Design

A Conversation With Nancy Meyers

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Last week, I was lucky enough to go to a screening of The Intern, the new Nancy Meyers comedy, which comes out tomorrow. In the movie, Robert De Niro plays a 70-year-old who lands an internship at a fashion site run by thirtysomething Anne Hathaway. The movie is fast-paced, funny and visually beautiful (Brooklyn brownstones! Lofty workspace! Wide-legged pants!). And I love that Anne Hathaway plays a boss in tech, who runs a staff of hundreds.

After the screening, I was able to meet director and writer Nancy Meyers, the force behind movies like Something’s Gotta Give, It’s Complicated, The Holiday, Father of the Bride and Baby Boom. (“I think the great thing about a career is to have a long one,” she told me.) She has been one of my role models for years, so I was thrilled to ask her a few questions…

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First of all, I love the women in your movies. Your characters are funny and emotional, have a million interests outside of men, and can be themselves without apology. Men are also dynamic and can be sweet and get their feelings hurt. You don’t see that very often.

Annie [Hathaway] and I were very aware when we were making the movie — I kept saying to her, a woman boss in a movie is always the villain. Always. In wardrobe fittings, we were very careful not to give her big shoulder pads and a tight bun. Hollywood has trained audiences to think, the woman boss is a bitch. We had to undo that wherever we could. It was an interesting dilemma to make her user friendly.

You co-wrote Baby Boom in 1987, where Diane Keaton’s character juggles work and parenthood. In the Intern, Anne Hathaway also plays a working mother. How are the two characters different?

In Baby Boom, the mother had a hard time working. She was torn. But Anne’s character Jules shows no guilt about running her company. You haven’t really seen that before, with my generation. Now we’ve learned that women can be wonderful, fully functioning mothers and not be there at every event.

Older characters in movies are also stereotyped as being somewhat lonely or adrift. Your movies obliterate that.

Yes, because I’m that. I’m making movies, traveling, having a great time. We’re super functioning people for the most part.

What career advice would you give women?

When I talk to young women, it sounds clichéd, but I say, be true to yourself. Doing the same work as everyone else, or copying what just happened, is not going to help you. Hear your own voice. The best thing you have going is you.

On my Pinterest is this great quote from Dr. Seuss that says, “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive that is Youer than You.”

I write about what I find real, what I find funny, what I find emotional. My youngest daughter is a writer, and today she went into a meeting, and I texted her, “Be confident, they need you.” People need young talent. To me, they’re lucky she’s walking in the room.

That’s so sweet.

And by the way, I forgot to push send. She didn’t answer me. Because I didn’t push send.

Ok, I’d love to ask you some lightning-round questions. What’s your irrational fear?

I’m a very safe driver. I never go through a green light without looking both ways.

Guilty pleasure?

The Bachelorette, although I don’t feel guilty. I put it on my Instagram and everyone said, I’m coming over.

What’s your favorite place in the world?

I love being home. I love my office there. I love sitting at my desk. It’s a really comfortable space. It’s kind of a special place, because not a lot of people go in there. It’s like a meditation room, it gives me a certain kind of comfort. I love my kitchen, my bedroom. I’m just so happy in my house. That’s why so many of my movies take place at home.

Pet peeve?

People not writing things down at work. You think you’ll remember, but you won’t remember. I write more emails to myself than anyone else.

I loved your Instagram shot of the Something’s Gotta Give-themed bachelorette party.

My daughter’s friend Luke texted me and said, “I know all these girls who are doing a Nancy Meyers bachelorette party. They rented a house in the Hamptons, they’re serving all the food from all your movies.” So I FaceTimed with them that night, and they all got in front of the computer and they were all in white turtlenecks and tortoise shell glasses. I was like, “Oh, my God!” I was so touched.

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Above: Nancy Meyers on the sets of Something’s Gotta Give, What Women Want and It’s Complicated.

Thank you so much, Nancy! It was a thrill! (Here’s the trailer for The Intern, if you’d like to see, and here’s a photo of me trying not to act giddy.)

