15 items from 2017
In 2009, Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds propelled “The Proposal” to nearly $165 million at the U.S. box office. The summer before, Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher spun a profit with “What Happens in Vegas,” which earned $80 million on a $30 million budget. In 1998, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan amassed $115 million for “You’ve Got Mail,” while Julia Roberts and Richard Gere pulled in $152 million for “Runaway Bride” a year later.
Read More: 11 Great Movies That Prove Indie Film Saved the Romantic Comedy
All of this is to say that there was once a time when the romantic-comedy genre was a slam dunk when it came to turning a profit at the box office. But in the age of superhero movies and big-budget tentpoles, there’s hardly room for rom-coms. And yet the genre never really died, it just went indie.
The last several years have made one thing very clear: Indie film is the savior of the rom-com. Click through the gallery for 11 great films that prove why.
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- Zack Sharf
1 June 2017 2:24 PM, PDT | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »
The Australia native will star opposite Jennifer Aniston in comedy-drama Dumplin'. The film, helmed by The Proposal and Step Up director Anne Fletcher, is based on Julie Murphy’s 2015 Ya novel that follows Willowdean Dickson (Macdonald), who was given the nickname "Dumplin'" by her former beauty queen mom (Aniston). An outspoken, plus-size teen and obsessive Dolly Parton fan, Willowdean signs up for her small-town pageant to get a rise out of her mother, who runs it. But her one-day protest takes on a life of its »
- Rebecca Ford,Mia Galuppo
Longtime Disney production executive Kristin Burr is transitioning to a Disney-based producing deal on the Burbank lot as Burr! Productions.
Burr joined Disney in 1997 as a creative executive. She most recently served as an executive VP of production in the live-action film division.
During her tenure, she oversaw “Sweet Home Alabama,” which starred Reese Witherspoon; “The Proposal,” starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds; Christopher Nolan’s “The Prestige;” “Bringing Down the House;” and the Muppets movies.
She recently worked on “Mary Poppins Returns,” starring Emily Blunt, Meryl Streep, and Lin Manuel Miranda; the live-action “101 Dalmatians” prequel “Cruella,” starring Emma Stone; and “Jungle Cruise,” starring Dwayne Johnson.
“Kristin’s experience, strength and talent have been of great value as part of our executive team and will serve her well as she transitions to a producorial role here at the studio,” said film production president Sean Bailey. “We’re very much looking »
- Dave McNary
Warner Bros. acquired the movie rights to “Crazy Rich Asians” in October and is fast-tracking the project with plans for an all-Asian cast. The story unfolds in a world of opulence, as new money and old money collide among a group of Chinese families living in Singapore. It follows a Chinese-American economics professor and her boyfriend, who happens to be the heir to a massive fortune.
Color Force’s Nina Jacobson and partner Brad Simpson boarded the project in 2013 when Kevin Kwan’s book of the same name was still in the manuscript stage. Jon M. Chu is directing the adaptation from a screenplay written by Peter Chiarelli »
- Justin Kroll
This five-part Truthdig series by Carrie Rickey is published in partnership with Women and Hollywood. The series considers the historic accomplishments of women behind the camera, how they got marginalized, and how they are fighting for equal employment. Specifically, this series asks, why do females make up between 33 and 50 percent of film-school graduates but account for only seven percent of working directors? What happened to the women directors in Hollywood?
Female filmmakers greeted the 21st century with optimism. By most measures, movies by women were garnering increased respect in the industry and at the multiplex. Their makers cracked glass ceilings, created new genres, and established new box-office records.
With “Nowhere in Africa” (2001), Caroline Link became the second woman to direct the Oscar-winner for the year’s best foreign film. With “Lost in Translation” (2003), Sofia Coppola was the third woman to receive a best director nomination from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. And with “The Hurt Locker” (2009), Kathryn Bigelow was the fourth woman nominated in the directing category — and the first to win. The following year, Danish filmmaker Susanna Bier directed the winner in the best foreign film category, “In a Better World.”
