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Sarah Polley to Direct John Green's Looking for Alaska

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by Melissa Silverstein and Inkoo Kang
June 26, 2014 3:44 PM
3 Comments
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Now that The Fault in Our Stars has grossed $166 million on a $12 million production budget -- thanks to the irrationally underestimated loyalty of fangirls -- Hollywood is looking to adapt another novel by the author and Internet celebrity John Green. 

Coming up next is a big-screen treatment for Green's award-winning debut book, Looking for Alaska. Green confirmed yesterday via Twitter that Sarah Polley will be writing and directing the film adaptation. Alaska will be Polley's highest-profile project to date and her first studio movie.

Set in an Alabaman boarding school, Looking for Alaska centers on a teenage boy's crush on a popular but deeply unhappy girl named Alaska. Kaya Scodelario is rumored to be in the running to play the female lead. 

Paramount optioned the book back in 2005, but it has sat in limbo until the wild success of The Fault in Our Stars quickly pulled it off the shelf. 

We're big fans of Polley, who has quickly distinguished herself as a director to watch with Take This Waltz and Stories We Tell. And we are very happy that she has been hired to adapt the novel, not least because our infographic this week illustrates how the studio system so routinely and perniciously discriminates against female filmmakers.

It's not just numbers that bear out this situation, but individual cases too, like the hiring of Josh Boone to helm The Fault in Our Stars. Information has come to Women and Hollywood telling us unsurprisingly that "every high-profile female filmmaker" was gunning for the job of adapting the teen cancer romance. The (male) candidate who ended up getting the job, Josh Boone, had just "a couple of writing credits to his name and the one film he wrote and directed [Stuck in Love] was a major box office flop." The source continued, "It flopped so bad that his people have removed the budget from every website, so people can’t see how much money he lost in his one time directing effort." 

It's not that male directors can't make fine, true-to-life movies about women (though many, many seem to prefer not to). It's that Hollywood's glass ceiling is all too evident. Manohla Dargis has previously pointed out with incredulity the fact that Mark Webb got to ascend to the top of the studio food chain from the $7.5 million-budgeted (500) Days of Summer to the $230 million-budgeted reboot of The Amazing Spider-Man. Webb is joined in the Glass Elevator Club by Colin Treverrow, whose $750,000 indie Safety Not Guaranteed led to the $150 million Jurassic World, and Gareth Edwards, whose $500,000 Monsters led to overseeing the $160 million Godzilla reboot.  (For more evidence see our The Unbelievable Privilege of Being a Male Director.)

Men get handed the bat for that chance to hit a home run regularly, and they get help all along the way to be a success. And then, even if they are not successful, there is still the mechanism for them to come back again. It is not an exaggeration to say that women just don't have those opportunities. So, we must remember that each time a woman gets a major gig at a studio is a gigantic big deal because so many things are working against women, especially at this high level.


[via Variety]
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3 Comments

  • grrljock | July 3, 2014 3:24 PMReply

    Sorry your delicate feelings got hurt, Michael and Parsyeb. Love Sarah Polley, looking forward to the movie.

  • Michael | June 26, 2014 4:58 PMReply

    So, I guess Josh Boone doesn't get any credit for the success of TFIOS? Granted, I agree that women are often not given enough opportunities to shine by directing movies, but Boone made a good movie.

    Does it matter that Webb, Treverrow, and Edwards all made terrific films that got them their next jobs? All three of those directors made critically acclaimed films that made a sizable profit given their budgets. Does that even matter? Because it doesn't seem like you have given that any consideration. Also, who are the enemies of breaking the glass ceiling? I thought it was the studio executives (who, granted, are mostly men) and not the male directors who are looking to make good work. Does the ultimate success of the film not matter if the female directors were not given an opportunity? The movies you mentioned were all successes. Doesn't that in some way validate the choice of the director?

    I love Sarah Polley, and I adore all of her work. I am so happy to see her get this shot, and I am sure she will make a great movie. I am a constant moviegoer. I love movies. The director's gender means nothing to me. I want to see a good movie. I loved Belle. I am super excited to see Obvious Child.

  • parsyeb | June 26, 2014 4:15 PMReply

    Yay! Thank God for this push to get more women into the industry. Now another talented director can make some mindless pap for mucho dinero. I'm not against women holding positions of power in Hollywood (on the contrary, Megan Ellison is kicking everyone's ass out there), but it's also disturbing how many legit directors made boring, conventional films this year as bids for wider audiences (looking right at you, Kelly Reichardt... you do know that Jesse Eisenberg is the world's most boring actor, right?).

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