“The Devil Wears Prada” burst into the summer like a fall couture show: fresh, hot and original. And who better to lead the tale of a neophyte fighting through the deadly serious and catty world of New York fashionistas than frequent “Sex and the City” director David Frankel?
The subject matter of “Prada” and “Sex” may differ, but the Gothamite idioms are the same. The Miami resident (his 1995 “Miami Rhapsody” had auds comparing his screenplay to consummate New Yorker Woody Allen) felt that magazine editor-from-hell Miranda Priestly should be celebrated for her pursuit of excellence — while also exposing her inhumane tactics.
“I am in awe of anybody who’s excellent. That is the crux of the movie for me,” Frankel says.
In fact, he felt more sympathy for Miranda’s character in the novel than protagonist Andy, her assistant, played by Anne Hathaway.
Screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna had the same idea. “I worked closely with Aline,” says the helmer, satisfied that he actually made the movie he wanted to make.
GENESIS: “I was harassed by producer Wendy Finerman, basically. She sent me the screenplay. But I didn’t like the approach. She persisted. I wanted to make a movie that celebrates Miranda as much as exposes her.
“When I met with Meryl (Streep, we talked about): What would you sacrifice to be excellent? She also wanted to make a movie that at least mocked the ‘tyranny of the thin.’ The movie comes at these issues from all sides, but remains fun.”
VISION: “I wanted to take the fashion world seriously. Fine, let’s take a few knocks at people who abuse their power, but let’s also show that they’re making something good. I was inspired by the documentary on Isaac Mizrahi, ‘Unzipped.’ As funny a guy as Isaac is, what he does is deathly serious. The production of four collections every year — you can never rest. It’s easy to mock that world, but when I went with (costume designer) Patricia Field to the Paris couture shows, I was awed.”
CHALLENGES: “Our biggest challenge was structuring any storyline from the novel. Andy is a bit of a whiner. It’s funny in the book but would become intolerable onscreen. She needed to become seduced by Miranda and her world. We had to show that.”
MAGIC: “For me, the magic of the charisma when you put two great actresses together and realize the film was going to be more funny and sparkly than you imagined. Working with a great script gave the actors the freedom to embroider; they’re all genuinly funny people. The whole cast all really stepped up and played with it. It was a party every day.”
NEXT: “Aline is adapting ‘I Don’t Know How She Does It’ (which Frankel will direct). It’s a hard one to adapt because there’s not a lot of story. At its core, it’s something we touched on in ‘Prada,’ which is how to have it all.”