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“You’re Doing a Tough Job”: Filmmaker Lynne Ramsay on Being “Difficult”

Lynne Ramsay at Cannes for You Were Never Really Here

When you’re a male director with an uncompromising vision, you’re a visionary talent. When you’re a female director who does her job, you’re difficult. We’ve seen time and time again the discrimination against female director painted as too emotional, weak, or difficult by the same institutions that praise male directors for literally traumatizing people.

Lynne Ramsay of We Need to Talk About Kevin and Morvern Callar recently spoke about being one of those “difficult” women.

In an extended interview with the Guardian, the filmmaker discussed about her upcoming film You Were Never Really Here and her exit from the 2016 western Jane Got a Gun, which starred Natalie Portman and Joel Edgerton. While Ramsay had been incredibly involved in the early stages of the film (she describes seeing “every extra” and learning how to film horses), the director left on the first day of filming—an act that producer Scott Steindorff called “an irresponsible act by one person.” Steindorff went on to describe the incident as “insane”, spoke about his disappointment, and pointed out that Ramsay had a “pay or play” deal (suggesting she could still get a director’s fee).

The exit, Ramsay explains, was out of principle and a refusal to compromise. She emphasizes that it was not a “light decision” and “it wasn’t quite how it was reported”. She continues, “It was really at the 11th hour I realized, ‘You know what? The guys who are financing this film want a totally different film from this script.’ A happy ending… And the budget went up, but yet it wasn’t on the screen. No one had any money.”

“I heard that some people said, ‘Was she on her period?’”, she says. The director’s seat was eventually replaced by Gavin O’Connor, but her departure left a smear on Ramsay’s reputation as a director.

“I’ve got a reputation for being difficult, and yet with my crew and my cast, I’m super-collaborative and we get on really well, and they like working with me. So to me that always feels like bullshit. You’re doing a tough job, where you’re the captain of the ship, and there’s always tough decisions to make, and sometimes you’ve just got to go, ‘That’s not right for this’. You’ve got to stick up for what you believe in. If you don’t do that, you’re doing a disservice to the audience, because you’re making something really diluted.”

The director also commented on how gendered the description is, pointing out, “And if you do that when you’re a guy, you’re seen as artistic – ‘difficulty’ is seen as a sign of genius. But it’s not the same for women. It’s a tough industry, and if you’re a woman it’s harder, whether you like it or not.”

You Were Never Really Here recently won Best Screenplay and Joaquin Phoenix won Best Actor at Cannes, and the film is set for a US release on April 6th.

(via Indiewire, image: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

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