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‘The Devil Wears Prada’ At 10: Meryl Streep and More on How Their Risky Project Became a Massive Hit

On the 10th anniversary of the Fourth of July weekend opening of "The Devil Wears Prada," we go behind the scenes with Meryl Streep and the key players for a play-by-play of how the movie got made.

The Devil Wears Prada

“The Devil Wears Prada”

Fox 2000


Elizabeth Gabler: We didn’t want it to just seem like a chic flick coming out. We knew we had a female audience. Tom Rothman and Jim Gianopulos were really creative in the way we marketed the movie because we tried a number of trailers and felt they weren’t showing uninitiated audiences how good the movie was. I don’t think that any of those guys knew what the movie could be. They expected it to be successful, to capture female audiences, and because Anne Hathaway was so inspirational to younger audiences from all of the other work she had done before, they felt like we had a good grasp on both the female demographics. But I don’t think they ever expected the international box office to be what it was and for us to do that huge number that we did.

The July 4th weekend was counter-programming. The core marketing was definitely to women, but the men didn’t resist going to the movie. Two reasons: they were interested in the world— and in a woman in that kind of a job because she was so good, she was enjoyable for them to watch. And then, they actually liked it so they talked about it. The timing of it was so great because it was just as summer was kicking off and people were gathering for all of these different functions and BBQs in all different places. So they were talking about it, like a summer reading book.

Stanley Tucci, Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway and David Frankel

Stanley Tucci, Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway and David Frankel at “The Devil Wears Prada” photocall at the Venice Film Festival

Photo by Tim Rooke/REX/Shutterstock

So many people around the world were captivated by the glossy fashion world. It was sexy and international. We did our European premiere at the Venice Film Festival and all the boatmen had red t-shirts in Italian: “El Diavalo Veste Prada.” Valentino’s boat was there and he partied and he was at the junket.

The movie was so relatable: the character moves to the big city and has her first job and it’s this boss from hell and gets a makeover. Hard work and brains win out.

Aline Brosh McKenna: We showed it at a benefit pre-premiere in May. Anna Wintour sat in front of David and I, the first time it was shown in public, I was scared witless. I covered a stress pimple with a makeup mountain. We were keenly aware of what a unique outcome this was. It was well-received critically and commercially. When we made it I was naive. I know now how rare it is to find situations where the stars align.


Elizabeth Gabler: “The Devil Wears Prada” definitely paved the way for the filmmakers and distributors of the world to know that there was a female audience that was really strong out there and that if you could get both younger and older, you had an even further role model. “Mama Mia” came after it, and our movie “27 Dresses.” We did “Bride Wars” with Annie and Kate Hudson. It was such a great way for us to be able to develop those movies and then, of course, what happens is you get a glut, you get the wannabes. And now there’s a glut of commercial movies. If you wanted to go see this kind of movie right now, it isn’t there. “Me Before You” is the closest one, a tear-jerking, young female driven movie based on a big book.

“Prada” reminds me of movies that we don’t have a lot of now — it harkens back to classic movies that had so much more than just one kind of plot line. I guess we just haven’t come up with enough unique stories to tell. That’s what I would love to find again. We have a couple projects in development that touch on it in different ways, but again, people keep trying to remake “9 to 5.” What is “9 to 5” now? So, we’re just trying to find an idea that’s fresh. I would love to find the right story. We’ve talked about doing one about a mother and daughter who end up working in the same place with completely different generational approaches to the workplace. You just keep wanting to find something that can touch upon the same zeitgeist as this film.

That’s the thing about these movies. You have to get it right. You can’t hide behind great car chases and visual effects and raunchy comedy jokes.

Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep in "The Devil Wears Prada"

Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada”

Meryl Streep: It’s easy for a female audience to identify with that male protagonist in movies. We’ve done it all our lives in fiction, novels and history, from Peter Pan on. We don’t identify with Tinker Bell, but with Peter, who can fly. The hardest thing for the male audience to do is to identify with the female protagonist. This was the first time, on any movie I have ever made, where men came up to me and said, “I know what you felt like, this is kind of like my life.” That was for me the most ground-breaking thing about “Devil Wears Prada” — it engaged men on a visceral level. It’s the hardest leap to make imaginatively and emotionally in every sense, empathetic male to female.

Men are always so shocked! shocked when movies succeed that don’t appeal to them. Guys who greenlight think these movies are undoable. “Prada” has to do with all the female executives and Tom’s female side, which is hefty. It’s a big surprise to everybody, when movies are about women and not about the boyfriends or men in their lives or who loves them or wherever is central to the action. I think that’s why, honestly, this had the anomalous response. My whole career, men say, “I loved you in ‘Deer Hunter.’” It was because they loved that girl. It’s a different thing to live through the character who is the protagonist. “Devil” was the first time I ever had that response.

But it’s not just me — nor women my age — it’s what the audience wants to see. I was playing a person. I’m sure she was rough and mean and thoughtless about other people’s feelings. But she was doing what she needed to do in her life.

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