Last night, Wes Anderson, Ralph Fiennes, and Tony Revolori gathered at the Apple store in Soho to discuss Anderson's latest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel. Amongst chatter about ill-fitting hotel uniforms from the '30s, the question of female protagonists came up — or the lack thereof — in his films.
While Wes admits that Budapest Hotel has a lot of "male energy," his answer reveals another issue we don't normally consider when lamenting the dearth of meaty female roles — you know, when our agent calls with yet another rom-com. "With Moonrise Kingdom, for me, the lead character was the girl in the story," Anderson said, "but, I would love to write a good, big part where the lead character was a woman. I want to see if I could do that well."
He's not sure if he could do that well. Even after film after successful film — and a lot of really nuanced female supporting characters like Margot Tenenbaum or Mrs. Fox — he's only now beginning to think he could dive into the deep-end of the female psyche and create the kind of character that deserves to be called a lead.
And, we can't say we blame him. Just as female writers and directors — Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola, and Diablo Cody are the few (so few) that come to mind — create films with fascinating female protagonists, Anderson defaults to compelling male ones, because it's what he knows. And, when he does delve deeper into female characters, it's usually through the context of love and relationships, which may be safe, but it's also the world with which he is familiar. We can't fault him for writing what he knows, but it is no wonder that, with so many male directors, there is a lack of compelling female roles, even in niche comedy like Anderson's.
So, as we lament the film industry being one giant gentleman's agreement, it's important not to play the blame game. Because if other male filmmakers are like Anderson, then they're not trying to exclude women; they're trying to make the best movies they can. With that in mind, let's hope Anderson has his next romp fronted by a female, even if it's just for the challenge.