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Guess which male actor has worked with the most female directors?

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Hannah-Rose Yee
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Ryan Gosling

A viral Twitter thread has looked at the filmographies of all your favourite male actors, from Tom Cruise to Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, Matt Damon, Will Smith and more. Which of them has worked with the most female filmmakers? The answer would surprise you. 

More than 65 actors and filmmakers have pledged their name to the Time’s Up 4% Challenge, which demands that Hollywood hire female directors in a bid to redress the industry’s glaring gender gap.

The challenge, which launched in January, took its name from a depressing statistics that noted that only four out of the 100 highest grossing movies in 2018 were directed by women. In fact, you had to scroll through 33 male names – dozens of Chrises, Robs and Rons – before you reached the first female one. (Ava Duvernay for A Wrinkle in Time.) In 2019, not a single female director was nominated for best Director at the Golden Globes, Oscars, BAFTAs or Critics Choice Awards.

Since the challenge was launched, several big names threw their weight behind it, celebrities including Reese Witherspoon, Brie Larson, Amy Schumer, Tessa Thompson and Kerry Washington. But, outside of the challenge, how many of your favourite male actors have worked with female filmmakers

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The answer is shocking. In a viral Twitter thread shared this week, writer Dean Van Nguyen crunched the numbers and discovered that a disappointing amount of male celebrities have never worked with a female director. 

Excluding animated movies (because of the nature of their directing process), Nguyen discovered that Tom Cruise, Matt Damon, Will Smith, Ben Stiller, Clint Eastwood, Jamie Foxx, Chris Hemsworth, Morgan Freeman, Javier Bardem, Jonah Hill, Zac Efron and – the biggest disappointment of all – Ryan Gosling have all never worked with a female director. Not once. 

Then there was Brad Pitt, Robert Downey Jr, Hugh Jackman, Jim Carrey, Rami Malek, Jake Gyllenhaal and Joaquin Phoenix, who have all worked with just one female director.

These statistics are shocking, but there is some good news. Keanu Reeves has worked with the most female directors over the course of his career, with 13 women on his CV. These include Kathryn Bigelow, the only woman to win a Best Director Oscar and the filmmaker behind Reeves’ Point Break, Nancy Meyers on Something’s Gotta Give and three Matrix movies with Lana and Lilly Wachowski.

Also with a better ratio is Tom Hanks, who worked twice with Penny Marshall (A League of Their Own, Big) and Nora Ephron (You’ve Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle), though that’s still only five movies in a career spanning 35 years. Similarly, Reeves might have worked with 13 female directors, but that’s out of a total of 68 films. 

Keanu Reeves and Nancy Meyers
Keanu Reeves and Nancy Meyers

Amidst all of this, though, David Oyelowo stands out. The British actor is on the record as specifically seeking out female directors for new projects, completing a five film streak with them in 2018. Oyelowo has worked with Ava DuVernay, Mira Nair, Cynthia Mort, Amma Asante and Maris Curran.

“We can complain about inclusion or diversity or all these words that have now become buzz phrases,” Oyelowo told Cosmopolitan. “But if you have the ability to do anything about it and you don’t, you are part of the problem.” 

Oyelowo is right. If you have the power to make change – and let’s all agree that if a male celebrity doesn’t have that power, then who does? – and don’t use it, then you’re part of the problem.

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There’s no two ways about it. Chris Hemsworth needs to work with a female director. Ryan Gosling needs to work with a female director. So, too, do Will Smith, Hugh Jackman, Tom Cruise, Ben Stiller, Matt Damon, Jamie Foxx, Javier Bardem, Jonah Hill and every other name on this list. 

So does my number one celebrity crush Chris Pine, who has only worked with two female directors in his 15 year career. Though, they were good ones (DuVernay and Wonder Woman’s Patty Jenkins) and the Best Hollywood Chris has committed to working with more women in the future, starting with a Jenkins reunion on the Wonder Woman sequel. 

These men need to do better, it’s as simple as that. And if they require help identifying potential female filmmaker candidates, they need only ask. We’ve prepared a list of 25 female directors that you need to know with a little help from DuVernay. You’re welcome, Chris Hemsworth. 

Images: Getty

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Hannah-Rose Yee

Hannah-Rose Yee is a writer, podcaster and recent Australian transplant in London. You can find her on the internet talking about pop culture, food and travel.

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