Entertainment & Arts

Julianne Moore movie sees women 'call the shots'

Maggie's Plan Image copyright Sony Pictures
Image caption Julianne Moore (right) and Greta Gerwig star in Rebecca Miller's comedy about a woman who decides to get her partner back with his ex-wife

The lack of diversity within the film industry has been the major talking point of 2016. Yet, when statistics show only a fifth of films have a female protagonist, and women directors are outnumbered nine to one in Hollywood, along comes Maggie's Plan - a movie written and directed by a woman, and with two female stars.

Julianne Moore and Greta Gerwig star in Rebecca Miller's comedy about a woman who decides to get her partner back with his ex-wife. Moore says: "It's about the fallacy that we can control our lives and our relationships, to produce a certain result. It doesn't work that way."

Gerwig plays Maggie, the control-freak heroine, who begins the film planning to find a sperm donor as she thinks it's the right time to have a child, while Ethan Hawke plays the married lecturer she falls for. Moore takes on the role of ex-wife Georgette, a slightly eccentric Danish-born New Yorker.

Nevertheless, the film's script centres around the two female leads - still a rare thing, according to the Geena Davis Institute of Gender in Media, which in 2014 found that only 23% of films had a leading female character.

Moore says it "was women calling the shots in this picture".

"It's refreshing," she says. "It was very female-heavy on set, and that's what happens when you have a woman, in this case Rebecca, at the helm."

"Ethan Hawke told me he has made around 40 films but that I was the first woman director he had worked with," says Miller.

"I suppose that gives you an idea of where we are with the statistics, of the ratio of working female directors to male."

Image copyright Sony Pictures
Image caption Julianne Moore says she rarely gets offered comedy scripts

"There's been a lot of talk about diversity in film-making this year, and the only way that will happen is if you have diverse kinds of film-makers," says Moore.

"When you talk about a story being told from a female point of view, it's generally because a woman has written it or is telling that story."

An Oscar winner for her depiction of a woman with Alzheimer's disease in Still Alice in 2015, the actress also worked with Lisa Chodolenko on the critically acclaimed 2010 drama The Kids Are All Right, which focused on the story of a lesbian couple.

Since then, Moore believes she has "met more female directors than before... [but] there's a long way to go".

"Having this conversation in itself is a significant change," she says.

However, while other successful actresses, including Angelina Jolie and Elizabeth Banks, have also made the leap into directing, Moore is less keen.

Image copyright Sony Pictures
Image caption Director Rebecca Miller says she found the idea for the film in a book called The End of Men by Karen Rinaldi

"I feel like I would rather do a project first and then announce it later, rather than announce it first and never do it," she says.

New York-based Miller, who is also a novelist, says she found the idea in a book by Karen Rinaldi, The End of Men, which the author sent her before finding a publisher.

"It had the story of Maggie and the switch she tries to make, and I thought it was a fabulous idea and one I should try to adapt," she says.

"Karen's story was more serious, but I thought the premise was wonderfully absurd.

"I added storylines and characters on from there. I think the look I really wanted was from those screwball romantic comedies of the 1940s."

Moore says she rarely gets offered comedy scripts and therefore deciding whether to do Maggie's Plan was "a bit of a no-brainer".

She says: "Rebecca and I have been friends for so long, I had a small part in The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, which Rebecca also directed. We live in the same neighbourhood, we have kids the same age, we've even both been with our respective husbands for around 20 years.

Image copyright Sony Pictures
Image caption Ethan Hawke plays the married lecturer that Greta Gerwig's character Maggie falls for

"But this isn't an average comedy. Rebecca's very smart; she wanted to make a very romantic comedy that takes in the complications of modern life. One of those is the breakdown of relationships, and though I am not an expert on it, ask anyone who's been divorced, and they'll tell you it's miserable.

"Relationships are challenging, and I think that it's important not to be black and white about something. I think some people make it through and some people don't, and some people split up and wish they hadn't split up. That's why the film is so clever.

"Society is chaotic - we try and put all these structures in place, including time, to try and make sense of it all, but really all these different orders like community, government, religion - they are just ways to try and figure out the chaos."

The actress will next work with director Todd Haynes, on her fourth project with him, a film called Wonderstruck, based on a novel. She says "there's no grand strategy with my work, although it was lovely to be given the Oscar last year".

"It's nice to think that your name was on a list and people had to tick the box and bothered to vote for you," she says.

"I never even had a plan with making any of my films, or a career plan, just to tell interesting stories - and I am not sure that any of my films have anything in common, there's no correlation between them.

"And I wouldn't say there's a correlation between myself and any of the characters I've played either. So it's an interesting supposition, that Maggie can make a plan in life. Poor Maggie doesn't have a chance."

Maggie's Plan is released in UK cinemas on 8 July.

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