THE WEEK IN WOMEN news roundup: St. Vincent to direct woman-led ‘Picture of Dorian Gray,’ Reese Witherspoon talks modern-day rom-coms, filming begins on ‘Mary, Queen of Scots,’ Patty Jenkins negotiating big payday for ‘Wonder Woman 2′

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Annie Clark, aka Grammy-winning rocker St. Vincent, will make her feature film directorial debut on a woman-led adaptation of "The Picture of Dorian Gray." Photo provided

Annie Clark, aka Grammy-winning rocker St. Vincent, will make her feature film directorial debut on a woman-led adaptation of “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” Photo provided

Annie Clark, a multihyphenate artist as well as an Oklahoma native like me, will make her feature film directorial debut with an intriguing new adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s 1890 novel “The Picture of Dorian Gray.”

Film studio Lionsgate is developing a version of the classic story with an interesting twist: The title character will be a woman, reports Variety.

Clark is best known as the Grammy Award-winning experimental rocker St. Vincent. Along with earning a golden gramophone for Best Alternative Album in 2015 for her self-titled effort “St. Vincent,” Clark has been the recipient of the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award and the Q Maverick award, both given for outstanding innovation in the arts.

As reported on my BAM’s Blog, the multi-instrumentalist made her first foray into filmmaking with “XX,” an all-female horror anthology that premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. As part of “XX,” which became available on Netflix in March, Clark co-wrote, scored and directed the short film “Birthday Party,” starring Melanie Lynskey, Joe Swanberg and Sheila Vand.

David Birke has been hired to write the script for the new cinematic take on “Dorian Gray,” Wilde’s Victorian-era tale of a hedonistic man whose self-portrait ages while he stays eternally young.

Birke wrote Paul Verhoeven’s thriller “Elle,” starring Isabelle Huppert. He also co-wrote the upcoming “Slender Man” horror film from Screen Gems, and is currently adapting the crime thriller “Alex” from Pierre Lemaitre’s novel, according to Variety.

Wilde’s original “The Picture of Dorian Gray” was the only novel he ever published, but the story has been the basis of multiple movies. Starring Hurd Hatfield, George Sanders and Angela Lansbury, who received an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actress, MGM’s 1945 version is probably the best known.

With two recent University of Southern California studies confirming that Hollywood continues to lag behind both in terms of the number of women directors it hires and the number of female characters it puts on cinema screens, it’s exciting to hear of such an interesting female star vehicle helmed by such a visionary woman artist.

Happily, St. Vincent isn’t the only female filmmaker making her feature film directorial debut in this week’s news roundup.

First-time writer-director Hallie Meyers-Shyer, left, and star Reese Witherspoon are shown on the set of "Home Again." Open Road Films photo

First-time writer-director Hallie Meyers-Shyer, left, and star Reese Witherspoon are shown on the set of “Home Again.” Open Road Films photo

‘Home Again’ star Reese Witherspoon talks the evolution of the rom-com

Romantic comedies are changing for the better, according to frequent rom-com star Reese Witherspoon.

“That’s what makes it a modern romantic comedy,” Witherspoon tells EW of her new rom-com “Home Again.” “It’s not about a woman finding love; it’s about a woman finding the best version of herself — and that’s very modern.”

The Oscar winner stars as a recently divorced mother of two who moves home to L.A. after her marriage falls apart. She soon finds herself boarding three aspiring filmmaker brothers in her guesthouse. She embarks on a role-reversal May-December romance with one of the brothers, played by Pico Alexander.

“It’s kind of beautiful to see a May-December romance the other way around,” Witherspoon tells EW. “It’s good to put that out there and challenge social arrays.”

It’s also great to see that “Home Again” is the writing and directing debut for Hallie Meyers-Shyer, daughter of director Nancy Meyers. It’s always great to see a female filmmaker get the chance to tell a story about a woman.

“It’s a modern rom-com,” she says. “I noticed women were feeling comfortable getting divorced earlier in life, and I wanted to explore that trend.”

She says the unlikely storyline actually was born out of real-life events.

“When a friend of mine was growing up in L.A. her mother took in these three guys,” says Meyers-Shyer. “I love it when people tell me, ‘Oh I wish that that could actually happen; it seems like wish fulfillment,’ and I’m like, ‘Well, actually it did happen to somebody I know.’ I just thought it was very interesting and bohemian and it would fit in nicely with the character I had created.”

“Home Again” opens in theaters Sept. 8.

