CANNES — Rosanna Arquette’s directing debut has a cast most producers would kill for: Vanessa Redgrave, Jane Fonda, Meg Ryan, Holly Hunter, Jo Beth Williams, Charlotte Rampling, Frances McDormand, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Robin Wright Penn and Debra Winger.
These women are among the thesps who have shared their thoughts on camera about the difficulties actresses face in balancing work, relationships and motherhood, and the obstacles of growing older in an age-obsessed industry.
“It is absolutely not a bitch fest,” emphasized Arquette, speaking on the cosseted terrace of the Hotel du Cap.
The vet of some 70 films in a 24-year thesping career, Arquette was prompted to step behind the camera by her interest in “what it takes to be an artist in America. As a fan, I wanted to know why Debra Winger — a truly amazing actress — left the business.
“In France it’s OK to grow older — look at the number of older actresses and women directors doing outstanding work,” said Arquette, who holds a special place in Gaul for her role in Luc Besson’s 1988 Cannes fest opener “Le Grand Bleu” (The Big Blue), one of the most successful pics in French box office history. “But when a woman grows old in America, she’s perceived as having less to offer when you have so much more to offer in every way.”
Arquette hopes to call her docu-in-progress “Searching for Debra Winger,” citing the actress as a woman who left the business for a variety of reasons.
Arquette got to know Winger when she was cast in “Big Bad Love,” the helming debut of Winger’s husband, Arliss Howard. Winger produced “Love” and appears in the film.
“Debra Winger is amazing. Amazing,” said Arquette.
“I think it definitely helps that these wonderful actresses are opening up to a fellow actress. We talk about competition but there’s no competition among participants in the film.”
Happy Walters’ Immortal Entertainment put up the coin for the doc. Budget-wise, Arquette will reveal only that “we’re doing it right and it’s expensive.”
In addition to one-on-one interviews, Arquette has also filmed a few dinner parties “and the camaraderie is great.”
Arquette relishes the directing experience and has firm plans to direct her sister, Patricia, in a semi-autobiographical fiction outing called “Access All Areas,” the script for which is being written.
Not a single actress on her wish list turned her down and additional big names plus a living legend or two are considering being in the project. “I’ve always had these discussions with fellow actresses and thought ‘I wish I had a camera to record this.’ ”
Arquette has a professional crew to direct but is also incorporating impromptu digital video footage she’s shooting herself. “I got my sister Patricia unpacking her evening gowns last night,” Rosanna laughs. “She’s my best friend, although other people in the business have tried to influence our relationship. And (she’s) a big part of this film.”