When actress Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut, Booksmart, arrived in theaters last May, it charmed audiences, including critics, many of whom called it the female version of Superbad. However, the indie disappointed at the box office.
Then last month, Good Boys, another movie compared to Superbad, was a hit, earning nearly as much in its very first weekend as Booksmart did in its entire run.
People on social media cited sexism. Wilde has some theories of her own about why it happened, besides the fact that the coming-of-age film was competing with Disney’s live-action version of Aladdin.
“Listen, I think it’s two-fold. I think, on the one hand, the very simple answer is [Good Boys] had Universal Studios behind it,” Wilde tells Yahoo Entertainment. “It’s not an indie. That was a Universal Studios movie. They have a massive marketing machine, and they’re incredibly good at it.”
The other factor is that tired old belief that women aren’t funny. (Remember what a big deal it was when Bridesmaids was a hit in 2011?)
“I also think that, you know, people are more accustomed to male-dominated comedies,” Wilde says, “and there is still a certain reluctance to believe that women can make you laugh as hard. And that still exists, which is sort of nuts to you and me… But there’s still a lot of work to be done to say, like, hey, this is not a male-dominated game.”
Wilde had wanted to direct for 10 years, after she learned from being on sets that the director had the most collaborative role. While at first she thought she couldn’t get the job, since she hadn’t attended film school, she eventually realized that she’d been educated on the many sets she’s worked on during her career. Wilde’s acting credits stretch back to 2004.
So she stepped behind the camera for a short and a few music videos before she took on a movie. Eventually, she directed Booksmart, and the experience was even better than she had expected.
“People will tell you how heartbreaking directing can be and how difficult, and of course it’s challenging, but it is so much fun,” Wilde says. “I was overwhelmed with the realization, ‘Oh, this is the best job in the world.’ And it almost felt like this secret that I had been let in on.”
When her completed debut was compared to Superbad, Wilde had mixed feelings about it.
“I mean, hopefully, we get to a point where every female movie doesn’t have to become the female version of a male film, but I loved Superbad,” Wilde says. “I mean, in a certain sense, I’m like, we should be so lucky. I f***ing love that movie. It’s amazing. But I did feel that we should stand alone. Hopefully, that’s a kind of pattern that we’ll grow out of. Movies don’t have to be the female version of anything. You know? And one day there will be a male Booksmart.”
Wilde is already set to direct her second movie, a psychological thriller called Don’t Worry Darling. This time, she’ll also produce and star in the movie about a 1950’s housewife whose reality begins to crack.
Wilde says knowing she’ll be playing multiple roles on set is “kind of wonderful and terrifying.”
Booksmart is now available on digital, Blu-Ray and DVD on Amazon.
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