January 16, 2008

January 16, 2008

Interview with Callie Khouri, director of Mad Money

Mad Money, a new comedy starring Diane Keaton, Queen Latifah and Katie Holmes opens on Friday. The film is about three women who conspire to steal money about to be shredded from the Federal Reserve in order to get their lives on track. Keaton is about to lose her home and her upper middle class dream, single-mom Latifah wants to get out of her bad neighborhood and get her sons into a better school, and Holmes, well she just wants a better trailer to live in. Keaton is the mastermind who comes up with the plan after being forced to get a job as a cleaner in the local Fed because that's the only things she's qualified for after being out of the workforce for decades. She convinces the other ladies to go along with the plan and they are on the road (with lots of bumps along the way) to salvation.

Callie Khouri, best known as the screenwriter of the now classic Thelma and Louise takes on her second directing assignment with this film. She answered some questions about this film and also touched on Thelma & Louise.

Women & Hollywood: It's strange to say this in 2008 but your film is different because you have women as the leads and you are a female director. Why do you think this is still such a rare occurrence?

Callie Khouri: I ask that same question all time. It's really inconceivable to me that the numbers are as low as they are. When I hear the statistics I am shocked because to me it is not that women are less suited to the job. There certainly isn't a lack of audience. If the same energy went into marketing movies to women as they do on the other demographics we might see more of a spike [in attendance.]

The one thing that makes it so difficult is getting the women's audience out on that first weekend which seems to be the measure of success. It is more difficult to get the female audience into the theatre in a reliable way the way they can get young guys and people with less responsibilities.
W&H: Women don't know about the importance of the first weekend.
CK: Every time I go and speak I'm always asked why don't they make more movies for women, and I say it's because you don’t go on the first weekend and that's what they [the movie studios] are interested in.
W&H: What made you want to direct this movie?
CK: I always thought it would be fun. It's pure entertainment. I don't think its possible to do a movie about money without some social commentary but it's not the overriding theme of the film. There are class issues addressed in a comedic way -- the idea that you could lose everything or not having enough -- that anybody can relate to. I wanted to direct it because Diane Keaton and Queen Latifah were attached early on.
W&H: How long did it take to get made?
CK: A Little over five years. We were never able to find a studio that wanted to do it. No major studio wanted to make it even with that cast attached.
W&H: But they make movies with Queen Latifah as the lead?
CK: It's inexplicable to me that the studio didn't look at this and say oh yeah we know how to do this.
W&H: After Thelma & Louise what kind of scripts did you get?
CK: I was offered women's type of things and a lot of them weren't my cup of tea. As much as I believe the women's audience is under served, I want to make a film with broad appeal in whatever genre it is.
W&H: I've noticed that people are revisiting Thelma and Louise and putting the chick flick label on it now because it seems that every movie starring a woman, even ones made years ago, are now chick flicks.
CK: I wouldn't mind if I didn't feel it was a diminutive. If it’s a movie primarily directed at women you can call it that, but it wasn't. It does belie a certain type of prejudice. Chick flick is not a term used to praise a movie. Nobody says "it’s a great chick flick." It’s a way of being derisive. I'm not clear why it's ok to do it.
Mad Money has tested extremely well with men and they [the studio] feel strongly that it is a date movie and broad audience movie and they are not marketing it as a chick flick. It's strange anything that has women in it is tarred with this brush.
W&H: Do you call yourself a feminist filmmaker?
CK: I call myself a feminist, not a feminist filmmaker. If somebody asked me if I had a feminist sensibility it would be pretty hard to deny, but is it the theme of my work? Not necessarily. I'm interested in a lot of things. I tried to get a baseball movie made a couple of years ago and I don't think it didn't happen because I was a woman, but because sports movie don't sell internationally.
W&H: I remember that my grandmother used the term mad money. It seems to be something that women are more familiar with.
CK: Mad Money is like your own personal insurance policy. I don't know if you hear guys mention mad money but all women know what it is. I think it originally came from the days when women were given money by their husbands because they weren't earning it. You were given the money and you'd skim a little off for yourself.
W&H: This is a rare crime move because there is no violence.

