The success, of Wonder Woman has sparked important and necessary conversations aplenty around female-helmed big budget films. Especially around long held beliefs that men are more “vetted” or qualified to produce them from sheer abundance of access.
But while Patty Jenkins has deservedly been at the center of much of this conversation, especially because she’s the first woman to have been given a budget over $100 million to make a tentpole film, she’s not the first woman to direct a comic book adaptation, much less a female-led one. Rachel Talalay, director of 1995’s Tank Girl, spoke to VICE this week about how far female superhero films have come and how she’d like a crack at directing another comic book character, namely She-Hulk.
Talalay and Jenkins aren’t the only female directors to have crafted comic book films, of course, as Lexi Alexander directed Punisher: War Zone in 2008 for $35 million. But of this tiny club of directors, Talalay was the first to have to face head-on the issues inherent in major studio productions. She’s thrilled that Jenkins was allowed the financial freedom to make the kind of film men make all the time, a privilege she wasn’t afforded with Tank Girl (in the same year Joel Schumacher was given $100 million to make Batman Forever), and which she believes set the film up for failure. In an interview with VICE, she said exactly that. “The idea that Wonder Woman got made on a really healthy budget — and finally a woman-led project was allowed the budget to not be the bastard child — that was part of the huge step.”
At the time. Talalay knew what she was up against but thought she’d be making history. “When I made Tank Girl, I truly believed that I would break the glass ceiling. I just thought, ‘I believe in this comic. It’s so out there, it’s so outrageous, it’s so punk, it’s so ‘me.'” After meeting major resistance and getting much of the film cut due to being “too raunchy,” the film earned only $6 million at the box office. Thus, while a cult favorite among comic book enthusiasts, it never quite left its mark on comic book movie history.
However, Talalay is encouraged by Wonder Woman’s success and the turn in acceptance toward female comic book lovers. “The world caught up with the fact that, as a woman, as a girl, you could love these things as well,” she said. “You were allowed to embrace your versions of them. That’s the brilliant thing about nerds ruling the world now. I’m so encouraged by that.”
How would she like to take advantage of this new nerd age? By getting another shot at a superhero film — and she has her sights set on Marvel’s She-Hulk. “I have such a strong vision of what She-Hulk should be,” she explained. “The difference between She-Hulk and Hulk is that she loved being She-Hulk. She was the Tank Girl of earlier days, in terms of being able to say what she wanted, and when she became She-Hulk, it was like an opening of the door to freedom, to be the person that you wish you could be. That you’re stopped from being as a woman. And that’s the version of She-Hulk that I would love to embrace.”