Gina Prince-Bythewood’s “Love & Basketball” (2000), Karyn Kusama’s “Girlfight” (2000) and Gurinder Chadha’s “Bend It Like Beckham” (2003) created what might be called the “Title IX” movie, celebrating female athletes on the court, in the ring, and on the field. These are sports movies that celebrate the female body — not for its sex appeal, but for its power. These films inspired younger women (and their mothers were thrilled to take them to movies that didn’t objectify women).
Comedies by women continued to make serious box office, proving the Hollywood wisdom that “funny is money.” Nancy Meyers’ “What Women Want” (2000), starring Mel Gibson as a player briefly given the power to hear what women think about him, made $374 million. Sharon Maguire’s “Bridget Jones’s Diary” (2001), in which the title character says what she thinks about womanizers and prigs, brought in $282 million. Movies like these permitted men and women to laugh at men’s foibles.
From Patricia Cardoso’s “Real Women Have Curves” (2002), which introduced America Ferrera as a college-bound Latina, to Julie Taymor’s biopic “Frida” (2003), with Salma Hayek as Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, to Patty Jenkins’ “Monster” (2003), with Charlize Theron as serial killer Aileen Wuornos, audiences saw realistic women — as opposed to human swizzle sticks with breasts — in movies by women.
Many critics hailed Niki Caro’s “Whale Rider” (2003), about a Maori preteen who challenges her tribal patriarchy and becomes the new chief, as a harbinger of the triumph of female filmmakers over the status quo. Others pointed to the fact that for the first time since records had been kept, in 2000 women made 11 percent of the top 250 box office films. For women who make movies, the new century felt like a new day.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Sadly, that encouraging percentage turned out to be a fluke. After 2000, the number dwindled. It remains stuck in the 6 to 9 percent range, says Martha Lauzen, professor of communications and head of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University. Since 1998 Lauzen has tracked women working in the industry in her annual “Celluloid Ceiling” report.
“When I started this, I thought it was merely an issue of people not knowing how low the numbers were,” Lauzen said ruefully. “I didn’t know how slow social change is.”
Lauzen’s reporting represents one of three vital resources for understanding the triumphs female filmmakers have made and how far they need to go to achieve parity with men. The others are Stacy Smith’s Media Diversity and Social Change Institute at USC’s Annenberg School and The Bunche Center at UCLA.
Collectively and individually, these creators of annual good news/bad news reports have kept the issue of representation in the public eye.
The Good: For Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker,” “Zero Dark Thirty”), the late Nora Ephron (“Julie & Julia”), and Nancy Meyers (“It’s Complicated,” “The Intern”), the 21st century has been a fruitful time. So, too, for younger female moviemakers. Consider Lisa Cholodenko (“Laurel Canyon,” “The Kids Are All Right”), Ava DuVernay (“Selma,” “13th”), and Mira Nair (“Monsoon Wedding,” “The Namesake”).
Consider also that Catherine Hardwicke established a franchise with “Twilight” (which made $393 million), Sam Taylor-Johnson created another with “50 Shades of Grey” ($571 million), and that Anne Fletcher’s “The Proposal” made $317 million and Phyllida Lloyd’s “Mamma Mia!” earned $609 million.
Additionally, filmmakers like Dee Rees (“Pariah”), Debra Granik (“Winter’s Bone”), and Lone Scherfig (“An Education”) broke into the market with unique visions and eyes for new talent, including Adepero Oduye, Jennifer Lawrence, and Carey Mulligan. Significantly, Vicky Jenson (“Shrek”), Jennifer Lee (“Frozen”), Jennifer Yuh Nelson (“Kung Fu Panda 2”), and Brenda Chapman (“Brave”) staked a place for women in animation.
The Bad: For every woman appearing onscreen in movies in 2015 there were 2.3 men, according to Stacy Smith’s Media Diversity & Social Change Initiative.
The Ugly: When Walt Hickey, culture reporter for the website fivethirtyeight.com, goes to the movies and sees the screen population is 69 percent male, it just looks wrong to him. “It’s like something apocalyptic has happened, like a parallel universe — a man’s world,” he says.
Both Lauzen’s and Smith’s data show that when a woman is behind the camera and/or screenplay, 39 percent of protagonists are female. In movies by male directors, only four percent of the lead characters are female.
