One of the frustrating things about watching late night talk shows is that sometimes right as the guest is getting to the good part of the story and steering things in a potentially interesting direction the host will switch the topic to something vapid.  But, wait, what were they about to say?

Stephen Colbert, a host I love and adore, had one such moment on The Late Show tonight when he interviewed Emily Blunt for her new movie Sicario in which she plays a by-the-book FBI agent who gets sucked into a battle between the American government and Mexican drug kingpins.  Several minutes into the interview, Colbert observed, “I heard that this film almost didn’t get made because it had a female lead in the action position,” and Blunt confirmed, “The writer was approached by one financier who said, ‘If you make her a dude, we’ll up your budget.'”  The character remained a gal, but it meant having to settle for a smaller budget.  When Blunt turned to the crowd and joked, “Welcome to the Hollywood.  It’s how it’s done,” Colbert quickly lobbed her a joke about whether or not being the woman in an action film is kind of like prison in that in order to prove her toughness she has to punch the biggest guy on set on the first day.  The interview rolled on, and it was delightful.

However, there has to be more to that story about the financier, right?  George Clooney just said the other day that Hollywood would work better if producers would allow more roles originally written for men to be switched to female, but here’s Emily Blunt providing a practical example of how the funding infrastructure for films still favors stories with male protagonists because the money people think that offers a higher probability of seeing a return on investment.  Surely, Colbert should have pressed her for more details or thoughts on the subject?

Well, maybe a late night show isn’t really the proper arena for a deep discussion about gender roles in Hollywood.  After all, Blunt got to explain the backstory, and then play a game where she read the final scene of Gone With the Wind while pretending like she had to throw up after every other word.  It was hilarious.

Now I can do a Google search to easily find an interview where Sicario’s director gave a much longer response.  From IndieWire:

IW: There’s been a persistent rumor that you were pressured by the studio to change Emily’s character into a man, is that true?

Denis Villeneuve (Director): Yes and no. It’s a confusion that came from an early press conference. The truth is that Taylor Sheridan, when he wrote the screenplay, it got a lot of interest, but people were approaching him saying, “it’s a great screenplay, but it’s a female character, can you make it a man?” Taylor had the guts to say “no, this is the story I want to tell, she’s a woman for specific reasons and I won’t change the screenplay.”

When I met him, the first question he asked me was, “so what do you think?” and I said, “no, no, I like it the way it is,” and then he trusted me. So the pressure was on Taylor. And it’s true that he had a lot of pressure to change it, and most of the time there were people who said, “we will sign if you change it,” and he said no. Once I got on board, I heard a little bit about it at the beginning, but it was not a fight. People respected the screenplay as it was, and at Black Label they were totally supportive of this idea, and Lionsgate too. The people I work with were supportive of this idea, but I knew I would have less money. That’s the reality, to make a movie that the lead is a female. And that is very sad, but that will change with time, I hope.

Oh.  Actually, maybe there really wasn’t that much more to this story than i thought.  Kudos to the screenwriter Taylor Sheridan for standing his ground.

IW: Do you think that’s something that’s going to change, or it is in the process of changing?

Denis Villeneuve (Director):I’m going to say something spontaneously, and it might be something stupid. But I think that at the beginning [of cinema], the women that were very famous were famous because of their sexual appeal or beauty, and I think that is changing. Now we respect actresses for their skills and for what they bring on screen. I think it’s evolved, but it’s still a very masculine world.

Cinema is a very rough society, on the screen and behind the camera, too. And it’s true that the woman’s condition is still a fight, and there’s still a lot of things that have improved in the past century. In some parts of the world, it’s getting worse. But in the western world it’s evolving in the right direction, but there’s a lot of battles to be fought by a woman, I think.

It’s just the way a woman has to deal with power and what a woman needs. I have friends, directors, women, that to get the same job it’s a different fight. I am aware of that. It’s very sad, but everything is evolving.

Source: IndieWire

Advertisements

Posted by Kelly Konda

Grew up obsessing over movies and TV shows. Worked in a video store. Minored in film at college because my college didn't offer a film major. Worked in academia for a while. Have been freelance writing and running this blog since 2013.

8 Comments

  1. Very interesting post Kelly. Let’s hope cinema keeps evolving and we get more lead female roles in movies like this one. I’m looking forward to seeing it when it’s released here in the UK next month.

    Reply

    1. The positive of it all is that they were able to make the movie, landing with a production company and distributor that supported the original vision. So, yes, someone who could have funded part of the movie wanted them to gender switch the lead, but they looked elsewhere and got it done the way they wanted, I look forward to seeing it next month when it finally comes near me,

      Reply

  2. Well, add Blunt’s role to Charlize Theron’s in Mad Max: this might end up being an historic summer of female-driven blockbusters.

    Reply

    1. Yes indeed, a good female lead that doesn’t have to be a fighting-sex-dolls thing like sucker punch..

      Reply

  3. […] I didn’t really expect any of that, though. When Sicario hit theaters late last September, it was easy to be distracted by the business of the movie. It’s an action film with a female lead (Emily Blunt), a true historical rarity, making it something to be embraced and celebrated in this age of #HireTheseWomen. Moreover, the reality of its own production was a scathing indictment of a fundamental flaw in the film finance structure, one which is too slow to realize the increasing drawing power of women at the box office. The director Denis Villeneuve, coming off the financially successful Jake Gyllenhall-Hugh Jackman drama Prisoners, was more or less told by one financier that Sicario seemed great in every other way beyond its intention to have a female lead, “If you make her a dude, we’ll up your budget.”  […]

    Reply

  4. […] And I didn’t really expect it. When Sicario hit theaters late last September, it was easy to be distracted by the business of the movie. It’s an action film with a female lead (Emily Blunt), a true historical rarity, making it something to be embraced and celebrated in this age of #HireTheseWomen. Moreover, the reality of its own production was a scathing indictment of a fundamental flaw in the film finance structure, one which is too slow to realize the increasing drawing power of women at the box office. The director Denis Villeneuve, coming off the financially successful Jake Gyllenhall-Hugh Jackman drama Prisoners, was more or less told by one financier that Sicario seemed great in every other way beyond its intention to have a female lead, “If you make her a dude, we’ll up your budget.”  […]

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s