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‘Wayne’s World’ Director Penelope Spheeris Sounds Off on Exiting Hollywood: ‘They Can Blow Me’

"You can’t screw up when you’re a woman," Spheeris says.

Penelope Spheeris

Penelope Spheeris

Jim Smeal/BEI/Shutterstock

Filmmaker Penelope Spheeris has not released a movie in theaters since the 2011 comedy “Balls to the Walls,” and she makes it definitely clear in a new interview with A.V. Club that she has no plans to direct in Hollywood again. It turns out Spheeris made a conscious decision to leave filmmaking and Hollywood behind after helming the 2012 television movie “The Real St. Nick.” The reason why? “Hollywood changed into something that I didn’t want to be a part of,” Spheeris said.

“It was too — it’s ugly,” she continued. “You have no friends in Hollywood. Hollywood is a lonely, lonely desert, especially as a woman.”

In exiting Hollywood, Spheeris put behind her a four-decade career in moviemaking. The director is best known for making the punk documentary “The Decline of Western Civilization” and narrative features “The Little Rascals,” “Senseless,” and “Wayne’s World” — IndieWire recently named “The Decline of Western Civilization” one of the 100 best movies directed by women of all time. For Spheeris, the inherent sexism within Hollywood was enough of a reason to get out.

“There’s no forgiveness,” Spheeris said. “Oliver Stone could go wreck a car and get arrested for being on drugs and then do ‘Alexander.’ But we can’t do that. Women can’t make mistakes. I’m not driving home tonight because I had a couple beers, you know? You can’t screw up when you’re a woman. One little mistake, and you’re done.”

Spheeris worked with Miramax on “Senseless” and remembered her time with Bob and Harvey Weinstein being especially brutal. “They kept rewriting it and rewriting it,” she said. “And I’m like, ‘Dude, you guys, this is not working. Don’t keep rewriting it. Let me just do the movie I signed up to do.’ But they kept rewriting it, and it’s in my contract that I got to do what they say, you know? And at one point, I said to Bob Weinstein, ‘I don’t think this works,’ and he goes, ‘This is my fucking money and I’m going to spend it any fucking way I want to.’ And how are you going to argue with that?”

“Senseless” ended up underperforming at the box office, indirectly putting Spheeris in director’s jail. No wonder she followed-up the 1998 comedy with independent documentaries such as “Hollyweird” in 1998 and “We Sold Our Souls for Rock ‘n Roll” in 2001. As Speeris said, “As a woman, when you do a movie that doesn’t do well, then you’re done.”

The years after “Senseless” proved to Spheeris that Hollywood just wasn’t the place for her. “It’s not like they go, ‘Okay, Penelope, you’re out of jail now. Let’s make a movie,'” she said. “At this point, I don’t want to make a movie. They can’t even fucking beg me to make a movie. I got to make a lot of money in the days when you could make a lot of money as a director, and I invested it right. I don’t need that anymore. It’s not like I’m bitter. I just feel like I went through too much pain.”

Asked whether she would return to making movies in the present day, Spheeris defiantly answered, “I don’t need them. I really don’t. Especially now, what am I going to do? Work for a year on a movie and make $50,000? They can blow me! That’s a quote. You can print that.”

Head over to A.V. Club to read Spheeris’ interview in its entirety.

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