GRAZIA: Congratulations on The Spy Who Dumped Me, I wasn’t sure what to expect and I genuinely was laughing throughout the whole thing. I thought the writing was spectacular, I really enjoyed it.
Fogel: “Oh, thank you so much, I’m thrilled. It’s interesting as international as a shoot that we had it, you never quite know how you’re very specific brand of humour is going to translate over time, so it’s really nice to hear it did.”
G: The humour definitely transcended. What I loved about Kate McKinnon’s character was her almost send-up of her feminist beliefs, it’s so relevant to 2018’s social agenda. Can you tell me how you arrived at this idea for her character in
S: “It’s interesting because we didn’t really set out to make a political movie as such, we just kind of wrote from our own perspectives as pretty politically minded, liberal, feminist writers. That way of speaking is so in the air we breathe and the way we talk that it wasn’t until later when we were putting the movie out into the world that we realised that it’s still revolutionary to people. We were crying out for a character who’s sort of this interesting, oxy-virgin of a woman, a non-conventional, two non-conventional women who are not striving for the same things that other women are in the movie. So it wasn’t so much that we meant to do that, it’s more just that those are the people in our world – and Kate’s world too – so in collaborating with Kate it was very clear that it was going to become a very iconic, classic character.
“Kate [McKinnon] marches to the beat of her own drum. We like to think we do too.”
G: She was amazing. Another thing that I loved about the film was you’ve got these two heroines who find themselves in an incredibly unusual situation, but their reactions are so real. I recall the scene where the two of them are being chased down a street in the car and there’s the man on the roof trying to attack them. I remember laughing and thinking that is exactly how myself and my girlfriends would react. Where did you look for inspiration when portraying the friendship?
F: “I have really close friendships in my life, they’re some of the most important relationships I’ve ever had, sometimes more important than family and romantic relationships.
“Marriage and kids at 23 is not like the only option available to us. Women are sort of encouraged to follow our path and really push ourselves.”
“What this leads to is just many, many years where we’re not in a family unit and so your friends are kind of your family and you have these long standing, very close relationships with people. They often are more familial then they feel. I think I really wanted to see that friendship on screen instead of just another movie about women fighting with each other.”
G: Kate is renowned for improvising. Is the aforementioned scene one that kept to script or was there improvisation involved during filming?
F: “When you’re trying to shoot that action and get the truth of the moment, nothing that would be on the page is going to be as funny as watching the real reaction that Kate gives Mila or a real horrified scream that comes out of Mila’s mouth. These are real moment where both women realised her character so you kind of embrace the fact that Kate and Mila’s overall feelings that they’re really in that situation will be better than anything we could of ever scripted. ,
G: I’m in awe that you screened your first film at Toronto and Berlin, you made it at 14-years-old. You have said that you didn’t really fit in at school. I wanted to know what drew you to sketch comedy and satirical takedowns. Was it almost an escapism to what you were going through?
F: “Yeah, you know, I don’t want to oversell the not fitting in thing because I don’t want all my friends from that time to be like ‘What about me? What about them? You didn’t have no friends! We had a lot of fun sleepovers!’ which we did but I’ll start with the disclaimer. I did have a couple of really good friends but I think for people who don’t grow up in a huge metropolitan city with an ton of diverse types of people, you can sometimes feel like there is a beat that you’re just not marching to, there’s a mainstream that you’re just not a part of. When I moved to New York and eventually to LA I felt like, ‘OK there’s no mainstream, everyone’s kind of doing whatever they’re doing but it’s not like there’s one way to be normal’. Growing up in a city where most of the girls had interests and personalities that I didn’t connect with, I had my way of dealing with that was actually just trying to find a way to express myself and comedy seemed like the natural way of doing that. I think that sense of being an outsider really said that and I think if I’d felt completely comfortable in my social world or I’d had the escapism of the internet which didn’t exist at the time, I wouldn’t have necessarily discovered that.”
G: The script when you were fourteen was based around a friendship and one that was with three girls. It’s obviously something you enjoy writing about, what’s your biggest lesson that you’ve learnt about female friendships as you’ve gotten older?
