Steve McQueen was told Michelle Rodriguez was too ‘difficult’ to hire


43rd Toronto International Film Festival - Widows - Press Conference

In the coming months, we’re going to be force-fed a massive Oscar campaign for A Star Is Born. I get that. But can someone spare some coins for an Oscar campaign for Widows? I’ll admit it, I heard great things about Widows as a project before I even watched the trailer. Widows is directed by Steve McQueen, best known as the British director of 12 Years a Slave. McQueen put together an absolutely insane ensemble featuring Viola Davis, Liam Neeson, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall, Brian Tyree Henry and Daniel Kaluuya. The premise is that Viola, Cynthia, Michelle and Elizabeth’s husbands are a team of criminals who get killed during a heist, so the widows have to join up and pull off another heist to pay off their debts. Here’s the trailer:

I NEED THIS INJECTED INTO MY VEINS. Everyone is talking about the fact that no one would have expected Viola Davis to anchor an action-drama, but once you see it on-screen, it makes perfect sense and she’s incredible in it. Anyway, Uproxx did a good interview with Steve McQueen where he talked all about putting the film together and how much he loves all the actors he got to work with. He makes special mention of Michelle Rodriguez and how he was told that he shouldn’t hire her because she has a reputation of being “difficult.”

One reason why I love actors is these people portray humanity. They take so much risk to show up, and to be who we are. And I just, I’m so in love with them and to collaborate with an actor, to encourage them, to help them produce something that maybe they didn’t even know they could possibly do, and also inspire me? Boom. Loving it. That’s what it’s about. For me, the movie is about a rollercoaster ride. It’s a rollercoaster ride. But, on the rollercoaster ride, it’s from A to Z. You stop at certain locations which tell us about the environment we’re in and the predicament these women have to challenge in order to get to their destination. I want to tell you something as well…

Take Michelle Rodriguez. People told me not to work with her. Because she’s “difficult.” She’s this and that. “Don’t work with her. No, no don’t work with her.” But people say that about me. If you’re a white director, they call you a perfectionist. Me, they call difficult. So I didn’t pay any mind to what people say about Michelle, because I had to find out for myself. I offered her the role and she said no. She said that she didn’t want to be the character. The character was subservient to men. She didn’t want a situation where she was beholden to a man. She said no and I did a lot of auditions of other actresses, but for me it wasn’t working.

… I even sat down with her in a café in LA and we hit it off like a house on fire immediately. It was kind of funny because, what’s interesting about Michelle is, I’m interested in easy people. She is just amazing as an intellect and what she’s interested in, she’s so curious and so tenacious as a human being. When I met her, I thought, “Oh, I understand what they mean by difficult.” She’s always asking questions to herself, difficult questions. And trying to answer them. Bring that here! I want that! I have the same reputation so it’s nonsense. Again, when people say things about people, one has to find out themselves. That’s it. That’s what it is.

[From Uproxx]

I think that, in a nutshell, is why so many actresses and so many artists of color seem to fade away after they do have some success in the industry – there are whisper campaigns against them, directors are “warned” that so-and-so is “difficult.” I think Michelle is difficult in that she’s got an artistic temperament and she’s passionate and not cookie-cutter. If she was a white dude, those qualities would be heralded. But because she’s a Hispanic woman, directors are warned not to work with her. I’m glad McQueen followed his gut.

43rd Toronto International Film Festival - Widows - Press Conference

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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49 Responses to “Steve McQueen was told Michelle Rodriguez was too ‘difficult’ to hire”

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  1. Lucy says:

    Omg how have I not heard about this movie before????!!!

  2. Janet says:

    I bet it IS difficult working with people who are simply better at their jobs than you are! Can’t even imagine how easy it is to work with Perpetual Skeeze Leo or Just Flash That Smile Clooney, who “simper and smirk, and make love to us all.” I can’t even begin to imagine how kickass this world would be, and particularly the art, if we actually lived in a meritocracy, where people who were top weren’t held back for being difficult.

  3. Tiffany says:

    I hope this film get’s Michelle to where she should be because she should be a bigger deal. The awesomeness that was Girlfight should have made her a star.

  4. isabelle says:

    Steve McQueen is an excellent director, one of the best out there, he also directer Hunger. Great cast on top of it. Definitely going to watch this in the theater.

  5. lolamd says:

    I cannot wait to see this film. I love Steve McQueen.

