New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art will be the site of what Debbie Ocean of “deems one of the most historic heists in history. But on Tuesday, it played host to one of the most historic assemblages of talented women.
, , , , , , director and cor-writer , and screenwriter Olivia Milch sat down for a press conference with reporters in the Big Apple — in front of the Temple of Dendur exhibit, no less.
There, they discussed the years of work it took to get this film — the first spinoff/sidequel in the “Ocean’s 11” series — off the ground, the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements sweeping through Hollywood, and putting together a group of A-list talent to become the titular “Ocean’s 8.”
Here’s what we learned.
1. “Hunger Games” Helped Spark the Idea
You know Ross as the director of the first “Hunger Games” movie, the film that made Jennifer Lawrence a superstar and spawned a billion-dollar franchise. It was around this time that a seed was planted to expand on the female-led blockbuster.
“I think the biggest thing about ‘Hunger Games’ was the kind of impact that it had on girls, seeing a protagonist that they could relate to and knew that they’d never seen a protagonist like that before,” Ross recalled. “I was with a friend one night, and we were talking about this, and realized that there had never really been this kind of ensemble.”
Thus the concept of a film involving a primarily female-dominated principal cast was formed.
“I’m really excited for the moment where this doesn’t feel special anymore,” Hathaway remarked, noting the rarity of all-female acting ensembles, “except for the fact that it’s always special when really talented people are given the opportunities to do their jobs.”
2. “Gravity” Also Helped Make “Ocean’s 8” a Reality
Bullock came on board through the efforts of franchise producer Jerry Weintraub, who passed away in 2015. “Gravity,” a film she did with George Clooney, also influenced the story for “Ocean’s 8.”
“It was right around the time of ‘Gravity,’ and [Sandra] and George were talking about the brother-sister relationship you guys had in the press,” Ross recalled. “I took that seriously; maybe she could be his sister.”
Bullock stars in “Ocean’s 8” as Debbie Ocean, the newly-paroled sister of Clooney’s Danny Ocean. After five years, eight months, and 12 days in prison, she’s itching to steal a precious Cartier necklace off an actress (Hathaway) at the Met Gala.
3. Many Scenes (and Cameos) Didn’t Make the Final Cut
No spoilers! But, there are a lot of cameos made in “Ocean’s 8,” some involving actors from the larger “Ocean’s” franchise and some involving celebrities. “There were many cameos, as you guys know, that specifically didn’t make the movie,” Ross told press, “but I think that’s a reflection of your job.”
“Listening to the movie at each step,” Ross says, is important for editing the final product. In the end, the movie “was about these women much more than it was about the antecedent and the previous movies. There were references, as you guys know, to the previous stuff, but we tried to keep those references to a minimum.”
4. What Will the Cast Always Remember?
“The meat,” Awkwafina said. No, really. Cast member Helena Bonham Carter, according to the actors, put “a plate of meat on her chest.” The cast reminisced about a party where the “Harry Potter” and “Cinderella” actor transformed her body into a “charcuterie platter” that was also described as a “pu pu platter.”
5. The Diversity Was Intentional
Among Debbie’s squad are Lou (Blanchett), Tammy (Paulson), Rose (Carter), Amita (Kaling), Constance (Awkwafina), and Nine Ball (Rihanna).
“One of the things we’re celebrating is not just their commonality, but their differences,” Ross said, noting the diverse cast. “These are eight distinct women, from eight distinct backgrounds, and that hopefully looks like what the world looks like — not just what Hollywood has made the world look like. That diversity was intentional and important to us.”
Milch noted how “Ocean’s 8” was filmed in New York in “all five boroughs,” and the city is just as diverse as the movie itself.
“The important thing about the characters in this movie, especially the people of color in this movie, is that’s not the defining characteristic,” Awkwafina added. For instance, the “Asian-ness” of Constance, as she said, “has nothing to do with it.” She’s still a slick pickpocket.
6. On Keeping the #MeToo Conversation Moving Forward
Women always seem to be the ones speaking out about sexual assault and harassment in Hollywood, but Blanchett hopes to include more men in the conversation. After all, this systemic abuse is “a human issue and it affects the men in our industry,” the Oscar-winner said.
“It’s as good a change for them as it is for women,” Blanchett continued. “But I think it’s important to keep that conversation moving forward. We don’t want to keep circling back to the same conversation, we do not want to be back here in 20 years. So, it’s unfortunately what should be a human issue should remain political.”
Bullock clarified, “None of us are saying we want to be up here without men.”
7. “Ocean’s 8” Is More an Echo of the Franchise, But Not a Remake
Blanchett doesn’t consider “Ocean’s 8” to be a straight-up redo, but rather a combination of a remake and an original concept.
“Yes, you’ve got the history of the ‘Ocean’s’ franchise behind you… but we wanted to make it it’s own standalone thing,” she said. “So it’s got an echo of what came before, but it’s not a remake.”
8. Even the Costumes Have Easter Eggs
While the references to previous films may be minimal, Bullock pointed out a fun Easter egg hidden in plain sight. On her dress worn for the Met Gala scene — which she says was made by Alberto Ferretti — were “ornamentation on the bottom” with “sand dollars and starfish and waves.”
“I was like, ‘Oh! Debbie Ocean. I get it,'” Bullock said.
Sarah Edwards had the unenviable task of stepping in last minute to dress each woman distinctively for the film after the original costume designer bowed out. She worked with a number of fashion designers that, “for the most part,” were all really collaborative, Bullock added.
“Ocean’s 8” hits theaters on June 8.