Of the top 100 grossing leading men in Hollywood, 20 haven’t worked on a single film with a woman director, Cosmopolitan has revealed. The magazine compiled a list of the big screen’s A-list male stars, then sorted through their credits to see how many films they acted in, including small roles and animated voices, with female and male directors.
Among the household names that have never worked under a female director are Sean Connery (64 films) Sylvester Stallone (55 films), Ben Stiller (54 films), Matt Damon (51 films), Tom Cruise (38 films) and Tobey Maguire (24 films).
Twenty-one of the top 100 actors have worked with a woman director once. Those who have just one credit to their resume helmed by a woman include Christopher Walken (92 films), Nicolas Cage (70 films), Robert Downey, Jr. (63 films) and Brad Pitt (46 films). (Note: Pitt’s sole woman-directed film was written and directed by Angelina Jolie Pitt — his wife.)
Samuel L. Jackson (106 films), Johnny Depp (51 films), Ben Affleck (41 films) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (39 films) are among the 23 actors who worked with a woman director twice.
Sixteen of the top leading men, such as Michael Caine (109 films), Will Ferrell (39 films), Chris Rock (35 films) and Leonardo Dicaprio (28 films), have worked with female filmmakers three times.
Those who have worked with women directors four times include Robert Duvall (83 films), Stanley Tucci (80 films), Ben Kingsley (76 films), James Franco (64 films), Steve Martin (44 films), Christian Bale (40 films) and Seth Rogen (31 films).
Before any accusations are laid against these particular stars, it’s important to look at the bigger picture. Women directed only 9% of the top 100 grossing films of 2015. Women aren’t getting the opportunity to step behind the camera of the overwhelming majority of the biggest-budget, highest-profile movies — the kinds of roles that the highest-grossing actors typically gravitate to.
And, to be entirely honest, we’d predict that if Cosmo conducted a similar study on the top female stars and female directors, the results would remain disheartening. The numbers would undoubtedly be better — but by how much? (For sure, far from 50% of their credits would be in films made by women.) Cosmo points out that Melissa McCarthy, for example, has never worked with a woman director.
So yes, it is largely a systemic problem. Still, that doesn’t entirely excuse these dismal records, or those who are perpetuating the problem. While we doubt that many, if any, of these men are refusing to work with women directors, they definitely don’t seem to be going out of their way to combat Hollywood’s sexism by seeking them out. And these are the Hollywood players — the ones with enough star wattage — to get women directors hired on to projects. In our books, they bear some responsibility for earning a spot on this shameful list: complacency and inaction continue to do a lot of harm in the world of Hollywood gender dynamics. And some of these men have publicly identified as feminists.
We’re inclined to agree with “Selma” star David Oyelowo, who told Cosmo, “We can complain about inclusion or diversity or all these words that have now become buzz phrases, but if you have the ability to do anything about it and you don’t, you are part of the problem.”
“Punisher: War Zone” director Lexi Alexander commented, “Nobody can tell me Leo hasn’t heard about the fact that two percent of the top features are directed by women. If you have green-light power and you’re not being sure you’re directed by a woman, you’re making a deliberate choice.”
Oyelowo, for his part, starred in four women-directed movies in a row. He specified that he “had to actively pursue working with female directors,” but emphasized, “For me, it’s completely selfish, actually, because some of the best directors working today are women.”
Eight of the top 100 leading men have worked with a women five times or more, and this is a list we will reproduce in full: Antonio Banderas (77 films), Paul Giamatti (67 films), Keanu Reeves, (52 films), John Travolta (51 films), Tom Hanks (48 films), Mark Ruffalo (48 films), Ralph Fiennes (45 films) and Michael Keaton (42 films).
While Cosmo speculates that one reason some of the older actors haven’t been directed by a woman is because the percentage of women working in Hollywood as directors was even worst in the past. But these actors have continued to work through recent years, so we don’t really accept that explanation.
The mag rightfully points out that while some of these stars haven’t been in films directed by women, they’ve contributed to women working behind the scenes in other ways — working with female producers, executives and screenwriters, for instance. Tom Cruise cofounded Cruise-Wagner Productions with Paula Wagner, Brad Pitt cofounded Plan C Entertainment with Dede Gardner (and the company has coproduced films by Jolie, Rebecca Miller and Ava DuVernay) and while Robert Redford hasn’t acted with a female director, he did found the Sundance Institute, which funds research and offers resources for female filmmakers.