Sandra Bullock, Cate Blachett, Mindy Kaling and Anne Hathaway Talk 'Ocean's 8'

 Oceans 8 movie Sandra Bullock Cate Blanchett Mindy Kaling NYC

Warner Bros. held a lavish press conference for OCEAN’s 8 at New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.  The location is the setting of the big heist in the film.  Oscar winner Sandra Bullock stars as Debbie Ocean, the sister of Danny Ocean, played by George Clooney in Steven Soderbergh's OCEAN trilogy.  Paroled after five years in prison, Debbie recruits an all-star gang of female thieves for the ultimate heist; robbing the glamorous Met Ball.  The film co-stars Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Helena Bonham Carter, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, and pop superstar Rihanna in a decidedly different role.

The girl power reboot of the OCEAN’s franchise transformed the Met’s iconic Temple of Dendur.  Flowing red banners and camera strobes flashed as the dazzling women were introduced to the international press.  The primary cast was present except for Rihanna and British actress Helena Bonham Carter, who had prior commitments.  They were joined by director Gary Ross and his co-writer, Olivia Milch.  The cast and filmmakers clearly enjoyed each others company.  They were proud of the film and what it meant for women in Hollywood.  

The first question was for the director/writer Gary Ross.  What was the impetus for reviving the franchise with an all-female cast?

Gary Ross: I was with a friend one night and we realized there had never been this kind of ensemble.   There's been a lot of male versions of this, but never a kick-ass ensemble of women before. [Steven] Soderbergh is a very good friend of mine and had done the previous films.” said Gary Ross before turning to Sandra Bullock. “I never told you this Sandy, but it was right around the time of GRAVITY.  You and George [Clooney] were talking about a brother-sister relationship.  

Sandra Bullock:  Yes, we are related. (laughs)

Gary: So I kind of took that seriously.  I presented that to Soderbergh, then Jerry Weintraub.  Then we went to Sandy.  She said if the script doesn't suck, and you get the people you're interested in, then it's an absolute yes.  We went to Warner Bros., and then started the process, between three to four years, to get the film made.  The next thing I did was reach out to Olivia [Milch], we had been doing some things together, and I wasn't going to write the film myself.  We worked side by side until this moment.  That's essentially what happened.

Oceans 8 movie cast

Cate Blanchett: You don't read the script cold.  You read it with the pedigree and legacy. Me, I have a working relationship with Soderbergh, knowing Sandy was going to be in it, I could already see the tone.  Then the first question is, who are the other ladies going to be?  Gary laid forth his A-team, which he got.  In the end, the script, it's a malleable thing; there were a lot of changes.  We made changes, it happens all the time, not just in this movie.  It's all about the ensemble.  Once I knew who the other women where, and the franchise, such a McDonalds term to use for the movies.  I just felt it would be a great, fun thing to do. It's a risk.  It's a risk worth taking.

Comedian Mindy Kaling discussed the difficulty of playing Amita, a jeweler.

Mindy Kaling: It was actually one of my most challenging roles.  I had this idea where the OCEAN’s movies were a breezy hangout, where George Clooney plays pranks on everyone.  This was very challenging for me.  I had to learn Hindi for a scene.  None of you guys were in the scene, but I had to have a fight with my mother in Hindi.”

Cate:  You should have told me.  I'm fluent! (laughs)

Mindy:  Of course Cate would be fluent in Hindi.  I had to meet a coach and be coached in Hindi.  I think that everyone thinks because I'm Indian that I would have been raised speaking an Indian language.  That part was fun.  But it was challenging.  I always play delusionally overconfident characters.  This character was, "I get to be involved".  It was fun playing a character more shy.  She needs to come out of her shell.  No one has ever accused me of being shy before.  

The questions took a turn for the serious when the issue of women’s rights and filmmaking opportunities were brought up.  It was not lost that a movie about women was directed by a man, but Cate Blanchett stood up for Gary Ross.

Cate: We had a director who was sympathetic, who wanted to make a story about women.  Everyone at this table wants to see more female directors.  I just came from Cannes; there were twenty-one films and just three female directors.  Here we have a director who loves women, and wanted to make a movie where women do their stuff.  That's fantastic.

Anne Hathaway wholeheartedly agreed, especially where the all-female cast could inspire audiences,

Anne: You can't underestimate the power of visual representation.  To an eight year old girl, we're not saying go have a life of crime.  We're saying go do what you want.  There's space for you.  There's space for you to do it with your friends.  I think that films that have an everybody in message, for people who have been historically excluded, that's a great thing.

