SXSW: Lena Dunham on Hollywood Sexism, Ratings and the Tweet She Regrets

Lena Dunham HBO Max
Michael Buckner/Getty Images

AUSTIN — “Something has to change and I’m trying” — that’s the message “Girls” creator Lena Dunham delivered with her keynote at SXSW on Monday, addressing the differences in opportunities for male and female actors in Hollywood as well as her distaste for Republicans.

Adam Driver, a co-star of her HBO series, has been offered parts playing “villains, Lotharios and nerds all in one year,” she said of Hollywood’s gender imbalance, whereas “Girls” stars Zosia Mamet and Allison Williams have yet to see parts that offer them a chance “to stretch their legs,” Dunham said.

Dunham added that she does not care for ratings (though she admits HBO wishes she did), Deadline Hollywood and Republicans (“I’m sure there are some good ones. I just haven’t met them yet”).

Her 45-minute keynote largely ran though her life, growing up in New York with two artist parents (a painter and photographer) and her beg-borrow-and-steal mentality to filmmaking (she maxed out a credit card, donated her $5,000 worth of babysitting funds, borrowed money from her parents and her best friend’s parents to make her early DIY movies). The hyphenate constantly emphasized the importance of having a “ferocious work ethic” and to be perpetually working on something – a script, screenplay, short – anything. Creators should be creating, she said.

She traced her SXSW experiences, from having “Creative Nonfiction” rejected one year at the festival and then accepted the next, to feeling like her entree into the industry really began when she won an award in Austin for 2010’s “Tiny Furniture.”

The 27-year-old also made sure several times to apologize for the “molestation tweet” that she sent and promptly deleted. Her account tweeted, “I just made and deleted a not so great molestation joke. Sorry guys. I am really sleepy. SNL has a way bigger audience than our usual cozy girls audience, so I was seeing a rash of very different kinds of twitter rage.” In back-to-back tweets she added, “But I should know better, and do. Even naked girls get embarrassed. Sleep well and thanks for an amazing weekend.”

Dunham also joked about the tweet, which the audience immediately forgave her for, a palpable “ooohhh” echoing through the auditorium.

The two-time Golden Globe winner also spoke about budgets, or the lack thereof, saying, “Lack of budget is no longer an excuse. (I realized) holding up a camera and letting people wander around documentary style is no longer acceptable.”

Dunham said she knows “there isn’t a place right now for me in studio-funded movies.” By holding down four jobs on “Girls,” she said she’s trying to change the role of women in Hollywood. To bolster her point she cited Cate Blanchett’s Oscar acceptance speech and a quote from dance legend Martha Graham.

She fielded questions for 20 minutes, ranging from her favorite “Girls” episode (the one that aired this past weekend because of the host of women, including June Squibb, with whom she worked) to a guy who admitted that he and his fraternity brothers watch her show every weekend looking for advice.

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  1. get fret says:

    Not funny

  2. Mr. Derp says:

    Lena Dunham: unfunny, irritating, talentless, and no one watches here miserable show. Yet the media keeps sticking her everywhere they can find. Please make it stop!

  3. Bobby Biegs says:

    Dunham is a bore…The fact that she works at all is a mystery.

  4. Greg says:

    Regarding the disparity between roles being offered to Driver and Mamet & Williams, I personally find Adam more interesting than those 2 combined, though. Adam has depth. The other 2 are pretty one dimensional… but that’s not necessarily the fault of the actresses. Lena should blame herself for not giving her fellow females more room to flex their acting muscles. Maybe they’d get more offers if they were given more to work with and show what they’re capable of.

  5. I think she’s adoreble. I’m a 29 yr guy in the biz producing and hotel ownership so I don’t watch much tv but I ‘ll watch this cutie any chance I get. I love that she’s not crazy about losing weight and I hope she sticks to doing what she wants to do. I’ll watch, Lena!

  6. Kevin Thomas says:

    Has it come across her brilliant little mind that maybe Adam is just a breakout?

  7. says:

    the only worthwhile person on the show now is Crazy Caroline. Lena and the rest of Girls have ground my interest to a screeching halt.

    actually, I’m sort of ashamed i made it this long. i’m out, ladies.

    er, i mean girls.

  8. Julienne says:

    This “Girl,” Dunham is THEE MOST boring actress(?) I’ve ever seen in Television. Homely, uninteresting and bland. Three of the worst character traits for actresses.

    • Lisa says:

      “Homely”??? There a lot more homely looking men than women in Hollywood and the former seem to do just fine. As a woman, you shouldn’t be writing that kind of stuff if you want us to get ahead in this business. It’s not all about looks, so let’s get that straight.

    • Michael Anthony says:

      Shes so boring that she makes millions from TV projects and received big $$ for a book. Ifvthatscwhat boring brings you, then make me boring.
      And now share with us how your wit has made you millions.

  9. claudia says:

    The reason adam driver gets so much roles is because he is a good actor.zosia mamet must still prove she is capable of what he is capable of or even much less ,and her role in girls has been reduced to a mere blimp.and allison williams well she is just not fit for acting full point.I can,by now ,predict when she’s gonna move her hands together and rolling her eyes to the ceiling; a gesture she makes while fighting or debating with someone on “girls” at least 25 times each season

    • Tony Dodge says:

      claudia–spot on. adam is the breakout performer on that show and deservedly so. i also agree it’s difficult to evaluate ms. mamet or ms. williams by their acting on Girls. i don’t know the intended character arc for adam, but the fact that he gets more screen time than any other male might be because he’s earned it.

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