point that, you know, we're now in what's called a golden age of television. That's because a lot of these narratives have migrated to television. You know, if the feature film world is going to abandon serious, substantive, textured, complex portrayals of women, they're going to TV. And I think those two facts are inextricably linked.
REHMSure. Bruna, can you give us an idea of the pay gap? How large is it?
PAPANDREAIt's pretty large. You know, we had a -- we actually had a dealing recently with a studio. And, you know, in Hollywood, you have a quote. And so you keep trying to get your quote up. And, you know, once you have that quote, people generally honor it. Except that one studio, who shall remain nameless, was trying to do a deal with us. And this is after a couple of successes. And they didn't want to honor our quote. And, you know, I did what any man would do in that situation, which was to say, okay, well that's fine. I don't -- we're plenty busy. It's okay. You know? And really just that idea of, like, pay her more. Like, I mean, the fact that we even had to have that conversation was crazy.
PAPANDREAAnd they -- I really believe in my heart they wouldn't have had that conversation with my old producers, who had an established quote. And so we were prepared to walk away. And of course they paid it. And so, you know, I think -- I think this all comes down to, again, a kind of the, you know, the fact that there is still pay equality just generally in our world with women is insane. And, you know, I think for me, you know, I want to kind of go back to the female director thing. I don't think it's just about the people making decisions.
PAPANDREAI think, again, it is cultural, that there needs to be a shift in our classrooms of empowering young women to believe that they can, you know, be in charge and be the ones that are, you know, able to kind of, you know, talk to ten heads of department and, you know, be the decision makers. I mean, I really believe that it needs to start very early on. And we need to, you know, really get these programs in our schools to kind of try and, you know, just build more female directors and filmmakers.
REHMAnd that's exactly where you are, Montre.
MISSOURIDefinitely. I think we're talking in terms of the director, specifically, and more women directors. But I think Ann is right when she started the conversation in terms not just of directors, but obviously also of cinematographers and other technical positions. It does come down to -- within the culture, within the society -- the idea that women can take charge. Again, film is a highly technical profession that women can take positions of power and authority in terms of the technical aspects of film as well. So we need more women cinematographers for sure.
HORNADAYI recall hearing Lena Dunham say, you know, when she did her first feature, "Tiny Furniture," she used a consumer-quality video camera because she felt so intimidated by just that sheer, you know, the kind of muscular, you know, that kind of macho muscularity that we associate with big cameras and booms and all of that. So it's multi-layered. Another piece, if I might add, in addition to the sort of internal culture of Hollywood, now we have this increasing importance of the international market and international financing. And a lot of these decisions and those quotes that Bruna's talking about are based on, you know, perceptions of women's value, you know, literally, you know, and actresses' value or filmmakers' value.
HORNADAYThere are these lists, you know, floating around. And I wonder, if "Mad Max: Fury Road" does beautifully well, will that be called a Tom Hardy movie or a Charlize Theron movie, you know, in terms of their quotes getting commensurately upped.
REHMYeah. And the fact that "Jurassic World" opened simultaneously in China, our now biggest market outside the United States for films, but what about the film "Spy"? Melissa, tell us what that film kind of represents that's brand new here.
SILVERSTEINWell, I think that God loved Paul Feig, if I can say -- if I said his name right, the male director of "Spy" and also "Bridesmaids." This is a man who speaks up for women constantly, wants to work with women. He's doing the new "Ghostbusters" that's going to be all women. And what I think "Spy," why it's important, is because Melissa McCarthy is clearly the lead. It's a significant budget. But also the fact that people -- like, I was in an airport and I overheard a guy say, as I was getting on the plane, he's like, "I love Melissa McCarthy. I'm going to go see her in anything." And that was like kind of surprising for me.