Two-time Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan (“Atonement,” “Brooklyn”) plays the title role in the upcoming period drama "Mary, Queen of Scots." Focus Features photo

Two-time Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan (“Atonement,” “Brooklyn”) plays the title role in the upcoming period drama “Mary, Queen of Scots.” Focus Features photo

Filming begins on ‘Mary, Queen of Scots’

Filming has begun on location in England and Scotland on the Working Title Films production of “Mary, Queen of Scots,” starring two-time Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan (“Atonement,” “Brooklyn”) in the title role opposite Margot Robbie (“Suicide Squad,” “The Wolf of Wall Street”) as Elizabeth I.

Josie Rourke — artistic director of the London not-for-profit theater The Donmar Warehouse, whose productions have transferred to Broadway, the West-End and won Olivier Awards — makes her feature directorial debut on the movie, according to a news release. Focus Features holds worldwide rights and will release “Mary, Queen of Scots” in the U.S. and Universal Pictures International will distribute the film internationally.

The producers of “Mary, Queen of Scots” are Working Title co-chairs Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, and Debra Hayward, all Academy Award nominees as producers of Best Picture Oscar nominee “Les Misérables.”

Beau Willimon, an Academy Award nominee for “The Ides of March” and Emmy Award nominee for “House of Cards,” has written the screenplay adaptation. “Mary, Queen of Scots” is based on John Guy’s acclaimed biography “My Heart is My Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots.”

Joining the cast are Jack Lowden (“Dunkirk,” “England is Mine”), Joe Alwyn (“The Sense of an Ending,” “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”), Martin Compston (“Sweet Sixteen,” “Line of Duty”) and Brendan Coyle (“Downton Abbey,” “Me Before You”).  Also featuring in the cast are David Tennant (“Doctor Who,” “Broadchurch”) and Guy Pearce (“Memento,” “LA Confidential,” “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”).

“Mary, Queen of Scots” explores the turbulent life of the charismatic Mary Stuart. Queen of France at 16 and widowed at 18, Mary defies pressure to remarry. Instead, she returns to her native Scotland to reclaim her rightful throne. But Scotland and England fall under the rule of the compelling Elizabeth 1.  Each young Queen beholds her “sister” in fear and fascination. Rivals in power and in love, and female regents in a masculine world, the two must decide how to play the game of marriage versus independence. Determined to rule as much more than a figurehead, Mary asserts her claim to the English throne, threatening Elizabeth’s sovereignty. Betrayal, rebellion, and conspiracies within each court imperil both thrones – and change the course of history.

Focus Features chairman Peter Kujawski said in the release, “We are privileged to be collaborating with our partners at Working Title on this stellar production, and with Josie as she makes the exciting move from stage to screen work. With two of today’s most vital actresses bringing to life two female titans, ‘Mary, Queen of Scots’ will be one of the movie events of 2018.”

Director Patty Jenkins, left, and star Gal Gadot appear on the set of "Wonder Woman." Warner Bros. photo

Director Patty Jenkins, left, and star Gal Gadot appear on the set of “Wonder Woman.” Warner Bros. photo

Patty Jenkins in final talks to land historic deal to helm ‘Wonder Woman’ sequel

For those who were wondering what was taking so long for Warner Bros. to announce that helm Patty Jenkins would return to the director’s chair for the sequel to her record-smashing blockbuster “Wonder Woman, the delay apparently has been for good reason.

Deadline Hollywood reports that Jenkins and the studio are in final talks to ink the director to a historic deal to return for the sequel. Jenkins expects to be paid substantially more and the same as a male director would receive after such a box office coup of her “Wonder Woman” origin story. Deadline Hollywood reports that as a deal was being finalized last week that would elevate her to the highest-paid female director in town.

Although no payday was revealed, Deadline Hollywood reports that her payday and deal is in line with any other director who has performed at this level. A studio source said they were “confident the deal will be reached soon.”

According to Deadline Hollywood’s sources, a freshman director on a comic book movie typically gets $1.5 million to $3 million, while “Justice League” helmer Zack Snyder received $10 million against 10 percent cash break even for his second DC film, Man of Steel.

As previously reported, the record-breaking success of “Wonder Woman” – the the highest-grossing live-action film ever to be directed by a woman – shows that there continues to be a big demand for female-led tentpoles like “Star Wars: The Force Awakes,” “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and “The Hunger Games” franchise.

“Wonder Woman” is expected to cross the $800 million mark worldwide when it opens in Japan on Aug. 25.

The sequel is due in U.S. theaters Dec. 13, 2019.

-BAM

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