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Ellen Burstyn to Direct Her First Film, Lake Bell Her Second

Ellen Burstyn to Direct Her First Film, Lake Bell Her Second

Ellen Burstyn will join Jodie Foster, Angelina Jolie, and Lake Bell among the (unfortunately not-so-large) ranks of actresses-turned-directors.  

According to Deadline, the 81-year-old Burstyn will helm a character study called Bathing Flo, about a NYC man who agrees to house-sit for a place to live and finds that his responsibilities include taking care of an elderly woman, Flo. The script is by first-time writer Lauren Lake, along with Danny Brocklehurst and Danny Sherman. 

Burstyn had initially wanted to begin her directing career with Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, a film she ultimately hired Martin Scorsese to direct (thus launching his career). Admittedly, it was a great hire, since Burstyn won a Best Actress Oscar for Alice, though it’s too bad Alice remains Scorsese’s only female protagonist. As for her delayed feature debut, Burstyn blames her busy acting schedule and good ol’ fashioned Hollywood sexism. 

“A long time ago in the 1970s, when AFI initiated a directing workshop for women, I was in the first one,” Burstyn recalls. “I made a nice little film and thought I should direct, but I was so busy acting, and every time I’d bring it up, it was something that was always sort of discouraged for women. It’s easier now, and when they sent me this Bathing Flo script to act in, I began picturing scenes I just loved. And they loved the way I pictured it, and I just thought, ‘Why am I not directing this?’

“Back in the 1970s, the idea of a woman directing was pretty unheard of,” she continued. “When I brought Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore to John Calley at Warner Bros, he asked me then if I wanted to direct it. I said I didn’t feel I was ready to act and direct at the same time. AFI made me more confident, but somehow it never came together and I never got asked again the way that John asked me. And I never found something I really felt I wanted to direct, until now.”

As for Bell, the writer-director of In a World has announced her sophomore directing project. Bell will adapt Claire Messud’s bestselling novel The Emperor’s Children, about three late-twentysomething writers and filmmakers in New York who circle around a famous journalist before and after 9/11, while a couple of newcomers in their social circle threaten the trio’s friendship.

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