SILVERSTEINBecause people don’t talk about women that way. And so she's built that kind of audience. And comedy -- maybe this kind of comedy, because it's international, it's got John -- Jason Statham as the co-lead -- can travel internationally. And building on what you were saying, Ann, 72 cents of every dollar the six studios in Hollywood make is made outside the United States and Canada. We cannot underestimate the importance of the foreign market here and the fact that, if we do not see women on screen everywhere, we do not have female role models. And that is vital to our culture.
REHMBruna, I want to play a clip from "Spy." But I'd like to hear your thoughts on it.
PAPANDREAWell, obviously agree. And, you know, particularly the female role models. I mean, you know, forget about just putting women at the center of movies. Where else, you know, where -- Alan Turing is great, he does movies like "The Imitation Game," but where are the -- where are the females that changed history? Where are the, you know, female role models? We've really -- the mandate of our company has been to kind of try and find those role models and tell, you know, put them in stories. We just optioned this wonderful book called "Ashley's War" with five female soldiers. You know, we're making a princess movie which is about warrior princesses, which redefines the myth of what we might think a princess traditionally is.
PAPANDREAAnd, you know, I think it's crucial. I think that, you know, women and men look to movies for those kind of role models. And so it's hugely important that we do that.
REHMAll right, let's hear "Spy."
PATRICKI was given specific instructions by Elaine to tailor these gadgets to you.
PATRICKThese are not yours.
PATRICKThis anti-fungal spray can freeze and disable any security system.
SUSANWow. That is quite an image to be carrying all over Europe.
PATRICKIt's also a pepper spray.
ACTRESSWhy not just make it look like pepper spray?
PATRICKThat's a -- that's a pretty good idea. All right. Well, next time.
SUSANWell, I can -- I can wait, if you want to print up a new label.
PATRICKNo. I'd have to turn the printer on again. And I don't really want to. Each of these are filled with chloroform.
SUSANWow. That is an unsettling amount of hemorrhoid wipes. It makes me kind of wonder what exactly is going on back there.
PATRICKI wouldn't know. I don't have that problem.
SUSANI don't have that problem.
REHMMontre, you and Ann, you're all laughing here. You've seen the movie.
REHMTell me what you thought of it.
HORNADAYYou know, I thought it was delightful. I had been, you know, sort of aware the past few years that Melissa McCarthy had been getting type cast as this certain kind of character that's abrasive and not particularly attractive or pleasant or. And in this one, all of her -- she just brings all of her charms to bear on this character, who's -- who gets to do lots of interesting things and wear great disguises. She gets to be dowdy but she also gets to be pretty seductive and slinky and beautiful. And she has great supporting players here. There are, you know, we were talking earlier about this thing called the Bechdel Test, that -- the cartoon artist, Alison Bechdel, invented.
HORNADAYIt's an evaluation system for a film. And it's three questions. Are there two or more named female characters? Do they talk to one another about something other than a man? And it's amazing when you put that template on to different film, you know, what passes and what flunks. But "Spy" actually passes. I mean, you know, it allows her to -- and her colleagues, to do a great plethora of things and be sort of an action star and a thinker and a doer and it's wonderful.
REHMMontre, what do you think of "Spy"?
MISSOURII'm looking forward to seeing it.
MISSOURIBut after listening to that clip, I think right after this I'll be on my way to the theaters. And I do love Melissa McCarthy as well. She's amazing.
REHMGo ahead, Melissa.
SILVERSTEINI just wanted to add, one of the things that I want to build on what Bruna said, is the women in history. There's another movie that's open called "Testament of Youth," which has a female protagonist. It's a war movie. It is epic. It comes from Britain. It has awards written all over it. Yet, because it is a female lead, it is small. And so this is part of the problem in the gendered marketplace, which is what the academics use the term, is that we just have so many problems breaking through and getting taken seriously at every level of the business.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And joining us now from Los Angeles, actress Nicole Kidman. Good morning to you.
MS. NICOLE KIDMANGood morning.
REHMSo glad to have you with us. I know you're a leading female actress, star by all accounts. But from your perspective, what are the challenges facing women in Hollywood?
