The first actresses roundtable

Long before The Hollywood Reporter made it a thing, the Premiere magazine had put together a roundtable of Hollywood actresses for a special issue that was published in June 1993. It was the first time that Premiere had an issue that was entirely devoted to women. Knowing how sexist that Hollywood is, and how money is the main aim, perhaps the investors behind Premiere had the courage to put together a female-exclusive issue because of the success that Femme Fatale had. The latter magazine began publication in the summer of 1992. Throughout the commotion of the Me Too movement, the annual female-only edition of Premiere got lost in the shuffle. Below are some choice quotes from the roundtable discussion in 1993, but I truncated and combined some quotes for the sake of being concise, so it’s not strictly chronological. Enjoy…

Sally Field: At social gatherings, we end up in a corner saying How did you behave in this situation? and Did anyone ever do this to you?

Demi Moore: Yes, last week, three of us – Nicole Kidman and Sally and I – were talking about how to deal with certain men who have a problem with strong women.

Jodie Foster: Part of it is about directors being parents and actors being children. And there are good parents and bad parents. Most actors spend the first two weeks of a shoot figuring out what they can get away with – can they get the car keys? I become blindly devotional.

Sally: It’s fascinating that every year some of the biggest-grossing films are “women’s films,” meaning that the central characters are women. I guess that constitutes a women’s film. What is a woman’s film?

Demi: You can see Sean Connery with a woman of 20 to 30, but if you were to put a woman in her 60s with a young man, then the story has to be about that?

Jodie: Well, women are going to the movies more. And women bring guys.

Sally: This country has a very adolescent attitude towards sexuality.

Demi: That’s for sure.

Jodie: People tend to stick women into two categories – either you’re sexual or you’re a mother, and the twain shall never meet.

Sally: Is there a more difficult part of our lives than our sexuality? Filmmakers are probably not even sure what they feel about it.

Demi: People got so crazy because I was pregnant and nude on Vanity Fair’s cover, to the point of saying that it was pornographic. I don’t know how they want to imagine that you get pregnant!

Jodie: In terms of image, it’s a progressive step.

Sally: When I started, I did television for a long time. I went to my agent and said I’m not doing any more television. And he said You can’t do that. Women don’t make any money in film – and you’re not pretty enough. It was devastating. I said You’re fired.

Demi: Rob Reiner did me such a great service in A Few Good Men because there’s no romantic relationship with Tom. We don’t have a kiss – nothing. When this project was at TriStar in the previous administration, they read the script and the first notes back to Aaron Sorkin were Why is Jo female? She doesn’t take her clothes off, and there’s no love scene.

Jodie: That’s why Thelma and Louise is what it is. Because when they said to Ridley Scott: Listen, two women over 30 on the road together, who wants to see it? He said: Too bad. I’m making it for $17 million, and I’m making it the way I want.

Sally: Hand That Rocks the Cradle was just sort of harmless, but Basic Instinct

Demi: I believe relating sex with violence in any sense is wrong. Making rape romantic on any level is the biggest crime that exists in film. And perpetuating the image of a woman who is just a conniving b!tch is not helpful.

Jodie: Everybody – members of any union, people who are married – should picket the movie. The movie is so ill-informed about human behaviour that it’s almost insulting to bring it into a conversation about women. In terms of women, it’s catastrophic, but it’s so laughable that it’s almost not to be taken seriously.

Sally: They kept trying to make Doris Day look like she was 20 when she was 40. Let her be 40, for God’s sake!

Demi: We need those role models desperately.

Jodie:  It’s always catch-22. When you’re a woman and you’re down, people tell you Cash it in now, because it’s never going to work out. Well, you know, men have always been able to say I’ll get back on top. What’s different about us is we identify with the underdog, so we spend a lot of time thinking about who’s left out. When you sit around a table like this with a bunch of guys, they spend a lot of time thinking about who’s on top.

Sally: If you’re in it for money, for fame, for glamour – none of that exists. Has anyone ever seen any glamour? It’s heart-breaking. It’s relentless, it has very little reward for how much it can torture you.

Demi: I never took acting classes, because I was terrified if I went in there, and got up, and did something, they would say Oh, no, no, no. You’re not good, really – go find something else. And I would have probably said You’re right; I’m going to go and pursue archaeology.

Jodie: The thing about prodigies is that you’re necessarily all by yourself, because you’re changing things. A lot of powerful women are feeling that, and certainly older actresses, because they have to stand outside of the system and say I’m standing on this ground, and I’m moving forward. You’re the herald of a new age.

Editor’s note: The best part of the 1993 issue is the final section titled The Company of Women. There were over 20 pages of intercut statements where behind-the-scenes personnel talk about many kinds of problems including sexual harassment. This issue must have caused quite a stir since the “1998” female edition of Premiere was the fourth of its kind. Despite the publicized date on the cover, the latter was actually published in November 1997. I know that the second edition (titled on the spine as “Special Issue 1996”) was published in December 1995, so it would appear that Hollywood was still reeling from the shock of the allegations…hence nothing being published in 1994.


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