Ocean’s 8 knows its place in the come-up for women in popular media. I had the honor of attending the Ocean’s 8 Press Conference held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art just a couple weeks ago. The setting matches the movie, as the heist takes place at the Met Gala. We were treated to breakfast and lunch, along with a courtesy shuttle to The Met. All this was after the film screening the night before. They were really giving us the lavish treatment. Thankfully, the wine and dine was not even necessary because the film is a hit.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the way this conference was handled and how intimate and down to earth it felt.
As we walked into The Met, my fellow journalists were all wondering if we would get a chance to view the special garments exhibit, which features prominently in the film. We were ushered past my favorite section, Egypt, to find a modest 40 chair set-up and the table of movie stars and execs right in front.
I was prepared with a serious question about the importance of an all-women Oceans movie, one that would not be confused for the irrelevant questions that sometimes get asked at these things. To my surprise and delight, all of the questions were similar. What followed was a thought provoking conversation providing great insight into the making of the flick and the energy on set. The stars and execs remarked frequently about how usually there may be only one or two other women on a film set. Having so many women involved in the making of Ocean’s 8 was a new and comforting feeling.
Just Another Lady Remake??…No Ma’am
The panel was asked about the feeling around remakes in the industry, specifically ones that make the same story just… with women. They answered with such confidence. Mindy Kaling commented that remakes are just a part of the movie industry. Of course we want original stories with new narratives but remakes can revitalize and bring new life to a franchise.
“Every time you want to make a rule about oh no reboots or remakes, it’s a launching pad for great new characters, great new dialogue and new relationships.” – Mindy Kaling
It was nice to hear honest, grounded answers from actors who have won Oscars and Emmys.
Women and Representation as Humans is a Thing
Back to my question – what was important for them to convey in this all-women-starred movie. Co-writer and director Gary Ross said they spoke about this at length, showing women not just as princesses, but also showing women autonomously. Co-writer Olivia Milch went on to say it was important to be authentic in how women are in NYC, be authentic to NYC, stating they shot in all 5 boroughs. They also really wanted to give space to show women as humans.
“Show the world as it is…any human being knows that women are funny and smart and complicated and nuanced and sometimes contradictory and we have to start seeing characters like that” – Olivia Milch
Awkwafina, who plays Constance in the movie, took the mic and added an Asian perspective: “When it comes to representation and diversity, there’s a difference between kind of throwing in people of color, women into a movie and then actually representing them accurately and authentically. The important thing about the characters and particularly the characters of color in this movie, that [ethnicity] is not defining our characters in this movie, I’m a New Yorker from Queens… ” Sandra Bullock chimed in on women taking care of each other, remarking that so many times stories with women emphasize the hate and competition rather than camaraderie and uplifting, even if it’s about stealing million dollar diamonds.
In the film, rivalry was not the game and each women knew their part and respected it, being a team in the full sense. This really helped focus the story and not highlight stereotypical semantics that are often seen between women in film.
A comment was made about women in Chile taking to the streets to protest the treatment of women in South America and the journalist posed “what words do you have for them?” Everyone looked stern. Cate Blanchett began with a “good for them” – that they have the will and strength to stand for what they believe and that they are using the right of their voice and to do the work. Sandra added she hoped the men were there with them. They did not pretend to be those people or co-op their movement, but they did give words of support. The film doesn’t attempt at all to take on women’s issues, I mean it’s a heist movie, but it does recognize their part in the evolution of the movie industry and the inspiration and/or view the movie gives out for women.
Wardrobe on Point!
We then got to hear the impetus behind the fashion of the film as an Italian writer inquired about the decisions that went into the costumes, it’s the Met Gala for crying out loud. I was inspired by the way the panel spoke of costume designer, Sarah Edwards, who in a pinch dressed everyone in 3 weeks. Each actor had a say with their own designers on the outfits. This is the way I hope sets can be for me one day, where everyone has and knows their role, but all intelligences are valued and input appreciated. Sigh – I hope it isn’t as rare as it sounds.
That said the fun nature of each person came out, with Cate cracking jokes the whole time, Awkwafina being witty and hilarious, and Sara Paulson being so sweet and unexpectedly wacky.
The Cast Chemistry
The moderator was great at asking lighter questions and setting the tone of the room. Towards the end of the conference he asked “If you all were in a real heist, which one of you would ruin the job?” Awkwafina immediately pointed to Sarah Paulson as she blushingly giggled and the rest of the cast cosigned the sentiment confidently. You could tell they enjoyed working with each other and were happy to see this film come to fruition.
We concluded our time with the stars and were shuttled back to the hotel for lunch. At lunch we were surrounded by an international gathering of writers. I got to listen in on a conversation spoken only in Spanish between journalists from Spain, Argentina, and Chile, while eating delicious food.
Then in the stillness one reporter exclaimed how glad she was that the movie was good. We were all thinking it… Thankfully Ocean’s 8 met our expectations and excited us about this all-women-cast remake.
Ocean’s 8 is in theaters now!