For all the praise of how great ’70s cinema was, when you come to think about it, many of the great crime classics like Straight Time, The Godfather and Thief were all testosterone-driven, with female characters resigned to second- or third-class status. Unfortunate, considering an era known for its sense of revolution.
Such was the jumping off point for Julia Hart’s Amazon Studios movie I’m Your Woman. which she co-wrote with her Oscar-nominated La La Land producer husband Jordan Horowitz. The movie stars Rachel Brosnahan as the wife of a gangster who, after his disappearance, is forced to go on the lam with their baby, who is stolen, and the Black bodyguard (Arinzé Kene) who is protecting her.
“We were watching a bunch of ’70s and early ’80s crime drama around the time we also became parents,'” Hart says during the movie’s panel at Deadline’s Contenders Film awards-season event, where she was joined by Brosnahan, Horowitz, Kene and co-star Marsha Stephanie Blake. “We have two little boys. I probably would have been struck by the female characters anyway, but I was doubly struck by them having become a mother.”
She adds: “[In the older crime dramas] you had these incredible actresses playing these three-dimensional, interesting characters, but they’re only in a handful of scenes. And when the action gets going, the women and the children are shepherded off to safety and disappear from those films. And, so, as we were watching those back to back, I was just thinking about those women, and to see how they felt what was happening to them; that was the germ of the idea of creating [the character of Jean] in I’m Your Woman.”
“I love that Jean’s story is about a quiet woman who becomes an unlikely action hero in her own story,” says Brosnahan, who plays a different type of glass-ceiling crasher after her award-winning turn as comedienne Midge Maisel in Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. “It explores a conversation about motherhood that I had never saw on screen and talks about trauma in a new way.”
Blake plays a woman who is connected to the past of Jean’s husband, and like Brosnahan’s character has also sweated the rich life of being a mobster’s wife.
Says Blake on what drew her to Hart and Horowitz’s screenplay: “She had a similar situation as Jean’s, but she figured out how to get herself out of it. She was living a normal life, and was pulled back into it. She was strong and confident now and fully in her power. But at some point she was in Jean’s shoes. This dichotomy, this vulnerable, this strong woman appealed to me.”
Check out the panel video above.