LOS ANGELES, April 29, (Agencies): Director Patty Jenkins first expressed interest in making a “Wonder Woman” movie over 10 years ago. She’d just made “Monster,” which won Charlize Theron an Oscar, and was doing the rounds at various studios talking about what she’d like to do next. Richard Donner’s “Superman” was a film that changed her life, and it occurred to her that there still hadn’t been a “Wonder Woman” movie.
“Wonder Woman,” Jenkins remembers saying. “Let me make ‘Wonder Woman.’”
It happened, though not without a few detours along the way, including a pregnancy, Jenkins almost directing the sequel to “Thor,” and another director initially getting the “Wonder Woman” job.
Now Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman” is barreling toward its big release on June 2. And unfairly or not, there’s a lot at stake. Not only is it the first-ever big screen movie about one of the most popular superheroes of all time, it’s also the first female-led superhero movie in over a decade, following the financial disasters of “Catwoman” and “Elektra.” On top of all that, it’s a rare big budget blockbuster from a director who happens to be a woman. No pressure, right?
The story of “Wonder Woman” is a dozen stories tied into one film. It’s the story one director who loved “Superman” getting to realize her lifelong dream of directing a classical superhero origin story. It’s the story of an industry taking another long-delayed gamble on a female-led film in a historically male-dominated genre. And it’s the continuing story of female directors fighting for a place at the blockbuster table.
This summer there are a number of female-directed films coming out, but most are independent, few are wide-releases and all are one-offs. Among them are Stella Meghie’s teen drama “Everything, Everything” (May 19); Lucia Aniello’s bachelorette comedy “Rough Night” (June 16); Sofia Coppola’s Civil war pic “The Beguiled” (June 23); and Kathryn Bigelow’s 1967 riots drama “Detroit” (Aug 4). Jenkins has the sole tent-pole, an industry term for a big budget movie intended to support a studio’s lower-earning films.
In fact, Jenkins is one of the few women who have ever been granted a budget of over $100 million. Bigelow got one for “K-19: The Widowmaker,” and Ava DuVernay has one for “A Wrinkle in Time.” It’s not unreasonable to assume that “Mulan’s” Niki Caro and “Captain Marvel” co-director Anna Boden will get that too. But it’s a void that’s especially notable during the summer, when there are a seemingly endless string of male-directed films with $200 million-plus budgets in theaters each week.
It’s not that women don’t direct summer blockbusters. In the past ten years of top studio summer releases there’s been Elizabeth Banks’ “Pitch Perfect 2,” Phyllida Lloyd’s “Mamma Mia” and Anne Fletcher’s “The Proposal,” all of which grossed from $287.5 million to $609.8 million on budgets under $52 million. They’re just often not afforded blockbuster budgets.
“When the money is there, there are fewer women,” said Melissa Silverstein, publisher and founder of the website Women and Hollywood.
Writer, director and actress Zoe Lister-Jones whose indie “Band Aid” also comes out June 2, said she doesn’t see the same amount of risk being taken on women as men to handle tent-pole and franchise films.
“That should be the focus of where we look at gender inequity in this industry for female directors,” she told The Associated Press earlier this year.
Experience is a Catch-22 for women. Lucasfilm chief Kathleen Kennedy got into hot water last year when she said that while finding a female director for a “Star Wars” film is a priority, they want to make sure that they’re set up for success. “You can’t come into them with essentially no experience,” Kennedy told Hollywood trade Variety.
Jenkins is “as stunned as anybody” that there have been so few — especially because she and many of her female peers regularly handle comparable budgets working in television.
“Alien” creator Ridley Scott says he’s convinced that there are aliens out there — and one day they could come for us.
The veteran director has said he believed in higher beings as he prepared to release the sixth episode of the sci-fi horror series, “Alien: Covenant”, next month.
“I believe in superior beings. I think it is certainly likely. An expert I was talking to at NASA said to me, ‘Have you ever looked in the sky at night? You mean to tell me we are it?’ That’s ridiculous.
“The experts have now put a number on it having assessed what is out there. They say that there are between 100 and 200 entities that could be having a similar evolution to us right now.
“So when you see a big thing in the sky, run for it,” he joked.
“Because they are a lot smarter than we are, and if you are stupid enough to challenge them you will be taken out in three seconds.”
“Alien: Covenant”, the second of the prequel films, is set in 2104 on board a spaceship carrying 2,000 cryogenically frozen colonists to a distant planet when they chance upon an uncharted paradise.
But their voyage soon turns into a gory nightmare that makes “Alien’”s original “chestbuster” scene seem tame in comparison.
The “neomorph” aliens in the new film are based on the goblin shark “which has a jaw which hinges in two ways. It’s scary, hideous beyond belief actually,” Scott said.
The 79-year-old British-born director — who was also the brains behind “Blade Runner” — said he never tired of scaring people out of their skins.
“When I did the first ‘Alien’ I had to get a sense of responsibility because the reaction to the kitchen (“chestbuster”) scene with John Hurt was beyond anything I expected — and it was not good,” he told AFP.
“But the film was very successful because people are perverse.”
He said he could not believe the terror he had created when he went to see people watching the film.
“Everybody was half underneath the seat watching by the time you get to the kitchen scene. There was a woman underneath the seat with her husband holding her. I said this is not healthy.”
Scott, however, claimed that he was unshockable.
“Nothing scares me. I have a 9mm (pistol),” he said.
“If there is a problem I tend to close down into calm. When you walk in in the morning on a film and 600 people turn and all look at you, that is scary,” he said.
“Alien: Covenant” has a religious subtext, the director insisted.