The cast was enamored by the veteran character actress Sarah Paulson, who had spent the previous year racking up awards for her work.  Paulson plays Tammy, a suburban housewife who moonlights as a fence.

Sarah Paulson: I thought it was interesting she had all of those microwaves and blenders in her garage.  She used to be immersed in this way of living and she got out.  The Godfather over here comes back and pulls her back in.  Private school is expensive.  Those kids got to go to school.”  Paulson exclaims.  She was clearly the joker in the group.  “We played around a bit.  Gary thinks we played around a lot.  My scatological humor wasn't helping.

Mindy Kaling was quick to extol the acting prowess of her colleagues.

Mindy: Sarah and Anne are so funny in the movie.  I'm so used to seeing them suffering on screen.

Anne Hathaway:  Well, some of us just have it.  (laughs)

Oceans 8 movie Anne Hathaway Cate Blanchett Mindy Kaling NYC

Mindy:  It was great to see them do these comic turns.  They are so funny in the movie.  

Sandra: We were able to bond and connect.  We worked crazy long days.  We were draped all over each other on the couch.  Once we let our guard down, and we realized that we were in the company of safe people, I think we all began the vomit-fest.  I did.  I threw up first.  I went in hoping, and you don't always get what you hope for.  By the end, we managed to connect on a level that we never ever would have gotten a chance.  For women, there are five roles, and we are looking for them.  And they are all lone little islands.  Here we were, Hawaii, and all the smaller islands.  I feel really lucky.  There are no more stones that I have to turn over.  On this one, I came out with so much more than I could have ever imagined.

Awkwafina: “Nope, don't feel that way at all (laughs as she points to Sarah Paulson). " She dances, she makes jokes.  We could be hanging from the heist, and she would start dancing.  She's a distraction, her and Helena [Bonham Carter]. (laughs)

Sandra:  Helena with her charcuterie, always saying [in a British accent] "right, right".  

The entire cast chimes in on "right".

Oceans 8 Helen Mirren Mindy Kaling

As Rihanna was not present, the journalists were curious how the chart-topper came to be a part of the film.  

Gary: It's hilarious that Rihanna, the actual queen of the Met Gala, is stuck in a Halal truck.  But we do give her a dress eventually.  I think Rihanna just loved that.  The first conversation we had was about her roots.  We both love Bob Marley.  I said dreadlocks, she jumped up and down.  This was at two am after a concert in Sweden.  This is just different than what Rihanna gets to be.  The dreads were so heavy, and were woven in.  The grips had to build a special tray behind her head.  Just because the dreads were so heavy.” (laughs)

Then the topic turned to the incredible costume design and extravagance on display in OCEAN’s 8. “We were going to wear a dress fully made of tampons,” joked Awkwafina.

Gary Ross replied more seriously.

Gary: These women have a tremendous sense of fashion.  Being able to shoot in here was a tremendous advantage.  Being able to work with so many great designers was a tremendous advantage.  We had Dolce build us a hundred footman costumes out of silk, and with the stairs going all the way up to the top.  You're promising a sumptuous experience.  All the extras at the Met Gala are famous.”

Oceans 8 Cate Blanchett Rihanna

The cast goofs on Gary Ross saying "gala" correctly, before returning to the brilliance of costume designer Sarah Edwards.  

Cate: Yes, a huge shout out to the costume designer Sarah Edwards. We had another costume designer fall out at the eleventh hour.  She had to costume all of us distinctively.  She worked her tail off fifty hours a day.

Gary:  Cate's right, Sarah did this with three weeks prep.  I don't think any of us have ever seen anyone do the job better.  

Cate:  She was the most collaborative, creative, open minded costume designer.  

Gary:  She had to create eight distinct, individual characters, all of whom have to be defined, realistically, subtly, and with style.

Sandra: Each of us had like sixty changes.  She worked very closely with the designers as well.  The designers, for the most part, were really generous.  We all had opinions.  Shocking right, that all eight of us would have opinions about what would go on our body.  The handiwork, the craftsmanship that went into our outfits.  It hearkens back to a time, we haven't seen in a long time.  We revel in the characters and the costumes.  That's what was so fun about this film.  It was stunning.

OCEAN’s 8 will be released globally by Warner Bros. on Friday, June 8th.     

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