Warner Bros Denies Comments

Yesterday we ran a report which was picked up by many outlets around the web, and originated on Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood website. Finke claimed that three separate Warner Bros producers had informed her that Warner Bros president of production Jeff Robinov has made a new decree that "We are no longer doing movies with women in the lead."

I wrote an editorial about Robinov's apparent snap-judgement conclusion that just because Jodie Foster's The Brave One, Hilary Swank's The Reaping, and Nicole Kidman's The Invasion fared poorly at the box office, that meant that a female-driven movie was no longer profitable. Who knows if Robinov actually made this claim.

My friend John at The Movie Blog was finally able to get Warner Bros to comment on the story after waiting for 9 hours, calling 2 different numbers and 3 email addresses. And the only reason Warner gave him a call back was likely to a scheduled CBS News appearance Campea was to make on the subject. Here is how the conversation went:

WB Rep – "Mr. Robinov never made that statement, nor is it his policy."

TMB – "So are you saying it is not now, nor will be Warner Bros. policy to stop producing films with female leads?"

WB Rep – "Correct. That is not our policy. A blogger (assumably Nikki Finke) made a statement without giving us the opportunity to first respond."

TMB – "All right, that's all I needed to know. Thank you for calling me."

So Jeff never made such a comment, case closed, right?

Earlier in the day I told John, "You know how this will play out right John? They're going to finally call you back tonight or tomorrow, deny everything or say they were taken out of context. You just know they were hoping this would just quietly go away over the weekend". Call my cynical but why would Nikki Finke lie? Sure, she is at times unethical, bad intentioned, unliked by many, and she has views which are considered by many to be too extreme. She might draw unfounded conclusions from factual information, but she doesn't just make stuff up. And why would anyone make this up in the first place?

I don't want to pretend to have a grasp of the legal system (because I clearly do not) but, what the heck: If Nikki Finke made this story up, than it seems to be to slanderous to the extreme. HUGE. Defamation of character...etc. But I guarantee that Warner Bros won't even threaten legal action, never-mind request that she remove her story. Because after-all, if it went to court, her three producer sources would have to take the stand. Am I wrong? Sure, she could claim that she is a "journalist" and not reveal her producer "sources", but these type of accusations do not come cheap, and are extremely damaging.

I don't know Jeff Robinov, so I can't comment on his character. But I do know the way Hollywood executives think, and it seems way more likely that someone like Robinov might have said out loud during a meeting that he no longer wants to consider female-driven films, than Finke devising this story out of nothingness, with only her life and entire career as collateral on such a monstrous claim.

My other friend Robert at IESB notes in his editorial on the subject that "from personal experiences and talking to many industry folk, selling a female heroine film in Hollywood has never been easy." And Robert is right, Hollywood has always hated the woman-driven movie. It's nothing new. Robert also makes the point that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and nothing but good things have ever been said about Jeff Robinov, while the opposite could be said of Finke.

My good friend Alex at FirstShowing.net brought up a great point that I totally missed: All three movies (The Reaping, The Invasion, The Brave One) have more in common than just female lead protagonists and the word "The": They were all produced by Joel Silver. So why doesn't Warner Bros declare a stop to all Joel Silver produced movies? Of course I'm being Facetious. But then again, Silver seems to be one of the only people in Hollywood casting women in the lead roles, too bad he rarely makes a good movie (Matrix, V For Vendetta, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang)

Neil at FilmSchoolRejects concludes: "No matter what was said behind closed doors, the official public position of Warner Bros. is that they will not be using any gender profiling techniques when choosing who will be taking top billing on future projects. So that's good news. At least, that's what they'd have us believe."

And he is right. We'll likely never get a real answer to what happened. Warner Bros has done the right thing by publicly. Now it is our job to check up on them and see this through. It will be interesting to see how many Warner Bros films come out in the next two years with female leads. I hope that we remember to look back in a couple years and reassess this situation.

But in the meantime, this discussion does not need to end here. Why is it that Hollywood doesn't make more films with women in the lead. Out of all the movies this year, only a handful had women protagonists: Freedom Writers, Miss Potter, The Reaping, The Brave One, The Invasion, Waitress, Hairspray, A Mighty Heart, An American Crime, Year of the Dog, Eagle vs Shark, Once, Juno, Planet Terror, The Orphanage and Death Proof are the only ones that come to mind, but there are likely a few more. Notice how many of the previously listed films were produced independently or by a major studio's indie division. I hope we can look more into this issue.

What do you think?: Are American audiences turned off to Female-driven movies? Or are most of the female-driven Hollywood films just plain bad? And if so, why?