Crystal + Lucy Honorees Kerry Washington, Cate Blanchett Reveal Biggest Breaks, Toughest Gigs and Best Advice
This story first appeared in the June 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
On June 11, five distinct women will be feted at the Crystal + Lucy Awards, held at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza. The 12th installment of Women in Film's annual awards ceremony will honor the on- and offscreen achievements of Cate Blanchett, 45; Rose Byrne, 34; Frozen director Jennifer Lee, 43; Kerry Washington, 37; and Eva Longoria, 39.
The honorees sound off on why you don't get just one big break in Hollywood, why integrating more women into the business is crucial for storytelling and the famous ladies they consider their industry idols.
Crystal Award for Excellence in Film
BIG BREAK: It would have to have been being cast in Oleanna, [playwright] David Mamet's searing two-hander, at the Sydney Theatre Company. The play was explosive. During and after the run was the first time I think my agent had to field any calls about me.
BEST CAREER ADVICE: "Stop crying and do it again."
INDUSTRY IDOLS: Kathleen Kennedy and Amy Adams because they are brilliant at what they do -- blending genius with practical application. But they are genuinely nurturing and enthusiastic about the work of others. They have subtle, enduring panache.
Max Mara Face of the Future
PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE: I've been very lucky to have "breaks" in different genres but have found it pretty futile to do much planning in this business. I'd long desired to do comedy and hung in there long enough to get some auditions. I feel very grateful to have been a part of the television renaissance. FX's Damages was a huge break and turning point for me.
BRIDESMAIDS BREAKOUT: I've never been a part of something so universally beloved. It's a unique experience, which I treasure. I will also never become a bridezilla due to my crash course in wedding etiquette.
FAVORITE SCRIPT: The upcoming Shawn Levy film, This Is Where I Leave You, straddles the tones of the comic and tragic so beautifully. In the film, which comes out in September, I play an old flame of Jason Bateman's character whose path crosses again with his. I was completely spoiled. I spent an entire summer [acting] in beautifully written scenes between two characters reconnecting in a heightened, fragile and vital passage of their lives.
REMAKE WORRIES: Remaking a classic is nerve-racking. I grew up watching Annie, so I was constantly worrying if we were doing it right [for the forthcoming film]. I realized I had to [relax]. It's a reimagining of the story more so than a remake. Once we hit the ground and all dived in together, I knew we were going to have fun. I got to sing and dance and be charmed by Jamie Foxx. Quvenzhane Wallis was dynamite -- her unabashed enthusiasm was infectious and inspiring, and her lack of self-consciousness was a delight.
ON WIF: It's a brilliant organization, and I can't believe I am among the women being honored. It's so important to promote women in the industry, ensure we have a voice and are representing onscreen in all forms, whether it's acting, producing, cinematography or directing. It makes for richer stories and better art.
Dorothy Arzner Directors Award
BIG BREAK: When Phil Johnston [writer of Cedar Rapids and Wreck-It Ralph] asked if I would be willing to move to California with one week's notice to work on Wreck-It Ralph. My very first meeting at Disney was with John Lasseter, and I knew this is where I fit. I have not looked back since.
BEST AND WORST CAREER ADVICE: Best: "Just find a way to say it better" (from Lasseter). I think of that every time I write. Worst: "The odds are you won't make it in this business, so you should probably quit."
MOST REWARDING JOB: Frozen, Frozen, Frozen.
UNEXPECTED HOLLYWOOD: I have been pleasantly surprised at just how warm, creative and collaborative people have been here.
OFF THE CLOCK: I want to be doing anything with my daughter.
DREAM DAY OFF: I'll tell you when I get a day off.
LESSONS LEARNED: There is no need or room for self-doubt. It's OK to believe in yourself and move on.
INDUSTRY IDOLS: It is a tie between John Lasseter and Emma Thompson -- they are both creative, passionate geniuses.
DREAM DINNER PARTY: The cast of Boogie Nights, the cast of Sense and Sensibility and U2.
