“It took almost 14 years,” English admits, “and one of the reasons it did was because it’s an all female cast, and the nature of the movie industry now is that it caters to young men under 25. But we’ve always believed if you give women something of themselves onscreen that’s meaningful, they will come, and they’ll come in big numbers.”
The Women arrives in theaters following the blockbuster success of Sex and the City and riding a wave of female-centric cinema that includes The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, Mamma Mia! and the soon-to-be-released The Secret Lives of Bees. Though English is quick to point out, this isn’t a battle of the sexes.
“We love our men,” she offers warmly.
English decided she would update the classic with a feminist twist.
“It’s essentially the same story: A woman finds out her husband has been cheating on her and then what happens with the women that are part of her circle of friends. But the big shift was I wanted to create a celebration of women. The tagline on the old movie is, ‘It’s all about the men.’ The tagline on our movie is, ‘It’s all about the women.’ I don’t think you should ever remake a movie unless you have something new to say, and I think this one definitely did.”
It may be refurbished, but it certainly has a history, one Eva Mendes, as the perfume-spritzing seductress who ensnares Meg Ryan’s husband is quick to sidestep when comparisons to Crawford, who originated her role, are mentioned.
“I didn’t try to fill anybody’s shoes,” Mendes says, getting flustered and giggling with embarrassment. “She’s Joan Crawford, oh my god. And she killed it!”
In creating her own take on the character, Mendes and English worked very closely to ensure she was both believable and likeable.
“We wanted [audiences] to realize she’s not a bad person,” Mendes explains, “she’s just desperate. It’s not like she’s a husband stealer like, ‘I’m gonna get you.’ She’s more like, ‘Look, you’ve had your fun; you’ve had money all your life, you have your kid with this guy, you have your houses; let me have a piece of the pie for a few years. You’ll get him back, let me just have him for a while.”
Rather than focus on the disintegration of a marriage or venom toward a mistress, English decided to concentrate on the female bonds in the story and what happens when two women betray each other.
“It was more interesting to me to explore the dynamics of the relationship of Meg and Annette’s character than what would happen with [the marriage],” English says. “In the end, it’s about two girlfriends who go through a terrible breakup. I want you to care more about whether there’s forgiveness there and if that can be repaired than the marriage.”
Ultimately, it’s about the love and friendship shared between women.
“There’s a kind of contact, a kind of sustenance you get from your female friends and it’s so unique,” Benning says. “I value that so much.”
Ryan echoes her sentiments: “I have a very close tribe of girlfriends who I don’t know what I would do, or who I would even be, without.”
The Women releases in theaters Sept. 12.