Day Out of Days, directed by Zoe Cassavetes, is revolutionary in its exploration of ageism and sexism in Hollywood. This is the movie we've been waiting for, the one that is willing to take on Hollywood's deplorable discrimination against older women, whether that be actresses, directors, or screenwriters.
Out tomorrow, Feb. 23, the film tells the story of Mia, a 40-year-old actress who in is a slump professsionally and personally. Day Out of Days is the second feature from Zoe Cassavetes, who wrote and directed Broken English in 2007. Cassavetes co-wrote the film with Alexia Landau (2 Days in Paris), who stars as Mia. Mia has to contend with more than one skeezy male director, an ex-boyfriend who still flirts with her but has replaced her with a much younger woman, and rude comments from casting directors suggesting she change her appearance. When it comes to attacking actresses in their 40s, the women in this film are as guilty as the men: both genders say truly awful things to Mia. In one memorable scene, Vincent Kartheiser, playing one of the aforementioned directors, responds to Mia's question about her character's motivation for screaming by launching into a mysogynistic diatribe, telling Mia, among other things, "You’re screaming for all the boys who left you for younger women."
BUST spoke to the brilliant Zoe Cassavetes about living through sexism and ageism in Hollywood before it became a hot topic, women writing their own material, and how she and Alexia Landau pooled their experiences to write an authentic female character.
The conversation about ageism and women in Hollywood has been amped up recently. Was there any particular event or news item that made you want to do this movie?
No. [It was something that I was really thinking about], and before the conversation went on a public forum, it was a conversation being had by many of my friends and peers who were that age. Especially actresses and people who had to keep up these insane appearances...and I just found that that was very interesting, and of course as I started writing the script, the conversation got louder and it got more public, and I thought it was very interesting to have touched on something at the same time.
So it was really good timing: you started noticing these things and then suddenly the media was in an uproar about them.
Yeah. I wish I could be that predictive about everything.
Was there an instance when you personally encountered ageism or sexism in Hollywood?
After doing the movie and after listening to a lot of conversations and reading a lot about a lot of women who I respect and what they have to say about certain things, I think this always existed, this ageism, sexism, and whatever. It was just what it is. And women or minorities found tricky ways of getting in the door and getting the door open and getting past prejudice. Did I? Sure. I probably didn't even notice that there was something wrong [at] the time it was happening to me, but I think as women's voices become more stronger and prevalent and equal to mens', that there has to be this conversation about equality.
Could you go more into depth about what you started noticing among people you know about ageism recently?
Especially with my actress friends, they're definitely not getting cast age-appropriately with the male counterpart. My 40-year-old friends aren't getting jobs as 40-year-old women because somebody, I won't say who because I don't know, wants it to be a younger woman. That's there all the time. But I think, again, as women start to feel allowed, really allowed, as a group, to just come into our own, we expect everything to follow suit, and I think, also, that it happens in every business, but [acting] is a great stage for it, because we all know it, we all see it. With the way that society is now, and social media and everything, we're all privy to this life beyond what you see on screen. And it all has to be projected [like] "I'm fine, I'm happy, this is my amazing life..." and I think that there's this sort of perfection perception. And we're all guilty of buying into it because you start getting things ingrained in your brain...And that's why I think this conversation is really interesting, this equality and ageism and everything, but...I'm almost a little sick of the conversation myself, I prefer action. And I think that's what's really interesting about the movie: it actually doesn't really sit around and bitch about it, but you actually get to see how someone is affected by it.
At the end of the movie, Mia comes out ahead because she persevered: she did a film she didn’t really enjoy but she did good acting, and it ends up giving her the opportunity to be in a horror franchise. But at the same time, she resists conforming to other people’s ideas of how she should change her appearance. Do you think persevering and ignoring what people think you should conform to is the best strategy for an actress in their 40s?
I don't know. I think that there's all different strategies for different people. I think Mia thought she was a real artist, and when she started, in the '90s or whatever, that was considered something that was important...and she's not particularly a person that changed easily with time. Which I think is interesting because as you get older, it's harder to change all the things that you know about yourself and all the things that you know about the world. I think it depends on your personality. I think it really worked well for someone like Rose McGowan or Lena Dunham...It's not an easy job to stand up to an army of people who are against the non-convention of what you're thinking. If you want to have an extraordinary life, you have to go against convention. Some people's dreams are different. My particular dreams are to make stuff that's really good. And so I guess there is my part of what I wrote into Mia...I'm interested in quality and sometimes quality [doesn't] bring money, and all those things don't really come together as easily as they might. But I still fight about it because I think it's important to me.
In her Critics’ Choice Award acceptance speech, Amy Schumer talked about how if you’re an actress with a real body, you have to write your own stuff in order to get it made. Do you agree?
Mm hmm. There's a cookie-cutter image of what Hollywood should be and I feel that maybe all this conversation is breaking it...I think people are critical, it's true. You have to fit into the sample size and you have to be so skinny and I look at these girls and they look like they're gonna blow away. And it's great to see someone like Amy Schumer, who has got a body and mind to back it up. Yeah, women should write their own stuff. They wanna talk about their stuff, they should write about it.
You co-wrote the film with Alexia Landau, who plays Mia, and she's very similar to Mia in that they're both actresses in their 40s. Did she have a lot of insight to contribute about Mia’s character?
She did. Especially about the details. I had an overall perception about what I wanted to say about that kind of life, and then Alexia came in and gave me a lot of her personal experience and her fears, and coming into this movie, we didn't want it to sound false and we didn't want it to sound glib or that we were whining. We were each testing each other all the time to see if we could get the most authentic moment out of it. Of course, she brought a lot of it. We will argue about what we think is right with each other. She's as strong-willed as I am...
When you're around Hollywood for as long as I am, you hear a lot of stories...some stuff happens to you, some stuff is urban myth. The stuff that's more true is the stuff that's more incredulous and would be harder to make up.
There were certainly a lot of lines in the film that were such mean, horrible things to say to someone and I was like "I hope that's not true but I can also see it being true because it's so specific."
Yeah, it's a tough business...I don't even know if anyone thinks they're being mean anymore because it's just norms of how people speak to each other...I think also, a lot of times, we're focused on the wrong thing. We're more focused on if you're going to be really skinny and you're going to fit into that, you're gonna wear Versace to that awards thing. I don't give a shit about that, you know? Did you do a good job in the movie? The focus should just turn to something a little more serious. It doesn't mean you can't have all the glamour and glitz, I love all of that as well. I love to watch the red carpet. I don't like to be on one. But I do like to watch one.
In the film, Mia's interested in trying to write, but we don’t actually see that happening, we don't see her follow up on it. Do you think that that's in the future for her character? After the horror franchise, do you think she'll approach writing again?
I always like to leave really open-ended stories so people can have their own opinion about it. I think the writing is more of a symbol of her taking control of her own destiny. As an actor...you just wait for the phone to ring, wait for the audition, wait for the script to come. You're totally not in control of your life...Clearly [Mia] could write a script, she's definitely smart enough to, but I think it's definitely a symbol of her sitting down and recapturing her life.
Day Out of Days is out 2/23 on Digital HD and VOD.
Images Via MarVista Digital Entertainment
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Madeline Raynor is a New York City-based writer. She is a Blog Editor at BUST. She has written for Splitsider, The Billfold, Death and Taxes, Mashable, Indiewire, and Time Out New York. She loves all things Tina Fey. Word to the wise: her first name is pronounced with a long “i,” like the red-haired girl from France. Follow her on Twitter @madelineraynor_.