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Gale Anne Hurd: A Strong Woman in Hollywood – movieScope

Gale Anne Hurd: A Strong Woman in Hollywood

“I think that it’s difficult [being a woman in this industry] because when you are forceful, you’re called a bitch… or worse. On the other hand, if you don’t stand up for yourself, you are perceived as someone who shouldn’t be in a position of power. It’s a delicate balance.” 

As the producer of numerous modern sci-fi classics, including The Terminator (which she also wrote), Aliens and Tremors, as well as current TV smash The Walking Dead, Gale Anne Hurd is undoubtedly one of Hollywood’s most successful women. As the next series of The Walking Dead went into production, she took time out of her hectic schedule to discuss her incredible career exclusively for movieScope’s Women in Film issue. Here, she discusses overcoming gender prejudice…

After you successfully made The Terminator, you went straight on to make Aliens yet you still ran into people who said you couldn’t do such a film…
Yes, but that’s not surprising because The Terminator was looked at as, ‘oh well that’s just a low-budget film, and this is a big studio feature’. As if there was a different set of skills needed. The skill set is transferable! But I also think there’s a perception of what a producer should be like, and it probably isn’t a 100-pound 5ft 4 woman who is not yet 30. And that was who I was back then. It was certainly a difficult film, but I was very lucky because not only did Roger Corman [who Gale previously worked with] back me up, but the head of the completion guarantee company, a gentleman by the name of Lindsley Parsons, called Fox and said, ‘She can do this. I can vouch for her.’ You need support from everyone that you work with, male and female.

It sounds like you have always found support in Hollywood?
Actually, I ran into more roadblocks in the UK than in the US, which was surprising because the time that we made [Alien], Margaret Thatcher was the prime minister! But I did have a production designer who said, ‘I won’t take orders from a woman.’ I don’t give orders, but he was still going to be answerable to me. So I stood up, shook his hand and said, ‘Thank you for coming in and I’m sorry you won’t be working on the film.’ And it was only because I had the support of Twentieth Century Fox, and of Jim Cameron, that I was able to do that. Word got around that I was tough and not very ladylike!

It certainly blew people’s minds the day that Jim asked me to come in and do a close-up of a shot in which the character of Vasquez, played by Jenette Goldstein, is shooting an alien in the air vent, and she had never fired a handgun before. She had the recoil wrong. So Jim had me come in, and there I am in military fatigues with a gun in my hand, shooting the alien!

You are certainly very confident in your role; do you think it’s a problem that, in general, women are perhaps not confident in their place in the industry?
I think that it’s difficult because when you are forceful, you’re called a bitch… or worse. On the other hand, if you don’t stand up for yourself, you are perceived as someone who shouldn’t be in a position of power. It’s a delicate balance, a tightrope that one has to walk to be taken seriously, to be respected, but also to be heard. I think it’s very important to have a seat at the table.

Find out more about Gale’s current and future projects at www.valhallamotionpictures.com

You can read the full version of this interview in movieScope 33 (March/April 2013)

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