CK: When Thelma and Louise came out people perceived it as far more violent than it was. What people wrote was completely out of proportion to what happened in the movie. In the movie the whole point was to make the killing wrong. I wasn't trying to justify it, I was trying to set up a way that they would have to run for their lives, forever. But, people remember it as being super violent and I am always surprised by that. They blow up one truck, hold up a liquor store -- nobody gets hurt. At the same time Reservoir Dogs and other movies [with lots of violence] were getting praised, and I realized that there was a real double standard for women especially with women committing acts of violence. For whatever reason people seem to have a hard time with it.

On another note, Mad Money star Diane Keaton was yucking it up about looks and personality yesterday on GMA and she did the ultimate TV no-no, she cursed. Check it out: Diane Keaton on GMA Hope it will help the movie.

The Foreign Film Oscar Committee Should be Ashamed of Themselves
The short list of films to qualify for the for the best foreign film Oscar was unveiled yesterday and two films which received a lot of critical attention this season -- 4 Months,3 Weeks, and Two Days and Persepolis were both snubbed. Interesting to note that these two films are both about women. Both films are excellent.

Shootout Goes to Palm Springs and Ignores Women Filmmakers
On Sunday mornings at 11am on AMC, Peter Bart the editor of Variety, and Peter Guber the uber-producer sit around and talk about the state of the movie business. They usually have some guests, and like most of the rest of the industry their guests are usually male.

This past weekend they took the show on the road to the Palm Springs International Film Festival and had a panel of directors join them on stage. They had Joe Wright, director of Atonement; Adam Shankman, director of Hairspray; Jason Reitman, director of Juno and John Sayles, director of Honeydripper.

6 white guys sitting on the stage talking about the business. And we wonder what's wrong.

I have been very high on Juno but Jason Reitman came off as a snide, obnoxious privileged twit, and I enjoyed Joe Wright's uncomfortableness with the fact that the conversation was about money and films and not about films. He was mortified. In an ironic twist, the films that were actually awarded at the Festival as reported here on Monday include Helen Hunt for Then She Found Me and Tricia Regan for Autism: the Musical. Memo to the Peters: Have some more women on your show!

BAFTA Nominations. The Brits weigh in.
“Atonement” — Tim Bevan/Eric Fellner/Paul Webster
“Atonement” — Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Paul Webster, Joe Wright, Christopher Hampton
Mia Bays (producer) — “Scott Walker: 30 Century Man”
Sarah Gavron (director) — “Brick Lane”
“Juno” — Diablo Cody
(nominations announced on Jan. 4)
“La Vie en rose” — Alain Goldman, Olivier Dahan
Cate Blanchett — “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”
Julie Christie — “Away From Her”
Marion Cotillard — “La Vie en rose”
Keira Knightley — “Atonement”
Ellen Page — “Juno”
Cate Blanchett — “I’m Not There”
Kelly Macdonald — “No Country for Old Men”
Samantha Morton — “Control”
Saoirse Ronan — “Atonement”
Tilda Swinton — “Michael Clayton”
THE ORANGE RISING STAR AWARD (voted for by the public) — nominees announced on Jan. 8
Sienna Miller
Ellen Page

Women's Promotions: Warner Brothers has promoted Sue Kroll to the new position of President of World wide Marketing and 20th Century Fox has upped Jennifer Nicholson Salke to oversee both comedy and drama development.

Anne Fletcher, director of 27 Dresses opening Friday has signed on to direct The Proposal starring Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock.

Annette Bening will be honored with the Governor's award at the American Society of Cinematographers award ceremony on January 26th.

Ugly Betty Joins Hillary Clinton's Campaign to Help Reach Latino Voters

Drew Barrymore and Ellen Page team up for Whip It. This film actually sounds promising. Page plays a young women pushed into beauty pageants and winds up in the roller derby. Film is written by Shauna Cross. Another female trifecta film!

Oprah Continues Her Bid for World Domination by Creating the OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) with Discovery.
Oprah Gets Her Own Network (Reuters)

Deneuve's Enduring Legend