KIDMANGosh, it's such a massive question. I think longevity is difficult. I think getting, you know, when you're dealing with all the different jobs, in terms of obviously directors is probably the hardest job right now for a woman because there just isn't the opportunities. And a lot of times men get chosen over women still. So and that -- most of the time. And that's something we're all, I think -- well, Bruna and I, who are very good friends since we were -- since we were young. And we're now in a position to start to help change some of that. We're very committed to that.
REHMYou know, I happened to watch a movie you made in 2014 with Colin Firth titled "The Railway Man," over the weekend. That presented such a different image of you. Tell us about why you wanted to take that role.
KIDMANWell, that role was a supporting role to Colin. But it was very much -- I knew, I'd read a little bit about Patti Lomax. And I also thought, for me, there was -- I'd never been asked to play somebody that can heal through love.
KIDMANAnd that was what the role really was. And that's what she sort of was committed to doing was loving him and healing him through that. Her story, strangely enough, is fascinating too. But that -- that hasn't been told.
REHMInteresting. And we should say that it was based on a true story of a man who had been captured by the Japanese during the Second World War and had to endure under the most horrific conditions. And Nicole Kidman played his wife, who did try to help him. Nicole, tell us how you decide what roles you're going to take.
KIDMANI have -- I mean, I'm so spontaneous. And I'm at a place in my life now -- I think I used to be far more aware of trying to try different things. And now I just, I'm instinctual. I just basically, if something takes my fancy. But really, at the moment, I mean, I'm about to do a play in London in the fall, which is written by a woman and it's about Rosalind Franklin, who was a scientist who was -- well, there's a lot of discussion about this -- but they credit her with discovering -- the initial discovery of DNA. And she never got acknowledged for that. And Watson and Crick went on and won the Nobel Prize. But she discovered a photograph of a -- called Photograph 51.
KIDMANAnd so, as the daughter of a scientist, I was like, I really want to do something that's about a female scientist who has not received the acknowledgement she should have received. And it's written by a woman. It's going to be directed by a man. But it's written by a woman. And that's -- and she's a very, very talented playwright. But, you know, the subject matter for me is the thing that drew me to it. And it's a fascinating story.
REHMI have so many more questions I'd like to ask you. We must take a short break here. And I hope you can stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. Actress Nicole Kidman is on the line with us from Los Angeles for just a few moments. I wanted to ask you, Nicole, about what it's like working with women directors. Is there a difference for you when you work for - with a woman, or you work with a man?
KIDMANI mean, there's a sense of, I suppose, intimacy that doesn't have to be earned so -- when you work with a woman. And there's a dialogue that you can have that's probably just probably deeper and more raw. And I've worked with Jane Campion, I've worked with -- very early in my career I worked with a woman named (unintelligible). I've worked -- I'm about to work with Jane again next year. And then I just did a first-time film with a first-time female director from Australia, who had not directed anything, and I just loved the script and jumped in with her.
KIDMANSo I've worked with women at different levels of their career and different, you know, stages in which they've -- I mean, for Jane, someone who's just an auteur, and then someone else who's just starting out and is learning. So that's very different, too. So it's hard to sort of generalize. But I feel very comfortable with women. I grew up in a family of women, and I have a sister, and I have a mother who is very strong, a feminist mother. So my -- and I have a lot of aunts. Most of my cousins are female. So my sense of safety with women is very strong.
KIDMANAnd I have an enormous amount of trust with women because I've -- you know, many of my -- I've got female friends that have always got my back, you know.
REHMAnd of course there's lots of attention paid to the age of women and how Hollywood views older women. Meryl Streep, I think, has spoken out on this. What's been your experience?
KIDMANI mean, absolutely there's less roles. I mean, if you look at theater, there's extraordinary roles for women as they age, and if you look at cinema, and particularly American cinema, because I think European cinema tends to be different, then, you know, there is a huge emphasis on youth and age, and the stories of women as they get older are not as, I suppose, not as important or not as interesting, which I don't agree with.
