The Hollywood Reporter got a handful of this year’s leading female faces on screen.
How has each of you experienced change in Hollywood over the past year? Or how have you not?
KATHRYN HAHN I got a Laverne & Shirley credit on this movie [Tamara Jenkins’ fertility drama Private Life]. That’s when you are side by side with your co-star, which is a rarity. It usually would have been the dude and, you know, the gal.
GLENN CLOSE Was the dude happy about it?
HAHN You know, he was. It was Paul Giamatti. He was like, “Of course. This is exactly what should happen.”
LADY GAGA That’s what is so exciting with the #MeToo movement and Time’s Up, to see men coming to stand by our side and say, “We want you to be loud. We want to hear your voices.” It’s really remarkable.
NICOLE KIDMAN We got this film [Karyn Kusama’s undercover cop drama Destroyer] made, which probably would have been even harder before. I see that as part of the movement. And hopefully, there will be a lot more films with female directors.
CLOSE I’ve been a part of two films that took 14 years to make. The first one was [2011’s] Albert Nobbs and the second was [Bjorn Runge’s marital drama] The Wife. It was actually hard to find actors who wanted to be in a movie called The Wife. It’s two women writers. And, you know, starring a woman. No one wanted to [make it] and, most of the money, if not all the money, came from Europe.
GAGA Your character in that film, the importance of her voice is so powerful.
Looking back on your career through the lens of 2018, is there a time when you wish that you had spoken up?
CLOSE I had one very subtle moment, when I think back on it. Nothing that threatened me, but just so subtle. It was at an audition, and the very famous, very big actor that I was reading with put his hand on my thigh. It had nothing to do with the character. Or the scene. It just froze me up. Because you’re trying to do the scene, and all of a sudden you think, “Why is he doing that?” But now I realize … if I had said, “Oh, that feels good,” who knows what [he was] trying to elicit? Or if it was even conscious on his part? But I really understand the freeze syndrome.
GAGA It’s a trauma response.
REGINA KING I was talking to Maggie Gyllenhaal — just because we both have been acting for so long, and were young when we started — and I feel like I was very much aware of the pay differences between men and women. I knew it and I just said, “Yeah, OK. That’s there. But I’m focusing on the work.” So now it’s like, “Oh, shoot. I never had a conversation with any of my female peers that were experiencing the same thing.”
HAHN Or even your team …
KING My team, my agent, any of them …
HAHN It was just assumed.
KING Not that I was OK with it, but I was focusing on the art.
HAHN That phrase of “gratitude,” which we just had to hold on to …
RACHEL WEISZ Grateful for …
CLOSE The work.
KIDMAN Having the job.
HAHN Just to be able to be there.
CLOSE To have a job.
HAHN Which takes away your …
And those conversations are happening now?
KING Yes, they are happening. It’s an all-inclusive sisterhood now, that, I think, is pretty freaking fantastic.
CLOSE We have to make sure that it doesn’t go back. It will become part of our culture because we will not let it go away.
GAGA When I started in the music business when I was around 19, it was the rule, not the exception, that you would walk into a recording studio and be harassed. It was just the way that it was. So I do wish that I had spoken up sooner. I did speak up about it. I was assaulted when I was young, and I told people. And, you know, there was a “boys club.” Nobody wants to lose their power, so they don’t protect you because if they say something, it takes some of their power away. What I hope is that these conversations come together — that it’s not just about equal pay on one side … or equal billing over here … and then assault on this side. But that it all comes together and that this movement is all of those things.
KIDMAN The sharing of information is so important. Working with younger actresses, I say, “Ask me anything and I’ll answer. Ask me anything financially. If you need advice, just ask. I can only tell you what I advise and you might take it or leave it. But it’s nice to have access to information.” It’s hard, especially if you are very young in this industry starting out, because you are trying to be good and obedient and to not be troublesome. But it’s lovely to have a bunch of people that go, “Come ask us. We’ve got some experience and we’re willing to share it.”
