Cover story

Women in Hollywood 2019


Zazie Beetz, Cynthia Erivo, Isabela Moner, Reed Morano, Florence Pugh & Olivia Wilde

The Annual Women in Hollywood Issue 2019

From award-winning directors to actresses on the cusp of superstardom, these women are the film industry’s leading lights – talented, switched on and flying the flag for diversity and equality. Commit their names to memory: you’ll be hearing them everywhere

Photography Camila FalquezStyling Jaime Kay Waxman
Cover Stories


This summer, actress-turned-filmmaker Olivia Wilde, 35, made her directorial debut with Booksmart, a shrewd take on the high-school-comedy genre that has received rave reviews.

What prevented you from directing before?

Fear. For a long time, I was insecure that I hadn’t been to film school. Then I realized my career was film school, because I was shadowing brilliant directors, seeing different techniques and asking endless questions, and I continue to do that. That’s why I think I have to keep acting, so I can keep learning.

What were you thinking about when putting together the cast for Booksmart?

You can’t look for a specific physical type in any role – you have to look for an essence, even if the role requires rewriting. One of the first things we did was remove any physical attributes from the breakdown – for example, ‘blue eyes that could stop traffic’ means you’re looking for a white girl. It starts with a willingness to look beyond the obvious.

What advice has helped you most as a director?

‘Show no fear’ – that’s [director] Sidney Lumet’s. And Spielberg talks about it, too. It doesn’t matter how bad things are going; you’re the general of an army and the second you seem nervous, people will start defecting. So even if you have to go into a closet, close the door and scream into a pillow, you must maintain your sense of control.

What are the biggest hurdles for female directors in Hollywood?

Not having enough material to earn the bigger jobs. There are so many guys who’ve been given massive jobs after doing one tiny Sundance movie, but as women we tend to feel we need to earn something. I ran into Lena Dunham when I wanted to make Booksmart and I wasn’t sure I had the confidence to pitch it. She said, ‘Do you think a guy would hesitate? Rock in there and own it!’

What’s made you proud of Hollywood?

I’m incredibly inspired by the Me Too movement, specifically the revelation that when [women] form this alliance, our power multiplies. At my first Time’s Up meeting, I realized we had all been brainwashed to believe we were competitors, and just how powerful it was when we said, ‘Wait a minute – we’re all on the same team.’

What would you like your IMDB bio to say in 20 years’ time?

Something along the lines of: ‘She makes films that delight while reflecting their times.’

Booksmart is out now

Opening image, L-R: Olivia: Blazer and pants Bella Freud; turtleneck Courrèges; pumps Jimmy Choo; ring Olivia’s own. Florence: Bodysuit Alix; pants Tibi; sandals Souliers Martinez; cuff Jennifer Fisher. Cynthia: Blazer, vest and pants Nili Lotan; pumps Aquazzura; earrings Valentino; ring Catbird. Zazie: Top and pants Isabel Marant; pumps Altuzarra; earrings Mounser; bracelet Loren Stewart. Isabela: Blazer Pushbutton; belt Alexander McQueen; shoes Wandler; earrings Jennifer Fisher. Reed: Dress Tibi; sandals Staud; earrings Meadowlark; ring Sarah & Sebastian; bracelets Reed’s own. This image: Blazer and pants Khaite; sandals Staud
Top Hellessy; hoop earrings Valentino; pearl earring Loren Stewart; belt Alexander McQueen


At 32 years old, London-born Cynthia Erivo is just an Oscar away from elusive EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony Award) status. After wowing on Broadway and making cameos in hit TV shows, the singer and actress picked up her first feature-film credits last year in Bad Times at the El Royale and Steve McQueen’s Widows. This year, she’ll portray American abolitionist Harriet Tubman in upcoming biopic Harriet.

How did you get the role of Harriet Tubman?

I think they knew how determined I was to be ready, physically and mentally, for the role. Every stunt you see, I did [myself]. You’re in a corset for 14-18 hours a day, but you’re still doing all the running and jumping. Most of it was [filmed] at night, in the cold, the rain, the mud. It definitely made me stronger, but it was tough sometimes. If you’re going over really painful moments over and over again, they sort of stick to you a bit.

Who in Hollywood inspires you most?

Oprah Winfrey and Barbra Streisand: they have a way of taking control of their lives and their work and the things they choose to do – and choose not to do. They’re Renaissance women and that’s what I’m aiming to be.

What is the most exciting thing happening in the industry right now?

Women are discovering the power they have – not just on screen, but behind the camera and as businesswomen. We’re finally feeling okay having those conversations with our agents and managers and forcing people to allow us to be part of that bigger conversation.

How can Hollywood better serve women of color?

