Olivia Wilde on Booksmart, the Chili Peppers and female directors

When Olivia Wilde directed a music video for the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, she thought her film-making career had peaked.

The reaction to Dark Necessities was “insane” she tells Sky News, all thanks to the band’s legion of fans.

The actress-turned-director explains: “I watched it on YouTube a week later and it had something like 48 million views and I was like, ‘What?! Never again will 48 million people see anything that I’ve created!'”

Beanie Feldstein stars as Molly and Kaitlyn Dever as Amy in Olivia Wilde's directorial debut, BOOKSMART, an Annapurna Pictures release..Credit: Francois Duhamel / Annapurna Pictures.
Image: The film stars Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever as high school students Molly and Amy. Pic: Francois Duhamel / Annapurna Pictures
Beanie Feldstein stars as Molly and Kaitlyn Dever as Amy in Olivia Wilde's directorial debut, BOOKSMART, an Annapurna Pictures release.Credit: Courtesy of Annapurna Pictures.

However, with her debut feature film Booksmart about to be released, Wilde may have spoken too soon.

The former House star has chosen a female-led, coming of age story for her first foray into the world of studio directing.

Molly and Amy (played by Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever respectively) are two over-achieving high school students who, on the eve of their graduation, suddenly realise there’s more to school life than studying.

Olivia Wilde on the set of her directorial debut BOOKSMART, an Annapurna Pictures release..Credit: Francois Duhamel / Annapurna Pictures.
Image: Olivia Wilde: ‘There aren’t enough female directors’
Beanie Feldstein and director Olivia Wilde on the set of her directorial debut, BOOKSMART, an Annapurna Pictures release..Credit: Francois Duhamel / Annapurna Pictures.
Image: Wilde with Feldstein on the Booksmart set. Pic: Francois Duhamel / Annapurna Pictures.

While other students may be cramming a year’s school work into one night’s revision, the film’s heroines attempt to pack a year of partying into one evening.

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Cue pool parties, misjudged love matches and teachers moonlighting as Uber drivers as the night reels from one outrageous situation to the next.

The film’s subject matter, along with the fact that Feldstein is Jonah Hill’s little sister, have led many to label it a “female Superbad”.

Despite its promise, the script sat on the Hollywood “black list” (a list of screenplays that have potential but have not been produced) for 10 years before catching Wilde’s eye.

Red Hot Chili Peppers during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.
Image: Wilde directed the Dark Necessities video for the Red Hot Chili Peppers

The film is about “the universality of being young” as well as “enjoying your friends, going wild and just discovering yourself”, says Wilde.

As well as two female leads and a female director, Booksmart also had an all-female writing team.

Wilde says: “We want to tell more stories about women lifting each other up and having each other’s backs, and the power and the humour and excitement of multiple women together sharing the screen.”

She also says there’s a growing appetite among audiences for films told from a female perspective, with the resulting movies enjoyed by both male and female viewers alike.

Actor, director and producer Olivia Wilde and actors Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein on stage during The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences official Academy screening of "Booksmart" at the MoMA, Celeste Bartos Theater on May 21, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Lars Niki/Getty Images for The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences)
Image: Wilde, Dever and Feldstein on stage during The Academy screening of the film

Wilde says it is a popular “misconception that movies about women are just for women, which is not actually true because we’ve both enjoyed lots of movies about men. It doesn’t have to be gender specific”.

While she has now been directing for several years, the star says it was only when she heard it from the lips of her five-year-old son that she realised she had achieved her film-making dream.

“I really hadn’t internalised it until my son Otis told me I was a director. Suddenly I had full body chills and I thought, ‘I think I am’.

“I don’t think I’ve ever really acknowledged it until now. But it made me feel very proud because there aren’t enough female directors.”

While more than half of film school graduates are female, a study published last year found that only 4% of studio films were directed by a woman.

With the stream of female graduates so plentiful, Wilde puts it down to “a shortage of opportunities”.

What is very clear, on speaking to her film’s stars Feldstein and Dever, is that Wilde has clearly used her own experience as an actress to shape her role as director.

Both say they are in awe of her creative talent, referring to her during their interview with Sky News as “a goddess, literally created by Zeus and walking among us”, “an angel sent from heaven” and “a director who radiates confidence, but with no ego”.

High praise indeed.

The film already has a host of positive reviews, with more than one occurrence of the phrase “instant classic”.

At the time of publishing, it also has a 99% approval rating on the film review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes.

It seems that the Red Hot Chili Peppers, despite their rock credentials, may soon have to take second place to two irrepressible LA high-school girls – at least as far as Olivia Wilde’s viewing figures are concerned.

:: Booksmart is in cinemas from 27 May

Source: SKY NEWS

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