Between tackling “based on a true story” themes of crime and greed, use of a non-linear narrative and an inspired soundtrack choices, Hustlers feels like a spiritual addition to Martin Scorsese’s filmography. So, it then may not come as a shock to hear the Wolf of Wall Street filmmaker was initially approached for the project.
Hustlers director Lorene Scafaria had spent two years writing the script based on a New York magazine article and speaking with strippers all over Los Angeles and New York. Right when she came up with the idea, she had hopes to direct it but when a studio and producers came on board (including Vice’s Adam McKay and Will Ferrell), turning to the seasoned Goodfellas director was the initial move. In Scafaria’s words:
Everyone talked about it and said, 'Let's go to Scorsese first.' And I thought, well, that's fair. McKay said, 'I hope Scorsese passes,' which was a beautiful thing to say. And of course Scorsese passed.
It makes sense for a studio to want a high-profile director behind Hustlers. A new Martin Scorsese film always generates tons of buzz, and if he’d helmed a female-led it would be his first. Hustlers already had room for his aesthetic to shine through, however he passed likely due to his work on The Irishman and various producing projects in the works.
Thankfully, he did. It paved the way for Hustlers to brim with female talent from director to the stars and allow Lorene Scafaria to fully realize her vision of her script. Last year, women only 8 percent of directors in Hollywood (down 3 percent from the year before), so whether Scorsese knew it or not, he helped pave the way for greater diversity in Hollywood’s filmmaker landscape.
Without Martin Scorsese, Hustlers has been greatly embraced by critics and audiences alike. The movie premiered at Toronto International Film Festival to positive reactions, currently with a 88% Fresh Tomatometer score. Hustlers opened with an impressive $33 million during its debut weekend. This beats Wolf of Wall Street’s opening weekend of $18 million, though won’t likely gain the $392 million traction the film got with its award season hype.
Hustlers’ box office numbers is Jennifer Lopez’s best debut for a live-action movie yet and she’s been highly praised for her performance, which included learning advanced pole dancing moves that left her with bruises and a torn shoulder. It’s a big win for indie studio STXFilms, which recently suffered a huge loss with the bomb of UglyDolls.
Jennifer Lopez is also joined by Constance Wu, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Cardi B and Lizzo. The movie is entering its second weekend alongside new releases such as Ad Astra, Rambo: Last Blood and Downton Abbey.