Start seeing them as full human beings. It’s starting to happen, but we need it to happen faster. I think for a long time we’ve been seen as one-dimensional – there’s the strong woman and the sexy woman, but one woman can be all those things. We see those roles for white women, but it’s still not filtering through quickly enough into roles for black women.

What do you want your IMDB bio to say in 20 years’ time?

When I was doing Bad Times… [with Jeff Bridges], someone said he had done 76 films, so I would love at some point in my life to be able to say, ‘Yeah, I’ve done 70-something movies.’ I want to make sure I tell good stories, have some fun and keep creating – and be in the driver’s seat sometimes.

Harriet is out November 1


German-American actress Zazie Beetz’s breakthrough moment came in 2016 when she landed the role of Van in Donald Glover’s multi-award-winning series Atlanta, which last year earned her an Emmy nod. The 28-year-old will soon star opposite Joaquin Phoenix and Robert De Niro in super-villain origins movie Joker.

What are the best and worst parts of Hollywood?

Being able to tell stories and be creative professionally is an astounding gift – I can do so much more because I have this platform. And the worst thing about Hollywood is its political element, which is very self-serving. It’s that classic thing of finding the circle you feel comfortable with and remaining grounded. I’m lucky to have that.

How do you think being German-American has shaped your outlook as an actress?

I have a huge desire to work in Europe. I traveled a lot to Germany as a child and that gave me a wonderful connection to people. I find other cultures fascinating and love languages; when I meet people from other places, I feel instantly drawn. Our industry is teeming with people from all over the place, so I think it positively affects my ability to attract others.

What’s the most exciting thing happening in the industry right now?

Accessibility. Anybody with an iPhone can make something, and you can upload things online for thousands of people to see. All of a sudden, you see more stories and more points of view – it’s a great equalizer.

You’ve talked in the past about your struggles with anxiety. Has fame exacerbated it?

Fame definitely exacerbates anxiety, 100%. After Atlanta, I had the worst anxiety of my life – I’ve never experienced pain like that. [But] I am grateful in a way because it has made me passionate about mental health and letting people know they’re not alone.

How did you get out of that space?

When things like that happen there is an instinct to pull away and isolate yourself, but my partner [actor and writer David Rysdahl] was such a rock. And therapy. I also made a bunch of lifestyle changes – no screens before bed, cutting out alcohol and processed sugar… I know what makes me feel good and what doesn’t, so I’m huge on self-care now – I prioritize that over everything.

What do you want your IMDB bio to say in 20 years’ time?

I’d love to have an Oscar [laughs]. And I’d want to have worked with Paul Thomas Anderson. I’m also working on something in my own time with my partner – I’d like to have more things like that, which I’ve written and produced.

Joker is out October 4

Blazer and pants Theory; sandals The Row; earrings Mounser; bracelet Loren Stewart
Reed: Dress Tibi; sandals Staud; earrings Meadowlark; ring Sarah & Sebastian; bracelets Reed’s own. Cynthia: Blazer, vest and pants Nili Lotan; pumps Aquazzura; earrings Valentino; ring Catbird. Olivia: Blazer and pants Bella Freud; turtleneck Courrèges; pumps Jimmy Choo; ring Olivia’s own
Top and pants Chloé; bracelet and bracelet Jennifer Fisher


British actress Florence Pugh, 23, has steadily been climbing the ladder to worldwide acclaim by way of BBC drama The Little Drummer Girl, 2016’s Lady Macbeth – for which she was nominated for BAFTA’s Rising Star Award – and upcoming, much-hyped horror Midsommar. But it’s her performance as divisive Amy March in Greta Gerwig’s Christmas adaption of Little Women that is set to send her stratospheric.

Who has been most pivotal to your career?

I had the privilege of working with Emma Thompson [on King Lear] – I’ve grown up watching her and fallen in love with her again and again. I got to hang out with her when Time’s Up and Me Too exploded, and that was a wicked time to be around someone so loud.

What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned so far?

Speaking up goes a long way. People respect you for it. I think it’s very easy when you’re coming up in this industry to do anything anyone says because you feel your job might be jeopardized. It’s also scary how quickly you notice the difference in your morals, or what you now think of yourself… I have to remind myself of that, and protect myself more.

What’s been your most ‘Hollywood’ moment so far?

Having tea and chips with Meryl [Streep] in a carriage in-between takes [on Little Women]. We were filming in Boston, doing an exterior scene, and it was cold and we were waiting and then suddenly chips arrived, and I was just eating chips and dipping them in ketchup with Meryl. It’s like, ‘What is happening?!’

Has your Britishness been an asset in Hollywood?

The lack of need to be perfect definitely comes from being British. There’s something quite rough and ready about the way we’re brought up and the nonsense of silly things. It’s good to have that background when you’re doing something as ridiculous as acting.

