Sorry, Avengers: Infinity War. You’re not the most ambitious crossover event in history.
That would be Ocean’s 8 (opening on Thursday), which assembles an all-female team of Oscar winners and nominees (Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, and Helena Bonham Carter), TV stars (Sarah Paulson and Mindy Kaling) and musicians (Rihanna and Awkwafina) for a sharp, stylish reboot of the Ocean’s heist franchise.
Bullock leads the pack as Debbie Ocean, sister of the late con man Danny (George Clooney), who steps out of jail and back into old habits with an elaborate plan to rob a US$150 million (HK$1.2 billion) diamond necklace from the ultra-exclusive Met Gala. Blanchett and Paulson co-star as Debbie’s former partners-in-crime Lou and Tammy, respectively, who go undercover and lend their skills to the high-stakes job.
The three stars chatted about the film, women in Hollywood, and the #MeToo movement.
Before Ocean’s 8, what’s the last project you did that had even a fraction of this number of women in lead roles?
Bullock: I did a film called Practical Magic and there were a lot of parts for women.
Paulson: I’ve been really lucky on American Horror Story because there are so many women …
Blanchett: Often you walk on set, and until the hair and make-up people come in, you’re the only woman. So the ratio is one to 45? To have more female crew members would be great, but it was so great to have a fantastic, huge female cast [in Ocean’s 8].
How did the conversations on set compare to other films with mainly male co-stars?
Bullock: [For many years], there was a natural separation of the women in this business, whether we brought it on ourselves or whether it was thinking there’s only one job for 7,000 women. … I found myself very educated by this film and very empowered. I feel like I was given kernels of knowledge [by my co-stars] that I was like, “Wow, even at this point in my life, I’m still learning how to understand and navigate my career.”
Blanchett: There’s a real culture of fear instilled in women, that if you talk about failure, then you’re showing weakness. To work with other women who have [similar experiences] is great. You throw [your problems] in the middle and find a solution.
Cate, you said a few years ago that whenever a female-led film succeeds at the box office, people call it “remarkable”. Do you feel there’s been progress or are we still having the same conversations?
Blanchett: I do honestly feel like it’s “Groundhog Day”. [Ocean’s 8] is a wonderful, fun romp and piece of entertainment. If this is being forced by the media to stand for all female-centric films, it’s an enormous pressure – it’s unsustainable. And [whether it succeeds or fails], it makes it difficult for other films with women at the centre to sink or swim on their own merit.
Laura Dern recently said that until #MeToo, she didn’t realise her experiences with harassment were harassment. Have you similarly re-evaluated during this past year?
Blanchett: When I first entered the film industry, I thought, “That’s just the way the industry is.” You’d do an interview and they’d go, “Wow, you don’t suffer fools.” And you went, “You asked me a question and I answered it.” And so you’d be talked about in a certain way, and you’d go, “OK, maybe I won’t proffer my opinion.” Or you’d go into an audition and think, “Oh, I think I’m meant to flirt here.” And if you didn’t flirt, then you wouldn’t get the job. So for me, it took a little while to find directors in the film industry who knew what to do with me.
Half the fun of this movie is seeing if and how your characters will pull off the heist. Growing up, what’s something that you got away with?
Blanchett: I used to go around to people’s houses on a dare and pretend that I’d lost my dog. [One time], I was pretending to cry, and the family gave me a hug and a biscuit.
Paulson: It’s like “early-onset very serious actress.” I’d go up to shopping counters and ask questions in funny accents, like English and Australian. I also pretended to be blind. I was 13.
Bullock: I used to dig up weeds from my parents’ backyard, re-pot them, and sold them to our neighbours. I was entrepreneurial.
If you could cast any woman in an Ocean’s 9 sequel, who would it be?
Paulson: Emma Thompson.
Blanchett: Jane Fonda.
What film would you like to reboot or remake with your Ocean’s 8 co-stars?
Bullock: [German war film] Das Boot. All of us stuck on a boat would be fun.
Paulson: 12 Angry Men, but I don’t like the idea of 12 Angry Women. But it’s got 12 parts, so maybe just 12 women working together really hard to try and come up with solutions.