Nancy Meyers Wasn’t Allowed To Be Alone On The First Movie She Produced

by Erika W. Smith

From The Parent Trap to The Holiday to It’s Complicated, director Nancy Meyers movies’ are part of today’s comedy canon. And as Meyers’ career has grown from her start as a 22-year-old production assistant on the Price Is Right, the world has changed. In conversation with film critic Carrie Rickey during Tribeca Film Festival on April 26, Meyers—now 68—recalled the ridiculously sexist line in her contract during the filming of 1980’s Private Benjamin: although she was a writer and producer on the movie, Meyers wasn’t allowed to be on set by herself.

Meyers co-wrote and co-produced Private benjamin with her then-boyfriend Charles Shyer and friend Harvey Miller. (Star Goldie Hawn was also a producer.) Meyers, who was 29 at the time, said that the studio did not take her seriously: “Only in my contract did it say I was not permitted to be on the set by myself, one of the other producers had to be there,” she said. “It was a different time—now people at 29 are directing Star Wars or Jurassic Park. I guess I seemed young, I was a female, they probably thought I was Charles’ girlfriend.”

When Rickey pointed out that she was Charles’ girlfriend, Meyers responded, “You can be someone’s girlfriend and also be a producer.”

She also had a message for the studio heads who put that sexist line in her contract: “Here’s the good news: Here I am—where are they?”

top photo by Peggy Sirota via Wikimedia Commons

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