Over the course of her decades-long career, Judy Greer has starred in some pretty male-heavy projects, from Two and a Half Men to Jurassic World to the upcoming War for the Planet of the Apes. So it makes sense that when it came time to making her directorial debut, the upcoming A Happening of Monumental Proportions, she'd lean towards the women, casting several female actors in lead roles and staffing the set with as many female crew members as possible. It was important to Greer to make her film as gender-balanced as possible, and, as she tells me on a recent March day, she's thrilled to be part of a Hollywood that's more supportive of ladies behind and in front of the camera than ever before.
"I think now, people are like oh sh*t," says Greer, leaning over the table at New York's Whitby Hotel. "Studios are like, we haven’t had a female direct a movie, and we should do that. And people are like, 'Hey, excuse me. sir, you should probably hire a lady.'"
All in all, Greer continues, "I think it is a really good time to have a vagina."
That's for sure. Although the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election has left many women filled with fear and doubt, actions ranging from the Women's March to awards show speeches to, as Greer points out, behind-the-scenes Hollywood changes that put women first, have been a much-needed silver lining. For her part, the actor is proud to not only have directed a movie, but have made the conscious effort to include as many women as possible in it, even switching some male characters in the script to female in order to even out the gender ratio.
"I changed as many as I could," explains Greer simply.
A Happening of Monumental Proportions may be her biggest platform yet, but Greer has never been a slouch about doing her part in the fight to make women's voices heard. She's starred in iconic female-driven films like 13 Going on 30 and Jawbreaker, proudly shown off her pink pussy hat, and even wrote a book of essays about her experience as a woman in Hollywood called I Don't Know What You Know Me From: Confessions of a Co-Star. And even in her projects that feature male leads, like the new, Woody Harrelson-fronted film, Wilson, Greer stands out, stealing every scene she's in as Shelly, the kind dog-sitter who befriends the misanthropic title character.
Wilson, out Mar. 24, is filled with colorful female characters, from Laura Dern's troubled-but-trying Pippi to Isabella Amara's lonely teen Claire, but Greer's Shelly is particularly notable. She's sweet, and caring, and calm under any circumstances, no matter how tough.
"I was finding myself being jealous of her and of how easygoing she was," Greer says with a laugh. Wilson may be the movie's star, but Shelly, along with Pippi, Claire, and the rest, give the movie its heart, a major deal in a world where female characters are frequently used as props for male leads and nothing more.
"Often times, they give you a fun scene... but really you’re there to show that his brother died or, whatever," Greer explains dryly. But with Wilson, "we stand alone and we have journeys, all of us."
Greer may not have to deal with this trope now, but for years, she was all too familiar with the "be there solely to help the lead character" storyline. She's played the friendly, supportive pal in countless movies and shows, appearing in the role so often that "the Judy Greer Effect" has been coined to describe a talented female actor stuck again and again in small, thankless parts. When I mention the phrase to the star herself, she bursts out into laughter.
"I haven’t heard that," she says, "but I like that I have a term named after me."
In any event, Greer is far past that stage in her career, thanks in large part to a game-changing role in the 2011 drama The Descendants. Since that acclaimed performance, she's taken on a series of high-profile parts, in films like Ant-Man and Jurassic World and on TV shows like Married, which she led for two seasons. She's at a good place in her career, where, she says, she can choose roles based on which of her friends are involved in the project or what director she's dying to work with. But still, there are frustrations.
"I’m really flattered when people come up to me and they say, 'why can’t you star in something?'" Greer says. "But I’m like, please email the heads of studios and tell them. Trust me, I want to."
She'd love to be the star of an action film, "preferably with Matt Damon in the Jason Bourne movies," she says with a smile, and her ultimate fantasy, she says, is to star in a romantic comedy, not just play second fiddle to its female lead.
"I talked about that with my husband recently, and I was like, 'I think it might be too late, babe,'" Greer recalls about her aspirations to be a rom-com leading lady. "And he goes, 'yeah, but it’s not too late to direct one.'"
Personally, a Greer-led rom-com sounds like a brilliant idea, but even her presence behind the camera would be more than welcome. After all, it couldn't be a better time to be a woman in Hollywood who's totally killing the game.