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Women in Motion Part II: Frances McDormand

Women in Motion Part II: Frances McDormand

At The Kering Foundation’s conference ‘Women in Motion’ in Cannes this year, Frances McDormand sat down on the stage to speak with The Hollywood Reporter’s deputy
editorial director Alison Brower.


She
began by changing her flat shoes to heels which matched the print of her dress. I wish I had been able to film her giving her version of a ‘Woman in
Motion’. “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.

You can see her and hear the full 40 minute version of the talk:
https://vimeo.com/129555924

She dissed “waiting for someone to give you a role. A woman in motion does not wait for a role.” She herself has created a new HBO series “ Olive Kitteridge” and is working on another based upon Michael Pollan’s best selling
book The Omnivore’s Adventure. Focusing on the politics of food, she will zero in on the story in the second half of the book about a seasoned and a
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.”

Frances acknowledged that women are most often shown in relationship to the male protagonists: as the mothers, sisters, girlfriends, wives, etc. of the
male protagonist. She has made a specialty of this sort of supporting role very consciously and she knows she is good in these sorts of supporting roles.



See Frances explain the difference between movie stars and actors, female action heroes in franchises and equal pay, backend and upfront deals.

Frances always wanted an actor’s life: to have that, you need a script, you need to meet someone who will give you a role. You get a script and you can
act. When she was not getting roles, she optioned Every Secret Thing, a novel
with many unredeemable women protagonists. It was not a great production, but it was a great effort. It was released a week ago. She
finds women do better in longer scenes.

She read the novel just after seeing “The Wire” which transformed how she (and the world) perceived TV. Admittedly, she said, she does not watch TV. This
comes not as a snobbish admission but from her inability to use the remote controls to turn the TV on and choose channels.

However she does see an answer to women’s productions in cable television.

Watch her explain that and that “money is what females in film need”.

Weighing in on the so-called “flatgate” issue roiling Cannes all week, she said, “I’m much more of a sneaker person, but I think they think that
flats are the road to ruin.” For 30 years she has been coming to Cannes and wearing high heels 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 also remarked that most women can’t
walk in high platform stiletto shoes. “I say flats.”

In a similar vein, McDormand felt that the red carpet ceremony has changed, with “a lot of people stepping on trains [of dresses] as they try to find the
best angle for the shot”. She also believes it’s got tackier and tackier, with more nakedness, “more see-through”, and that it’s less about “what suits
you”. She admitted she buys her own garments, “because I can’t fit into the free clothes”.

McDormand talked of the intersection of fashion, branding and money: “We’re all in bed together but none of it’s quite working”. She went on to say that
she loves fashion, pointing to her matching shoes and skirt and pronouncing: “Come on: this is not a mistake!”

On the subject of feminism, she noted that the word “got branded a little bit askew.” And “having it all” also was taken out of context. Women never wanted
to have it all. They wanted to be able to experience whatever they chose, but they never did want all of it. Feminism, then as now, was primarily about
equal pay for equal work, commensurate with what males were paid.

“I haven’t been given that,” she said. In answer to her question about what female actor got paid equally to men, an audience member named Meryl Streep as
an actress that can command a male-sized salary. McDormand responded: “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 only for a short
time and 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.”

“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.

“We don’t need more initiatives; we need money”. “We’re keeping the world back; we don’t need help; we need money”, she repeated.

McDormand quoted some statistics that prove films about women can be popular and profitable. “Pitch Perfect 2”, directed by a woman and starring
mostly women, cost $29 million to make and grossed $70.3 million the first weekend. “Mad Max Fury Road” cost a lot more, $150m, and grossed a lot less,
$44.4m, on its opening.

You can watch all the speakers live on The Kering Group videos here:
https://vimeo.com/keringgroup/videos

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