David O Russell was featured at the Tribeca Film Festival Talks Directors series on Saturday in a discussion with Jennifer Lawrence. He’s directed her in three films: Silver Linings Playbook, for which she won the Best Actress Oscar; American Hustle, for which she was nominated for an Oscar; and Joy, for which she received yet another nomination. He’s currently writing another script for her. So, it’s fair to say this is a director-muse situation, right?
It’s a classic Hollywood relationship. Woody Allen and Diane Keaton, Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, Quentin Tarantino and Uma Thurman, Ryan Coogler and Michael B Jordan, Wong Kar-Wai and Tony Leung… it’s a long list, especially when you go way back into the classics and international cinema.
I understand why this is compelling, considering the works that have resulted from these famous collaborations. But it’s almost never a female director, and that’s obviously because female directors have not been given nearly the same opportunities in the business. The push is happening though – you could say that Patty Jenkins and Chris Pine are building a director-muse situation, Greta Gerwig and Saoirse Ronan too. And/or maybe the parameters of that director-muse connection are changing. It used to be almost always in film but it’s happening more and more in television. Ryan Murphy and Sarah Paulson, that’s a good example. But that’s still a male director as half of the partnership.
This is on my mind because last week, I interviewed Sandra Oh. Parts of it are airing on etalk this week but the full interview is being packaged for a half hour special on Bravo to air as we near the season finale of season 2 of Killing Eve. During our discussion, I asked Sandra about her artistic collaborations with women – Shonda Rhimes, Mina Shum, now Phoebe Waller-Bridge – and amazingly, those collaborations are reflected in the actual storylines. Sandra is best known for two roles, Cristina Yang and Eve Polastri, and the most important relationships for those two characters are/were with women, Meredith Grey and Villanelle. Meredith was her “person”. Vilanelle too, in a much more f-cked up way, is Eve’s “person”.
The marquee director-muse relationships stretch out over a number of films but… couldn’t you say the same about seasons of television? Shonda and Sandra were together for nine seasons of Grey’s Anatomy. Shonda wrote for Sandra during that time. Killing Eve is in its second season and has been confirmed for a third. If you expand the boundaries of the creator and muse definition, television is giving us so many female creators and muses that deserve the same standing as the examples we’ve seen in film.