Director Gina Prince-Bythewood and Skydance chief creative officer Dana Goldberg say their determination to bring women to the table allowed their Netflix summer action hit “The Old Guard” to break new ground on both sides of the camera.
During a wide-ranging conversation at TheWrap’s Power Women’s Summit, Prince-Bythewood recalled walking into the offices of Skydance Media to discuss directing “The Old Guard.” The male action movie icons on display in the Skydance office were more than a little intimidating for the “Love and Basketball” and “The Secret Life of Bees” director. “A life-size Terminator and a life-size Tom Cruise (from) ‘Mission Impossible’ — it was exciting to walk in there knowing I had a slim chance…of maybe being added to these life-sized things,” she joked.
At the time, she could have never predicted that the 2020 superhero action movie starring Charlize Theron would become one of Netflix’s 10 most popular movies of all time and would make Prince-Bythewood the first Black female director to make the list.
Goldberg assured the director during the PWS that even before she came through the door that day, she was already the top choice for the job because, as it turned out, the two filmmakers had the same goal: to put as many talented women as possible both on the screen and behind the scenes.
“For the record, you had a lot more than a slim chance,” Goldberg told Prince-Bythewood. “We felt like we were the lucky ones to be getting you in the room. And, for the record, I very much look forward to the time when we all get back in an office together so you can walk through again and see the big giant ‘Old Guard’ posters and standees that will be everywhere.”
The pair said passion reigned on both sides of the table when it came to Greg Rucka’s script based on his series of graphic novels about a team of immortal mercenaries able to recover from mortal injuries while fighting to maintain their secret identity. Theron plays the centuries-old Andy, the most cynical of the group that discovers a new member, Nile (Kiki Layne), whose dormant immortality surfaces as she is telepathically drawn into their circle.
For her part, Goldberg was determined to have a female director to understand the relationships between the women in the film, particularly Andy and Kiki. “There is a lot going on in this movie, but at the heart of it, it’s the relationship between the two of them,” Goldberg said.
“When I read the script, I knew within five pages,” Prince-Bythewood said. “It’s like, oh my God, I need to do this film…It is intimidating, but more so as a woman. You’ve got to go in with swagger because you have to make y’all believe that you’re going to give me millions of dollars and that I can just say no.”
And it was a mission accomplished. They were proud of the number of women who worked on the film in all areas, including Hayley Williams as special effects supervisor, an area traditionally dominated by men. “I think she’s the only female supervisor in the industry, and she was in charge of all our explosions, our booms and our blood, and she was amazing,” Prince-Bythewood said.
But, Prince-Bythewood said, they all were hired because they were the best at their craft not because of their gender.
“There is no PC thing to this,” she said. “Every woman, every department that we had on this is dope, and so good, and made the film better, and made me better…So many resumes are of women in this industry are smaller than those of men in the same positions. I have found so often that it’s not about talent, it’s just about opportunity. I’m willing to do the work and look beyond the resume.”
“The women that we hired were just also passionate about telling the story and wanting to be part of the story,” Prince-Bythewood continued. “All we ask is, get us in the room, and then let us show what we can do.”
Watch Gina Prince-Bythewood and Dana Goldberg’s Power Women Summit conversation above.