Elizabeth Banks Pushes for More Female Directors After Record-Breaking Debut

Austin Hargrave
Elizabeth Banks

"I definitely feel a responsibility to advocate on behalf of other women getting behind the camera," says the 'Pitch Perfect 2' director-producer and THR Power 100 honoree.

This story first appeared in the Dec. 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Banks topped off her banner year by hosting Saturday Night Live for the first time Nov. 14, opening the show by "directing" her own monologue in which she sang and danced to "Flashdance … What a Feeling." The actress, known for her roles in comedies and dramas ranging from 30 Rock and The 40-Year-Old Virgin to The Hunger Games and this year's Brian Wilson biopic Love & Mercy, said on the show that she'd been bitten by the "directing bug." Millions of fans around the world are happy she was: Her directorial debut, Pitch Perfect 2, opened to $69 million in May — the highest domestic opening ever for a first-time director.

"I felt a real responsibility as a filmmaker who happens to be a woman to deliver on the film," says Banks, who also produced the movie via Brownstone Productions, which she runs with husband Max Handelman. "I set out with the goal of making a bigger movie, a more blockbuster-sized version of Pitch Perfect."

After the Universal sequel went on to earn $286.6 million worldwide, directing offers started rolling in, and Banks signed on to helm a new Charlie's Angels for Sony.

"The original ethos of women who graduated from the police academy, and then were given the jobs of crossing guard and meter maid, I feel like that's still very real in the world right now," says the star, who also is attached to direct and produce the adaptation of YA hit Red Queen, a book she became interested in after starring as Effie Trinket in the Hunger Games franchise. Banks also will return to direct Universal's third Pitch Perfect film, slated for release in July 2017.

"I definitely feel a responsibility to advocate on behalf of other women getting behind the camera," says Banks, a mother of two boys.

The Massachusetts-born actress, who served on the Venice Film Festival jury in September and was nominated for an Emmy for her guest actress work on Modern Family this year, recently signed on to star in the war drama Rita Hayworth With a Hand Grenade.

"I'd like to play more lead roles," she says, "which is such a ridiculous thing to say now that I'm not 26 and an ingenue. The ingenues usually have to play with the boys, and I'm much less interested in being the support system for a man in a movie."

WHAT I WISH I KNEW WHEN I FIRST STARTED IN HOLLYWOOD "How to dress better."

SUPERPOWER I WISH I HAD "Invisibility"

THE HOLLYWOOD CAREER I COVET "Tom Hanks"

FAVORITE TV SHOW (THE I'M NOT INVOLVED WITH) "Game of Thrones"

INDUSTRY PET PEEVE "I have many, but I don't think there are any I'm willing to say as I'm an employee most of the time."

Other Power Squad honorees: Shari Redstone, Bonnie HammerCindy Holland, Kathleen Kennedy, Donna Langley, Nancy Dubuc, Jennifer Lawrence, Dana Walden, Megyn Kelly, Shonda Rhimes, Viola Davis, Kerry Washington, Ilene Chaiken, Taraji P. Henson, Barbara Broccoli, Amy Schumer

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