Andrea Berloff brought the horror and trauma of the 9/11 terrorist attack to the silver screen in 2006 as the writer behind “World Trade Center,” starring Nicolas Cage and Michael Peña. In 2015, she showcased N.W.A’s rise to success in “Straight Outta Compton,” earning an original-screenplay Oscar nomination and striking a cultural chord in the hip-hop community and beyond. Most recently, she made her directorial debut with “The Kitchen,” featuring Elisabeth Moss, Tiffany Haddish and Melissa McCarthy as 1970s housewives who become mobsters after their gangster husbands get locked up.
What were you most scared of when you wrote “World Trade Center”?
I had to adhere to the truth of what happened to the two men that I was working with. I think more than anything, when I set out to tell a true story, the position is “Motto: First do no harm.” When you’re working with real people to tell their stories — and it’s something I’ve taken with me as I’ve gone on to other true stories — you have to really listen to people because, no matter what, they’re gonna live with the aftermath of that movie. You have to work with them and listen to them and figure out a way to tell their story in a way that feels truthful to them. Otherwise, there’s no reason to do it. There’s no reason to bring more hurt to 9/11 survivors or to whomever.
How did “The Kitchen” come together?
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I was really taken with this fantasy of what would happen if women could take over, and how would women do it in a different way than men. And I had been thinking about directing for a while, and I didn’t know how to make that opportunity happen for myself. I was really ready. I know how movies are made, I know what it takes to get them made; and I’ve been on a lot of sets and worked with a lot of really incredible directors over the years. All of that was part of my education leading up to this moment.
What did you want audiences to take away from “The Kitchen”?
I wanted to ask the question, ‘Who has underestimated you in your life?’ Women are so underestimated — and comedians are underestimated that they can’t do drama. I’m underestimated that I couldn’t direct. We all have that burning desire to do something else. I think that inherent desire to be somebody, to be respected, to have people see how powerful you are, is something I’ve been dealing with for a very long time. This is another representation of that idea.
Any advice for aspiring female writers or directors?
I think it’s about figuring out what your voice is and what you want to say. And also, first and foremost, if you want to make a studio movie, it has to be entertaining. It has to be fun; it has to get you giddy. I love doing political stuff, but none of that is at the forefront of what audiences think they’re going to the theater to experience. I love creating these adult pieces of beauty and entertainment.
Things You Didn’t Know About Andrea Berloff
Age: 45 Birthplace: Framingham, Mass. Alma Mater: Cornell Fun fact: She started off as an actress but transitioned to writing when she figured out she was no good. On her playlist: “The Chain,” performed by the Highwomen, from the soundtrack to “The Kitchen” Career bucket list item: “Giving someone else a reason to pay for my office rent”