KIDMANBut you do see people like -- I mean, I saw "Still Alice" and thought that was a beautiful film.
KIDMANAnd beautifully rendered by Julianne.
KIDMANAnd thank God it got made. I mean, talk about putting a subject matter that's been kept in the dark for a long time and is still something that people don't really discuss enough, and it was just heartbreaking and brilliantly done and so important. But the -- I think the way in which the fabric of our system is set up now, people don't honor those films because they think oh, no one's going to be interested. And then when they're made, they're sort of -- they're shocked, and then they go, oh, well, that's just an anomaly.
KIDMANBut, I mean, that’s our job as women, as we age, to sort of, I suppose, support each other and build a sisterhood so that in terms of these stories reaching out, they do become -- they still are made, and they -- and, you know, they find their place.
KIDMANThe great thing about the industry now is there's so many other places to make -- you don't just have to make a film that appears in cinemas. You can make films for TV, you can make films for -- that are through Netflix that are then seen worldwide. I mean, there's so many avenues now. But we do need the group of people that are going to say these stories are so relevant and so important not only for our generation but the next generation.
REHMIndeed. Do you regard "Still Alice" as a breakthrough film in terms of how it portrays not only women but the human beings around them?
KIDMANI was surprised the film didn't get more accolades, actually, because I thought the film was really, really strong. Do I see it as a breakthrough? I don't know. I mean, I don't see a number of other films now being greenlit in regards to those sort of stories. I mean, I look at "Wild," and I think that made -- I mean, that's obviously -- my girlfriend Bruna produced that, along with Reese, and that was -- I read that script, and what they did with it and how they made it so accessible and yet so much a story about a mother and a daughter, which was really, really powerful.
KIDMANAnd those -- that's something that connects us because the mother's love and the daughter's love for the mother and the way in which it just wrecked her when her mother died and what she had to do to sort of heal herself, and yet it still went on and made a really, really substantial amount of money for that sort of film.
REHMLet's hear a clip from "Wild."
KIDMANIt was made on a budget, you know, because so much of it is making it -- sorry.
ACTORI interviews hobos for the Hobo Times, drive all over the USA, and I have to tell you, lady hobos, hard to find.
MS. REESE WITHERSPOONOh, well, I think you're mistaken. I'm not a hobo. Second of all, that's a real thing, the Hobo Times?
MS. REESE WITHERSPOONYeah, it's real enough to pay for my rent and gas. So how long have you been out on the road?
MS. REESE WITHERSPOONI'm not on the road. I'm hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. I just had to bypass a chunk of it because there was a snowfall this year.
ACTOROkay, so if you're not a hobo, where do you live?
WITHERSPOONI'm between places right now. I'm probably going to live in Portland when I get off the PCT.
ACTORThat's so cool. I mean, I've only spoken to maybe one other female hobo in two years.
WITHERSPOONLet me reiterate to you, I'm not a hobo, and that's probably because women can't walk out of their lives. They've got kids to take care of, they've got parents to look after.
ACTORYou sound like a feminist.
REHMAnd of course you are as well, Nicole Kidman, you're a working mom. How do you handle that balance?
KIDMANAnd anyone that says that it isn't hard, I don't believe them. I mean, I have two -- I have a daughter who's four and a daughter who's just about to turn seven, and they're very demanding and extraordinary and riveting, and I want to be around them as much as I can. And at the same time, I want to be a role model for them so that -- and I think that's working because they're like -- last night, they were singing a little ditty, which was "I Can Do Anything, I Can Be Anything." I'm like, where did they hear that?
REHMYeah, that's wonderful.
KIDMANWhich was good. I was very glad.
REHMI should say.
KIDMANWe were sitting on the couch, watching TV, and they were singing that.
REHMAnd Bruna, I realize you and Nicole are both in Los Angeles, but talk a little bit, Bruna if you would, about the making of "Wild" and why that was so important to you.
