Women Directors Enjoying Success in Hollywood

    23 June, 2017

    The movie Wonder Woman, directed by Patty Jenkins, has earned over $600 million worldwide since its opening day on June 2.

    That broke the record for a movie with a female director.

    Jenkins' film now tops a list that includes other successful movies like Fifty Shades of Grey, Frozen, Shrek, What Women Want, Sleepless in Seattle and A League of Their Own.

    Wonder Woman sold over $100 million in tickets on its opening weekend. That was more than both Transformers: Age of Extinction and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

    Jenkins says her first priority was to make the best Wonder Woman movie she could.

    "So the fact that I'm a woman, or she's a woman, or we're all women, or whatever, was a wonderful deep part of it. But you just tune it out completely because I'm just a filmmaker trying to make a film that I care about that much, anyway."

    Jenkins' Wonder Woman is a superhero. She is strong, fearless and has special powers.

    Her name is Diana. She leaves her perfect world on an Amazon island to fight evil during World War I.

    But Wonder Woman does not only solve problems with force like some male superheroes do. Jenkins says her Wonder Woman, played by Israeli actress Gal Gadot, is more complex than that.

    "It ends up being much more on an everyday scale about understanding and love and forgiveness and the complexity of life."

    Gadot says she and Jenkins had the same idea of what they wanted from Wonder Woman.

    "I am so lucky that Patty was the one to direct me. Her vision for Diana was in line with mine."

    Chris Pine and Gal Gadot in
    Chris Pine and Gal Gadot in "Wonder Woman." (Warner Bros. Entertainment)

    Female actors and directors making headlines

    Jenkins and Gadot are not the only female directors and actors making headlines in Hollywood.

    At the recent Cannes Film Festival, director Sofia Coppola won the best director award for her film The Beguiled. It comes out later this month in the U.S.

    Coppola's movie is a remake, which means someone else made a version of the same movie in the past. But Coppola tells the story from the perspective of the women in the story, instead of the men.

    Coppola's version focuses on the characters played by Nicole Kidman and Kirsten Dunst. They play teachers at a girls' boarding school during the U.S. Civil War. Their lives are changed when one of the girls finds a wounded soldier from the Union Army and brings him into the school to heal.

    Kidman says just because Jenkins and Coppola have been successful, that does not mean women are getting enough work in Hollywood.

    "Still only four percent of women directed, I think, the major motion pictures of 2016."

    And, there continues to be the question of whether female actors and directors are earning enough money compared to their male counterparts.

    That came up in 2015 when it was revealed that Jennifer Lawrence earned much less money than her male co-stars in the film American Hustle.

    Recently, a story that Gadot only earned $300,000 for playing Wonder Woman went viral on social media. People could not believe the actress from the biggest movie of the summer earned millions of dollars less than Henry Cavill did for playing Superman. Cavill is said to have earned $14 million.

    It was a big headline, but it was not completely accurate. The Hollywood-focused publication Variety explained that $300,000 was Gadot's base pay. She will likely earn millions of dollars more from bonuses due to Wonder Woman's success this year and in the future.

    Even with Jenkins and Coppola's recent success, it is not clear that women will get to direct more major movies.

    Nicole Kidman is doing her part, however. While she was at Cannes in May, she made a promise to do at least one film every 18 months with a female director.

    Elle Fanning, Nicole Kidman, writer/director Sofia Coppola and Kirsten Dunst seen at the U.S. premiere of
    Elle Fanning, Nicole Kidman, writer/director Sofia Coppola and Kirsten Dunst seen at the U.S. premiere of "The Beguiled" after-party at Sunset Tower, June 12, 2017, in Los Angeles.

    "We, as women, have to support female directors. That's just a given, now. Hopefully that will change over time, but everyone keeps saying ‘oh it's so different now, oh it's so different now.' It isn't. Listen to that."

    I'm Dan Friedell.

    Dan Friedell wrote this story for Learning English based on reports by VOANews, Reuters, Variety and The Guardian. Hai Do was the editor.

    Will you try to see more movies made by women? We want to know. Write to us in the Comments Section or on 51VOA.COM.


    Words in This Story

    record – n. a performance or achievement that is the best of its kind

    tune out – v. to stop paying attention to what other people are saying or doing : to become unaware of what is happening around you

    scale – n. the size or level of something especially in comparison to something else

    visionn. something that you imagine : a picture that you see in your mind

    beguilev. to attract or interest someone

    boarding schooln. a school where students can live during the school term

    hustlev. to get (something, such as money) in an illegal or improper way

    viraladj. spreading very quickly to many people especially through the Internet

    basen. the bottom or lowest part of something

    bonusn. an extra amount of money that is given to an employee