Steve McQueen Refused to Listen to Critics Who Called Michelle Rodriguez “Difficult”
"Difficult" is a code for "not a pushover" in Hollywood.
When casting his film Widows, director Steve McQueen was initially warned against hiring Michelle Rodriguez in one of the lead roles. McQueen told Uproxx that he recalled being told, “Don’t work with her. No, no don’t work with her. But people say that about me. If you’re a white director, they call you a perfectionist. Me, they call difficult. So I didn’t pay any mind to what people say about Michelle, because I had to find out for myself.”
Rodriguez initially turned down the role when McQueen spoke to her, because she didn’t want to play a role that felt “beholden” and “subservient” to a male character. While McQueen did see other actresses for the part, he felt none of them would work as well in the role as Rodriguez. Eventually, she did accept the role. McQueen said of her in the interview,
“It was kind of funny because, what’s interesting about Michelle is, I’m interested in easy people. She is just amazing as an intellect and what she’s interested in, she’s so curious and so tenacious as a human being. When I met her, I thought, ‘Oh, I understand what they mean by difficult.’ She’s always asking questions to herself, difficult questions. And trying to answer them. Bring that here! I want that! I have the same reputation so it’s nonsense. Again, when people say things about people, one has to find out themselves. That’s it. That’s what it is.”
He has a point. Rodriguez wouldn’t be called difficult if she were a man. In fact, male actors who are difficult still find regular work, such as Christian Bale, but actresses like Katherine Heigl, who famously said she didn’t feel she had material that was Emmy-worthy in Grey’s Anatomy, have their careers brought to a standstill after gaining the reputation of being difficult to work with.
This isn’t to say that if you’re a nasty person towards your costars and others on set, you should get away with that, but plenty of men treat their coworkers terribly and do get away with it. Again, does anyone remember Bale’s viral rant on set? Or how Johnny Depp still has a career after a crew member pressed charges that Depp punched him? Meanwhile, Rodriguez’s difficulty stems from the fact that she seems to ask questions and stand up for herself, which apparently makes her “difficult” to work with—a massive double standard.
And this does not only apply to women. McQueen talks about how his reputation would be different if he were a white man, which is also true. How many directors of color do you hear horror stories about acting the same way that Quentin Tarantino is rumored to be on set? For goodness’ sake, Alfred Hitchcock is a film legend and he was notoriously difficult to work with. So why would McQueen garner the reputation of being difficult and relate to people telling him not to work with Rodriguez when he’s a perfectionist, rather than someone who’s abusing his power? I’ll let you guess.
The problem is is that the double standards in Hollywood are so entrenched that even those who find a way to succeed are still up against stereotypes and bad rumors. It’s a frustrating reality of the business, and society in general; if you’re not a cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied white man, you’re labeled with “difficult” at best whenever you’re not a complete pushover.
Thankfully, McQueen and Rodriguez both are kicking some serious ass with Widows. Hopefully, we’ll see a lot more from them.
(via Uproxx, image: Universal)
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