Diane English isn't afraid to admit that she's spent 14 years trying to get her remake of The Women to the screen, and she knows perfectly well what the problem was. For a long time the assumption has been that women over the age of 25 don't go to the movies, and a movie like The Women-- about many women over the age of 40-- would never make enough money to be worthwhile.
But then came Sex and the City, and even though The Women has been finished far longer than that movie has, it's riding the coattails of one of the most successful "chick flicks" ever made. English talked earlier this week about what it's like to be compared to Sex and the City, not to mention comparisons to the original 1939 The Women, which English says might not be so beloved by one of its creators.
People have been really pushing the comparisons between this movie and Sex and the City. How do you feel about that?
We came waaaay before Sex and the City. My script was in existence before I think that was even an idea in Candace Bushnell's head. But we're very happy to ride the coattails. We struggled to get this movie made. The financing was really hard to come by. It was an all-female cast, and we didn't have a television series that preceded us.
How did you research the original film? I did a lot of homework. I discovered that George Cukor did not particularly like the film that he made. That kind of gave me permission to re-imagine it. But I also think that so much has changed in 70 years since the original movie was made. You can remake a movie if you have something very new to say.
Can you talk about coming from television, and what the differences are?
It's different, there's no question about it. But television is such incredible preparation for directing a feature. You're used to having 150 people on a crew staring at you, saying "What do we do now." I think that can be very daunting for somebody who's directing a feature for the first time who hasn't had that experience. But boy, you get a lot of toys when you direct a feature. We got a crane, twice.
Have you seen a different reaction to the movie from men and women?
We did have that anticipation. But something's happening that we were not expecting. We've been previewing the movie for, I'll call them integrated audiences-- men and women. The women bring the men. You see the come into the theater, and they're like "Ugh, I want to sit in the back, so I can leave." And they love it. And sincerely so, which is really a surprise. There's a lot of teary-eyed men at the end of the movie. That was a surprise.
What were some of the challenges of shooting on location in New York?
Our first shot in the movie is a crane shot of Fifth Avenue. We had 25 PAs stationed on each corner, trying to keep men out of the shot. You know, in New York, nobody wants to be told they can't walk from here to there. We'd just get it right, and then-- bicycle messenger. So we would stop, and I'd be on the walkie talkie and say "Was that a man or a woman bicycle messenger." You know, in this day and age, people will put a DVD into their recorder and pause, and look. So no, you will not find a man.
There's pressure on you guys to prove that women go to the movies, if your movie succeeds. Do you think that's important? How else do we prove that women go to the movies?
The whole reason for making this movie was not only to put women up on the screen, where they often aren't, but to bring them into theaters as well. That is the conventional wisdom-- women over 25 don't go to the movies. But Sex and the City did double in it opening weekend what experts thought they would. Mamma Mia, same thing. Now it's our turn. It's so important that, if women are interested in seeing this movie, that they will go on opening weekend. That's when studios really pay attention. We really want this to become a trend, and not just a fluke. We want the men to come too, because we love our men. It's not a male bashing movie at all. We embrace the other sex too.