Our favorite redhead’s latest venture is That’s What She Said — no, not The Office’s favorite punchline, but she appreciates that, too — a raunchy female-centric comedy that has been in the works for years. The feature film is the biggest project her company has tackled, and stars Anne Heche, Arrested Development favorite Alia Shawkat, and Marcia DeBonis.
When Wetpaint Entertainment sat down with Carrie, she revealed that she wants the film to make people uncomfortable, helping to knock down the glorified Hollywood ideas of women, à la Bridesmaids and Girls. Check out what she had to say in the conversation below!
Wetpaint Entertainment: You’ve directed before, but how did you decide that you wanted to take the reigns on That’s What She Said?
Carrie Preston: I was doing a play with Kellie Overbey and Marcia DeBonis, and Kellie told me, "Hey, I started to write!" and I was like, "Hey, I started to direct!" and she showed me her script. I directed it on stage with Marcia starring, and then I decided we had to put her performance on film, because Hollywood’s not going to do that! It took awhile to raise money, but we’re all lucky in that we’re actors and we have other careers, so it was all about finding the right timing and getting the rest of the cast together. Obviously, getting Anne Heche was a huge coup. Huge! Huge ‘cause she rocked it!
Were you drawn to the script because it was so female-centric? There was only one male character in the entire film.
Yes, yes. I deliberately wanted that ... I wanted to keep it about women talking to each other and how women relate to each other — by talking about men. So I never put the men in focus; they were shot from behind or in profile and the women were front and center. It’s no disrespect to the men, but in this film, it’s just about the women and their friendships. And the only man who gets a full-on close up is, for comedic effect, the old guy.
And that guy doesn’t end up in the best position ...
Yeah … even that guy doesn’t get much screen time! [Laughs] I was also interested in taking the Hollywood image of women as preternaturally gorgeous and wedding obsessed and all that stuff and just kind of knocking that down off the pedestal and messing it up a little bit. And it’s OK if people are uncomfortable! I wasn’t trying to make a pretty, easy film — I wanted it to be edgy and I wanted it to be funny and messy. I think that the higher the stakes are, the funnier things are, and the bigger the payoff. That’s what she said!
With all-female characters — including an actual nymphomaniac — is there anything you took out because it was too outrageous, or anything you really pushed the boundaries on?
Yeah, I didn’t want to shy away on that stuff because I didn’t want to soft pedal on anything. So many times in Hollywood, flaws gets glossed over and everyone gets beautified, so people are not trained to look at films and see women that are unusual or different or messy or flawed, and that they can still be likable, despite all that.
Already it’s made people extremely uncomfortable, and I think that’s good, because I’ve been watching men grab their crotches — metaphorically and literally — on-screen since the beginning of films, so I’m going to go ahead and have the girls do that, too. When she’s scratching her vagina, she’s going to scratch her vagina!
Women weren’t objects in your film, they were going on a misadventure, just like in HBO's Girls and the film Bridesmaids. Do you think they will pave the way for more films like this?
Yes! I think definitely. We exist in a world now where those things have been successful. We shot this film way before any of that and we’ve been working on it for eight years, so I was thrilled with Bridesmaids. At the time, we were in post-production, editing cuts of the film, and all of a sudden I start seeing trailers for this Bridesmaids. I said, “Oh my god, thank god!” and became obsessed with it. I actually rallied people to go and see it on opening weekend to show Hollywood that those kinds of films can do well, so I’m really behind those: For a Good Time, Call..., Bachelorette, all of those films that are out now. And Girls — I’m a huge fan! And I love it that these younger women, like Mindy Kaling and Lena Dunham and those guys, feel empowered enough because of the work that my generation and those before me did. I’m glad that this world exists now.
I kept thinking about how many bromances there are in the world and how many Seth Rogen movies that we watch and the Jonah Hills and the schleppy guys who find love or whatever, and I thought, this is a "womance," not a bromance.
You appear briefly in the opening sequence playing patty cake on a bench. Why did you choose not to be in the movie?
I didn’t want to do that! I really just wanted to leave the acting to other people. I mean, I maybe one day will be able to direct myself, but I love directing and I love producing, and I’m not willing to let that go. And I would feel like maybe my acting would suffer. But I’ll try it one day! I’m not saying I won’t, I’m just saying I’m building up to that.