asienne recently sat down with HUSTLERS producer, Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas at one of the early LA screenings of the film. In this Q and A, we talked about: how Constance Wu was and is the “gold standard” pick for the role of Destiny, what it’s like producing female-led and female-driven films with the one and only Jenny from the Block, and the fun (and groundbreaking) film that is HUSTLERS out today nationwide. Here is on-site reporter Justine Saldaña with the scoop:
I think we all hustle. I think we are ignorant to think that we don’t.
JS: I was telling Constance that I was looking around at the audience and it was clear that all of us enjoyed it so much! It was entertaining from beginning to end and it was the right amount of funny. It was even funny at times that we didn’t expect it to be.
EGT: And then it was serious.
JS: Yeah, definitely! Thank you so much for producing this groundbreaking film. It tells such an amazing story of all these women. Could you tell us how storytelling evolved throughout films that you’ve produced from the early 2000s with 13 going on 30 and Maid in Manhattan, to last year’s Second Act, and now with HUSTLERS?
EGT: As the world progresses, we are able to embrace the power of women and the complications of women, and when you see characters that do things that might be questionable and yet you relate to and they’re female – it feels to me that we are leveling the playing field right?
In the old days, this kind of movie would be compared to Wolf of Wall Street or Good Fellas? Now, it’s about a lot of women who are taking their marching orders from everything the men have been doing and I embrace their complications, their flaws, and their struggle.
I think it’s very much a movie that could have only been made now.
[Writer and director] Lorene Scafaria and Constance [Wu] and Jennifer [Lopez] and Keke [Palmer] and Cardi [B] – are all women who stand in their own authentic truth.
JS: I like that this story happened in the early 2000s. It was nice seeing the time period and it felt like I was there with the wardrobe and everything.
EGT: What’s funny is when you’re so close to an era, you don’t think of it as a “period”, but then you look back and you hear the Lorde song and you see the Juicy Couture –
JS: Yeah! (laughs)
EGT: And you realize, ‘Wow!‘ that really was its own period piece. Lorene was very adamant that every background person every piece of clothing, every song represented the time so that you can delineate it. There was a time when the guys on Wall Street turned the country upside down.
JS: Right, that was just terrible!
EGT: It was a scary time when people are dependent – when these group of dancers was abended. They were at the bottom of the food chain.
JS: How important is authentic storytelling in alignment with your vision?
EGT: It’s important to me – I work very closely with the filmmaker to make sure her vision is realized. It’s important for me to protect her to create a path so that she can run and explore. Especially when it’s a writer and director like Lorene. I worked hard to set this movie up with STX.
JS: And it shows.
EGT: It’s important for me to get out of the way of the filmmaker because it’s her vision. My job is to make sure she can realize her vision. It’s Lorene’s vision. She wrote and directed this.
JS: What is the main message that you hope HUSTLERS conveys to the audience in terms of the industry?
EGT: I think the message is to look around – we are all hustling every day. For an answer. We’re dancing for our supper one way or another. And to marginalize them or judge them for their dance or their hustle is not only narrow but it doesn’t allow for you to look at your own hustle.
I think that this movie is about women and greed, power and the American dream, and I think it’s a slippery slope. I think Constance is the voice of reason whereas Jennifer is the mastermind who wanted more and sometimes you can fall on either side of that. But we can’t kid ourselves–we are all hustlers.
JS: Although the movie was taking place in the early 2000s, do you think that those struggles that all these women went through – just everyone in general with market crashing – do you think that’s parallel to what is happening right now in 2019?
EGT: I think we all hustle. I think we are ignorant to think that we don’t. I think that what happened then was almost the start of this movement of a group of women that decided to take back their power. A group of women that had been degraded and marginalized and stripped of their ability to make money and decided to take back their power. If anything, it kicked off this movement.
JS: I think so too. Especially with the cast that you had – you have Lizzo, Cardi B, Constance Wu, J.Lo, Lili Reinhart – just that cast, just those women, I know I didn’t name all of them but that’s so powerful. All of them come from different backgrounds. They’re all in entertainment but each of them, they’re their own person and they have their own personality to see all of them together in this movie kind of going through this struggle…
EGT: They’ve all understood one thing and that’s the struggle.