A century ago, male dominance behind the camera and on the screen was not the norm. For women behind the camera, it’s been the norm since 1920. And for women onscreen, it’s been the norm since 1950. Because of this, moviegoers have a distorted picture of America as predominantly male and predominantly Caucasian, when it is neither. (For finer-grain data on minority representation, see this annual report from UCLA’s Bunche Center.)
The Force Reawakens
The Hollywood Dream Factory tailors the majority of its product to the measurements of the men in the audience. This troubles those who want their daughters to partake of the same professional opportunities, cultural representation, and dream lives as their sons. While “Nine to Five,” “Norma Rae,” and “Erin Brockovich” show that studios love stories of women who triumph over the odds, there is less obvious love for female filmmakers trying to beat the odds stacked against them in their professional lives.
Since the Original Six filed suit against two studios in 1983 (see Part 3), female filmmakers have met, strategized, and troubleshot. So much so that in one of her final essays before her death in 2012, Nora Ephron made a list of “Things I Won’t Miss.” Near the top: “Panels on Women in Film.” Many women in film felt as though they were running in place.
Someone had. She is Maria Giese, director of the feature films “When Saturday Comes” and “Hunger.” In February 2013 she brought a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (Eeoc) in Los Angeles. Her contention was that the cohort of working filmmakers in the Directors Guild of America (DGA), of which she is a member, was overwhelmingly male.
(While the number of women in the guild directing episodic television amounts to 17 percent, the DGA 2015 census of female filmmakers registered 6.4 percent. That’s lower than the nine percent of female coal miners, and fractional next to the 32 percent of practicing physicians and 36 percent of practicing lawyers who are women).
The Eeoc, which collects data on employer/employee relations for each calendar year, was reluctant to take on a class-action suit.
In April 2013, Giese contacted the Aclu of Southern California and showed the evidence to Melissa Goodman, director of its Lgbtq, Gender & Reproductive Justice Project. For the next two years Goodman and her colleague Ariela Migdal took testimony from more than 50 female directors. In May 2015 they sent the Eeoc an extraordinary letter that counted the ways in which “female filmmakers are effectively excluded from directing big-budget films and seriously underrepresented in television.” A compelling argument in their letter: “The entertainment industry employs many people and makes products that profoundly shape our culture and the perception of women and girls.” Later in 2015, the Eeoc commenced its own investigation.
In January 2017, based on a high-level internal DGA leak received by Giese, Deadline Hollywood reported that after a federal investigation spanning a year that included testimony from over 100 women directors, the Eeoc recently served charges of sex discrimination and unfair hiring practice against all six major studios. While the federal agency does not comment on active cases, Gillian Thomas and Melissa Goodman of the Aclu wrote in an editorial that they had no reason to doubt the veracity of the leak.
A key factor contributing to Giese’s success in getting this issue to the Aclu and Eeoc was her ability to expose the structural obstacles female filmmakers face, from a guild that puts female and minority filmmakers in the same category, to the studios that question the fitness of women to direct.
Myths and Continued Underrepresentation
Over the 25 years I’ve reported on female filmmakers, I’ve interviewed two generations of movie executives. Most, but not all, were male. Most took seriously my questions about the apparent exclusion of women behind the camera, both on the screen and their forthcoming line-up.
Without exception, all of them retold one or more of the “Three Hollywood Myths.”
Myth #1) “Women don’t want to direct action movies and those are the films which are making money.”
Untrue. See: Martha Coolidge’s “Real Genius” (1985), Kathryn Bigelow’s “Point Break” (1991), Mimi Leder’s “The Peacemaker” (1997) and “Deep Impact” (1998), Lexi Alexander’s “Punisher: War Zone” (2008), and Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker” (2009) and “Zero Dark Thirty” (2012).
What is true is that Mira Nair was offered a “Harry Potter” film and chose instead to make the family drama “The Namesake” because the material was more important to her, and that Ava DuVernay was offered “Black Panther,” the film version of the Marvel Comics series, and declined for similar reasons.
