It’s hard out there for a female director
A couple months ago, Marvel Studios announced that Patty Jenkins, director of Monster, would be in charge of Thor 2, which was very exciting as it was only the second time a woman would be in charge of a superhero tent pole project (Lexi Alexander was the first to do so with Punisher: War Zone—this would’ve been the first time a woman was in charge of a superhero movie with the potential to actually be good). Last week, however, it was announced that Jenkins was leaving Thor 2, and now THR is reporting that Jenkins was, in fact, sacked and Natalie Portman, the female star of Thor, is “furious” with her firing.
Portman advocated for Jenkins—who directed Charlize Theron to an Oscar—and, though she’d been considering taking a break from acting in order to be home with her baby, was excited by the prospect of collaborating with Jenkins. Now that Jenkins is out, Marvel is attempting to placate Portman by giving her a say in the hiring of the new director. Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth, isn’t mentioned anywhere in this mess which makes me wonder if he’s just keeping his head down (Chris Evans took a similar tack through his own director issues with Captain America) or if he actually doesn’t care who helms his franchise sequel. Given that he knew he would always be dealing with different directors between the Thor movies and The Avengers, that could well be it.
THR and other outlets are making a big deal out of Portman’s participation in this process, and about how studios backing successful franchises hold all the power etc, but what I’m stuck on is the word “difficult”. One of THR’s sources—and THR is not inclined to printing bullsh*t—is quoted as saying that the studio was concerned about the creative process and worried that Jenkins would be “difficult”. Marvel supposedly worried that she wasn’t moving quickly enough, that she “lacked clarity”, but another source says she has an extremely detailed vision for the project. Also, Jenkins had nothing to do with the scripting process and her supporters say any lack of decision-making on her part was due to not having a final script from which to work. In her statement upon exiting the project, Jenkins said they all parted on “very good terms” and she was “looking forward to working with them again”, which is the classic face-saving move all fired directors get to use. This was the biggest opportunity of her career-no way was Jenkins actually okay with leaving the project, but when this happens the only thing you can do is put a good face on it so as not to alienate other studio execs.
I just can’t shake the feeling that the subtext here is “difficult = bitch”. Maybe I’m being sensitive, maybe I’m being paranoid. But a female director was fired from a project for not making decisions when she didn’t even have a SCRIPT. Jenkins never really got a chance to do anything. Marvel’s developed a bit of a reputation for being bullies and it looks like Jenkins is their latest victim. Marvel had some issues on Captain America and yet they made it through with Joe Johnston. Thor, too, had some hiccups with Kenneth Branagh (who elected not to reteam with Marvel), but again—he didn’t get fired. Jon Favreau didn’t get fired—he got to film Iron Man without a completed script. Of course creative differences do really occur, but it seems like in Hollywood a female director is on a much shorter leash.
It bothers me that Jenkins didn’t really get a chance. That she was canned before she ever had a final script to work from. And I’m really, really uncomfortable with that word—“difficult”—being thrown around. Given that Marvel has had similar issues in the past with male directors and no one got fired, I can’t help but think that they just…didn’t trust a woman with their franchise. Again, maybe I’m being too sensitive. Or maybe filmmaking remains a profession in which women really are not getting equal opportunities.
Attached - Patty Jenkins in September at the Lifetime Five screening.
Wenn, Jason Kempin/Getty