Lately, we've been seeing a lot of fans excited about the all-female EXPENDABLES movie (AKA EXPENDABELLES). Many fans and geeks and film writers have suggested Lexi Alexander as the natural choice for a female action film director, since the producers announced they'd definitely be hiring a female director for the project. Alexander has read the script and was waiting to take meetings.
What people don't know is that this last week Alexander was denied a meeting with Mark Gill, the executive in charge of the new EXPENDABLES film. Alexander posted on her personal blog about what happened when her manager tried to get her a meeting with Mark Gill. Gill, I might add, has a reputation for not being friendly towards women directors. That's only a rumor I have heard from other directors, but it seems cosistent with the conversation below if what Alexander says is true. This is from Alexander's blog and recounts her experience trying to get a meeting about EXPENDABELLES:
When people alerted me to all the blogs and articles out there naming me as their favorite director for the flick, I was really touched and thought that I should at least read the script, maybe meet and show my appreciation for the folks who are championing me. I called my manager and she happily called Millennium that day (the fact that I rarely meet on that size movie any more is a bit of a sore subject between us, which is why this made her happy).
We don't get a call back for three days, so my manager calls again. This time the executive in charge of Expendabelles, Mark Gill, takes her call.
This is how the conversation went:
Mark Gill: I know who you're calling about and it's not going to happen.
Manager: Who am I calling about?
Gill: Lexi Alexander.
Manager: Have you seen all the stuff on the internet? The whole world thinks she's perfect for this.
Gill: I don't give a fuck what the whole world thinks. Sly brought her up as well and I talked him out of it.
Manager: But why?
Gill: I don't think she knows anything about women kicking ass.
Manager: Are you serious?
Gill: Yeah. I don't buy into all the buzz.
Manager: Don't you think you should at least meet her in person and find out what she knows ? You've never met her in person, correct?
Gill: I have not and I don't want to. Unless she wants to step in the ring with me.
Manager: Excuse me?
Gill: The ring as in "boxing ring". Three 2-minute rounds, full-contact, any style she wants. If she gets through it without crying I'll be a little more convinced that she knows something about strong women and I may grant her a meeting. Maybe.
Manager: Do you know she was-
Gill: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I heard the whole spiel, World Kickboxing-Champion, whatever degree black belt-
Manager: Third degree.
Gill: Pfft, my gardner's ten-year-old son is an 8th degree black belt. I told you she's an incompetent underachiever.
Manager: She was a Martial Arts instructor for the Marines Corps.
Gill: Then you don't have anything to worry about if she gets in the ring with me, do you?
Manager: Trust me, that's not what I am worried about.
Gill: I have to go, Sly wants to play nine holes and I don't want to be one of them. You know the deal, either she proves herself to me or I don't ever want to hear her name again.
Ring….ring….ring (this is my phone ringing now, although my ringtone is the tune from the Muppets – ma-nam-a-na bee-bee bi-bi-bi, but that would be weird to write)
Manager: Hey, ah, I — I — just got off the phone with Mark Gill.
Me: (laughing) That bad, huh? I told you he is not a fan.
Manager: You're not kidding. You really never met him? Ever?
Me: I may have been introduced to him at some event over the years, but I doubt even that happened.
Manager: How do you know he doesn't like you?
Me: I guess this new level of hate I have Lionsgate to thank for. But his dislike for me goes back all the way to Johnny Flynton.
Manager: What happened with Johnny Flynton?
Me: Nothing. He just didn't like it. After it was nominated for an Oscar they set me up with all these general meetings. Mark Gill was the only exec who didn't want to meet me, 'said he didn't get the film.
Manager: Who the fuck doesn't get Johnny Flynton?
Me: Mark Gill and one other person on the internet.
Me: I take it I won't be meeting on Expendabelles then, huh?
Manager: Actually, he does want to meet you….
Me: He does?
Manager: Yeah, but…this is going to sound crazy…he wants to have some kind of boxing match with you, to see how much you really know about women kicking ass.
Me: Ha, ha. Very funny.
Manager: I swear. I'm not kidding, that's what he said and he didn't sound drunk.
Me: Mark Gill? March of the Penguins' Mark Gill wants to fight me?
Manager: Yes. He said something like — "Hey Richy, are you on the line?"
(Richy: My manager's assistant. Always on the line, always takes notes)
Richy: I'm here.
Manager: What did he say exactly?
Richy: He wants you to fight three 2-minute rounds, full- contact, any style.
Me: Are you guys fucking with me?
Manager & Richy: No!
Me: Penguin guy wants to fight me ? Are you sure he was talking about himself, not Sly?
Manager: I'm sure.
Me: Under what conditions? Me blindfolded with one arm tied behind my back?
Manager: He didn't mention that.
Me: Does he know about my back–
Manager: He knows all about you.
Me: I can't do it.
Manager: Why not? He's asking for it.
Me: I can't fight Penguin guy, I'll murder him and clearly he's already suffering from brain damage.
Manager: How many times do I have to tell you Lexi, you gotta swim with the sharks if you wanna make it in this town. Fuck his brain damage. If he'd rather get punched in the face than sit through another director's power point presentation, then punch him in the face and get the job.
Manager: Light-bulb moment?
Me: Yeah. I'm starting to think that for someone like…say…God or Santa Clause, a person who's considered "difficult" in Hollywood is actually a saint.
Manager: I'm not sure I understand and unfortunately I have a staff meeting now. You're doing this, right?
Me: Sure. Set a date.
Okay, okay…that's not really what happened…but a girl can dream right?
Actually, the only thing I made up is the fight challenge, everything else is pretty much how it went down. But the way I see it, if someone makes a clear-cut judgment about you without ever meeting you in person…that only defines them.
I hope you will all support the movie anyway, because they will definitely hire a female director (I don't think they can go back on that and pretend they tried, given that there are 1400 female directors in the DGA alone and I don't know how many qualified women worldwide) and whoever she is, she'll need all the help she can get.
My personal vote goes to Lynne Ramsay because she's amazing and I'm not only talking about Kevin (see what I did there). Watch Ratcatcher or Morvern Callar and tell me she's not one bad-ass director. And yes I heard the rumors, but that's all they are: rumors. My friend Des Hamilton (Greenstreet casting director) has worked with her many times and has nothing but great things to say about her. Calum Marsh of film.com wrote an excellent article on this.
While Alexander embellishes a bit about Gill wanting to get in a kickboxing ring with her and have her prove herself to him as an ass-kicking woman (Gill did not really suggest that), it's clear that he does not want to use Alexander for the film, dislikes her, and refuses to meet with her. I know Alexander may be paraphrasing some of Gill's statements as well, as I have not spoken with Gill or with Alexander's manager about this. Alexander, and I, and probably many fans, don't really understand why Gill won't meet with her, at the very least, since she's the first choice of so many fans for the franchise sequel. I would love to know who Gill is considering, though. Wouldn't you?