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Inspired by the 2005 documentary of the same name, Our Brand Is Crisis tells the story of political strategist “Calamity” Jane Bodine (Sandra Bullock) as she comes out of a self-imposed retirement to help manage the campaign of a struggling Bolivian presidential candidate. While the only thing that seems to stand in Bodine’s way is her arch nemesis and consultant for the opposition, Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton), Bullock herself had to overcome a different challenge when she decided to take on the lead role in the film, namely that of George Clooney.
Bullock’s role was initially written for a man, with Clooney set to take the part. After searching for years for the right part, Bullock finally landed on the lead in Our Brand Is Crisis, with Clooney staying on as producer. Politics and gender were hot topics at the film’s L.A. premiere Monday night at the TCL Chinese Theatre.
“Why do the boys always get the great comedies that weren’t romantic comedies? I just wanted to find something … I love physical comedy. I just started hunting four or five years ago,” Bullock explained on her desire to adapt a male part.
Adapting a role meant for Clooney to one for Bullock wasn’t actually that difficult for the filmmakers. In fact, it was quite easy, according to producer Grant Heslov: “We really didn’t change much at all. We changed the name, obviously, and a few little gender things, but other than that, we didn’t change much.”
Bullock’s co-star Zoe Kazan, who plays the strong but for the most part silent LeBlanc echoed, “You’d like to think there are a million great roles already written for women that she could step right into. … I think it works beautifully. You would never know.”
While Bullock transcends boundaries with her role in Our Brand Is Crisis, issues of gender inequality in Hollywood have recently received increased attention, particularly following Jennifer Lawrence’s recent op-ed on the gender pay gap. But Bullock doesn’t think pay disparity is the fundamental issue. “Money is the byproduct. It’s just how we treat women and how we perceive women in general,” she said. “I keep saying, ‘Why are we thought of as less-than?’ The money is secondary; it’s about how we look at the gender in general. I hope in my lifetime we’ll see a shift. … Maybe someone will blaze a trail.”
But Bullock can definitely consider herself a trailblazer, at least in the eyes of Participant Media’s Jeff Skoll, who praised Bullock’s performance and passion: “If nothing else, this film is breaking boundaries. It’s pretty exciting.” As for how to encourage future roles for women, Skoll offers basic advice for studios and content creators: “It’s pretty simple, just write ‘she’ instead of ‘he’ and then go from there.”
Our Brand Is Crisis hits theaters nationwide Oct. 30.
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Sundance Film Festival
Sundance Film Festival