Produced By: Nancy Meyers Calls the Critical Fixation on Her Films' Kitchens "a Cheap Shot"

Vera Anderson
Nancy Meyers

The 'Something's Gotta Give' filmmaker was in conversation with 'Late Night' writer-star Mindy Kaling at this year's conference.

The "Nancy Meyers kitchen" conjures an immediate image to fans of the writer-director's comedies. It's airy, light-filled and often comes complete with a fresh bowl of seasonal citrus.

At the 2019 Produced By conference, Meyers was in conversation with Mindy Kaling, who asked the Something's Gotta Give filmmaker about how she feels about the media's obsession with her onscreen kitchens.

"I often think that male writers focus on those aspects of the movie because they can't relate to the central problems of your protagonists — for instance, a 62-year-old-woman's children have left the house and she has an empty nest," notes Kaling. "That would irate me. Do you ever feel like your movies are misunderstood?"

"Not by the people who go to them, which is all that really matter," Meyers began. "I don't love when a critic or journalist will pick up on that aspect, because they are missing the boat and they are missing why [the movie] works."

"It is a cheap shot," added Meyers, who noted that the media would likely not write about the kitchens in the films from male directors. "It's never done to male directors who make gorgeous-looking movies, where the leads live in a great house. It's never brought up. With me, it's an easy thing to go after, but I am not going to change it."

Meyers also lamented about the lost days of the mid-budgeted comedies in 1980s and 1990s Hollywood. "When my first movie Private Benjamin opened up in October and left the theaters in March, that was normal," said Meyers of her 1980 feature, which was released by Warner Bros.

For her part, Meyers asked Kaling, whose Sundance breakout Late Night is currently in theaters in a limited release, if she wished that she was making movies in the '80s and '90s, during the studio romantic comedy's heyday. 

"The true, sad answer to that question is that I am not sure that someone like me would be able to make a movie back then when the budgets were so big," answered Kaling. "Maybe this is because I am an Indian woman working now, but big budgets and more days [reminds me about] horror stories about being in filmmaker prison. Keeping budgets really low is something that can protect you."

Near the end of their conversation, Kaling asked Meyers if she was currently working on anything. "I am taking a break," said the filmmaker of her years-long absence from writing. The last Meyers-penned comedy was 2015's The Intern, starring Robert De Niro. "The business has changed in a way that is somewhat unrecognizable to me. I am not sure how much I want to do it."

Retorted Kaling: "I want to force you to write."