Myth #2) “Movies by women don’t make money.”
Untrue again. Some movies by women don’t make back their investment, just as some movies by men do not. What is true is that many movies by women make major bank. Catherine Hardwicke’s little $37 million film “Twilight” grossed $393 million and launched a billion-dollar franchise.
Hardwicke told me by phone that she hears all the time from studios that films by women are poor investments. “And every time you say, ‘Well, this one made money, that one made money,’ they say, ‘This one made money because it was based on a best-selling book,’ or ‘That one made money because of its hot actress.’”
Here are six more films by women and their box-office grosses. They made money because they powerfully connected with audiences.
“Bend it Like Beckham” (Gurinder Chadha). Cost: $6 million/Gross: $77 million“Frida” (Julie Taymor). Cost: $12 million/Gross: $56 million“Frozen” (Jennifer Lee). Cost: $150 million/Gross: $1.2 billion“The Proposal” (Anne Fletcher). Cost: $40 million/Gross: $317 million“Selma” (Ava DuVernay). Cost: $20 million/Gross $67 million“Lost in Translation” (Sofia Coppola). Cost: $4 million/Gross $120 million
Myth #3) “A woman behind the camera means women on the screen and no men in the audience.”
Untrue, if taken literally. Sometimes movies by women have a lower percentage of men in the audience, just as sometimes movies by men have a lower percentage of women in the audience. Take, for example, the 2015 films, “Bridge of Spies” by Steven Spielberg and “The Intern” by Nancy Meyers.
According to Paul Dergarabedian of comScore, the research company’s “PostTrak” data shows the audience gender breakdown at “Bridge of Spies,” a ’60s-era political thriller starring Tom Hanks, was 54 percent male and 46 percent female. For “The Intern,” a contemporary workplace comedy co-starring Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro, it was 41 percent male and 59 percent female. Spielberg’s film grossed $165 million; Meyers’ $194 million. His budget was $40 million; hers was $35 million.
Ava DuVernay’s “Selma,” the story of the 1965 march for voting rights led by Martin Luther King and starring David Oyelowo, had an audience gender breakdown of 47 percent male and 53 percent female. The assumption that movies come gendered with a blue or pink ribbon is a canard that still lingers in Hollywood, perhaps a vestige of the target marketing that began in the 1980s.
Speaking from the set of “Queen Sugar” in 2016, DuVernay observed, “We’re in a place right now where every other film is about a comic book superhero. We’re top-heavy with testosterone.”
How did Hollywood, a century ago a place where female directors thrived and prospered, come to this?
Mira Nair, who was born in India, suspects chauvinism. “I’ve always remarked at the irony that the percentage of female directors is higher in India than in the United States,” she explained in a phone conversation. “India is supposed to be the traditional chauvinist culture,” she observes. Nair wonders if the historic examples of female prime ministers in South Asia — Indira Gandhi in India, Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan — may have broken the glass ceiling for all professional women there. “Their examples don’t exist in the U.S.”
DuVernay looks forward to the outcome — and hoped-for positive resolution — of the Eeoc investigation. “It’s a systematic problem and it requires radical change,” she said. “If it’s not happening organically, systems should be put in place.” Like many female filmmakers, DuVernay hopes the Eeoc can reconfigure what Giese calls the “vertical playing field for women” into a level one.
“One thing I’m heartened by,” said Nair, who’s been making features for nearly 30 years, “is that the variety and confidence of female filmmakers today is inspiring.”
Do others think it’s changed for the better for women since the 1980s?
“For me, there’s no comparison between the ’80s and now,” reflected Nancy Meyers, whose six films as a director or writer/director have grossed more than a billion dollars. By email she wrote:
Men were still getting used to us being on set in the ’80s. (Men used to have photos of pinups on the set in the ’80s! I’m not kidding.)The only women around back then worked in costumes and hair and makeup. Today women are in every department and often department heads. There are still very few women in the camera department and that’s a shame. That seems to still be a real boy’s club. Today, most crew members are far more comfortable working for and with women.
Yet one thing has not changed: “Now, getting the job to be the director — that’s still an uphill battle,” Meyers said.
