Cannes: Salma Hayek, Parker Posey Blast Hollywood Sexism

Variety and UN Women's panel
Samir Hussein/Getty Images

Salma Hayek blasted the movie industry for giving up on women both behind and in front of the camera at a Variety-hosted event Saturday afternoon at the Cannes Film Festival.

“For a long time they thought the only thing we were interested in seeing were romantic comedies,” said Hayek, who appears in the Cannes drama “Tale of Tales.” “They don’t see us as a powerful economic force, which is an incredible ignorance.”

Joining the conversation about gender inequality in Hollywood were actresses Parker Posey (“Irrational Man”) and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan (“Jazbaa”), as well as producers Christine Vachon and Elizabeth Karlsen (who both worked on “Carol”). The event was co-hosted by the U.N. Women’s HeForShe campaign, and moderated by Variety co-editor-in-chief Claudia Eller and U.N. Women head Elizabeth Nyamayaro. Variety publisher Michelle Sobrino welcomed the crowd at the Radisson Blu hotel.

Despite the success of films like “The Hunger Games,” “Frozen” and “The Fault in Our Stars,” women directed only 17 of the 250 top-grossing films of last year, and there seem to be fewer A-list leading ladies who are paid as much as their male counterparts. “The only kind of movie where women make more than men is the porno industry,” Hayek said. “It’s simple ignorance.”

Bachchan said that even in international markets, a women starring in a movie is considered a niche product. “It’s pretty much the same everywhere across the globe,” Bachchan said. “We keep coming back to reiterating preconceived ideas.”

Posey talked about how she loved to watch Turner Classic Movies from the ’40s, where the female characters were witty and three-dimensional. “It’s so rare that I see that in movies now,” Posey said. She added: “We’re in very masculine times. We’re at war. The culture is eating nature, it’s overpowering storytelling.”

Hayek said that she’s lost out on jobs because A-list actors have approval over her casting, whereas top actresses in Hollywood don’t get similar deals. She noted how studio executives suffer from amnesia when it comes to female-driven hits. “They don’t know what we want to see,” Hayek said. “When women don’t direct and women don’t write and tell our own stories, we stopped going to the movies and started watching them on television.”

Vachon acknowledged that there are certainly more powerful roles for women on the smallscreen. “I think to some degree it is because television, at least in the United States, has become a place where riskier stories are told, more character-driven stories are told and often those are female-driven,” she said.

Karlsen noted the amount of pressure to succeed for “Carol,” a lesbian 1950s love story directed by Todd Haynes and starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, which premieres at Cannes on Sunday night. “Certainly there’s a huge question mark,” Karlsen said. “It’s female-led. It’s a lesbian romance. There’s a huge wave of expectation.”

Hayek said that women in Hollywood can’t continue to allow themselves to be sidelined. “Look, we cannot stand as victims and say they are not looking at us,” she said. But she noted that Hollywood does care about money, and women — who make up 50 percent of tickets sold — need to continue to exercise their strength in numbers.

“What gives me hopes is that we are in a position of power,” Hayek said. “And I am so grateful to gay men. If it wasn’t for Tennessee Williams and Pedro Almodovar, it would be even worse.”

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  1. MichaelW says:

    Now i do not care about this, i am earning around 5000$ a month. There is very useful way i found on the internet. If you want to learn it too, just type in google: Willis Mounts Strategy

  2. Anonymous says:

    I’m going to try to be brutally honest here. If I remember correctly, both Selma and Parker have revealed themselves without clothes in films. The business they are in, and that they contribute to, is one that is part pornographic, albeit (thankfully) in a much more subdued form. Do you think it would make sense, for instance, to mandate that XXX pornography studios hire women that are deemed to be unattractive so as to have “better demographic representation” in those pornos? As if it’s some sort of social experiment, first and foremost?

    Parts of their statements are disingenuous on several levels. They say it’s sexist to be vetoed for a part by a man, but I’m sure they wouldn’t care if the role were reversed. This is speculation, but it’s my strong suspicion. *Someone* has to cast these women. Why would the lead actor, who sometimes has a financial stake in the film as well as other production rights, not have a say in this? They make this claim of “sexism”, but don’t actually articulate why they think this claim is warranted. Additionally, if the studios think Will Smith will draw more people than Selma Hayak as the lead in some action movie, then that’s the bottom line. Again, it’s like pornograpy or, to change the example, professional sports. It’s entertainment, and entertainment is ad should be based on what people want to see. I don’t want art of sports or any other form of entertainment to be composed of statistically accurate demographics from society. It want the comedies to be funny, I want the basketball team to win, etc. Basically, I just want to be entertained in the best manner possible. I don’t want to be part of a social experiment or part of a social adjudication.