PAPANDREAYeah, I mean, it was, you know, definitely the kind of most important movie I think of my career to date. I mean, you know, when I -- really it started with Cheryl's voice and, you know, talk about an amazing, complicated woman. I just fell in love with the way she told her story. And again, I felt like it transcended gender. You know, I mean, it really for me -- we had as many fan letters, as did Cheryl, from men as we did from women, and it was this story about, you know -- I mean, I'd say it's a story about a woman who walks herself back to life and how it was, you know, within the power of all of us. You know, we all have access to the things she had access to, to kind of heal ourselves, you know, as Nicole said earlier.
PAPANDREASo it was an incredibly important movie, and also, just, you know, I think that, as a role for Reese, you know, was just hugely important that, you know, people could see her do that, and which is why we developed it outside the system because I can't remember who said it earlier, but someone raised a very good point about when men get involved, they try and, you know, kind of change the roles of these women and dilute that. And we knew very strongly that if this script went into the studio system too early that people would, you know, perhaps try and dilute, you know, some of the stuff that Reese was saying and doing, and we were very intent on not having that happen.
REHMBut back to "Still Alice," Ann Hornaday, you were talking about Alec Baldwin in the supporting role.
HORNADAYRight. When -- at one of those panels at Cannes this year, Christine Vachon was talking about that very case in point, how difficult it was to find a name actor, because again, you know, these name actors on that list for financing is all-important to get these movies made. It's all sort of -- all of this is connected. And to get that name actor, I mean, they didn't want to be a supporting player. They wanted to have that role rewritten and have the man beefed up and her role diluted.
HORNADAYAnd at one point she said, you know, it's called "Still Alice," not "Still Alice and John." And she gave all credit to Alec Baldwin for really singlehandedly, you know, maybe even against the advice of some of his team, really saying yes to this just, you know, out of his own initiative.
REHMInteresting. Here's an email from Rob, who says, "could it be that the current trend in movies that people want to watch lean toward action films, superhero films and comedies? Those contain predominately male roles. When people's tastes circle back around to dramas and chick flicks, I'm sure the number of roles for the ladies of Hollywood will increase. Not sure there's a victim here, just a trend." Nicole Kidman, how do you respond?
KIDMANI mean, I think that you're not being given a chance to tell the stories because it's sort of the catch-22 where, okay, well, that will happen, will it, well, but the huge talent that is writing these scripts are going, oh, I'm not going to get this made because I won't be able to finance it. So I'm going to actually go and do the male story because I know I can get that greenlit, and I can get it made, and it's going to be a much easier path.
KIDMANSo you're not -- the opportunities aren't there, and that's -- I think that's why we have something, which is a percentage of four percent of women, female directors, because the opportunities aren't there for them.
KIDMANOn top of that, so therefore we don't know. You can't answer that question. That's just, I mean, hypothetical because we're not -- it's not actually an even playing field right now. But at the same time, I think you look at someone like George Miller that really stepped out on a limb and did "Mad Max" and gave Charlize an extraordinary role and had it, I mean, you know, in terms of great roles for women in an action film, superb. And when she goes and finds this female society that are there and all the sort of slave women that they have, I mean, all of those roles were really fascinating. And what that film was saying, in the guise of a big action film, and it's done really, really well. For me, the Tom Hardy character was completely uninteresting, and all the other roles were.
REHMAnd Melissa, you wanted to chime in.
SILVERSTEINI feel it's like a vicious cycle because people go to the movies to see -- to see the movies that are available. I was looking at "Jurassic World," it's at 11:00, 11:30, 12:00, 12:30, 1:00, 2:00, 3:00 in New York. If you don't have the opportunities to see women, of course everyone's tastes are going to be men because that is all you can see. So we need diversity of opportunities for women directors, of opportunity for scripts about women because we've proved that these movies can be successful. Again, build a critical mass. It's like, if you build it, they will come.
SILVERSTEINAnd I firmly believe that.