F: “That is a great question. I’ve basically been telling these female friendship stories in different forms my whole life and if I were to look at, I think the answer to your question is probably to be found in how the friendships appear on screen when I’m different ages. As a teenager, the concept of that short film was just that when you have three girls, there’s inevitably going to be two who ae closer, there’s an odd man out. It’s a hard number. There’s always sort of these mean-girl type relationships at that age where you don’t really know if your friends love you or hate you, you know. And you have a lot of friends that you also hate and love. My experience of being a teenager and having girlfriends was there was a lot of drama, a lot of gossiping. It’s something I think you grow out of. In your twenties – in my experience – you’re sort of clinging onto your friends because you’re an adult for the first time, those friends just become a little bit closer, a little less frivolous. But I think then in your thirties, they really hit their stride because people start having their first adult disappointments, people are starting to get divorced, parents dying, life is getting a little more intense and serious so those friendships just kind of become a little more exponential and a little bit less about the petty rivalries that maybe defined them earlier on.
“I think that in life, like with many things and with age, things just get a lot better including friendships between women.”
“But that’s just in my experience. I don’t fight with my friends the way that I used to, I don’t have resentments the way that I used to have, I used to be all kinds of screwed up a bit.”
G: Tell me about the dynamic between Mila and Kate, it’s so believable on screen but I’ve watched behind the scenes footage and it seems to be a legitimate friendship in real life as well.
F: “They are wonderful, their lives are extremely different.
“Mila [Kunis] is a mother of two, she’s married, she’s been in the spotlight for so long to a degree she has figured out how to live her life as a grounded person within the confines of the celebrity world that she lives.”
“It’s hard. Kate is still in a place in her career where she can hide from that a bit. Spending time in New York with Kate, if it’s cold weather she will cover up every inch of her body and face so that no one will recognise her and its sort of part of her. But also, she will just find ways to completely mask herself because to a degree I think she can still disappear and she wants that freedom and so as different as they are, as introverted as Kate is and as extroverted as Mila is, they share a value systems; they’re smart girls that read the news and read books, have great girlfriends and aren’t on social media. I mean they have kind of made specific choices about how to live their lives and those choices are very compatible even though the way their day to day lives are like is very different.”
J: And how did you cast both women and arrive at these two?
F: “I cast Kate first. I knew Kate before, she had a small role in my first movie and I just loved her I found her to just be so down-to-earth and warm and that was a few years before her star finally rose and she became this household name. By the time we got her involved in this movie, we were booking for somebody to team up with her who I thought she would get along with. Mila came to us just kind of through this more regular, professional channel and then it required a meeting with her where I had to kind of go and analyse her and guess that she would be someone that Kate would like and would like Kate. I immediately knew when I met her that she was because she opened the door in her socks she had ordered Korean BBQ for us and we just kind of hung out at her kind of messy kitchen table and had a normal conversation. I quickly forgot she was this wildly famous person and instantly felt like, ‘Oh this is just a person you know who is really nice’.”
G: That’s so nice to hear that about Mila. Female directors are having quite a moment in a sense that the absence of recognition is finally being recognised. Do you see change in the industry or what is your hope for the film industry and female directors?
F: “It’s a question that needs to be asked. I have noticed a change, its very much part of the conversation now and it’s always good to talk about things instead of keeping them in the closet but the one thing now is trying to suss out the authenticity of people’s interest in that. When you’re a director looking for a creative partner, you have to figure out who’s real about that and is who is sort of doing it to check a box. I’m glad to have the chance and glad to see my female director friends have so many opportunities. Like any cultural change, it can’t authentically happen overnight so how are we all going to make sure its really going to stick?”
G: Lastly – and you touched on it before – but you’ve said in a recent interview ‘I like the idea of showing women who are you know we’re not where we want to be at 30 and we are kind of sad about it but that’s not because we’re not married’. I really loved that quote. There is a huge emphasis on women that if you’re not married or settled by your early thirties that you are somewhat not successful. Do you agree with this notion?
F: “In my group of friends I have so many people who are these strong, powerful women – some of them married, some of them not – and it’s not really on our minds as the test of success. So many of us are approaching 40 at this point. But when I visit other places, other countries and other cities in America I go to, I feel like the kind of aging bohemian in a way that I don’t feel around my friends here. When I go back to Boston where I’m from, everyone’s married, everyone has kids and I’m like, ‘Great, this is still a thing where many people feel a pressure to do and some of them want to do it but a lot of them sort of got involved in that choice before they weren’t sure what they wanted in their lives’. I don’t know, I feel like the world is changing and women are really encouraged to do other things like work.
“Women are still successful even if they’re not having kids but movies have yet to catch up to that. Many movies with women are still about finding the right guy. Their happy ending seems to still come in marriage or a relationship. In a world where the divorce rate is so high, I think we need a lot more narratives about women making other choices outside of relationships.”