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Why Maggie Gyllenhaal worked mostly with women to make 'The Kindergarten Teacher'  11 Months ago

Source:   USA Today  

PARK CITY, Utah – What does it mean to make feminine art? 

That's a question Maggie Gyllenhaal has been wrestling with in her work: playing a feminist prostitute-turned-porn filmmaker in HBO drama "The Deuce," and starring as a poetry-loving educator who becomes obsessed with her student in psychological thriller "The Kindergarten Teacher" (streaming Friday on Netflix).

Gyllenhaal, 40, produced both projects, which employed women directors, writers and production chiefs behind the scenes. 

"One of the things I love about this movie is that it feels like it was made by women," she says, sitting in a lounge on Main Street. "Being on a set with mostly women, it does feel different. I don't even know if I can tell you how. It's not like it was gentler, necessarily, or some stereotype of what that might mean. Just different."

The actress spoke to USA TODAY about "The Kindergarten Teacher" and why she supports the #TimesUp movement. 

Q: At the beginning of the film, you think it's going to go one way before it veers off in so many surprising directions. What was your reaction reading the script for the first time? 

A: I love that. The script was incredibly good, and I remember closing the last page and just thinking, "I definitely want to do this movie." Women have gotten so used to, if we're lucky, seeing a movie or television show that represents maybe 30% of the feminine experience or something we can relate to. And 30% is great, we're like, "Cool, I'll take that. I'll twist myself into imagining the other 70%." So when you get a piece of material that presents the opportunity to represent 100% of the feminine experience, it's so compelling and magnetic. 

Q: Despite the extremes that your character, Lisa, ultimately goes to, are there qualities of hers that you think audiences can relate to? 

A: My character crosses a lot of lines and does a lot of things, but I don't think she's fundamentally mentally ill. She's somebody who is starving. She's an artist who is driven mad by the culture and the time that she finds herself in, and that's the same time and culture that we find ourselves in. That's very compelling. (The movie is) honest about the pain and despair that a lot of women have lived with at certain times, in terms of not being fed what they need. 

Q: Writer/director Sara Colangelo brought you this script long before it was financed. Signing on to produce and star, was it imperative for you that there were women in chief roles behind the scenes? 

A: No, I have worked with fantastic men. (BBC miniseries) "The Honorable Woman" was written, directed, edited and shot by men. It was a place I could express real, true feminine work, and I wasn't attached to that (as a producer). The fact that ("The Kindergarten Teacher") is written and directed by a woman, about a woman, financed by women, produced by women, shot by a man — but a lover of women — was just because the story compelled us. It wasn't an exercise in, "How many women can we put together?" I don't really believe in that, to be honest. 

Q: You signed the #TimesUp open letter and donated to the legal defense fund. Have you attended any meetings? 

A: I have. That is really interesting, too, because there were a lot of actresses in the room, many of whom were much younger and much older. And there was also this group of actresses who are always pitted against each other: "If this person doesn't do it, they'll come to you," or "If you don't do it, they'll go to her." It was amazing to take the power back into our own hands and work together.

I'm particularly compelled by the legal defense fund, because I am for due process. We have to find a way to codify all this pain and misrepresentation, so to give money to pay for legal representation for women and men in many different industries who need (it) — that was exactly where I want to put my money in terms of all of this.

 

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