Sandra Bullocks new heist movie, Oceans 8, is the rare summer blockbuster that headlines an all-female cast—and never pits them against each other. The ensemble film, which also features Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Rihanna, Sarah Paulson, Mindy Kaling, and Helena Bonham Carter, doesnt cast its stars as damsels in distress or harpies fighting for the same man: “What makes our film important is you see women working as a group, and how women treat each other and lift each other up,” Bullock said at the films premiere in New York Tuesday. “Its also about recognizing talent. Women often say to other women, Go out. I got your back. Its the same with the seven incredibly talented individuals working on this film, who are so different. But they all have the same thing in common, in wanting the best for the other one. When you treat each other with support, there is so much love, and that can equalize a lot of things.”
In Oceans 8, Debbie Ocean (Bullock)—the newly paroled sister of George Clooneys Danny Ocean, star of Oceans Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen—has plotted a heist to steal a one-of-a-kind, $150 million Cartier diamond necklace right off the neck of an unsuspecting actress (Hathaway) at the Met Gala. To complete the mission, Ocean and her former partner in crime (Blanchett) recruit a computer hacker (Rihanna), a jeweler (Kaling), a washed-up fashion designer (Bonham Carter), a deft pickpocket (Awkwafina), and a fence con-artist-turned-suburban mom (Paulson).
Paulson said that the greatest advantage of working with an all-female cast is how generous they are about sharing their wisdom with one another.
“Men usually dont do that,” said Paulson, who arrived at the premiere wearing a showstopping neon green Prada gown. “Women share their knowledge, and you then take their expertise based on their experience and apply it to your life, even if its something you have yet to experience. Theres something about women, and especially this group of women, where generosity was the name of the game. I even got online-shopping advice!”
Not only is Debbies squad kind and benevolent, but director-writer Gary Ross also chose a purposefully diverse cast.
“We are all women with different backgrounds coming together. I hope we can change the way people see whats possible in this world and show how strong women can be, how funny they can be, and how diverse we are,” said Awkwafina, the actress-rapper born Nora Lum. “As an Asian-American woman, being in this movie, some girl will see it and they will know its possible because there arent a lot of us out there. There has to be more.”
Hathaway, meanwhile, hopes that Oceans 8 will inspire Hollywood execs to green-light more projects about women.
“I really hope that its a hit, because then we can get more movies like this,” Hathaway said. “Right now, theres still this lingering myth that movies starring women dont do as well as films starring men, and its really hard to break through. And its pervasive. So if this movie does well, its going to help take down that myth.”
As the unofficial eighth member of the team, Hathaway—playing self-absorbed movie star Daphne Kluger—steals every scene in the movie. Early reviews are raving about the Oscar winners performance, including V.F.s own.
“It was so much fun to come in and chew the scenery and take up as much space as she wanted with her big personality,” said Hathaway, who improvised a few of her own lines in the film. “Daphne is the person that Ive tried very hard not to be, and I dont know what it says about me that she came to me so easily. But it was really fun to get to spend some time with her. Shes just so expensive, and it was just lovely to do that.”
And while Bullock might emit an aura of confidence, she insists she is neither as self-assured nor as poised as her thieving alter ego, especially when walking down a red carpet.
“I have to remind myself its just a press line—own it when you are nervous,” the Oscar winner said. “You are only going to be judged once, and it will last maybe a week. And after a week, no one is judging you anymore. You just have to breathe through it and remember there are more important things in the world, like family and everyone is alive and healthy. Theres other people suffering and it sort of grounds you.”
As for the Hollywood gender-pay gap controversy, Bullock is proud to add her voice to the Times Up chorus. “I think its a human issue that goes beyond our industry,” she said. “We just want a spot at the table and to be treated equally. Its about being supported.”
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