Mad Money: In the velvet trap
When she won the Oscar for Thelma & Louise, her first screenplay, Callie Khouri simultaneously became a Hollywood legend and found herself in the sort of velvet trap the movie business loves to create.
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When she won the Oscar for Thelma & Louise, her first screenplay, Callie Khouri simultaneously became a Hollywood legend and found herself in the sort of velvet trap the movie business loves to create. Her new movie, Mad Money, seems like exactly the sort of project Khouri — known as an expert on creating stories for women, thanks to her Oscar and Divine Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood, her directorial debut — has reserved in her name, like a good table and a parking space.
It’s the story of three women — played by Diane Keaton, Queen Latifah and Katie Holmes — who overcome their very different backgrounds to steal millions of dollars from their workplace, the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank. There are no guns and no complex, Ocean’s 11-style gizmos — just three women, a brass padlock, a janitor’s cart and cash stuffed down bras and pantyhose.
“I love crime movies,” Khouri says at a press event for the movie in Santa Monica, “but as time goes on, I get more and more violence-averse. There’s so much violence in the world that it’s not that entertaining to me. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t need to see another shootout.
“I want something that has all the thrill and the tension and the stakes of a crime movie without the payoff of violence, so this was a perfect movie for me, because I felt I could have the best of both worlds, and have it funny, and work with all these amazing women.”
Abandoning the writer’s chair for the film, Khouri had Glenn Gers (Fracture) pen the script, and they agreed the characters, not the crime, was their priority: “One of the things that we had to deal with,” Gers says, “was that it’s a caper movie where they have to pull the same caper over and over again through the entire middle of the movie for years.
“And the thing that made that so exciting was that was how you get a character movie, not a crime movie, because it’s not about the details of the crime, it’s about the effect of doing this, the effect of having all that money,” he says.
Khouri doesn’t deny she’s been typecast as a writer and director: “Am I in a box? Absolutely.” She also thinks there’s been a misunderstanding, right from the beginning, of her career.
“I thought of Thelma & Louise as a road movie and an action movie, and when I got offered all these pure girl movies, I thought, ‘That’s not my thing.’ I’m not saying this out of disrespect for the fact that they’re opening against us, but I’m not going to see 27 Dresses and movies like that. They’re not my cup of tea.
“I don’t dig the straight girl movie. I need more. I’m not into it. I’ll read a script they want me to do, and I’m thinking, ‘People are crying in here. No, no no!’ I’m not into it. I want people to have a good time. I want there to be excitement. I want there to be surprises.”