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Leading Hollywood stars launch joint attack on sexism in the film industry

Meryl Streep and Romola Garai on sexism.jpg

Meryl Streep and Romola Garai have launched a tandem attack on the sexist nature of the acting business, calling out misogynistic directors and producers.

They recently worked together on the Suffragette film, where Meryl Streep played Emmeline Pankhurst and Romala Alice Haughton, the wife of a MP. Now, from different sides of the Atlantic in two completely separate interviews, both actresses have launched a scathing attack on the film industry, echoing each other’s frustrations as though they were in direct conversation.

Talking to The Sunday Times, Meryl veered off the subject of her new film Ricki and the Flash to pick up where Emma Thompson recently left off: “Television has been very friendly to women of any age, but movies have been a different domain – they’re very slow to catch up.”

Citing the 'fraternity brother' culture of movie bosses, Meryl largely blames the slow growth on the fact that the number of female directors in the industry is comparatively small. And Romola agrees.

Meryl Streep in Ricki and the Flash

Meryl Streep plays rocker Ricki Rendazzo in new film Ricki and the Flash

“The film industry fosters a lot of bullies and macho behaviour, and when those guys meet a woman who thinks of herself utterly as an equal, they can smell it,” the British actress says in her interview with the Evening Standard. “Some directors are just f***ing threatened by you from the moment they walk on set.”

Romola also describes the differences between the way male and female actors are treated during the creative process.

“When a male actor goes into a dialogue with a director he’s treated as a tortured genius; when a women attempts that dialogue she’s treated as a puppet. It’s like, ‘Just wear the f***ing dress.’ And if you kick up a fuss, or have your own ideas, then you’re a diva.”

The minefield of motherhood is of course a topic both women speak on passionately. Particularly Romola who, after having her first child in 2013, is still feeling the sting of how her pregnancy was treated by those within the industry.

“I felt a great deal of pressure and shame associated with being pregnant, and recovering from childbirth, which was so destructive. Women have stretch marks and a tummy after birth, it’s normal.”

“How many press interviews have you read that say, ‘You’ve recently become a father, has it negatively affected your career?’”

Romola Garai as Suffragette Kate Parry Frye

Romola Garai as Suffragette Kate Parry Frye in TV series The Great War : The Peoples Story

Romola’s experience is something Meryl, a mother of four, says she’s all too familiar with.

“Every day is some kind of compromise if you’re a working woman. There’s a different set of expectations, and there’s a guilt that’s self-generated and condoned in the larger society. In every profession, men are held to a different standard of parenthood.”

Hollywood’s troubling pay gap issue, expertly laid bare earlier this year during Patricia Arquette’s rousing Oscars acceptance speech, is of course something both Meryl and Romola are vocal about too.

Meryl in particular, who says feels a responsibility given her respected position in the business, to help as much as she can in bringing about change.

An example of the sexist double standards which still grates on her, being the revelation revealed by the Sony hacking scandal, that during the making of American Hustle, the film’s male stars Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale and Jeremey Renner were all paid considerably more than its female stars, Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence.

The latter, Meryl credits with likely pulling in a far greater audience than Renner.

On ageism however, Meryl lets peers Patricia Arquette, Tina Fey, Amy Schumer and Julia Louis-Dreyfus have the last word, suggesting that everyone watch their ‘very, very funny’ Last F**kable Day sketch.

Words: Amy Lewis / Images: Rex Features

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