Movies

Colin Trevorrow Has Plenty To Say About Losing ‘Star Wars’ And The Fallout Of ‘Idiot Men Saying Stupid Shit’

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Colin Trevorrow has had a, let’s say, interesting last three years. In 2015, after directing the indie hit Safety Not Guaranteed, he directed Jurassic World, which grossed $1.6 billion worldwide. Soon after, he was tapped to direct Star Wars: Episode IX and then … things started falling apart.

First, Trevorrow was asked on Twitter if he thought a woman could have been hired to direct Jurassic World. His response went over poorly. Especially the part that read, “many female directors in our industry are not interested in doing a piece of studio business for its own sake. These filmmakers have clear voices and stories to tell that don’t necessarily involve superheroes or spaceships or dinosaurs.” Soon after, he gave an interview in which he said it hurt his feelings that he was being used as an example of white male privilege. Regardless if his feelings were hurt or not, Trevorrow knows that his own statements became a prime example of white male privilege. He’s had a lot of time to think about why.

And then it got worse: the reviews for his low budget film, The Book of Henry, were not kind. And then he lost Star Wars, replaced by the director of The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams. Trevorrow said he’d be lying if none of this affected him. He felt it personally and he felt it at home with his wife and kids.

Trevorrow is a producer and a co-writer on Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – this time, directing duties this time went to J. A. Bayona – but Trevorrow is slated to take over the director’s chair once again for Jurassic World 3, a movie he admits is the movie he’d been waiting for the most out of these three, considering where the second installment leaves off. (There will be no spoilers.) And he’s co-writing that film with Emily Carmichael, who reached out to him after his infamous tweet to say that, yes, she’d like to make big studio movies. Trevorrow looks at that as a positive outcome and, as he puts it, “good things can come from idiot men saying stupid shit and everyone reacting accordingly.”

When this interview came to fruition, I was explicitly told that everything was on the table: Losing Star Wars, the infamous tweet, the reactions to The Book of Henry … everything. So that’s what we did — we talked about everything. Along the way, we dove into the last three years of the life of Colin Trevorrow (pronounced as rhyming with “tomorrow,” literally almost everyone says it wrong), which Trevorrow has obviously thought about a lot. He has plenty to say.

Without getting into spoilers, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom seems to end in a way that sets up something you really wanted to do all along.

That is accurate. It is a movie I’ve wanted to see my whole life, and I knew it would take two movies to earn it and to get there. And that I did feel it was the right move to have another director do the second film. I think we needed a different visual aesthetic, we needed a different voice.

Last time we spoke you mentioned that all three of these movies needed a new director, just like Mission: Impossible and the new Star Wars movies. None of these examples work anymore.

Right. None of those work.

And now you’re directing part three.

Yeah. Well, I mean I think part of this process of storytelling is convincing yourself that it has a reason to exist, and once you’ve done that, it’s sometimes hard to not want to tell the story. I mean, look, Jurassic World, in very fundamental ways, is ridiculous.

Yes.

It’s preposterous. And so, to be able to dig into it and find a human story and a set of themes and a set of ideas that are interesting enough to give it a reason to be has been a real challenge. And then having done something that we’re genuinely interested in, yeah, it’s hard to step back.

You made a movie that made $1.6 billion. But then the last couple of years have had some, let’s say, strife…

Well, what was really interesting after Jurassic World is that, you know, we just went home to our house in Vermont and it was like Lord of the Rings. Like we went back to Hobbiton and we were in the same village and looking around and nothing had changed. And it was my wife and my two kids. And at that time, I was just really eager to evidence to myself that I wasn’t only going to be making new versions of films that other people love for the rest of my life, because that’s not why I started making films.

And so, because we were there and because there was an opportunity to make The Book of Henry in New York, I found a way to do that and to get that out of my system. But, cut two years later … look, man, it was painful. But, you know, life is full of pain, and we all experience loss. Not all of us have to watch it play out online, but that’s the gig. And I feel like in America right now, your pain is bait. You know, your pain is clickable. And my kids felt it, my wife felt it. But, you know, there are moments in your life when your kids see that you’ve fallen down. And they watch, waiting to see if you’re going to get up. And how you handle failure will teach them how to handle it themselves.

Did you take the reactions to The Book of Henry personally?

Yeah. I’m not sure how you couldn’t. I could pretend.

Well, some people do pretend.

I could just say, “Nothing affects me.”

I never believe that.

I mean, I made a film about holding predatory men in positions of power accountable for assault, and that is an uncomfortable subject to talk about. But we are talking about it now and we’re listening and I hope the negative response won’t deter other filmmakers from telling these stories, because we need to hear them, both in life and in art.

But I don’t fault anyone for thinking that movie takes too many turns too quickly or jumps between genres or goes completely batshit crazy, because it does. Our world is batshit crazy and our news cycle takes sharp turns every single day that seem entirely surreal. And that film felt like the way I felt over the past two years: just enraged by these events that I am powerless to stop and at times feeling like I’m losing my own compass as I try to deal with them. And so it was just the story that I wanted to tell in 2015 as we headed into that election. It’s just what the world looked like to me.

But absolutely, the response to it was devastating. And mostly because it was made with such love by so many people who felt so earnestly good about what they were doing. It definitely wasn’t one of those movies that you hear about where everyone knows it’s a piece of shit. It was not that at all.

Do you think the reaction to The Book of Henry had anything to do with you not doing Star Wars?

You know, I don’t know. I mean, I can’t really speculate on it. I’ll tell you that the reaction to Book of Henry was far more damaging than the actual movie. And I don’t mean specifically at Lucasfilm. I mean, that was a very acidic situation. And, look, every director who has worked in Lucasfilm put their heart and soul into the job and they left it all on the field, and the bottom line here is that sometimes creative people can’t find a shared path through the woods.

