Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett lead an all-star, mostly female cast for heist film Ocean’s 8 – a follow-up to Ocean’s Eleven. They talk to Around Town about besting the boys’ version at the box office and why there should be gender parity among film critics.
There is a rare image doing the rounds at the moment – drifting past you on the side of buses, dominating billboards that tower over your head. It’s the sight of eight women in a row on a movie poster, not a man in the picture.
Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Rihanna, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson and Awkwafina stand in formation in the poster for Ocean’s 8, a heist movie follow-up to Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen, which starred George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon.
“Are we on buses?” Blanchett asks, gleefully. “That’s so cool.”
“But this is not a moment. This is not a fashionable kind of zeitgeisty moment. This is women being supported by a studio, in a tentpole movie, for a diverse audience.”
It’s undeniable that what she speaks of is a rare thing and the audience for this film is already showing up.”
In the US, the film – which sees a group of female criminals plot to steal a $150 million diamond necklace at the Met Gala – had the biggest opening weekend of any of the Ocean’s films.
Bullock plays Debbie Ocean, the sister of Clooney’s character Danny, while Blanchett is her long-term partner-in-crime Lou. They recruit Rihanna’s expert hacker, Paulson’s semi-retired fence, Kaling’s diamond expert, Bonham Carter’s fashion designer and Awkwafina’s street hustler to commit the perfect crime.
Hathaway is the mark – the actress who will be manipulated into wearing the famed Toussaint necklace to the star-studded fashion gala, where it will be swiped from her swan-like neck.
“There is such an extraordinary bunch of talented people involved in front of the camera, behind the camera as well, and that is what I’m excited about and I think audiences want that,” Blanchett says, as she cosies up next to Bullock on a squishy sofa in a London hotel.
“Well they are getting it, whether they want it or not!” Bullock adds with a laugh. The film’s success at the box office, where it made more than $40 million in its opening weekend, may go some way to dismiss the persisting myth that films starring women don’t make money.
“I’ve had very good fortune with films, and I’m a female I think, and they’ve done well,” Bullock says. “Bridesmaids was a bunch of women and it did exceedingly well. When you have a good story, a good story works whether it’s with women or with men.”
“I’m around women a lot and they have constantly said, ‘Why doesn’t the cinema represent how we are in real life?’ Which is taking care of each other, working with each other, having fun. It was nice to finally have a story that did that.”
The film brought together a diverse group of stars, who have had very different careers and experiences, and for Bullock that was part of the joy.
“I’m proud that we worked together, eight of us worked together as a team. None of us separated, none of us felt it was our job to stand out. It was all for one and one for all.
“We helped each other. If one of us was down or struggling with our child, the other would say, ‘Why don’t we switch a scene so you can sleep in?’ It was really lovely – working moms, making it work.”
“It could have been so different. Getting eight people from different walks of life, male or female, to get along and agree is not easy and somehow we just quickly agreed and got along really well.”
The reviews for the film have been rather mixed and it has not escaped their attention that most of the critics are men.
“A studio can support a film and it’s the invisible faces on the internet and often male reviewers who can view it through a prism of misunderstanding.” Blanchett says.
“And so I think that is a really big part of the equation.”
Bullock leans forward. “It would be nice if reviewers reflected who the film is for, like children should review children’s films, not a 60-year-old man. I guess his opinion would be kind of skewed.”
But she then reflects that men do like Ocean’s 8 too, saying: “We did a surprise screening in New York and we were sort of thrown off because half the audience was very gregarious men. “I didn’t know how to read the audience because I had a bunch of girl jokes, but it was refreshing in that within the first 10 minutes of this film you forget that we are women and we have vaginas and you just enjoy the journey.”
A recent study found that 80% of film critics are male and questions have been raised about how much that impacts films made by and for other demographics. Is this part of the problem of gender imbalance in the film industry?
“I don’t know,” Bullock says. “But I would like to see if it is by balancing out the pool of critics so that it reflects the world we are in, like we are trying to reflect the world that I live in and my friends live in. “It’s not just all men. I love men – I want to be at the table with men but I also want to be invited to the table that the men are at.”
Ocean’s 8 is released in UK cinemas on June 18.