'Bridget Jones' Breaks Hollywood Ground

It's been 12 years since the release of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, so it makes sense that audiences might forget that Bridget Jones's Baby is actually another sequel of Bridget Jones's Diary. In fact, Bridget Jones's Baby is the third film in the Bridget Jones series, officially making it a Hollywood trilogy. In the land of superhero franchises and science-fiction young adult three-quels, Bridget Jones is somewhat of a rarity: A trilogy of romantic comedies with a female protagonist who has remained relevant for about 15 years. The Bridget Jones trilogy is, without a doubt, the first of its kind, though it won't be the last (already Pitch Perfect is on track to be another female-led comedy trilogy). What's even more stunning than a female-driven, romantic comedy three-parter is the fact that Bridget Jones is only the second movie trilogy with all female directors. That's right, each of the three Bridget Jones films has had a female director.

Bridget Jones 's Baby might be making history as the second female-directed movie trilogy ever made (Lana and Lilly Wachowski directed The Matrix series), but it almost didn't. Before Sharon Maguire, who got her start directing Bridget Jones's Diary all those years ago, was brought back on board to direct Bridget Jones's Baby, the film had two — yes, two — male directors signed on to the film. According to The Hollywood Reporter, first Paul Feig (Ghostbusters, Bridesmaids) was set to direct the project way back in 2011. Feig was then replaced by Peter Cattaneo (The Full Monty), who dropped out in 2012, also according to The Hollywood Reporter. Given that the film was originally supposed to move forward with a male director, what brought Maguire back to direct Bridget Jones's Baby?

Something in the production of Bridget Jones's Baby changed, it appears, after Emma Thompson was brought on board to work on the script by Helen Fielding (who wrote the original Bridget Jones books) and Dan Mazer. Thompson joined the film at a time when reports were running wild that the third Bridget Jones movie was, for all intents and purposes, dead in the water. "Trying to get a third film into production has been a nightmare," an anonymous source claimed to The Sun at the time. Whatever Thompson did seemed to do the trick. Soon, the movie was back in development, and Maguire was hired to direct. It might not be directly related, but it's possible that hiring a woman writer (Thompson) to refine the script helped attract Maguire, a female director, to Bridget Jones's Baby.

The fact that Bridget Jones's Baby has two female screenwriters and a female director is no small thing. A study conducted by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University found that, of the top grossing films in 2014, only 11 percent of writers were women, about on par with the 12 percent of female directors in the study. And the numbers aren't improving. Even with huge, female-directed successes like Elizabeth Banks' Pitch Perfect 2 or even Beeban Kidron's Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason , which, in 2014, was declared by Forbes as the highest-grossing European movie of the last 10 years directed by a woman, haven't done much to move Hollywood forward. Bridget Jones's Baby may be the second movie trilogy with all female directors, but that doesn't necessarily mean we'll start seeing more of them.

Women directors are scarce, having limited opportunities in Hollywood, and those that are successful often have a hard enough time getting a studio to finance one film, let alone three. As far as Hollywood is concerned, it seems like, to those in charge, the only reason to make a sequel, let alone a trilogy, is to make money. And, if all these studies about gender in Hollywood prove anything, it's that there is a perception in Hollywood that male directors make more money at the box office than female directors. A study conducted by the Female Filmmakers Initiative last year found that films made by female directors between 2002 and 2014 were more likely to get distribution deals with independent companies (aka, companies less likely to make trilogies). The study found that 70 percent of female-directed films ended up being distributed by independent companies, compared to 56.9 percent of male-directed films. And, female filmmakers who find success in the indie world appear to be less likely to be asked to move into big franchises.

Over the past few years, viewers have seen male indie directors with one hit under their belt be hired to direct huge studio franchises. Josh Trank helmed Fantastic Four after directing just one feature, Marc Webb directed both Amazing Spider-Man films after his breakout 500 Days of Summer, but there have been no women directors making that kind of move. In fact, it's possible we'll see the emergence of a new trend of women getting replaced by male directors for the second and/or third installments of films originally directed by women.

This has already happened in two major franchises, when, as MTV reported, Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke was replaced by a man for New Moon despite having shattered box office records for female directors, and later with Fifty Shades of Grey's Sam Taylor-Johnson, who was also replaced for the sequel by a man, according to Deadline. In both instances, the women chose to stop directing the series for various reasons as reported in the aforementioned articles, but this is still a troubling trend that reflects the fact that studios are less likely to give big budget movies to women directors. Only a handful of female-directors have helmed movies with $100 million budgets — the kind of budget we expect from big franchise movies (aka trilogies). According to The Wrap, Bridget Jones's Baby was made for an estimated $35 million.

Bridget Jones is making history as just the second trilogy with each film directed by women. But, until more women are given the opportunity to direct trilogies and, movie gods willing, bigger budget franchises, it's just one crack in the Hollywood glass ceiling.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this article mistakenly ignored the fact that Lana and Lilly Wachowski directed The Matrix trilogy.

Images: Universal Pictures; Giphy (2)