Why hasn't Steven Spielberg directed a female lead for 30 years?

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On Monday, Warner Bros. won the rights to photojournalist Lynsey Addario's memoir, It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War. The studio's pulling out the big guns on this one: Steven Spielberg is slated to direct Jennifer Lawrence in the lead role.


There's no reason to think this won't be a great movie with great performances that will also make a startling amount of money. Spielberg is responsible for one of the best big-screen depictions of military conflict we've ever seen, Addario's life story couldn't be more compelling, and Lawrence would probably turn in a Oscar-worthy (or, at the very least, Golden Globes-worthy) performance if cast as a cardboard box.

This project is groundbreaking, but not exclusively for good reasons. As Uproxx points out, Drew Barrymore's godfather hasn't directed a single movie with a woman in the lead since 1985's The Color Purple, the acclaimed Whoopi Goldberg-starring adaptation of Alice Walker's novel. Considering he's helmed an impressive 19 feature films in the last 30 years, that's one hell of a gender gap. (And no, the fact that all the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park were genetically engineered to be female doesn't count.)

It's also worth noting that, while the real-life Addario is 41, Lawrence is only 24. While I don't doubt that J. Law will shine in the role, it seems like this was a missed opportunity to showcase a more age-appropriate talent. Actresses over 40 have a very hard time getting cast as anything but witches, a problem that is plainly apparent to anyone who isn't Russell Crowe.

Spielberg makes big, charming, iconic, and often unapologetically socially engaged movies, the broad appeal of which extends from your grandmother's worn VHS copy of Schindler's List to your little cousin who can't read yet but likes the part in E.T. with the Reese's Pieces. If he can make a concerted, consistent effort to cast the spotlight on deserving women, maybe mainstream Hollywood will take the hint.

Molly Fitzpatrick is senior editor of Fusion's Pop & Culture section. Her interests include movies about movies, TV shows about TV shows, and movies about TV shows, but not so much TV shows about movies.