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The Women in Motion panels continued at Cannes with actress and producer Frances McDormand, who delighted the crowd with a frank and funny discussion of women in the industry.
The latest of the talks, presented by The Hollywood Reporter and luxury group Kering, was moderated by deputy editorial director Alison Brower.
McDormand delighted the crowd when she took to the stage and immediately changed from sneaker-style shoes to high heels.
“Just like Ginger Rogers knew with Fred Astaire, you have to do it backwards and in heels,” she joked about the famous adage that women have to work harder and smarter to be seen as achieving the same level of success as men.
The Oscar-winner also weighed in on the so-called “flatgate” issue that had sparked debate in Cannes all week.
“I’m much more of a sneaker person, but I think they think that flats are the road to ruin and I’m going to end up in [sneakers] on the red carpet.” She said she has been coming to the festival for 30 years and wearing the apparently obligatory heel on the red carpet.
“But we all know that Roger Vivier makes a beautiful flat that is more more elegant than some of … these shoes women are wearing now,” she said, noting that most women can’t walk in high platform stiletto shoes. “I say flats,” she concluded.
McDormand addressed the definition of feminism, saying the word “got branded a little bit askew.”
“So that ‘having it all’ was taken completely out of context. Having it all is not what the movement was saying was going to happen, the movement was saying we have the right to experience everything that we choose. But the main point was equal pay for equal work,” she said.
“I haven’t been given that,” she said. Earlier in the conversation, when one audience member cited Meryl Streep as an actress that can command a male-sized salary, McDormand countered: “I doubt that she has ever been paid commensurately with the male movie stars she’s worked with.” She also noted that as an actor, she has received her going quote only once, on Transformers 3, and even that was less than a male actor of similar status’ rate.
“I worked very hard for that money, I’m very proud of my work. I’m glad I did that film and I’m proud that I finally got paid what I was told I was worth by the industry,” she said. “But that is nothing. That is a tenth of what most males my age, with my experience and my reputation as a film actor make. We’ve never been paid commensurately and that has to change.”
Young female movie stars such as Jennifer Lawrence and Shailene Woodley, who head up big action franchises, do have earning power but she believes it’s temporary and still unequal.
“For a short period of time, but never for as long as most male movie stars,” she said, differentiating between a handful of big “movie stars” and working actors.
Repeatedly throughout the talk, McDormand returned to a mantra, “give us the money,” and said the lack of female directors is not a numbers problem, but a perception problem.
“It has a lot to do with how we’ve ghettoized females, and we’ve allowed ourselves to be ghettoized and marginalized. … We don’t need a lot of initiatives for women in film, what we need is money.”
“We’re keeping the conversation back a little bit by saying we need help. We don’t need help, we need money. We need platforms, we need voices, but we don’t need help,” she said.
McDormand, who developed the DGA-winning Olive Kitteridge after a long period of resistance after interesting projects started to dry up as she aged, credits the success of her first producing endeavor to her experience at home.
“One of the reasons I am successful as a producer is that I’ve been a very successful housewife. All the skills of housewifery are the ones I’m using as a producer. I don’t mean that facetiously because it’s a f—ing job, it’s a hard job.”
One of her upcoming projects is developing a script based on Michael Pollan’s bestselling book The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Though the book focuses on the politics of food, she is focusing on the story in the latter half of the book of a seasoned and new hunter.
“A man goes on a hunt with another man, butchers that animal with his own hands and then eats that animal, knowing full well what he’s done. And for me that is the most cinematically interesting part. I’m going to be one of those people. I’m going to be the guide of the other person taking him on that journey,” she said, finishing: “I’m going to be the man.”
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