Actress Emily Blunt’s new film, Sicario, has been quite a success since its Sept. 18 release date. According to the film’s IMDB page, it has grossed more than $2 million in the weeks since.
Blunt is not a newcomer to action thrillers, starring in “Looper” (2012) and “Edge of Tomorrow” (2014). The films’ grossed approximately $66 million and $100 million, respectively.
These large box office numbers don’t indicate any stigma toward female leads in films, but there definitely is one.
When speaking with Indiewire, the director of Sicario, Denis Villeneuve, revealed that the screenplay’s writer, Taylor Sheridan, faced pressure from many studios to change the lead from female to male. Most studios were eager to sign on to the film if the change was made. Respect is in order for Sheridan’s refusal to make the change and for Villeneuve’s faith in the film as it was written.
Villeneuve was quoted in IndieWire saying, “the people I work with were supportive of this idea, but I knew I would have less money. That’s the reality, to make a movie that the lead is a female.”
He’s referring to his fairly modest budget of $30 million for the action film. Compared with Prisoners, Villeneuve’s 2013 film starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, which was created for around $46 million, the budget cut is clear. Filmmakers have access to more money when their lead character is male.
He went on to explain, “I have friends, directors, women, that to get the same job it’s a different fight.”
Hollywood is one of the places where stigmas are simultaneously difficult to spot unless you’re on the inside, and blatantly obvious—particularly for women in Hollywood. It is easy to see the female stereotypes portrayed in film, from its conception until now. Even the women in modern movies that portray corporate execs are usually far less ruthless or ambitious than a male would be perceived in the same role.
What’s not so obvious is the stigma against women filmmakers and actors. Hollywood is a boys’ club for sure. Sicario is just one example of a film that received negativity for its strong and enduring female lead. There’s this very wrong ideology that women filmmakers and actors don’t have the talent, the ambition, or the appeal that a man would in that same role.
I have the pleasure of personally knowing many talented and ambitious female filmmakers. We’re living in such a progressive society and these women are still struggling to show their work to the world. Nobody ever stops to think twice about talented male filmmakers and actors, but how many women can we name in the same positions?
If you ask me, these ladies are rising to the challenge, and their art is a force to be reckoned with. It is also evident that male directors and screenwriters, such as Villeneuve and Sheridan, are an influential piece in changing the game for everyone.
Long story short: don’t underestimate the ladies.