What do you want your IMDB bio to say in 20 years’ time?

I’ve always wanted to be in a Western. Always. That’s honestly my biggest thing. And I would like to direct at some point, but that’s way down the line. Other than that [laughs], if it was trivia, I would love to have owned a snail farm at some point. Snails are my favorite thing in the world.

Midsommar is out July 3; Little Women is out December 25


At 10 years old, Peruvian-American actress Isabela Moner made her Broadway debut opposite Ricky Martin in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita. Having transitioned to the big screen in last year’s smash comedy Instant Family, the soon-to-be 18-year-old is set to appear this summer in Dora and the Lost City of Gold, the live-action adaptation of Dora the Explorer.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far?

Never expect anything. Walking into an audition and being in this industry is a lot of pressure. You just need to give it your best and live in the moment.

What is the most exciting thing happening in the industry right now?

The influx of representation, not only in front of the camera but behind it. I’ve experienced it with every job I’ve been in – I’ve been representing my culture in some way, whether in Evita, or with Dora, which takes place in Peru.

Is representation behind the camera more important than representation in front of it?

Yes, because those people are the ones making the decisions, and it’s up to them to choose whether or not to look at only Caucasian actresses, black actresses or Hispanics. Even writers will write what they know. I don’t blame the writers because they don’t know my culture, [but] by including more [diverse] writers, that will make it easier, because you’re just speaking your truth.

If you could change one thing about Hollywood, what would it be and why?

I dislike the praise that comes with being someone who is minorly successful in the industry and wish we were treated like regular people with jobs. There’s a lot of baggage that comes with wanting to act, and I wish it were considered a normal job.

What would you like your IMDB bio to say in 20 years’ time?

‘Confusing career, but very well rounded.’ I want to be able to play any kind of Meryl Streep-type situation, because she’s so versatile. My one goal in my career is to confuse people – I never want to be put in a box.

Dora and the Lost City of Gold is out August 9

Top Staud; pants Frankie Shop; pumps Jimmy Choo; earrings Meadowlark
Dress 3.1 Phillip Lim; sandals By Far; necklace Loren Stewart; bracelets Reed’s own


Just two years after making her directorial debut with Meadowland, Reed Morano, 42, won an Emmy in 2017 for The Handmaid’s Tale. The Nebraska-born cinematographer went on to collaborate with Beyoncé on her visual album Lemonade and is currently directing the TV adaptation of Naomi Alderman’s The Power. Her thriller, The Rhythm Section, is out later this year, starring Blake Lively.

What made you want to work in the film industry?

I was watching a few films around the same time – The Goonies, My Life as a Dog – and there was this idea that, if you worked in the movies, you could be in any world you wanted. My dad also gave me a camera when I was quite young. The first things I made felt like telenovelas.

What’s the most exciting thing happening in the industry right now?

There are so many female cinematographers now – within my short career, I’ve seen the numbers quadruple or more. So, for the younger generation, it’s normal. We should be much further along, but that’s one big change that’s been encouraging.

What has made you most proud of Hollywood in the past year?

The way people have banded together to make certain changes. There was a moment when the Academy was planning to present the awards for cinematography and editing during the commercial break, so I called and texted filmmakers and actors, asking them to sign a letter to get it overturned. It’s a little thing, but if that could carry over to really huge issues, that would be amazing.

How did you land The Handmaid’s Tale job?

I didn’t take no for an answer. I was told many times that I wouldn’t get a chance to pitch, but I kept bugging everyone. If you want to get the job and they don’t think you’re the most qualified person, you have to prove that you’ve thought through every single aspect. And have an opinion – it’s almost better in some ways than going middle-of-the-road.

Do you think Amazon and Netflix are changing Hollywood for the better?

They’re creating an opportunity for movies to get made that normally wouldn’t. Jennifer Salke [the Head of Amazon Studios], for example – the people she’s making deals with, hiring and investing in are all underrepresented voices. I think Amazon is amazing for that.

What would you like your IMDB bio to say in 20 years’ time?

‘She did what she wanted and we’re glad she did.’

The Rhythm Section is out November 22

Zazie: Top and pants Isabel Marant; pumps Altuzarra; earrings Mounser. Isabela: Blazer Pushbutton; shoes Wandler; earrings Jennifer Fisher; belt Alexander McQueen. Florence: Bodysuit Alix; pants Tibi; sandals Souliers Martinez; earrings Chloé; bracelet Jennifer Fisher


Want to hear more from these Hollywood stars? From how they direct love scenes to being asked to smile more, they talk about the female experience of working in the film industry in our exclusive videos

In Conversation: Reed Morano & Olivia Wilde

In Conversation: Zazie Beetz & Florence Pugh

In Conversation: Cynthia Erivo & Isabela Moner

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