When Netflix’s ruthless political drama House of Cards launched in 2013, the concept of a megalomaniac at the helm of the Oval Office seemed much closer to fantasy than reality. But now, in the wake of Donald Trump’s takeover of the White House, the show’s co-star Robin Wright, who plays the quiet, stoic but cutthroat Claire Underwood, wife to Kevin Spacey’s narcissist President Francis Underwood, joked that political reality has become stranger than fiction.
“He’s [Trump] stolen all of our ideas for season six,” quipped Wright, speaking Thursday at a Kering Women In Motion talk in Cannes.
“I’ve got to see the hope somewhere,” she said, before adding she wanted to see Michelle Obama take the top job someday. “I think she’d make a great President.”
Wright is hitting the Croisette with her debut feature short The Dark Of Night, starring Leslie Bibb, Sam Rockwell and Callie Thorne and written by Denise Meyers. She directs the 10-minute noir thriller about an unemployed insurance adjuster who finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. The film is screening in the festival’s Cannes Classics section.
“It was a labor of love,” said Wright of the crowdfunded project. It’s not her first time behind the lense either: Wright has directed seven episodes of House Of Cards after her co-star Spacey turned down the offer to direct. “Kev said, ‘I’m too busy, I’m too busy,’ so I said, ‘I’ll do it.’ They said ‘OK, let’s try it.’ They gifted me that. I’ve had cinema school through Netflix.”
Her career as an actress has, she said, helped shape her abilities behind the camera. “The principal difference is, when you direct, that’s a title. It’s an alpha position. You’re directing someone to do something. It’s like watching an animal prey or watch for food…To watch it as a director, it’s more important to let the actor play a little bit because they have to get it out of their system. Let them shake their hair out and run around in the dog park.”
When Wright was initially offered the part of Claire in House Of Cards, she admits she was reticent to return to television but the fact that it was sold to her on the basis that they were going to develop her character, one that she could help create, was the reason she said yes.
“Claire Underwood is the best of both sexes,” she said. “Francis annihilates people. He devours. He’s so effusive. He’s so direct and so verbal and building that balance between her quietness and stoicism and observing was key.”
She added: “She’s his Lady Macbeth to his Richard III.”
The conversation about gender parity in the film business, particularly the lack of female directors in the movie pool, is one that the business needs to keep having, she said. “It’s about opening up perspective,” she said, adding that it’s not just more women, but more nationalities that need to be called upon to take the plunge into the director’s seat. “Can we just get more nationalities and more perspectives in the film industry just to see through their lens?”
She added: “Feminism means equality. Period. Equal work and equal pay.”
Since being on House Of Cards, Wright said her confidence as a woman in the workplace has grown. “We’re all producers on it. There’s a team of us working and evolving the show. We didn’t know the arc and where it was going to end…but we are all equally important on the show.”
Wright revealed that they already had an end in mind for the show, but she refused to disclose any details.
Netflix has been the subject of controversy here in Cannes this year. After two of the streamer’s projects – Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories – were selected to screen in competition at the fest, French exhibitors were up in arms with the fact the festival was supporting films that were not geared towards a theatrical release. The outcry even prompted the festival to deem that, from 2018 going forward, all films screening in the festival were subject to a local theatrical release.
When queried about the controversy, Wright was unaware of the local debate.
“I can’t comment here,” she said. “I work in the States for a company that launched a streaming show and we’ve never done this before.” Wright praised the fact that Netflix enabled customers to watch the program wherever they wanted and for as long as they wanted. “We’ve never had that ability [before],” she said.
But Wright added: “The movie theater will forever be the first choice of course. I think it’s rude for people to watch movies on their phones – it’s rude to the filmmakers.”