UPDATE: Director Kimberly Peirce has plans to rewrite and resuscitate her long in the works, Judd Apatow-shepherded queer comedy “Butch Academy.” She told the Playlist that the project “had transmen transitioning, it had butches and straight men
sharing advice about how to please women. It crosses some boundaries.” In other words, it’s edgy for a studio comedy, which helps to explain why Universal has shelved it since 2009. If her remake of “Carrie” does well at the box office this month, then maybe “Butch Academy” will have the momentum to move forward. Let’s hope so.
EARLIER: After Fox Searchlight released the Brandon Teena saga “Boys Don’t Cry” in 1999, it made the career of eventual Oscar-winner Hilary Swank. And the film should have done the same for director Kimberly Peirce, who sweated bullets to get that first feature made—and has continued to do so until now. This is a recurring pattern with gifted women directors, especially those with a strong personal voice. As recounted in The New York Times Magazine by editor-writer Mary Kaye Schilling, Peirce’s story underscores the tragedy of many such lost careers. According to Schilling, Peirce is back with MGM’s new movie adaptation of Stephen King’s “Carrie” (October 18), made in consultation with the first film’s director, Brian De Palma, and starring an actual 16-year-old, Chloe Grace Moretz, in the title role and Julianne Moore as her Bible-thumping mother.
After “Boys Don’t Cry,” it took Peirce nine years to complete another feature film, as she turned down studio pictures such as “Memoirs of a Geisha.” Her second feature, Paramount’s well-reviewed $25 million “Stop-Loss,” a rigorous and idiosyncratic look at the war at home starring Ryan Philippe and Channing Tatum, had the misfortune of coming out during the gung-ho Bush years.
MGM president of the Motion Picture Group Jonathan Glickman approached Peirce to direct “Carrie.” When she read the book again, she told Schilling:
“Oh, these are all my issues: I deal with misfits, with what power does to people, with humiliation and anger and violence. Like Brandon, Carrie has gone through life getting beaten up by everyone. She’s got no safe place. And then she finds telekinesis — her talent, her skill — and it becomes her refuge. And I thought, Wow, this is an opportunity to make a superhero-origin story. With her period comes the power. With adolescence comes sexuality, and with sexuality comes power.”
Schilling dives into how rare Peirce is, as an active member of the Motion-Picture Academy and the Directors Guild, in an industry that ignores content for women and hires men over women most of the time. A recent study found that only 9 percent of the 250 top-grossing movies in 2012 were directed by women. As the panelists said at Comic-Con’s “Women Who Kick-Ass,” on male-dominated sets women often wind up walking delicately —and questioning their own behavior. “And then you’re wondering,” Peirce told Schilling, “Is it O.K., as a girl, that I’m muscling this much?”