Actress-director Elizabeth Banks called out Steven Spielberg for the notable lack of female leads in his films.
Banks was accepting the Women In Film Crystal Award for excellence in film at the star-studded ceremony that honours women in the industry on Tuesday when she took aim at the “Jaws” and “Saving Private Ryan” director.
“I went to ‘Indiana Jones’ and ‘Jaws’ and every movie Steven Spielberg ever made, and by the way, he’s never made a movie with a female lead,” she exclaimed. “Sorry, Steven. I don’t mean to call your a$$ out, but it’s true.”
An audience member called out with “The Color Purple”, citing the 1985 movie with Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey – a rare Spielberg movie to feature women as the lead characters.
“Okay, ‘The Color Purple’, okay, I’m wrong,” she replied, before continuing her point about the lack of female leads in movies.
On Thursday, ET Canada reached out to a rep for a comment from the “Schindler’s List” director on Banks’ statement:
“Mr. Spielberg is on location shooting ‘The Papers’ starring Meryl Streep and is unavailable for comment,” ET Canada has learned.
Banks’ speech highlighted her experience seeing movies with male characters at the centre.
“I grew up going to see amazing movies with amazing men at the heart of them and no one dragged me screaming and kicking to see these movies. They are great movies. Tell great stories and invite people into the stories,” she says, recalling an experience she had while speaking on a panel about film. “This woman in the audience, said, ‘Do you have children?’ At the time, I did not. And she said, ‘Well, I have two boys. And it’s nearly impossible to get them to be excited about a movie about girls.'”
The moment stuck with Banks who now says she has the voice to speak up about gender inequality and the representation of women in Hollywood: “I was really angry at this woman, and I didn’t have the words or the experience or the voice in that moment to tell her how crazy it is that, like, you’re in charge of what they do, you’re their mother! Like buy a f***ing ticket to a movie with a woman. Take them, give them the experience of seeing an amazing women on film! I didn’t have that voice then, but I have it now. And I’m the mother of two boys… and their favourite movie for like two and a half years was ‘Frozen’.”
For the actress, setting an example to her two sons was important, both as a working mother and as someone who strives for better representation of female characters on-screen.
“I am so proud that I get to raise my two boys to love women. And I’m so proud that I get to present an example to them of a working mom who really loves what she does,” she explains. “And I take the responsibility very seriously. In this room, we are creating culture. We are sending messages out to the world. Those messages matter. And presenting strong, independent women who have agency in TV and film is really important, not just in this room and not just in our culture but in the global culture… and co-opting men and boys into that process is the only way that progress is going to happen.”
Banks, who eight years ago was named the Face Of The Future by the Women In Film Awards, expressed her gratitude at being able to present an award at this year’s ceremony.
“I’m really glad to be up here and I’m glad to be giving an award that’s about expanding the roles of women in this industry,” the “Pitch Perfect 2” director began her speech. “But part of the reason I am up here is because the movie made $287 million,” she states, as the audience erupts in cheers.