‘Spy’ Director Paul Feig On Women In Comedy & Female Directors

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In case you haven’t yet seen ‘Spy’ starring Melissa McCarthy and Jason Statham run don’t walk! Here’s a fun fact about the movie, in its opening weekend in the US it was up against the release of the ‘Entourage’ movie, and ‘Insidious: Chapter 3’ plus a carry over from the week before ‘San Andreas’ starring Dwayne Johnson.

Despite all the marketing surrounding ‘Entourage’ with its slew of celebrity cameos, guess which movie won the box office weekend? ‘Spy’! In fact, ‘Entourage’ didn’t even come in second, it placed 4th in overall box office sales.

Another fun fact: ‘Entourage’ was actually released earlier in the week (Wed) and STILL did not manage to beat a *shock horror* female-led comedy film! Say whaaaaaat?!? Sorry Vinnie and Co., looks like there’s a new crew on the block. ‘Spy’ made $30 million while ‘Entourage’ only managed to rake in $10 million.

Is it still news to some people that female-driven comedies are selling? With over half of the ‘Spy’ audience being female, it shouldn’t surprise Hollywood executives that women are paying money to see these types of films, so they’d better keep delivering!

Ok so we know female comedies work, but why aren’t Hollywood studios hiring more female directors? Who better to tell these badass female stories and bring out complex female characters than women directors and writers?

The film’s director Paul Feig, who also worked on ‘Bridesmaids’, ‘Tammy’, and ‘The Heat’ has mentioned before how guilty he feels that there aren’t more women directing. But in a new interview with Indiewire, he says he secretly loves the fact that he gets to direct all these awesome female comedies.

“They’re just so many funny women I know and I don’t see them getting the roles they deserve,” he said while also mentioning as a former bullied kid he gets along better with women and understands female comedy better because its less aggressive.

He thinks its amusing that people are worried he might get pigeon-holed for being good at directing women.

“I just have a better take on the feminine point-of-view and there are all these funny women who need to be working. It worked out great. I don’t really want to do anything else. Somebody said to me, ‘Aren’t you afraid of being pigeonholed?’ Would you ever say that to a director who works with men? Would you go to Scorsese and say, ‘You shouldn’t keep working with guys.’ It’s ridiculous.”

Paul talks about the golden age of Hollywood in the 40s, 50s and 60s where iconic female actresses were bold leading ladies, but says that all changed in the 80s when comedies started becoming really big and it turned into a “boys club”. Women then became an antagonistic part of a storyline, rather than integral.

“To most guys, women start out as mom who breaks up a good time and then it’s the girlfriend who doesn’t want you hanging out with your friends every night, wants you to be around. And then the wife who puts the kibosh on you going out. All these male comedies felt like they were that version of “here comes the lady to break up the good time”…It’s true, it’s spot-on because that’s how women are portrayed in a lot of these things.”

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As for women directors, he still stands by his previous comments saying he wants to see more of them in Hollywood.

“I’m thrilled that I get to do this because I love doing it but there should be more women directors because the imbalance is just too great right now and there’s no real reason for it. I’m slowly getting to a position where I can possibly hire directors so I want to try to get as many female directors working as I can but the whole industry as a whole needs to catch up,” he said.

Well if he needs a go-to place to look for untapped female directors, we suggest he checks out The Director list created by Los Angeles-based director and badass Destri Martino. She told Take Part that she created the site after being fed up of hearing the sexist excuse that there aren’t enough female directors in Hollywood. After talking to many of her female director friends, she designed a comprehensive data base (think the digital White Pages for female directors) listing each woman’s work, her specific focus and her resume.

“I just think seeing these numbers makes it really clear: You can actually search a database for the people that have qualifications. There’s no way you can say there’s no women directors who are qualified,” she said.

If it’s financial evidence Hollywood wants, then that’s what women will gladly give them. Actress turned producer and director Elizabeth Banks’ first feature directorial debut ‘Pitch Perfect 2’ made $100 million at the box office which is a new record for a first-time feature film director. Not bad! At the recent Step Up Inspirational awards in Los Angeles she shared the reason why she started her own production company.

“I don’t like being defined by those labels or by others, and I don’t like limits. I knew I had more to offer an industry that clearly didn’t expect too much from me,” she said.

So what Paul Feig is talking about is the problem that has been solved already, now we need to see him put his money where his mouth is in the future.

“The goal for me was not to be the only guy who gets to do female-led comedies. I’m happy I get to but the excuse for Hollywood shouldn’t be, ‘Oh that’s what he does, and so he’s the only one who can do it.’ That’s silly.”

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But he also points out Hollywood’s other big excuse which is even when they DO go in the female direction, if there is even ONE failure, that becomes representative of all female-driven movies. That seems to happen a lot in the discussion about female superhero movies. Every naysayer critic and Hollywood exec loves to point out what a flop ‘Elektra’ was, but doesn’t seem to pay attention to how well Jennifer Lawrence in ‘X-Men’ drew audiences to the film or the undeniable popularity of the ‘Divergent’ and ‘Hunger Games’ movies.

“If it’s starting to move, that’s great. I just want to make sure the projects are really good because Hollywood will look for any excuse to go ‘Well, we tried it and it didn’t work.’ Please make those movies work,” he said.

As for the all-female ‘Ghostbusters’ reboot, Paul has gotten plenty of sexist remarks, some of which he understands because it is such an iconic franchise that many fans grew up with throughout the 80s and 90s. But he’s not trying to take over what was already done, he is completely starting over because half the original cast didn’t even want to do a remake, and he had no choice but to think outside the box.

So for all those who are still muttering under their breath and spending their time writing hateful tweets to Paul, get over it, because they already started filming June 15 and here’s his message to you:

“If you don’t like what I end up doing, you can say, ‘Well that was the new one. Fuck that. We have these other ones.’ You can only do what inspires you and what you think will be fun and what you know how to do for an audience to make them laugh and have a good time. My intentions are nothing but pure.”

Check him out talking about ‘Spy’ and writing interesting female characters on Huffpost Live with Jason Statham:

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Are Actresses & Female Directors Modern-Day Suffragettes For Women In Hollywood?

  2. Pingback: Putting His Money Where His Mouth Is, Director Paul Feig Will Include "Equity Clause" In All Future Films - GirlTalkHQ

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