I got the chance to talk with the writer and director of Bachelorette Leslye Headland earlier this week. Here are some thoughts on the film.
Women and Hollywood: Your film is a subversive look at weddings and how weddings make people crazy but also bring out the best in people. When did you decide you wanted to set this around a wedding?
Leslye Headland: I have 2 younger sisters and both of them got married within a couple of years of each other and I was in both of the weddings. I was the maid of honor in one and a bridesmaid in another. I was sort of shocked at how people made the weddings about themselves. I thought this would be an interesting time to set a story that was about characters that are in flux about themselves and who they want to be in their lives. So it seemed like fertile ground for what the characters were going through - their selfish retrospection. When you see someone moving on, occasionally people have negative reactions to that.
WaH:I would guess that there have been some comparisons with your film and Bridesmaids and two years ago people probably would have said, women, raunch, wedding, been there, and done that. Now, it seems that things are shifting a bit so I would love to hear some of the conversations you have experienced. I know you made the film before Bridesmaids came out but what is happening in the post Bridesmaids climate for your film. Are people more receptive?
Leslye: Yes- when I was shopping this film four or five years ago they said R-rated female comedies don't make money- like this is the most dangerous genre you could do. People were like why did you write this script? Not really knowing much about the film industry, I didn't realize that it was such a taboo to write a script like that. I also sort of resented them saying it was female centric, as if female characters made it a movie that men wouldn't want to watch. You know what I mean? All I do is watch films with male characters so I made an effort to write female characters that men would like watching and relate to.
When Bridesmaids made money, all of a sudden people were asking where is the stuff like that. I think it's been a slow burn because this has been going on a while with the success of Tina Fey on 30 Rock and Amy Poehler on Parks and Recreation and shows that didn’t even last a season like Lisa Kudrow in The Comeback. You have Sarah Silverman and you can go even further back to Sandra Bernhardt who is a huge idol of mine. It has been slowly building since at least when I graduated from college which was 9 or 10 years ago. A slow build that has reached critical mass with Bridesmaids.
WaH: Do you have any nervousness that all the reviews will compare the two films? How can you live up to something that opened in 3,000 theaters -- it's very difficult. How do you measure that for yourself?
Leslye:I haven't had the experience of people who have seen the film comparing it to Bridesmaids, it's usually people who haven't seen it or are explaining it to people and use it as a comparison. Once people have seen the film I haven't gotten a lot of - oh it's like Bridesmaids.
I think it has a lot to do with it being a female centric film. I think it's exciting to be compared to a film that was really successful. I think it does have to do with it being female centric and our titles are similar and the setting is similar but tonally it is different and budget wise it is different. Even though we have made a lot of progress, I think we are still in a phase with female artists where we still have to compare it with something else. When Scorsese makes Mean Streets people aren't saying he's like that other guy who made that other movie. With a female writer/director or a female writer or a female director, it always has to be that she is like this other woman. I hope with all of the progress we have made in the last 10 years, especially in the comedy world, which has embraced female artists like Lena Dunham, Diablo Cody, Liz Meriwether and Whitney Cummings.
That being said I totally understand the comparisons.
People actually said that I should change the title because they are so different but it was the title of the play and it was so important to me. I can't make a creative decision out of fear. We have to do some extra explaining. Every review will start off with that, but you know what, it will find the audience it is supposed to find. It may not be a level of a studio film but it will gravitate towards people who want to see that story. That's all you can hope for.
WaH: I love that the first friend of this group to get married is not the skinny one. Talk about that decision.
Leslye: I really felt it was super important to the story. I want to preface it by saying that I think Rebel Wilson is gorgeous. When I met with her and my costume designer and hair and makeup people who are all really brilliant, I said I think she is so beautiful and I want to accentuate so that when she walks into the frame she will light up the screen with her talent and her beautiful face. I know that unconventionally, meaning within the culture, this body type means that people are unattractive. I do not believe that and I don't want that to come from this film. It's about someone moving into adulthood who has learned to love another human being who doesn't conform to a particular physical type.
WaH: What do you think this movie says about women?
Leslye: I don't know what it says. If there is anything that I wanted to achieve it was to create characters that you could have empathy for despite what their shortcomings and their vices may be. That you could still relate to a female character even if she wasn't super likable and I even hate saying that. My favorite characters growing up were Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate or Tracy Lords in The Philadelphia Story, or Julia Roberts’ character in My Best Friend's Wedding. Those were the women I looked at and found interesting. I found it interesting that she was dealing with things like disappointment, resentment with darker issues. I felt that this was something that had disappeared especially in comedy over the last 15 years. I feel like the women I mentioned above like Tina, Amy and Diablo - her movie changed my life- I felt thank God maybe they are ready for my characters. Maybe now they are ready to take a look at women that are living on the dark edge of their own conscience.
WaH: You weren't first attached as the director and then you qoulnd up directing the film. What was it like having other people look to direct the film?
Leslye: I didn't go into this to direct it. I've had my writing directed by others. I do love working with actors. I think they felt that it is such a personal voice and such a personal story that even though you are a first time director you have worked with actors and it feels like it's got to be you and you have to helm this ship.
WaH: Any advice you want to give?
Leslye: Don't take it personally. Keep your head down. You're going to come up against a lot and the best thing is to ignore it and don't let the bastards get you down and keep moving forward because you are going to be treated differently. End of story.
Bachelorette is now in limited release.