P.S. The 7 kinds of women in romantic comedies.

  1. I love this quote from Dr. Seuss – Never heard it before. Perfect timing to read this today, when I’m not totally sure what “being me” means! Thanks for sharing!

  2. This is one of the best movie’s I’ve seen this year. It’s a must see!

  3. How exciting for you! I am such a big fan of her work – The Holiday and Something’s Gotta Give are staples in my DVD collection. They may be deemed classic romantic comedies, but I honestly feel her work always goes way beyond the stereotype and strikes a chord in people. It made sense when she said: “I write about what I find real, what I find funny, what I find emotional.” Because she truly relates to what she writes, it becomes more relatable and human to those that watch her movies. Great article!!

  4. Christina says...

    How amazing that you got to interview her! I thought the film was one of her best yet. It was funny, thoughtful, touching, and as always, so aesthetically pleasing.

  5. I’m going to convince husband to watch that movie with me!

  6. Riley says...

    LOVE LOVE LOVE Nancy Meyers! How cool is it that you got to meet her? Great questions and thoughtful answers, great post Jo. This one goes down as one of my favs – straight to my heart.

  7. Nancy Meyers is so inspiring! I can’t wait to see The Intern!

    Kristi | Be Loverly

  8. I might be in a state of End of Week Delirium, but her career advice for women almost made me cry at my desk. “The best thing you have going is you.” What a simple, lovely thing to read and keep in mind. Thank you so much for this thoughtful interview!

  9. Love, love, love her work. Such great questions and answers. Thanks for this!

  10. Carrie says...

    I love Nancy Meyers. To me, her movies represent ME time. My husband is one who will never, ever watch a chick flick, so when I want to watch one of her movies (my go to is It’s Complicated because of the Santa Barbara setting) I pour a big glass of sparkling water, get together a fruit and cheese plate (or a pint of ice cream) and just sit back and enjoy. Her movies are visually beautiful, a total treat for the eyes and a welcome break for this mama.

  11. NHA says...

    Ahhhh!! This was one of the best things I’ve ever read on Cup of Jo. LOVE Nancy Meyers! More please!

  12. May says...

    Great interview! Thank you
    I didn’t realized two of my favorite films are by Nancy Meyers, “The Holiday,” and “Something’s Gotta Give.” She’s genius.

    • Zywie says...

      I didn’t know “Holiday” is by her! (Though it makes complete sense). The warm, cozy homes, relatable women..
      I’m going to watch “It’s complicated” after so comments about it

  13. I love the mature aspect that her movies offer. Great interview.

  14. I LOVE Nancy Myers and it is so exciting that you got to meet her, Joanna!

    I thought that your question about aging brought up a really interesting answer — that she’s having an amazing time (making movies, traveling, having fun), and so that’s what she gives her older characters, too. My parents seem to be having an absolutely fantastic time being older, too (they have more time for travel and fun than I do!), but the stereotypes of older people as adrift or less vital still exist. I think it’s awesome that she challenges this, while also making a movie that’s so fun to watch (omg, those kitchens! ;)

    Luscious + Intuitive Eating | http://www.katieseaver.com/

  15. She is behind most of my favorite movies! What an interesting lady.

  16. How psyched were you to do this interview, Joanna?!
    I think an important part of sexism, racism, whateverism is to be able to recognize it within yourself. I honestly was surprised when I read Anne Hathaway was playing the boss. I’m 100% behind feminism so I was a bit ashamed when I realized I’d also been fooled by Hollywood’s way to portray these girl bosses onscreen. Without thinking, I’d made the assumption she wouldn’t be the boss based on just images I’d seen. I love that first answer Meyers gave about Anne’s character – them choosing to now give her the uptight look . Her character looked so welcoming, so now I’m even more excited to watch the film!

    XX Laura
    girlwhowrites.com

  17. Baby Boom is one of my favorite movies of all time.

  18. Casey says...

    In LOVE with Nancy! This interview is great. Can’t wait to see The Intern. :)

  19. yael steren says...