MISSOURIAnd also, I mean, the question is problematic because there's this idea that if we have female characters, that constitutes a genre. It does not. I mean, I understand we have this idea of the chick flick, but I don't understand what the question, how we cannot have action films, adventure films, all of the genres that the person named and not have female protagonists in the leads within all those films.
REHMAnd you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. Well, what about a movie like "The Hunger Games"?
HORNADAYThat's a good point. I mean, there is sort of this -- the young adult franchise business has been a good one that's been driven mostly by young women, and that has sort of served, I think, as a proof of concept, that that will succeed and that that -- what we need to do now is expand these notions of success and really look at profitability. I mean, we're so obsessed with box office numbers, but let's look at the ratio of budget to revenue, and you'll see -- and this is the point that Meryl Streep made years -- a couple years ago in one of her speeches, that so many of female projects aren't made for $200 million.
HORNADAYYou know, they're made on a budget, they're made lean and mean, and they make so much more back relative to their budget. So they're actually more profitable than these huge blockbusters.
REHMNicole, do you want to jump in?
KIDMANYeah, no, I completely agree, and that's why I think -- because I think it is sort of almost like propaganda that's still being put out there that oh, no, it's male-driven, no, this is all they want to see. And, you know, most of the studio executives or most of the people that are financing and greenlighting movies are male. So the stories to them, they're not as interested in female stories. They just aren't.
KIDMANI sat at a table with Meryl after the Oscars. We, instead of going to a party, we all went to dinner. And this was the discussion at the table. And it's fascinating to hear from a female agent, who said there needs to be, in the same way that there's a boys club where men favor men, then we need to start doing that as women. And that means we have to say as a female actor, I'm only going to do it if a woman directs it. And that was fascinating to me because I hadn't actually thought of that.
KIDMANBut once you start up a girls club that actually is slanted towards just women, then you go, oh, maybe we will start to instigate some sort of change. And then Meryl said even in the Academy, I think there's only 23 percent of women.
REHMAnd Bruna, I'm sure you can add to that.
PAPANDREAYes. I mean, I feel like Nicole and I have a little girls club, except that we're all Australian, which doesn't really count. No, but to that point, I mean, it is a man -- you know, I reached out to Nicole recently because, you know, I found a property that had six -- it's a book we're doing as a TV, a limited series, and it has 10 amazing roles for women, and I sent it to Nicole, and I was, like, you know, would you like to do this. And then Reese read it, wanted to do it. And, I mean, we are so excited that there is going to be -- actresses who never again work with each other, you know, there's maybe one or two good roles. And this is like the most thrilling thing that's ever happened to me. I mean, this is going to be like a collective of women, and it's a female novelist.
PAPANDREAIt is a male screenwriter. We'll see what happens with the director. But, you know, I mean, I have no doubt we have multiple female directors over the eight episodes, and I'm sure Nicole agrees, but that's where it starts for me. That's, you know, that's really what we have to keep doing. And it is our job, it is our job to keep, you know, help, you know, make those decisions.
REHMLast quick word, Melissa.
SILVERSTEINAnd I think this is so vitally important. Women do hire women. The statistics show. And so there is nothing wrong - guys hire guys all the time. There is no issues in that in Hollywood. And women need to do the same thing so that we can see ourselves on screen.
REHMAll right, and we'll have to leave it there. Thank you all so much. Melissa Silverstein, Bruna Papandrea, Montre Aza Missouri, Ann Hornaday and Nicole Kidman. Great show and something I will look forward to seeing develop into a critical mass. Thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
Most Recent Shows
David Ignatius of the Washington Post on Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump, then, questions for Attorney General nominee Republican Senator Jeff Sessions.
Mary Chapin Carpenter joins Diane to talk about her new album, the "artistic insight of middle age" and rewriting her life story in new ways.
A rebroadcast of Diane's 1999 interview with J.K. Rowling, author of the acclaimed Harry Potter series.