Emily Blunt has found critical success (if not quite blockbuster megabucks) in action flicks like “Looper” and “Edge of Tomorrow.” But she almost got shut out of the crime thriller “Sicario,” which competes for this year’s Palme d’Or at Cannes.
She isn’t a man.
Denis Villeneuve, the film’s director, confirmed at Cannes that screenwriter Taylor Sheridan was asked to change the gender of the protagonist. The request came before Villeneuve was on board. “The screenplay was written some years ago, and people were afraid that the lead part was a female character, and I know several times [Sheridan] had been asked to rewrite the role,” said Villeneuve. “When I got involved, the script was as it is, and I embraced it, as did Black Label and Thunder Road. But the pressure came before, and these guys had the guts to keep it as it was.”
This “fear” about centering a movie around a female character is unwarranted, as movies about women are in fact more profitable than those about men. If you recall, investors also pressured Alfonso Cuarón to change Sandra Bullock’s character in “Gravity” to a man. The sci-fi thriller did just fine at the box office with Bullock in the cockpit, grossing over $715 million worldwide. How many other female-led films end up having the gender of the main character swapped before production begins due to the ignorance and fear-based paranoia about the marketability of movies focused on women?
Blunt plays an FBI agent in “Sicario” and prepared for the role by speaking with female Bureau agents and undergoing training with the DEA in New Mexico. She compared her character’s experience as a female agent to women’s experiences in Hollywood, saying, “She is trying to survive in a predominately male-driven profession.” Blunt then rejected the description of “tough female” being applied to her role in the film. The actress explained, “I get asked to do a lot of these roles, but I don’t see them as ‘tough.’ You can’t compartmentalize strong women like that — they are far more complex. This character is damaged and troubled, struggling with the morally questionable things she experiences.”
Blunt continued, “The FBI agents I spoke to are just normal girls: They go home and watch ‘Downton Abbey.’ You definitely would want to have a beer with them. I found it interesting to get under the skin of being a female cop: what it costs you, how it affects your marriage, how you cope with the men working alongside you.”
Blunt also vocalized her disapproval about shoegate, calling Cannes’ pressure — or unwritten policy — for women to wear heels at red carpet events “very disappointing.”
“Sicario” arrives in theatres September 18.
[via The Guardian]