Norma Zarky Humanitarian Award
BIG BREAK: Everybody likes the story of the single big break, but that's not how it usually happens. I flew here 20 years ago, and I did extra work for two years. My first contract character was on The Young and the Restless, but I wouldn't have called that a big break. If I hadn't done everything before that, I don't think I would have been prepared for that opportunity. It was an amazing job, and then after that, I got another break, L.A. Dragnet on ABC. When that was canceled, they gave me the script for Desperate Housewives and said: "We might make this as a pilot; we're not sure. Take a look and see what you think."
BEST ADVICE: [Law & Order creator] Dick Wolf told me when I started producing: "Create what your heart wants to do and stick to your guns. Network people are temporary people making permanent decisions." I've always thought that was funny because when you work in network TV, the cycle of producing and creating and developing is a constant uphill battle for producers, and so I thought, Dick Wolf is pretty savvy and smart. He just said, "Find something you're passionate about and stick to it."
MOST REWARDING PROJECT: Frontera, a film that I just finished with Ed Harris and Michael Pena, where I play an immigrant to the U.S. who doesn't speak English and encounters a lot of hardship, including rape. It was a very intense role I had to play, but I was honored to be able to humanize the issue of immigration through this woman's story.
TOUGHEST GIG: I just did a movie with Demian Bichir that he directed called Refugio. I had to be an acrobatic horsewoman, so I had to do fun stuff on a horse.
OFF THE CLOCK: My philanthropy work [for Latino causes, politics and the arts] is my life work. I do it more than acting now. Between my foundation and traveling all over the world helping women and children create better lives for themselves and their family, it's been time-consuming but the most rewarding thing I've ever done.
LESSONS LEARNED: We have to create our own opportunities. It's no secret that roles for women are few. As a producer and a director and a writer, you're able to create your own destiny at some point in your career. I'd like to see more women behind the camera.
INDUSTRY IDOLS: I love Robert Rodriguez. I know he's a man! But I love that he writes and produces and directs and scores. He's a mad genius when it comes to content. I love how he started in the beginning to becoming one of the best filmmakers of all time to owning his own network now. All of that is admirable.
DREAM DINNER PARTY: Maya Angelou, Jesus Christ, Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Cesar Chavez, Susan B. Anthony -- social justice leaders.
IDEAL DAY OFF: Read and sleep, two things I rarely get to do. I'm also a spa junkie.
Lucy Award for Excellence in Television
OPPORTUNITY DOESN't KNOCK ONCE: I think of my career not in big breaks but waves of opportunity. To do my first film, first studio film. To do Ray, The Last King of Scotland, working with David Mamet and Shondaland [Shonda Rhimes]. Each project brings a new challenge and is an important step on the journey of what I hope is a long career.
BEST CAREER ADVICE: I don't remember exactly which teacher said it, but along the way someone told me, "Never stop studying." I've tried to follow that advice and remain a student in work and life.
MOST REWARDING ROLE: Playing Olivia Pope on ABC's Scandal is so rewarding. I love working in TV because it combines so many of the things that I love about working in theater -- staying with a character over a long period of time, attention to language and being part of a solid community of artists. It is also spectacular to be given the words that we are given each week and to be a part of such a phenomenal ensemble of actors. I also love working in film because of the intimacy of working on camera and having new material to explore every day.
INDUSTRY HINDSIGHT: I'm glad I didn't know more about Hollywood when I started. My naivete allowed me to dream.
OFF THE CLOCK: I love being of service, especially with regard to arts advocacy and the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities.
DREAM DAY OFF: Being with family.
LESSONS LEARNED: Rather than focus on a lack of opportunity, we can choose to create opportunity for ourselves and others. Shonda is a phenomenal example of a woman who, in the pursuit of her own fulfillment, has allowed for the fulfillment of many people's dreams. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are other great examples of women who have done this.
INDUSTRY IDOLS: Jane Fonda, Diahann Carroll, Rita Moreno and Barbra Streisand are a few big ones. Women who have courageously carved out careers for themselves as leaders, innovators, groundbreakers and bold artists.
DREAM DINNER PARTY: My fellow Crystal+Lucy honorees this year would be pretty amazing. … Sadly, we'll all be at different tables!