On Saturday at the Cannes Film Festival in France, 82 women walked the red carpet in protest, drawing attention to the lack of female representation in the film industry and at Cannes. Since the festival began in 1946, only 82 female directors’ films have premiered at the festival. The tally for male directors stands at 1,688.
Cannes jury president Cate Blanchett led the demonstration, along with Agnès Varda, a legendary French director. Standing on the steps of the Palais des Festivals with a slew of powerful women, Blanchett and Varda delivered a speech in English and French, respectively. They demanded equal pay, diverse representation within the industry, safe work environments and a world where women can “thrive shoulder to shoulder with our male colleagues.”
The protest was organized by 5050x2020, a French movement that is calling for gender equality within the country’s film industry.
Among the 82 women standing in protest was the actress, producer and director Salma Hayek Pinault, a leading voice in the #MeToo and Times Up movements and among the dozens of women who have accused Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct. Hayek gave a wide-ranging interview with reporters on Sunday, covering the power of the #MeToo movement, changes in the movie industry, the gender pay gap and the Weinstein scandal.
Hayek sees the activism of the #MeToo movement carrying over into other causes, such as the calls for gun control in the aftermath of the Parkland, Fla., shooting.
“When you start seeing people standing up for their rights and being heard, it becomes contagious,” she said. “I personally think that the movement of the students after the attack in Florida had to do with what they saw happening with the #MeToo movement.”
“I think it’s an invitation for us to think differently and to act differently,” she said.
“Change has already happened” in Hollywood, Hayek said, so the time has come for women in the industry to build on that momentum through their film work. Now is the time for female film makers to show audiences and industry leaders what they’ve been missing, Hayek said.
Just this year, the 51-year-old Mexican-born actor has sold four television shows about women to different outlets. She is developing five movies, and they are all about women, she said. “I can’t find enough female writers and directors,” Hayek said. “They’re all busy.”
She sees this as a sign that filmmakers are starting to prioritize hiring female writers and directors.
“Maybe you don’t see the difference in the numbers, but it just happened this year,” Hayek said. “It worked. And I think we should enjoy it.”
To close the gender pay gap, Hayek said, women will “need to be more aggressive” when it comes to salary negotiation.
Male actors need to step up too, Hayek said. Some might consider giving up a portion of their inflated salaries to make sure their female counterparts are being paid equally. Certain male actors make such high salaries that movie producers would not be able to afford paying women the same amount, Hayek said.
“It’s not just the producers,” Hayek said. “The actors have to say, ‘Okay, time’s up. I’ve had a good run, but it’s time to also be generous.’ ”
One actor, Benedict Cumberbatch, on Sunday said he would boycott film projects that do not pay women the same as their male co-stars.
When women accuse Weinstein of sexual misconduct, the producer and his team of publicists typically provide general statements and denials to the press. But he did respond to a few women’s accounts directly. Hayek’s was one of them.
In December, Hayek detailed her story in a New York Times commentary, describing how Weinstein allegedly propositioned her and pressured her to do a sex scene while filming “Frida.”
In a lengthy statement, Weinstein apologized for his “boorish behavior” following a screening of “Frida” but claimed he never fought with Hayek on set and didn’t recall some of her allegations.
One of the other early accounts that prompted an individualized apology from Weinstein was from Lupita Nyong’o, who wrote a commentary in the New York Times detailing a pattern of predatory behavior by Weinstein.
Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Hayek argued that Weinstein singled out Nyong’o and herself because they are women of color, while most of the accusers were not.
“It was a strategy by the lawyers, because we are the easiest to get discredited,” Hayek said. “It is a well-known fact, if you are a woman of color, people believe what you say less. So he went attacking the two women of color, in hopes that if he could discredit us, he could then maybe discredit the rest.”