What women want

June 2, 2024

What women want


very year, The Hollywood Reporter hosts roundtables across various categories, including Best Actress in Drama, Comedy, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor in Drama, Comedy and more. The rise of streaming services has enabled high-caliber actors to explore different mediums, thanks to flexible episode count, diverse scripts, and collaboration with esteemed writers and directors. This year’s Actress Roundtable in the Drama category feature some of Hollywood’s finest: Jodie Foster, Jennifer Aniston, Nicole Kidman, Naomi Watts, Brie Larson, Sofia Vergara, and Anna Sawai. These discussions are fascinating and absorbing, shedding light on the challenges women in Hollywood face, the newfound freedom of the younger generation, and how certain issues become less significant over time.

Here is an excerpt from The Hollywood Reporter roundtable interview with actresses in the drama category:

What are triggering terms in character descriptions that make you say, “Not going to do this”?

LARSON: “Broken but beautiful.” Or “beautiful but she doesn’t know it.” I’ve read that so many times. I read it last week, probably.

FOSTER: For most of my career, I was always shocked that so many of the scripts that I read, the entire motivation for the female character was that she’d been traumatized by rape. That seemed to be the only motivation that male screenwriters could come up with for why women did things. … She’s kind of in a bad mood, yeah, there’s definitely some rape in her past. Rape or molestation seemed to be the one kind of lurid, big emotional backstory that they could understand in women. And I didn’t take it personally. But once I was old enough, I think I did have a responsibility to come in and say, “You’re not always going to get the most perfectly fleshed-out female character, but maybe there’s an opportunity for us to work together and create something that way?”

KIDMAN: Which is why I think now we’re all working hard to put women at the helm because the viewpoint suddenly becomes very different.

Anne Hathaway said something recently, “Back in the 2000s,” she said, “it was considered normal to ask an actor to make out with other actors to test for chemistry. … I was told, we have 10 guys coming today and you’re cast. Aren’t you excited to make out with all of them?” “She wasn’t excited, of course. But who here can relate, and what were your versions of it?”

KIDMAN: To be excited to make out with someone? I think maybe secretly I’ve been excited. (Laughs.)

WATTS: I have. Just once, and it was very awkward. I was auditioning and I didn’t get the job, so clearly, I did not do a good make-out. It was with a very well-known actor. It was mortifying because we didn’t hear a “cut,” and it just kept going.

VERGARA: Oh, no.

WATTS: Then they were like, “OK, OK.” And we both were like, “Oh, sorry, we didn’t hear …” I did feel a bit rattled.

The very idea of a chemistry read is an uncomfortable thing for a number of reasons, including if you don’t have chemistry, you typically see these people again.

KIDMAN: Also, you cannot have chemistry, and onscreen, it’s made.


KIDMAN: There’s a way you can shoot things. I think just relying on chemistry is lazy. There’s the writing. There’s the interaction. You can literally be directed through it.

ANISTON: Also, when you’re in an audition room, you’re already at a disadvantage. Maybe you’d have chemistry with this person if you were in a different environment and not, like, “Create chemistry. Ready? Go!” And I’m a terrible auditioner, always was. I waitressed forever before I could finally get something, which was a Bob’s Big Boy commercial. So, if you’re a nervous auditioner to begin with, to then say, “Now let’s have you make out with a complete stranger,” it’s very uncomfortable.

WATTS: It’s impossible.

KIDMAN: Yeah, direct me!

ANISTON: Put some music on or something.

WATTS: Some people are really good at auditioning, but I was shockingly bad too. I could feel the energy in the room where people were like, “Hurry this along.” I’d even go, “Yeah, don’t worry, I’m out of your way in one second. You don’t even have to look me in the eye and shake my hand.” It took meeting David Lynch, who’s a master of filmmaking, and he just sat and talked to me [for Mulholland Drive]. He said, “Tell me about yourself.” And I fell into it, this conversation. I was like, “Wait, really? You want to take time with me? You want to know about me and how I was raised and all of that?” And then I got the job. I didn’t even have to audition.

KIDMAN: And then something happened, right?

WATTS: Oh, yeah, we made the pilot, and then ABC canned it because it was too weird. It was too David Lynch. It took the French producers to come and say, a year later, “Can you make it into a feature?” And he did, and it was a game changer for me.

– The full story can be found on The Hollywood Reporters website.

What women want