  6. Jess says:

    Duuuude I am so here for this movie! Granted, I’d watch Viola Davis read the phone book, but I love everything Gillian Flynn has ever written so this looks extra promising. Also, I love Michelle Rodriguez (so underrated) and Elizabeth Debeki was always the best thing about Masters of Sex imo…
    PS Liam just gets better with age… *drools* lol

  7. Renee2 says:

    I love that he said this publicly about Michelle Rodriguez. All of it, especially how she was like, I don’t want this part that’s subservient to a man. And I love that he was calling out the industry on their bullsh*t.

  8. Renee says:

    Bravo to him for deciding on his own rather than take the opinions of others. How refreshing! We know this is just a drop in the bucket of how many women & minorities have lost work due to being termed as “difficult”.

  9. Meg says:

    doesn’t she have a record? she refused to do community service when being sentenced because she’s ‘too famous’ not that famous honey

  10. Pandy says:

    I’m pretty sure Michelle is bi/lesbian, so likely unwilling to play casting couch games … therefore, “difficult”.

  11. Sara Martin says:

    Based on previous reports from actors such as Ashely Judd, Annabella Sciorra, and Mira Sorvino, I believe “too difficult to hire” in 2018 translates to “didn’t respond to offer for trade of sex for job.”

  12. jessamine says:

    OMG I am so excited for this movie!!! I first heard of it when Lainey posted the trailer back in June (I think) but I think this is the first mention I’ve seen since then … and I think it says a lot about promotion of films focusing on women/POC that the advance buzz for this movie was relegated to socially-conscious gossip blogs…

  13. Addison says:

    When I hear the word “difficult” being used I always assume that that person was labeled as such because if a woman, it means someone tried something with her and she stood up. After Me Too people should be careful to use the word. I would just assume that the person that is saying that either harassed her sexually or is repeating the words of the offender.

  14. saltandpepper says:

    Love Michelle Rodriguez. At least she owns her shit.

  15. serena says:

    This movie looks incredible, there’s no way I’m gonna miss Viola Davis and Michelle Rodriguez TOGETHER plus Colin Farell.. I mean, they’re all amazing.
    Also I’m sick of hearing of actresses being called ‘difficult’, when they simply may have a different opinion or something. Enough of this. Glad Mcqueen didn’t listen to those rumors.

  16. Fluffy Princess says:

    This movie looks great!
    And this guy–I love him. I’m glad he found out first before making his decision. Rodriguez is no more difficult than many people we’ve heard about in H’wood.

    Let’s be real here–we’ve ALLheard rumors about difficult to VERY difficult actors — I’m looking at you Christian Bale — but so far, any “whisper campaigns” about how he should not be hired? He’s been a f*g DICK to people on set, full on holy terror meltdowns, ,and it’s all, “meh, he’s an artist.” Naaah, ef that noise. Just call it like it is, “Yes, he’s a total dick to work with but sometimes he does great work. Hire him at your own risk.” But will that EVER happen. Nah. Boys club to the end.

  17. Ikki says:

    looove what he said! also he’s incredibly talented

  18. Nev says:

    Michelle is freaking gorgeous and an amazing actress. love her vibe!!!
    HTGAWM is sooooooo good too!!! Viola will elevate anything.

  19. Yes Doubtful says:

    She is outspoken and has opinions, so of course men think she is “difficult.” Sigh. I love her. She’s not the most talented actress, but she only plays bad ass roles and I respect that. I’m really excited for this movie!

  20. LMB says:

    I remember the miniseries way back in the eighties. It was a really good story. I hope the new version will do it justice.

  21. Meganbot2000 says:

    She has a history of domestic violence (arrested for beating up her girlfriend), has been arrested for two separate hit and runs, numerous DUIs, and has served three separate prison sentences (in 2004, 2006, and 2007). Many men would not survive that with their careers and reputations intact. Certainly in many non-entertainment industries such behavior would be a career-killer.

    There are plenty who consider Fassbender, Hamm, Walberg, etc. cancelled for crimes or allegations that took place years ago. A woman should not get a pass simply for being a woman.

    I have no doubt sexism plays a large part, but let’s not pretend her rep comes entirely from being opinionated.

  22. Amy Tennant says:

    With Michelle, I think it’s a little from column A and a little from column B. And I am saying this as someone who has had a massive, massive crush on her for years. She has a rap sheet. I’m willing to bet she can objectively be difficult. And I’m also willing to bet she can be particularly difficult to people who have a problem with outspoken women, outspoken Latinx, outspoken LGBT people, people who just won’t play the game, etc. In fact, I think the fact that Michelle, my belle, still has a career despite having so many earned and unearned strikes against her just shows what a badass she really is.