Hollywood has a problem: there still aren’t enough female directors. Women helmed only 6 percent of last year’s top-grossing films, according to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University. From a statistical perspective, the gender imbalance is striking. But what does it mean from an actor’s point of view?
This week, Keira Knightley addressed the issue, and also provided some pretty powerful insight into why we need more female directors.
“It’s nice working with women, because you don’t have to do this lovable, soft version of what the female sex has to be,” she told London’s Sunday Times Magazine. She went on to state that a female director’s POV is important because, ““It also allows men to understand women, as opposed to them being something pink and fluffy.”
She summed up her point beautifully when she said, “There’s a weird view of femininity we put into our culture that has nothing to do with the experience of being a woman.”
Knightley has a solid history of working with female directors. Her big break came in 2002 when she was featured in the Gurinder Chadha-helmed Bend it Like Beckham. She later appeared in screenwriter Lorene Scafaria’s feature directing debut Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. This year, she starred in indie-darling director Lynn Shelton’s Laggies. Yes, Knightley has over 50 acting credits on her IMDb page. Yes, female directors only headed up a few of these films. The funny (not funny haha) thing is, because women directors in Hollywood have such a tough time breaking through, starring in a handful of films directed by women is actually a LOT for an A-list actress with a decade-plus career.
Knightley knows it’s a problem too, and she’s upfront about the fact that she has ‘no idea’ what to do about Hollywood’s gender problems.
“I think when you recognize it’s strange that half the population doesn’t have the same voice as the other half, it does make you go “Ha! This is interesting. . . What do you do? No idea, I wish I knew. Keep on having conversations and somebody intelligent will go, Eureka!”
The good news is, Knightley is taking a stand by using her star power to support female directors and call attention to their value. Imagine what would happen if all the A-list actresses started pushing for more opportunities for female directors. And, in fact, I shouldn’t be limiting this ‘what if’ to actresses—what if a whole slew of actresses AND actors started doing press advocating for more female-directed movies. Knightley talks about the importance of continuing these conversations, and she’s right, but I think if we want to get this ball rolling in the right direction, we really need all sorts of people with power and influence in the entertainment industry to pick up the conversation where Knightley has left off and keep this issue in the forefront of Hollywood’s mind.