In addition to writing film reviews and essays for Truthdig, Carrie Rickey has been a film critic at The Philadelphia Inquirer and Village Voice, and an art critic at Artforum and Art in America. Rickey has taught at various institutions, including School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania, and has appeared frequently on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation,” MSNBC, and CNN.
What Happened to the Women Directors in Hollywood? Part 5: 2000–2017 was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story. »
- Women and Hollywood
Jennifer Aniston has located her next project – and it’s moving at a brisk clip.
First reported by Deadline, the actress has signed on for Dumplin’, a music-driven comedy said to be similar in tone to that of Pitch Perfect and Bring It On. Anne Fletcher (Hot Pursuit, 27 Dresses, The Proposal) is behind the lens, directing a script from Kristin Hahn. Aniston, meanwhile has reportedly landed the role of Rosie, a former beauty pageant queen who now runs the local Texas pageant.
Despite initially finding a home at Disney, Dumplin’ has now uprooted for the indie route, with Deadline noting that Michael Costigan’s (Ghost In the Shell) Cota Films is attached to produce. Any other project would have struggled to gain a sense of momentum, but now that Aniston has climbed aboard, it’s understood Fletcher and Co. are eyeing a summer shoot ahead of a theatrical release in »
- Michael Briers
Jennifer Aniston in “We’re the Millers”
Jennifer Aniston played a Prom Queen and Homecoming Queen in “Friends,” and now she’ll take on the role of a former beauty queen. Variety reports that the expert tiara-wearer has joined the cast of “Dumplin,’” an indie teen comedy directed by Anne Fletcher (“27 Dresses”).
Based on Julie Murphy’s 2015 book of the same name, the Texas-set story follows “a confident teen girl — named Dumplin’ by her former beauty queen mom (Aniston) — taking a job at the local fast-food joint,” the source summarizes. “She meets a former jock whom she likes and he seems to like her back, but when she begins to doubt herself, she sets out to take back her confidence by entering a beauty pageant and gaining respect for her mother.” No word on who will play Dumplin’.
“Dumplin’” marks Fletcher’s first foray into the teen genre. She most recently helmed “Hot Pursuit,” an action comedy starring Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara. “The Guilt Trip,” “The Proposal,” and “Step Up” are among her other credits.
“The objectification and scrutiny we put women through is absurd and disturbing. The way I am portrayed by the media is simply a reflection of how we see and portray women in general, measured against some warped standard of beauty,” Aniston wrote in a candid essay published by The Huffington Post last summer. On that note, we’re betting “Dumplin’” won’t depict an idealized version of beauty pageants.
Jennifer Aniston and Anne Fletcher Team Up for Teen Comedy was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story. »
- Laura Berger
Anne Fletcher (“Step Up,” “27 Dresses,” the massive box office juggernaut that was “The Proposal”) is getting back behind the camera with an all-new indie offering: “Dumplin,'” based on the well-received Ya novel by Julie Murphy.
“Dumplin'” follows Willowdean, the daughter of Rosie, a former beauty pageant queen who now runs the local Texas pageant. To get back at her (very different) mother, Willowdean and her friends ban together to join the pageant and presumably throw it into disarray. What begins as a prank for Willowdean suddenly turns into her leading a group of misfit teenagers into the vicious realms of pageantry. The film is reportedly “music-driven” and in the realm of “Bring It On” and “Pitch Perfect.”
Deadline reports that Jennifer Aniston has now joined the project as Rosie. »
- Kerry Levielle
Deadline is reporting that Jennifer Aniston has signed on to star in the music-driven comedy Dumplin’, which is slated to go into production this summer under director Anne Fletcher (The Proposal, 27 Dresses).
Dumplin’ follows a confident, plus-sized teen called Willowdean, who tries to spite her mom (Aniston) – a former beauty pageant queen now running the local Texas pageant – by enlisting some friends to take part. What starts as an impulsive one-day protest snowballs as Will inadvertently becomes the inspiration for a ragtag group of teenage outcasts joining the pageant. Given her “insider” perspective on her mother’s pageant world she had long scorned, Will gains new respect for her mom who, in turn, comes to admire a daughter she’s finally able to see, and love, for who she really is.