They’ve all understood what it feels like to be marginalized, judged or degraded.
And whether you’re Lizzo or Cardi who lived in that world, or Jennifer who fought for everything she’s ever gotten, or Constance – they’ve all been judged or marginalized or stereotyped – you have Asians, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, you have Caucasians, – across all boards and I think that these women bonded over that.
JS: Yes! You’re right because everyone is hustling.
EGT: Listen, I hustle to set up this movie. I danced, we went around town and I did everything I could – I mean, I guess I didn’t do everything I could – there were lines that I drew but I hustled. I don’t kid myself that I’m not hustling every day. We all are. That’s why we negotiate our smile. We hustle. People that judge others for the hustle are people who are ignorant of their machinations of achievement.
JS: I agree. Let’s talk about the casting choices: Destiny for example with Constance. Could you talk more about that?
EGT: We always wanted Constance. Constance was the gold standard. I think that we – you can ask Constance this, I’m not sure – I enthusiastically ran up to her at an awards show that I can’t remember – where I blurted out how excited I was to work with her and I don’t even think we’d had a deal.
JS: I just met her just now. It felt like I was talking to a friend.
EGT: Yeah, she’s lovely.
JS: What was it about her that really sold you?
EGT: I think she’s authentic. She is who she is. She stands in her truth. I think she really understood this character and to watch her and Jennifer together was magic. They really had a friendship and respect for each other.
JS: I could tell, just from seeing – although it was in a movie – you could feel when something is real.
JS: And the audience, we all felt that. There were times when it was a little bit emotional.
EGT: Of course.
JS: It was a sisterhood basically.
JS: Could you tell us what it was like having Will Ferrell and Adam McKay on board?
EGT: They’re producers on it but it was me and Jessica on it every day. It was really a female-produced movie which I’m proud of. Adam and Will were there and that’s who she works with. Benny Medina works with me but it was really me, Jessica and Jennifer producing this. And I’m proud of that. And with Lorene writing and directing –
– this is a female-produced, female-written, female-directed, and female-edited movie.
I couldn’t be prouder of that.
JS: I love that about this movie and I appreciate it a little bit more because it’s not every day where you have a movie where you have women who are in charge and women have this voice.
EGT: Jennifer and I have Nuyorican productions. We produced Second Act, Boy Next Door, Hustlers. We try to hire as many women as we can both in our company and in our projects.
JS: That’s amazing! That’s groundbreaking! Who was your favorite person to work with out of the whole cast?
EGT: Oh, that’s like choosing kids.
JS: I won’t tell (laughs)
EGT: I couldn’t tell you (laughs). Every day was fun. There was no favorite. Every day was a hustle. We had to figure out things. We had a very short schedule. We had very little money. It was a hustle. My favorite thing was just making it through the day.
JS: Did you have a favorite moment that you could think of?
EGT: You know, when we were in the strip club, we had to work really hard for the schedules to make sure Cardi could get there and Lizzo could get there. We shot it all in one day and it all collided and my favorite moment was watching them all dance when [special appearance who shall not be named] walked in the room and it was so fun. It was like we were transported into the strip club. We were there: 200 extras. Everybody was dancing. It was like I was there. I wasn’t watching a movie. I was watching a moment.
JS: The audience. That part. We were all laughing! It was funny because it was nostalgic just seeing that!
EGT: I felt like I was there! THAT moment –
JS: They were going nuts (laughs)!
EGT: Lizzo and Keke and Cardi and Jennifer and Constance and Jessica and Alex and I were sitting upstairs watching it in the video like ‘What the f*ck?!’
JS: (laughs) It’s there. It’s real!
EGT: It was real! We were transported! That was my favorite moment.
HUSTLERS is now playing nationwide.
Justine currently attends SDSU (go aztecs ayyye). She aspires to work in social media, and her dream is to have her own milk tea shop (so that she can have all the drinks she wants). Justine enjoys hiking, movies, going to music festivals, and eating… a lot. She loves foods so much that she’s started her own food Instagram which you should totally follow, she promises you won’t be disappointed 😉
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[edited re-post from a previously published draft]