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Elizabeth Banks on Female Filmmakers and Why Directing Wasn’t Always Her Goal

Despite becoming the first female director to receive the 2019 pioneer of the year award from the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation, “Charlie’s Angels” helmer Elizabeth Banks told Variety that directing wasn’t necessarily always her goal.

“It was something that I dabbled in and something that I did in college and over time, I really became more and more interested in doing it.” Banks said at the Foundation’s annual dinner on Wednesday night at the Beverly Hilton. “It was about five or six years ago now that I really started thinking seriously about it and thinking about the legacy that I could leave in this business if I got to tell stories in my way, basically.”

Banks, who made her feature directorial debut in 2015 with Universal’s smash hit “Pitch Perfect 2,” said she’s heartened by the strides made by female filmmakers in Hollywood over the past few years.

“I think that hopefully it’s just going in waves,” Banks told Variety. “Obviously, I wish the numbers were 50/50 and I wish that 50% of movies were directed by women and I wish that there was equality for women across all fields, but I also see a lot of improvement. I also see most importantly, a lot of conversation about it and a lot of awareness about it, in a way that has never happened before and that’s encouraging.”

Though the latest addition to the internationally beloved “Charlie’s Angels” franchise has created a lot of hype and expectation, Banks said she isn’t yet signed on for a follow-up movie. “Everybody needs to go see ‘Charlie’s Angels’ on November 15 and then maybe we can talk about a sequel,” Banks said.

Banks’ “Angels” trio, Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott and Ella Balinska, was on hand to present their director with her award. Stewart told Variety that the shift toward gender parity in the entertainment industry was long overdue, though she’s excited for the future.

“I don’t know why coincidentally everyone realized we can just look to our left and to our right and hold each other’s hands and say, ‘Now maybe we demand to be listened to,’ because it really could have happened at any point,“ Stewart said. “It was that we all started talking to each other. To be honest, I can’t wait to see the untold stories that are going to surface that have been submerged for a really long time. As soon as you activate a group of people and say, ‘Hey, you know what, you matter and we want to hear what you have to say,’ storytelling is going to change drastically, and it already has a little bit. I think Liz is on the forefront of that and I’m so happy to be on her side as well.”

Stewart, who announced last year that she would be making her feature directorial debut with an adaptation of the 2011 memoir “The Chronology of Water,” confirmed that the project will begin production in 2020. “Yes, I’m going to be directing next year,” she said.

Stewart’s fellow “Angel” Balinska lauded Banks for her multi-tasking ability — as Banks also produced, wrote and starred in the upcoming reboot. “There was a moment when we were in the Townsend Agency and she was literally on set writing, producing and starring at the same time,” Balinska recalled. “She sat down with us. She had the monitor quite literally in the scene and it was on her lap whilst being present in the scene and also being able to be active as a director which if that doesn’t say pioneer, I don’t know what else does.”

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