WEISZ I think about those young actresses who feel empowered and hopefully … I have a real problem with the idea of “strong women characters.” Well, does that mean we have muscles or something? No one ever says that to a man. But [I want] young girls growing up [to] see stories being told where a woman takes a central role. Where she is not peripheral to the story. She’s driving the story, and so, you as a kid can go, “Oh, that’s me. I can identify.” So, it’s like a funny thing that [these stories] are coming together as women have been speaking up about harassment. I don’t know if it is a coincidence that suddenly you (to Kidman) could get [financing] for your film, you (to Close) could get your film made. The Favourite apparently took 20 years to make. Because there is lesbianism and three females at the center of it.
CLOSE I would think people would want to see that. (Laughter.)
HAHN Delicious, right? Three women getting it on.
WEISZ What was wrong with that 20 years ago? I don’t know what’s changed in the culture.
GAGA I don’t think it has changed.
WEISZ But is [the exposure of] sexual harassment connected to how we are getting our stories told now? I can’t figure out the chicken and the egg.
Gaga, when you walked on set, and even before you signed on for A Star Is Born, how concerned were you that the performance would be compared to your own career?
GAGA Well, first of all, I wanted to be an actress before I wanted to be a singer or musician. I went to the Lee Strasburg Institute. I studied at Circle in the Square. I studied Stanislavski technique, Meisner, Adler … I was really obsessed with method acting. For many years,
I have created characters for myself. Because I did not make it as an actress. So, I made characters that I could be — so that I could be one. They were always in some way related to the woman that I wanted to sing to, and a part of me. So, like for my album Joanne, I had this vision of a woman with a baby in one hand and a pinot grigio in the other, in cutoff jeans. And her hair wild and in a bun.
HAHN That’s my Saturday.
GAGA With Bradley [Cooper], what I did was, I said, “OK, I’m going to have to become someone that I do not have complete control over.” I dyed my hair very early, before we started filming. I started to dress like her. I was writing music for the soundtrack and helping to hone Ally’s sound, which was essentially something that was going to arise out of Jackson’s sound, because she fell in love with him. I wanted Ally to be nothing like me. This was very important to me because the truth is, I am nothing like Ally. I created Gaga.
Is there a part you always wanted to play that you know you can’t?
KING A Joan of Arc-type character. Someone in history that wasn’t black but I thought was a pretty amazing woman.
That’s interesting because there has been some controversy in the past year over who should be playing which characters. Scarlett Johansson was going to portray a transgender character and dropped out when there was backlash. Who gets to play what role?
CLOSE That’s a tricky question. First of all, what we are up to is a craft. And in your craft, you should be able to — within a certain reasonable parameter — play anyone. But there are diverse actors and actresses that have not been served. So it’s up to the industry to nurture those actors. Nurture the trans actors, the people who don’t get a chance. And then, the best person for the part should play it.
KIDMAN The industry and the world are in enormous change right now. But maybe it’s just the actor in me: Ultimately, it’s the director’s choice. Film is the director’s medium, it’s their vision ultimately. So, they’re going to cast who they think is right for their film.
KING But wouldn’t it be fantastic if I did play Joan of Arc?
GAGA I absolutely could see you do that.
HAHN There are so many roles in the theater that would be amazing to play, that I can’t wait for my kids to be a little bit older and to be able to get back to the theater.
KIDMAN I did it in London recently, and it was hard. You miss bedtime. I can’t miss bedtime. That makes me cry.
GAGA There is a strength in vulnerability. What I really admire about what you all do — because this is new for me — is the places that you have to go to, deep, deep down every time, to play a role. When I’m onstage performing and doing music, I have the audience. It’s like this adrenaline rush, and I’m talking to people and shouting at them. [But when you are acting,] there is no way that you’re not going to the depths of who you are, into a very scary place. I just have to commend each and every one of you for it. Because I still feel like I am recovering from playing this role.
WEISZ How unusual is it to see a woman work through her vulnerability and resilience and then to be born in that final moment [of A Star Is Born]? And a man to sacrifice himself for that purpose? It’s quite unusual, don’t you think?