There’s now a long list of directors who lost a Star Wars job.

I know all of them. These are friends of mine and I was very close to them through all of their experiences. And Star Wars is a very personal thing to all of them, to a lot of people, and there are some people out there – and I know folks might think we’re crazy – but people like me, who actually believe that there is an all-powerful force that binds the galaxy together. And when you’re one of those people, you’re dealing with your belief system, you’re not just dealing with a movie. And so, yeah, that is a very personal loss.

You were asked on Twitter if a woman could have been hired for Jurassic World and you basically said some women didn’t want to make those kinds of movies and that answer did not go over well. Then you said, “It hurts my feelings I’m used as an example of white male privilege.” Fair or not, it did happen. Have you thought about or figured out why it happened to you?

Look, I don’t think fairness really comes into this equation. Life is not fair for anyone all the time. The specifics of it, I was speaking to my own experience at the time. In that we were looking for a female director to take on Intelligent Life, which is a film I’m producing – and I was hearing that all the time from agents, “Oh, she doesn’t want to make a studio movie,” or, “she doesn’t want to work in that system.” And with all that’s been revealed in the last year with the shit that’s been going on in our industry, that actually makes a lot of sense, in retrospect.

But I made a huge mistake in speaking from my experience in a way that felt like I was speaking for the experience of others. And I said it in a way that sounded like a sweeping generalization, which obviously wasn’t the intention. But that’s not the point, because words matter. I’m really sorry for it. Absolutely. But, it’s weirdly hard for me to wish it never happened. Because there are creative relationships I have in my life right now that stem directly from that. Emily Carmichael is one of them.

She is co-writing Jurassic World 3. And she co-wrote Pacific Rim: Uprising.

She had done some shorts and she raised her hand and said, “Yeah, I want to direct big studio movies. Check out my short.” So I read a script of hers and brought it to Steven (Spielberg) and we hired her to do something else. Then she got Pacific Rim completely separate from us and is writing Black Hole completely separate from us. And she’s taken off like a rocket. I’m lucky she’s working with us on Jurassic World 3. And I’m producing her first feature. So, sometimes, good things can come from idiot men saying stupid shit and everyone reacting accordingly.

And when you wrote that, it was right on the cusp of a lot of things changing.

You know, look, however embarrassing that moment was for me, if that was part of the spark that led to the revolution that is happening right now, I’ll take that hit. I think it’s worth it. I understand it. My leap from Safety Not Guaranteed to Jurassic Park 4 was a symptom of a systemic problem in our industry. I was a prime example of a status quo that had to change. Sure, it’s a multi-layered issue and all of that. But it really doesn’t matter because the heart of the problem is undeniable in that we have not been elevating talent in a balanced way. And that was very clear in that moment and it’s become clearer and clearer as the stats have become uncovered. People have started to talk and people have started to listen. And I think the real change is starting to happen – and it has as a result of what’s been going on over the last two or three years.

Why didn’t you think that in 2015?

You know, honestly, I don’t think I was really able to articulate the way that was going down for me very well, because I was just horrified. I was so horrified something I said would be interpreted in that way and those words would paint me in that light because it was the opposite of what I was actively trying to do at the moment. Safety Not Guaranteed was produced entirely by women. The community of women in Seattle – that Lynn Shelton is the most well-known, but many others like Megan Griffith, Lacey Leavitt, Stephanie Langhoff, Mel Eslyn – these women made my first film with me and it was something we talked a lot about on that set. Like, what’s the deal? What’s going on? Why does this discrepancy exist and how can it be changed?

So when I made Jurassic World and I started to have the ability to get other projects produced, it became a real mission of mine and that’s what Intelligent Life was all about. First, we hired Ava Duvernay and then she went on to do A Wrinkle in Time. And now we hired Rebecca Thomas and we are going to make that movie. And I just felt that was a script I really wanted a female perspective behind the camera. And you know the rest of the story, but because it started in a place of almost dangerous earnestness on my part, that I was just kind of reeling from it. And I hadn’t been on Twitter long enough to know how to handle.

It did come off as an excuse and people were at the point where they didn’t want to hear any more excuses.

Absolutely. And if that was the moment where people finally said, “Fuck this…”

I do think it was one of the moments, yes.

Then okay. Let that be my legacy for better or for worse. It resulted in great things, however embarrassing it may have been for me, who cares. But you know, I do see a real opportunity in this spotlight that keeps getting directed my way. Now that I’m producing it does put me in the position to give other writers and directors the opportunity I was given. And I think, right now, is the time for established directors to reach out to filmmakers who don’t look like them and help them succeed. That’s the only way anything is going to change. We can have a million meetings, but people have to actually take action.

A lot of this started when another director called a Jurassic World clip sexist.

What surprised me about that moment is there were cases made about the high heels and about the gender politics about that film that were made by men. Men speaking out, boldly, on behalf of all women. And those men in the media have every right to have an opinion. What was frustrating to me was that, also at that time, the woman who played the actual role of Claire, Bryce Dallas Howard – who is an incisive and brilliant feminist thinker – came out with her own reasons why she made the choices that she did. And they were her choices. And as a director, every day I’m in conversations with actors about what we’re doing. And her explanation for it and her justification for it and her reasons for it were just widely ignored. And so all I can say, look, I understand imagery matters. I understand messaging matters. And I’ve listened and I’ve thought a lot about it since. And, of course, we correct that course. But I would just hope in the future, in a situation like this, we will also listen to the woman who played the role.

You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.

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