- Gary Collinson
Variety first reported in 2015 that Disney acquired the movie rights preemptively prior to publication of Julie Murphy’s Texas-set novel with Michael Costigan producing. Disney decided not to go ahead with the project.
The story centers on a confident teen girl — named Dumplin’ by her former beauty queen mom (Aniston) — taking a job at the local fast-food joint. She meets a former jock whom she likes and he seems to like her back, but when she begins to doubt herself, she sets out to take back her confidence by entering a beauty pageant and gaining respect for her mother.
- Dave McNary
Exclusive: Jennifer Aniston will star in the Anne Fletcher-directed comedy Dumplin', a film that is eyeing a summer shoot. Imr will be launching international sales. The film is scripted by Kristin Hahn, and Aniston will star as Rosie, a former beauty pageant queen who now runs the local Texas pageant. Michael Costigan (Ghost In The Shell) will produce under his Cota Films banner, and Hahn will also produce. Fletcher has directed The Proposal and 27 Dresses. Pic is a… »
“Beauty and the Beast,” the fairy tale, dates back nearly 300 years. It’s had a long and winning life in film, television, and the theater, culminating, for recent generations, in 1991 with Disney’s animated version of the story of unbounded love. Now, Disney’s new live-action version of “Beauty,” which has experienced a small tempest over an “exclusively gay moment” — a novelty for a conservative and tradition-bound company — is on pace for a robust $120 million opening weekend.
That’s due in no small part to the contribution of the two veteran producers charged with bringing a fresh jolt to the age-old tale. David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman knew they faced a formidable challenge when they were handed the reins to one of Disney’s crown jewels in 2013. When they assembled their cast for the first time for a reading in early 2015 at Shepperton Studios outside London, anticipation and pressure were high. »
- James Rainey
Warner Bros. has reportedly tapped “Fresh Off the Boat” star Constance Wu to play the lead role in the romantic comedy “Crazy Rich Asians,” according to a report over on Variety. The film is based on Kevin Kwan’s bestselling 2013 novel of the same name, and will be directed by Jon M. Chu (“Now You See Me 2”).
The studio acquired the film rights to Kwan’s book last October. The movie will reportedly feature an all-Asian cast. Kwan has already published a followup to the first novel, entitled “China Rich Girlfriend,” and recently penned a third novel, “Rich People Problems,” which will hit shelves later this year.
The story centers around a young American-born Chinese economics professor named Rachel Chu (Wu). Her boyfriend Nick is from Singapore, where they travel to attend his best friend’s wedding. »
- Yoselin Acevedo
Rob Leane Feb 13, 2017
Kevin Smith has always had to fight to get his films off the ground: he started his filmmaking career by maxing out multiple credit cards to self-finance Clerks, and more recently, legend has it, it was only Johnny Depp’s decision to come on board as a wacky supporting character that allowed Smith to secure financing for his walrus-centric horror flick Tusk.
Smith has, across his career, been offered several barmy jobs (he rejected a chance to pen Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian back in the 90s) and he’s also signed up for a lot of projects that never got past the script phase.
The latter camp of could’ve-beens is what we’re talking about today, following that news that Clerks III »
Ryan Reynolds spent 11 years thinking about what it would feel like to walk in Deadpool’s shoes. So when he finally got to don the red Spandex suit, he’d already worked out the character: His underdog Marvel superhero wouldn’t have Superman’s steely strut but instead would walk with a bounce. “Deadpool is so feminine,” the actor says over soup at a hotel in Bel-Air. “At least in how I saw him.”
The trouble was that the stunt doubles had a hard time dropping the macho swagger. “I’d say, ‘When you land, can you sashay away?’” Reynolds laughs.
This week, Reynolds’ special gait will be on full display on the red carpet of the Golden Globes. “Deadpool” is the first live-action comic-book movie to score a best-picture nomination in the organization’s 74-year-history, competing in the musical/comedy category. And Reynolds is in the running as a best actor nominee, »
- Ramin Setoodeh
15 items from 2017
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