Women of Independent Miens
Sunday, April 16, 2006
When they showed their first films at Sundance in 1996, Mary Harron and Nicole Holofcener made two of the most promising debuts of the festival, Harron with "I Shot Andy Warhol," a striking period drama about the artist and his fateful encounter in 1968 with feminist activist Valerie Solanas; and Holofcener with "Walking and Talking," a wry, closely observed comedy about female friendship, starring the then-unknown Catherine Keener and Anne Heche. Ten years later, having successfully avoided the dreaded sophomore slump, both directors will release their third films here on Friday: Harron's "The Notorious Bettie Page," starring Gretchen Mol as the 1950s pinup model, and Holofcener's "Friends With Money," an ensemble comedy-drama starring Keener, Jennifer Aniston, Joan Cusack and Frances McDormand as Los Angeles women of disparate economic stations.
The Washington Post recently invited the two to talk about their careers, and what started out as a Q&A almost immediately became an A&A, as the two directors compared notes about movies, motherhood, aging in Hollywood and their experiences directing prime-time television (although when it came to naming names, they dished off the record). "I don't talk to that many women directors," Holofcener admitted after the conversation ended. "Because there's three of them." Holofcener spoke while at The Post's office in Washington; Harron joined in by conference call from Los Angeles.
Ann Hornaday: Do you think it's gotten better or worse for female directors since 1996?
NH: I can only know what it's like for this female director. If I was a producer or had to produce my own movies, I think I'd have a better idea if the fact that I'm a female is making it harder for me to make movies. But the fact that I can make movies, I don't have much to complain about. I'm sure it's more difficult for women to make movies, especially because in general the kind of movies women want to make aren't necessarily going to be blockbusters. But you know, there are so few women in so many positions of power. I don't know if it's changed since we made our first movies. Do you think it has, Mary?
MH: I think a little bit, actually. Because probably if we were to go back to when we were growing up and there were almost no women directors, obviously it's a big change from then.
NH: Claudia Weill, right? [1978's] "Girlfriends."
MH: Yes, and like whatshername, the Italian woman who did "Seven Beauties" --
NH: Lina Wertmuller --
MH: Yeah, so that's a big change. . . . The kinds of films we make, which are kind of outside the mainstream, they're not starring huge blockbuster stars. They're probably written in a way that is more off the beaten track. When my scripts go around, definitely I feel like people don't always see the potential in them. So each film is a huge push to get made. I thought that after "American Psycho" it would be easier, but it doesn't seem to get easier with each film. That is the one thing that surprises me, that each time it still seems a battle to get something made.
NH: Did "American Psycho" make money?
MH: It made a lot of money on DVD.
NH: Well, that's making money.