    Parts of their complaint that are not disingenuous would be actual allegations of real discrimination, where the discrimination is not justified in any way. For instance, if they can point to a case where a woman director was not hired because of discriminatory practices, that would be something. If audiences will pay more for certain male lead actors, that’s part of the business. Just like pornography consumers will only pay for certain types of pornos with certain types of women. However, I don’t think anyone would claim that people off-camera have anything to do with audience draw. Perhaps a few directors are a *slight* exception to this (e.g. James Cameron), but for the most part, this is an area that should be more gender-blind, or more generally, more persona-blind.

  3. Alex says:

    Right now Hollywood is luvin gays and superhero’s, they should make a flick or TV show about a lesbian superhero.

    • Ellen says:

      The public is REALLY starting to reject all this gay crap though.

      • josh says:

        Yeah i think people are getting really tired of this whole PC lgbt agenda identity politics bullshit being shoveled down our throats .Also its a business first and foremost the studios thrive off what the majority respond to these actresses should know that or at least figured that out by now and figured out a way to capitolize on that .There aren’t more female leading characters because the stories being written for them suck they dont stick or are only geared toward a special interest group of people ..Parker posey made a comment about the women in the movies during the 40’s being 3 dimensional maybe that was because women were women back then .They excepted that they were women they were strong intelligent they were women of substance back then unlike now with all this gender politics women are more willy nilly and feminists want to try to redefine gender roles

      • Mark says:

        Only in your dreams.

  4. jonaD says:

    Feminists, with their FAKE issues. There are 7 women standing in that photo, let them each put up $250,000. of their own money and cobble together a grassroots, mob financed production, of whatever they believe will sell, and then sell it!! You know, just like men have to. Feminists are always looking for the free ride and saying they deserve it.

    Feminists = LAZY LAZY LAZY.

  5. riviera implodes says:

    Parker Posey shot herself in the foot. If she wants to make a serious comment about equality in a certain business she should be dressed like Marissa Meyer of Yahoo!. She should not be wearing a white halter dress. That outfit would only work in a board meeting on a show like “Dynasty”.

  6. Very splendid spaces!!

  7. Sean Kennedy says:

    I’m for equality for everyone!! Query, should someone get to direct pictures because of gender, race or age? Is every person with a cell who wants to direct a movie believes they’re qualified because they can point a camera ? Or because: “we are in a position of power.” Financing a film is business and those decisions are based upon the return of the investment.The decision of who directs a film has NOTHING to do if the director is a woman and to that point it has nothing to do with gender,race or age.Everyone cannot be a successful artist because of gender.If everyone wants something because of their gender,race or age,we’d all be successful, happy and rich.

    • tiff says:

      i agree. and i’m a woman. equality is great. but feminists don’t want equality. it’s just reverse misogony that’s gotten way out of hand. I’m surrounded by feminists right now (in grad school) and when I say I’d love to get married/something traditional, they all go into angry attack mode. Real into freedom of female speech/thoughts they’re into… #smh #jerks

      • Alit says:

        It’s fascinatin how much so many women hate and both totally misunderstand feminism. The world is full of idiots and women who hate their own gender are highlighted.

    • J.K. says:

      You’ve missed the point.
      1. Someone SHOULD direct pictures regardless of gender NOT “because of.”
      2. No one is equating directing a film with pointing a cell phone camera. What is being addressed here is the availability of highly qualified female directors passed over for men.
      3. No one wants something because of gender, race, or age. What is wanted is equal opportunity for equally qualified individuals.

  8. Dawn says:

    Meanwhile, Pitch Perfect trounces Mad Max in w/e B.O. Wake up, H-wood!

    • kittykatta says:

      Psst.. Mad Max is an absolutely amazing movie that stars an amazing FEMALE actor playing the role of one of the most badass FEMALE characters on screen.

      You might want to rethink your anger because you’re shooting down a “mens” film that can be pivotal in changing the landscape of female action heroes in favor of a a “girls” film that makes boob jokes and has women demeaning women.

  9. Douglas says:

    And they will both be posing nude on the cover of Vanity Fair soon.

    • Mark says:

      I know you think you made some important point with that comment, but you’re the only one that thinks that.

    • tiff says:

      i’m a girl and IMO… there seem to be plenty of women in power in hollywood. and plenty of women in plenty of projects and looked up to . meryl streep is a prime example. and meghan ellison. and nina jacobson. amy hecklering. if you’re not that good of an actress though and only got in cuz of your looks… then, according to you own argument, it’s YOUR OWN earlier advantage was what was unfair (since the male gaze is SUCH a bad thing.) #growupfeministsandstoptryingtoruinmylife :'(

      • Alit says:

        It’s trendy now to be a woman who rejects feminists. Look at this girl, looking down on feminists. She’s uneducated and mindlessly supporting the Patriarchy. She believes, like some kind of dim drone, that hating feminists will persuade people to value what she says. Anti-feminist women seem very self-centered to me. It’s all about how important you are and you have next to no consciousness in regard to helping others. It’s all about what YOU can get out of hating feminists and kissing some invisible Patriarchal ass. Gross.

    • GKN says:

      They who? Male film directors? It’s about time.

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