Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elisabeth Moss talk crime and seedless fruit ahead of their newest feature film, ‘The Kitchen’
Harrison Hill, USA TODAY
BURBANK, Calif. â€“ Do not come for the women of “The Kitchen.”
In the mob drama, in theaters Friday, three Â crime wives take over theÂ family business in 1970s New York:Â deferential housewife Kathy (Melissa McCarthy);Â Harlem-born RubyÂ (Tiffany Haddish) who married into a disapprovingÂ white family; and Claire (Elisabeth Moss), victimized for years byÂ an abusive alcoholic husband.
But now their Irish husbands are in the clink. And they’re the ones running Hell’s Kitchen.Â
The gritty, cutthroatÂ â€œKitchenâ€ is a dramatic turn for both McCarthy and Haddish, but todayÂ the air is lightÂ as the stars reunite at the Smoke House Restaurant with Moss and director Andrea Berloff.
McCarthy, 48, is sipping on a very L.A. green juice. Moss, 37, who flew in from a shoot in Australia, isÂ fighting jetlag with coffee. Haddish, 39, throwsÂ zingers about trying to date Mossâ€™ brother.
â€œDonâ€™t you feel good when you drink something with chlorophyll in it?â€ Moss asks McCarthy, eyeing her co-star’s grass-huedÂ elixir.
â€œI always think itâ€™s chloroform and Iâ€™m waiting to pass out,â€ McCarthy jokes.
â€œThe Kitchen,â€ based on the 2014 graphic novel, arrives as a fully-formed example of everything Hollywood is allegedly supportingÂ two years after the #MeToo movement spurred a Time’s Up call for equality. A powerful female-led cast. Rich writing. Studio backing. An acclaimed woman director at the helm.
But these women, who each have multiple projects cooking, are aware ofÂ buzzword fatigue, especially when it comes to equality. Behind the scenes, “I am very open-eyed that we are experiencing a blip,” says Berloff, suddenly sitting ramrod straight. â€œI had a president of a studio say to me last week that ‘Because Movie X and Movie Y did not work this summer, weâ€™re done with women-fronted movies.’ â€
Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elisabeth Moss star as mob wives who take over when their spouses are jailed in the crime drama ‘The Kitchen.’
Though Berloff declines toÂ specify the exact films referenced, several female-led films struggled this summer. For example, theÂ Olivia Wilde-directed â€œBooksmartâ€ and Mindy Kalingâ€™s â€œLate Night,” both critical hits, did not live up to box office expectations inÂ summer stuffed with sequels, rebootsÂ and spinoffs.
‘Booksmart’: All about Olivia Wilde’s killer director debut
“Whatâ€™s obviously so insane about that are the 150 movies starring men that didnâ€™t do well either,” saysÂ Moss, noting 2019 women-led successes such as “Us” and “Captain Marvel.” “Itâ€™s an unintelligent thing to say.”Â
McCarthy shakes her head. â€œI look forward to knowing who that was right after we turn the tape (recorder) off.â€
So yes,Â Berloff wants her “Kitchen” to kill it at the box office,Â despite experts predictingÂ a sleepy weekend at the cineplex, with current predictions under $10 million.Â But the first-time director, who was nominated for her screenplay for “Straight Outta Compton” is simultaneouslyÂ sounding a siren, noting theÂ “handful” of upcoming studio films boasting women in front of and behind the camera.
“If these movies consistently donâ€™t do well thereâ€™s not going to be more in a few years,” she emphasizes. “IfÂ people want to see more of these movies, they have to go out and buy a ticket.”
“You canâ€™t say â€˜Iâ€™m for it tooâ€™ and then only go see male caped movies,â€ says McCarthy. â€œItâ€™s a weird epidemic. Iâ€™m not against (those movies), but everybodyâ€™s gotta put their money where their mouth is.â€
Away fromÂ the cineplex, here’s what the push for progressÂ looks like off-camera for McCarthy, Moss and Haddish.
Studios “taking meetings” about female-led movies, or green-lighting such films but with slashed budgets is not progress, clarifiesÂ McCarthy. â€œAnd thatâ€™s what we have to keep watching. (When studios say) â€˜We are doing it (women-ledÂ movies)!â€™ Why is it half the budget of the same movie made with men? â€¦ Weâ€™ve rang the bell but the numbers have to change.”
Despite puttingÂ Hulu on the map for original programming with her Emmy award-winning series “The Handmaid’s Tale,”Â Moss says she’s pitched television projects led by a woman “and have shockingly heard, â€˜Oh, well, weâ€™re just not sure that (it should be)Â a female lead. And itâ€™s me sitting there! Iâ€™m like, you do realize â€˜The Handmaidâ€™s Taleâ€™ is doing really well? Itâ€™s shocking sometimes.” Moss notes the every experience isn’t negative. ” Iâ€™ve walked into rooms where youâ€™re pitching to three female executives. There just needs to be more of that.â€
Haddish took the bull by the horns when Netflix offered her more money after the streaming service was publicly called out for gender-based pay disparities onÂ â€œThe Crown.”Â â€œI said, how about instead of giving me that money,Â you give me that money so I can give six other comics an opportunity, comics that you guys would probably haveÂ never seen?â€
And so on Aug. 13 “Tiffany Haddish Presents: They Ready” will hit Netflix, featuringÂ six diverse comedians, each with their own half hour specials. â€œI made sure they each got paid a lot of money, more than what they would have normally got paid,â€ she says, her eyes filling with tears.
‘I don’t do bunk beds’:The reason Tiffany Haddish didn’t become a Scientologist
â€œIt makes me feel really good to be able to do that for them because I know how hard it is. All those comics have struggled, a lot of them have been homeless. Itâ€™s really hard to be like, â€˜OK Iâ€™m going to make everybody laugh tonight but I havenâ€™t eaten all day,â€™ saysÂ Haddish, her voiceÂ catching. â€œI hope it gets picked up again and I can do it for more comedians.â€
McCarthy is now wiping away tears, too. â€œIn the midst of all this fun, which is the only thing people concentrate on, sheâ€™s doing all this stuff with homeless kids and sheâ€™s constantly doing something like that. Please donâ€™t say we cried!â€
Haddish hollers: Â â€œWeâ€™re cycling up!”
A link has been posted to your Facebook feed.