Why El­iz­a­beth Banks is fast be­com­ing Hol­ly­wood’s next mogul

Fairlady - - CONTENTS - By Liesl RShoab­mer ts‘Tohne

Ac­cord­ing to 2017 sta­tis­tics by Women in Hol­ly­wood, women ac­counted for a mere 16% of all di­rec­tors, writ­ers and pro­duc­ers in the 100 top-gross­ing films of the year. Fe­male sole pro­tag­o­nists ac­counted for only 24%, only 37% were ma­jor char­ac­ters and women made up only 34% of all speak­ing char­ac­ters. These num­bers paint a dis­heart­en­ing pic­ture of gen­der trans­for­ma­tion in en­ter­tain­ment, but El­iz­a­beth Banks finds this kind of in­for­ma­tion strangely en­cour­ag­ing.

‘It told me that I was not the prob­lem,’ she says. She first no­ticed the marked dif­fer­ence be­tween the sexes’ earn­ing po­ten­tial in Hol­ly­wood when she com­pared her own tra­jec­tory with her cast­mates’ from 2001’s Wet Hot Amer­i­can Sum­mer, Paul Rudd and Bradley Cooper.

‘I’d be like, what’s go­ing on? One of them is a Marvel su­per­hero now and I can’t get a small role in an in­die,’ she said. ‘There’s a lot of ma­te­rial star­ring men be­tween the ages of 20 and 50. There is not that amount of ma­te­rial for all of us ac­tresses. It was a great epiphany.’

It was time to come up with a plan B.

‘Hon­estly, if I could just act, I’d do that,’ she told The Hol­ly­wood Reporter. ‘The prob­lem is that life was get­ting a lit­tle mun­dane and I wasn’t feel­ing chal­lenged by those jobs for a while. If you want to fight be­ing bored in this busi­ness as a woman, es­pe­cially as a woman who’s been around for a minute, you have to fig­ure it out on your own.’

El­iz­a­beth de­cided to do just that. She and her hus­band of 15 years, Max Han­del­man, started their own pro­duc­tion com­pany, Brown­stone Pro­duc­tions, partly as a way to spend more time to­gether.

‘I wanted to have a part­ner­ship with my hus­band,’ she says. ‘We’ve been to­gether for 25 years, and as an ac­tor in this busi­ness, you travel so much. I couldn’t imag­ine a life with some­body who had a 9-to-5 job with two weeks of va­ca­tion. I just thought, “I don’t know how we’ll stay mar­ried!”’

The first film they de­vel­oped was

I wanted to have a part­ner­ship with my hus­band. I couldn’t imag­ine a life with some­body who had a 9-to-5 job with two weeks of va­ca­tion. I just thought, “I don’t know how we’ll stay mar­ried.”

Sur­ro­gates, star­ring Bruce Wil­lis, back in 2009. Then along came Pitch Per­fect, based on GQ Mag­a­zine se­nior ed­i­tor Mickey Rap­kin’s book. El­iz­a­beth re­mem­bered the avid a cap­pella groups from her days at Penn Univer­sity and thought it had comedic po­ten­tial.

The movie turned out to be a smash hit, cat­a­pult­ing Rebel Wil­son to fame and ce­ment­ing rel­a­tive new­comer Anna Ken­drick’s star sta­tus. El­iz­a­beth also went on to di­rect the se­quel – which raked in even more at the box of­fice than the orig­i­nal.

Max, says El­iz­a­beth, is a ‘blood­hound for won­der­ful ma­te­rial’, and the cou­ple work very well to­gether.

‘We jump-started a home­grown fran­chise, which is rare in the busi­ness. I feel very proud of hav­ing ac­com­plished that with him.’

Ac­cord­ing to her good friend and co-star Melissa McCarthy, El­iz­a­beth was born to lead.

‘There’s such an as­sertive qual­ity to her; I mean that in the great­est pos­si­ble way,’ says Melissa. ‘She’s like some old stu­dio exec from 1942 – her in a suit and cigar would make per­fect sense. [My hus­band] Ben al­ways calls her The Mogul.’

Banks, who refers to her­self as an ‘am­a­teur goof­ball’ on so­cial me­dia, has also re­cently taken on the role of comic men­tor. Through her dig­i­tal me­dia com­pany, Who­haha, she part­nered with YouTube to help give fe­male co­me­di­ans and com­edy con­tent cre­ators a leg up. The plat­form of­fers women cre­ative con­sul­ta­tion and men­tor­ship to de­velop their skills.

‘It’s a com­edy site that pro­motes, high­lights, spot­lights, and cul­ti­vates funny women. I wanted to put to rest the ridicu­lous state­ment that women are not… it’s not worth even say­ing,’ she says.

An­other ti­tle she wears with pride is ‘badass’. El­iz­a­beth has a few mugs with the word em­bla­zoned on them – a sly nod to the celebrity chat se­ries she hosts on Who­haha called ‘Ask a Badass’. To the ques­tion, ‘On a scale of 1 to El­iz­a­beth Banks, how badass are you?’, Jennifer Lawrence replied: ‘I’m like a Level 1, maybe 2. I’ve heard you on the phone. You’re. Like. A real badass.’ El­iz­a­beth will also be di­rect­ing the up­com­ing re­boot of Char­lie’s Angels – and re­port­edly play­ing the role of Bosley – Char­lie and his squad’s go-be­tween. The movie, set for re­lease in June 2019, is ru­moured to have an all-star cast of Kris­ten Ste­wart, Naomi Scott and Lupita Ny­ong’o. (That bit is un­con­firmed, but we’re ex­cited at the prospect!)

At the mo­ment, El­iz­a­beth is back in cin­e­mas with a new movie, The Hap­py­time Mur­ders. It’s based on Jim Hen­son’s mup­pets from the ’70s chil­dren TV show Sesame Street – but this isn’t the kind of thing you want to watch with the kids. It’s a raunchy, R-rated com­edy and will have you in tears of laugh­ter. Some­one is killing the pup­pets cast and two detectives – Con­nie Ed­wards (Melissa McCarthy) and mup­pet Phil, voiced by Bill Bar­retta – must work to­gether to solve the mur­ders. El­iz­a­beth Banks plays Phil’s for­mer ‘fling’, a sexy bur­lesque dancer.

Beyond her ca­reer, El­iz­a­beth is also a ded­i­cated mom to two boys: Felix (7) and Mag­nus (5). Af­ter strug­gling to con­ceive, El­iz­a­beth and Max turned to ges­ta­tional sur­ro­gacy. El­iz­a­beth says that mother­hood has helped her tune out the unim­por­tant things in life.

‘I think hav­ing kids has given me so much clar­ity about how I want to spend my time,’ she says. She de­scribes her par­ent­ing style as easy­go­ing; she doesn’t put too much pres­sure on her­self to be a per­fect par­ent and is a firm believer in ‘it takes a vil­lage’ – es­pe­cially as a work­ing mom.

‘Be open to any help,’ she told Par­ent­ing mag­a­zine. ‘Many moms feel they have to be su­per­moms while his­tor­i­cally we’ve al­ways had a vil­lage to pitch in. I think it’s re­ally im­por­tant to know when to ask for help.’

On the red car­pet at the Venice Film Fes­ti­val.

El­iz­a­beth and her hus­band of 15 years, Max Han­del­man. They’ve been to­gether for 25 years.

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