Patty Jenkins hopes that someday reporters will stop asking her about the lack of diversity in Hollywood, but until the movie business creates more opportunities for women and minorities, she’s happy to weigh in on the issue.
“It’s a conversation that has to be had,” Jenkins said during Vanity Fair’s New Establishment summit on Tuesday. “It’s less about observing diversity than it is about acknowledging that we are a very diverse world.”
Jenkins scored a hit with last summer’s “Wonder Woman,” but the director said she wanted to make the film because the character was compelling and the story was interesting. The film had universal appeal, she argued.
“A movie about a woman doesn’t make it a ‘woman’ movie,” said Jenkins. “‘Wonder Woman’ was about being a hero.”
When it comes to picking her own projects, Jenkins, whose credits include the Oscar-winning “Monster,” said, “I want to make great films about life experiences and they may have female leads.”
Jenkins was joined on the panel by Jason Blum, the producer of “Get Out” and “The Purge,” and Universal Pictures chairman Donna Langley. Blum has made a name for himself by transforming low-budget horror films that cost less than $5 million to produce into major hits. The belt-tightening is key to creative freedom, he said.
“The reason we do low budgets is so we can take chances,” said Blum.
The panel unfolded as major studios are struggling to attract customers. The summer box office hit its lowest levels in more than two decades, and theatrical attendance has been essentially flat for years. Simply put, fewer people are going to the movies. It’s a situation that may get worse as Netflix and streaming services offer more compelling programs that can be seen in the home, and as the quality of television shows continues to improve.
“Our job is to make films that are inherently theatrical,” said Langley. “We have to kind of wow them.”
Jenkins said she always knew that Wonder Woman, the lasso-wielding Amazonian, would make an arresting screen character. She’ll tackle Themyscira’s favorite daughter once again in “Wonder Woman 2,” which is set for release in 2019. Returning to the world of comic books was an easy decision for Jenkins, but she’s been offered projects by studios that she knew weren’t right for her sensibility. She said she approaches picking projects the way she treated dating.
“Don’t try to date somebody who’s not right for you and then try to change who they are,” said Jenkins.