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Interview with Callie Khouri, Director of Mad Money

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Mad Money, a new comedy starring Diane Keaton, Queen Latifah and Katie Holmes opens on Friday. The film is about three women who conspire to steal money about to be shredded from the Federal Reserve in order to get their lives on track. Keaton is about to lose her home and her upper-middle class dream, single mom Latifah wants to get out of her bad neighborhood and get her sons into a better school, and Holmes, well she just wants a better trailer to live in. Keaton is the mastermind who comes up with the plan after being forced to get a job as a cleaner in the local Fed because that's the only things she's qualified for after being out of the workforce for decades. She convinces the other ladies to go along with the plan and they are on the road (with lots of bumps along the way) to salvation.

Callie Khouri, best known as the screenwriter of the now classic Thelma and Louise takes on her second directing assignment with this film. She answered some questions about this film and also touched on Thelma & Louise.

Women & Hollywood: It's strange to say this in 2008 but your film is different because you have women as the leads and you are a female director. Why do you think this is still such a rare occurrence?

Callie Khouri: I ask that same question all time. It's really inconceivable to me that the numbers are as low as they are. When I hear the statistics I am shocked because to me it is not that women are less suited to the job. There certainly isn't a lack of audience. If the same energy went into marketing movies to women as they do on the other demographics we might see more of a spike [in attendance.]

The one thing that makes it so difficult is getting the women's audience out on that first weekend which seems to be the measure of success. It is more difficult to get the female audience into the theatre in a reliable way the way they can get young guys and people with less responsibilities.

W&H: Women don't know about the importance of the first weekend.

CK: Every time I go and speak I'm always asked why don't they make more movies for women, and I say it's because you don't go on the first weekend and that's what they [the movie studios] are interested in.

W&H: What made you want to direct this movie?

CK: I always thought it would be fun. It's pure entertainment. I don't think its possible to do a movie about money without some social commentary but it's not the overriding theme of the film. There are class issues addressed in a comedic way -- the idea that you could lose everything or not having enough -- that anybody can relate to. I wanted to direct it because Diane Keaton and Queen Latifah were attached early on.

W&H: How long did it take to get made?

CK: A Little over five years. We were never able to find a studio that wanted to do it. No major studio wanted to make it even with that cast attached.

W&H: But they make movies with Queen Latifah as the lead?

CK: It's inexplicable to me that the studio didn't look at this and say oh yeah we know how to do this.

W&H: After Thelma & Louise what kind of scripts did you get?

CK: I was offered women's type of things and a lot of them weren't my cup of tea. As much as I believe the women's audience is underserved, I want to make a film with broad appeal in whatever genre it is.

W&H: I've noticed that people are revisiting Thelma and Louise and putting the chick flick label on it now because it seems that every movie starring a woman, even ones made years ago, are now chick flicks.

CK: I wouldn't mind if I didn't feel it was a diminutive. If it's a movie primarily directed at women you can call it that, but it wasn't. It does belie a certain type of prejudice. Chick flick is not a term used to praise a movie. Nobody says "it's a great chick flick." It's a way of being derisive. I'm not clear why it's ok to do it.

Mad Money has tested extremely well with men and they [the studio] feel strongly that it is a date movie and broad audience movie and they are not marketing it as a chick flick. It's strange anything that has women in it is tarred with this brush.

W&H: Do you call yourself a feminist filmmaker?

CK: I call myself a feminist, not a feminist filmmaker. If somebody asked me if I had a feminist sensibility it would be pretty hard to deny, but is it the theme of my work? Not necessarily. I'm interested in a lot of things. I tried to get a baseball movie made a couple of years ago and I don't think it didn't happen because I was a woman, but because sports movie don't sell internationally.

W&H: I remember that my grandmother used the term mad money. It seems to be something that women are more familiar with.

CK: Mad Money is like your own personal insurance policy. I don't know if you hear guys mention mad money but all women know what it is. I think it originally came from the days when women were given money by their husbands because they weren't earning it. You were given the money and you'd skim a little off for yourself.

W&H: This is a rare crime move because there is no violence.

CK: When Thelma and Louise came out people perceived it as far more violent than it was. What people wrote was completely out of proportion to what happened in the movie. In the movie the whole point was to make the killing wrong. I wasn't trying to justify it, I was trying to set up a way that they would have to run for their lives, forever. But, people remember it as being super violent and I am always surprised by that. They blow up one truck, hold up a liquor store -- nobody gets hurt. At the same time Reservoir Dogs and other movies [with lots of violence] were getting praised, and I realized that there was a real double standard for women especially with women committing acts of violence. For whatever reason people seem to have a hard time with it.

This interview originally appeared on Women & Hollywood