"She Said" by Maria Schrader: "The most moving thing is the courage of women"

When The New York Times published an article by Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor about Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein in October 2017, it set a massive rock rolling.

"She Said" by Maria Schrader: "The most moving thing is the courage of women"

When The New York Times published an article by Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor about Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein in October 2017, it set a massive rock rolling. Ultimately, he steered the influential film producer into prison for numerous sexual assaults on several women for 23 years. The months of research by the two journalists are a milestone in the work that has started

In "She Said", based on the book of the same name by the two journalists, Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan play their roles and meet survivors who report on their traumatic experiences with the former Miramax boss. The director and her two leading actresses talk to ntv.de about, among other things, the importance of this journalistic work and what changes it is making

ntv.de: What did you know about Maria Schrader before this project?

Carey Mulligan: I didn't know Maria as an actress but did know her work as a director because I had seen Unorthodox and loved that show. At the time, I didn't know about the film she had made with Dan Stevens ("I'm human" - editor's note). But yes, I absolutely love her work. "Unorthodox" is incredibly honest and authentic, there is hardly anything else like it.

Zoe Kazan: I had also seen "Unorthodox" and was curious and impressed by her. How sensitive and fearless she tells the whole thing. Not only in terms of the female protagonist, but also the male characters in the series, who are mostly unsympathetic. She has a really good eye for telling these kinds of stories I thought. And I had seen some of her acting work. For example, "Aimée and Jaguar," which came out when I was a little girl.

Ms. Schrader, how did you come to this project?

Maria Schrader: The producer contacted the two journalists just a few months after her article. They hadn't even started writing their book then. Then the first thing they did was bring in the screenwriter, Rebecca Lenkiewicz. So the script was created parallel to the book. I only found out about the project when the script was already out. An unusual time for me to start a project. And I've never experienced reading a finished script that left me so mesmerized and breathless.

Although the film only talks about past events, it is very close to you. Did you feel the same way when you read the script? Did you know how powerful the story would be?

Schrader: Yes. I read it breathlessly myself, every detail interested me, and I assume that what I find exciting myself, other people can find just as exciting. First of all, it's not just any story that we're telling here. The article moved the whole world and the film now describes how the article came about in the first place. Sure, things are told that lie in the past. At the same time, there is also the total now factor. Precisely that these women are now confiding in someone for the first time, the two reporters. And then you shouldn't underestimate the spectacle of listening, the faces of Jodi and Megan or Carey and Zoe when the women tell their stories.

Mulligan: I think even as actresses we had a feeling that the film was going to feel that way because there were a lot of smart choices being made. There is no need to try to artificially evoke emotion as the story speaks for itself and the focus is on the survivors recounting their experiences. That was important. There is no depiction of any kind of traumatic violence against women. For me, what is most moving is the courage of the women who spoke to Megan and Jodi.

How did you prepare for your roles? As actresses in Hollywood, you must have followed events from the beginning. Did you also meet the two journalists in person?

Kazan: Yes, we got to spend a lot of time with Jodi and Megan, which was both a personal pleasure and enormously helpful in shaping our roles. And Rebecca Lenkiewicz did a pretty great job weaving their personal lives into the adaptation of her book. So she did a lot of the preparation for us. But spending time with the two helped get a sense of their ethos. And for how they have balanced their careers and their families during this time. We were also able to ask very practical questions: "What were you wearing when you interviewed this or that source? How do you use your notebook and hold your pen?" (laughs)

In times of social media and fake news - what role does journalism currently play with regard to a topic like

Mulligan: I think what the film does is what the book does, it kind of opens a curtain. It was the first time I could see how such a story is structured. That opened my eyes. I had no real idea before how much research and accuracy it takes to write a story like this. Or how much hard evidence is needed. Evidence in the form of documents and multiple people verifying and supporting each claim. You've never thought about any of this before. I think you can see that in the film now and it's a testament to the power of good journalism. This article had such an incredible impact. I think Megan and Jodi expected that beforehand. But I wouldn't have expected that. I find it incredibly powerful to see the outcome of what a small group of women, the survivors, have accomplished by sharing their stories with Jodi and Megan.

Has himself with

Kazan: There have been some changes, but there is still a lot to do. We have seen tangible improvements in our industry. For example, the introduction of an intimacy coordinator, a sort of stunt coordinator for scenes that involve depictions of sex or intimacy. There are now codes of conduct that have been agreed upon and anti-harassment workshops for all cast and crew. And the awareness that saying "no" in no way excludes the possibility that something undesirable will happen. Unfortunately it doesn't. I think Jodi and Megan's goal was never to make Hollywood a safer place for women, it was the whole world. For people of all genders. All we have to do is open the newspaper. In 2022, it's easy to forget that Harvey Weinstein was an incredibly powerful man who seemed untouchable. It didn't feel like a foregone conclusion that this piece of journalism, this investigation, this article would have such an impact.

Schrader: The interesting thing about researching this extreme case is that something comes to light that is anchored in society. Patriarchal structures are the basis of many events, intimidation, chauvinistic or sexist remarks, harassment, where we women often thought: "Yeah, that's the way it is, just quickly forget and ignore." On the other side of the scale, the fact that we accepted these less serious experiences as normal may also have increased the number of sexually violent crimes, which in combination with power, hierarchy, fear and dependence could often be covered up. The film tells a story that also made us rethink personally.

Naturally, many women were involved in "She Said". Where else in the film business do you see the greatest need for improvement for women?

Mulligan: There's still a long way to go. I now have more women behind the scenes overall, more screenplays that focus on women, more female directors. But this is a snapshot. Then there might come a year when it feels like there are almost no women. There is still a lot to do before we consistently feel this change. And that's just our industry now. The point of the film is to look at a much broader picture. It was never about just destroying one person or an industry, but rather tackling a much larger problem in our society. It's a privilege to be part of a film that has something to say and contributes to a conversation that needs to go on.

Since then, a new scandal of this kind has become public almost every day in the USA, in Germany they are manageable. Does the system work differently here or is it just that nobody is talking about it (yet)?

Schrader: I don't have any empirical results on that. In fact, there are presumably verified answers to this, I'm just guessing. Of course, this concentrated, monolithic power of individuals in combination with the radiance of Hollywood doesn't exist here. Here we make films in a culturally subsidized working environment, which is less dazzling and mostly an association of regional and state institutions. But of course there is also abuse in dependency relationships in Germany, you don't have to be a Weinstein for that, it also happens outside of the cultural sector. And it's certainly not being pursued as rigorously in Germany as it is in America.

Nicole Ankelmann spoke with Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan

"She Said" will be in German cinemas from December 8th.