    Wow, i had no idea she was behind so many of these movies. Super fun interview! Thanks for sharing and have a wonderful weekend! xo yael

    http://www.yaelsteren.com/blog/

  20. Chelsea says...

    Thank you for this post! I adore Nancy Meyers and have been looking forward to this movie.

  21. Mary Denis says...

    looking forward to the movie … for the interiors….her movies have it beat!

  22. Raquel says...

    I am so looking forward to this film. How fortunate for you that you for to interview her—fun! And OMG, I too often forget to hit send myself!

  23. I saw the trailer for this movie a while ago and I can’t wait to go and see it. I’m really excited to see Anne Hathaway as the grown up boss!

  24. I’m actually pretty excited to see this movie. I’ve enjoyed all the Nancy Meyers and Anne Hathaway interviews I’ve seen leading up to it.

  25. What a wonderful interview, Joanna. (I’ve noticed that you always ask such interesting questions, and this interview was no exception). I found it so uplifting. I love that quote by Dr.Seuss. And what a beautiful, genuine way to encourage a loved one (“be confident, they need you”). I completely connect with so much of what she said, including loving home… That is how I feel!! Thanks for the post. :-)

  26. Great post! I will be seeing this movie tomorrow night. Nancy Meyer’s cast her former assistant, Jason Orley, for a role in the film. He’s from Detroit.
    http://www.motownsavvy.com

  27. Laura says...

    I obviously haven’t seen the movie yet, and while I agree that female bosses shouldn’t be the villain, why is Anne Hathaway’s character *crying* in every other scene? That’s just as bad as being a female boss villain!

  28. Abbie says...

    I love this interview so much. You are just the coolest Joanna.

  29. Marianne says...

    I just heard the interview with Nancy Meyers on NPR and then pulled up your interview not two minutes later! I love her movies and can’t wait to see the Intern. Makes me want to go home and watch It’s Complicated.

  30. Love Father of the Bride. What a cool person she is!

  31. Kate says...

    What a sweet interview! Your writing is always so women friendly and supportive! Thank you for that! Xoxo

  32. This is such a fun interview, you asked really interesting questions!
    I can’t wait to watch The Intern, it seems like a really relatable movie giving insight to the startup scene and struggles that career woman face.

  33. Judy says...

    What a thrill. I’m so happy for you, Joanna! Something’s Got to Give is one of my top 10, all-time faves. I love her and the details she pays attention to are the ones that matter to me! Can’t wait for this movie.

  34. Aidel.K says...

    Great interview! You asked those questions I’d never think of asking. Don’t you want to see her office at home?

  35. Amy says...

    She makes wonderful films, yes, but I’ve got to say that her greatest hit might be her hot fudge sauce recipe that was featured in David Leibowitz’s book about living in Paris.

  36. Can’t wait to watch it! The prospect of a good movie just makes me happy. I’m easy like that! ha!
    I spent about 15 minutes on this post. I got lost in her Instagram and then here looking at the pictures. There’s something so interesting about the behind-the-scenes!

    Alina
    http://www.eclecticalu.blogspot.com

  37. AHHH I’M SO JEALOUS. Nancy Meyers is one of my favorite women in Hollywood (in addition to Meryl, Emma Thompson, Emma Watson, Jennifer Lawrence… the list goes on). So jealous that you were able to talk to her and thank you for asking her such thoughtful questions!

  38. What an amazing experience for you.. Love Nancy Meyers and her movies and LOVEd reading the interview!That Dr.Suess quote is one of my absolute favorites!

  39. Amy says...

    My husband and I have watched It’s Complicated more times than I can remember. It’s so perfect. This was a great interview! I loved how she didn’t push ‘send’ for the message to her daughter. Hilariously sweet, just like her movies.

  40. Lauren E. says...

    I’ll never forget when I found out nearly all of my favorite movies were Nancy Meyers movies, from Baby Boom and Father of the Bride when I was a kid to It’s Complicated (I watch it probably five times a year at minimum…). Thank you for this!!