The studio bean counters behind “Battleship” and “John Carter” should listen up: Meryl Streep wants your job.
“In the last five years, five little movies aimed at women have brought in over 1.6 b-b-billion dollars at the worldwide box office,” the three-time Best Actress Oscar winner told a ballroom full of the most prominent women in the entertainment industry on Tuesday night.
“Five little movies — 'The Help,' 'The Iron Lady' believe it or not, 'Bridesmaids,' 'Mamma Mia' and 'The Devil Wears Prada.' And I will bet you that their profits were significant because they cost a fraction of what the big tentpole failures cost,” Streep said.
“So why why why (don’t studios make these)?” she continued to laughter. “Don’t they want the money? Why is it so hard to get these movies made?”
Streep appeared with Viola Davis, NBCUniversal Cable Chairman Bonnie Hammer, actresses Chloe Grace Moretz and Christina Applegate, and the five female film division presidents from Fox as they toplined Women In Film’s annual Crystal + Lucy Awards hosted by Jenna Elfman (below right) at the Beverly Hilton.
Though not an honoree, Streep’s presence — sitting next to her “Doubt” co-star Viola Davis and within the sightline of every speaker — dominated the three-hour dinner and permeated nearly every speech within the International Ballroom.
“She’s like our own Queen of England,” one WIF executive tells TheWrap.
The tributes began with WIF president Cathy Schulman’s welcome (“Meryl Streep said to me while we standing outside, ‘every year you guys publish these really discouraging statistics’ (on female hires…'") and concluded with top honoree Davis’ public confession in her closing acceptance speech that she framed a card Streep sent her after wrapping “Doubt.”
Only five nights earlier, Streep presented Shirley MacLaine with the AFI Life Achievement Award in front of a similar crowd of Hollywood luminaries including Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, Julia Roberts and nearly every major studio head.
As an actual honoree, Applegate (left, with Chloe Moretz) delivered the most powerful appearance of the night.
Applegate tempered her teary speech detailing her breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent advocacy for early detection via MRI's with humor: “I have a voice, I might be heard…not like at home,” relating her inability to convince her daughter that crayons are not a food group.
She related intimate details of learning her breast cancer diagnosis at Cedars-Sinai. Because of a high-risk family history, her doctor-ordered MRI was the exception to the rule. For most, this advanced detection method is cost-prohibitive. Her advocacy since recovering has focused on making the early detection procedure routine.
“I have a voice because of this gig that I’ve had with all of you, for the last — I think it’s been 50 years,” she said. “My SAG card says ‘Member since 1963’, which is weird because I was born in ‘71.”
Her former on-screen dad, Ed O’Neill, presented her with the Norma Zarky Humanitarian Award.
“I never want to look in the face of a young actress of a color and wonder what’s out there for her,” Crystal award winner Davis said.
Davis challenged the custom of actresses aging-out of the industry. “People always say ‘what ever happened to so-and-so, and the next response is always ‘oh, she’s over 40’, that’s what happened to her,” she said.
“At the age of 46, I’m very proud to be Viola Davis. The higher purpose in my life is not just to do the song and dance, but it’s also to rise up and to pull up (others), and to leave the world and the industry a little bit better."
NBCUniversal Cable Chairman Hammer highlighted her roots as a production assistant in Boston public television as she accepted the “Lucy” award, named after Lucille Ball.
It was a big night for Fox, as the honorees included the five female film division presidents that collectively have logged 99 years at the studio: Nancy Utley (President, Fox Searchlight), Emma Watts (President of Production, Twentieth Century Fox), Elizabeth Gabler (President of Production, Fox 2000), Claudia Lewis (President of Production, Fox Searchlight), and Vanessa Morrison Murchison (President of Animation, Fox Animation).
“Our business now desperately needs to stick up for what is a true minority,” Fox Film CEO Tom Rothman quipped. “That would be male Jews at Fox.”
“I have a Greek partner, I have gentile bosses, and I have five female heads of production,” he added (He was referencing co-CEO Jim Gianapolous and Rupert Murdoch respectively.)
“I’m finishing up ninth grade, and I’m in high school,” ‘Hugo’ star Moretz reminded the gathering, giving context to her honor as the Max Mara Face of the Future.
“In high school, we have a name for the group that is assembled here. We call you smart girls. And I want to be a smart girl.”
And she had her own Streep-starstruck-confession: They discovered they had once been housed in the same “star-rental” flat on location and bonded over a shared love of its oven.
By 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday, the 15-year-old Moretz would literally be a woman in film again. She was bound for the set of “Carrie,” where she stars as the titular character in the Stephen King remake.