All over the industry, women were cheering last month when Sherry Lansing, one of Hollywood’s most respected producers (The Accused, Fatal Attraction), won the job of chairman of the Motion Picture Group at Paramount Pictures. True, Lansing, 48, did a stint as president of production at Twentieth Century Fox (1980-‘83), but then she was seen as a figurehead. This time she appears to have real power — a rare commodity for women in an industry where men have always called the shots about which movies get made and who gets to be in them.
With the help of producer-author Julia Phillips (You’ll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again), we polled working women (and a few men) at all levels of the movie business and asked this question: If half the top jobs were held by women, how would Hollywood change? Their answers:
1. Thelma and Louise would live at the end, and get away with it. There would be a new TV series based on the movie.
2. Cher, Goldie Hawn, and Jane Fonda, among many others, would still have the same faces and bodies nature gave them.
3. There wouldn’t be an annual scramble to find five acceptable nominees for the Best Actress ballot.
4. There would be more big-budget special-effects films starring strong women heroes, from Amelia Earhart and Wonder Woman to Ripley — who wouldn’t die at the end of Alien3.
5. There would be more coming-of-age movies told from the woman’s point of view, like Pretty in Pink. Some of these would not be written or directed by John Hughes.
6. Rain Woman would star Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman.
7. Jodie Foster would make $10 million a picture.
8. Woody Allen would think twice about wanting what ”the heart wants.”
9. More actresses could audition fully clothed.
10. You’d see more great-looking men in romantic roles, and a lot more of Richard Gere, Liam Neeson, Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze, Sean Connery, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Christian Slater, River Phoenix, John Cusack, Daniel Day-Lewis, Alec Baldwin, and William Hurt with their clothes off.
11. In the eyes of the MPAA ratings board, frontal male nudity would be no different from frontal female nudity.
12. A scantily clad Kevin Costner would appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit issue.
13. Ditto a nude, body-painted Bruce Willis on Vanity Fair.
14. Michael Douglas would get buttocks implants before appearing naked in Basic Instinct.
15. Reporters would waste less ink describing actresses’ outfits and interior decorating, and words like leggy and voluptuous would be banished from their lexicon.
16. There would now be competing remakes in production now of Little Women, instead of Huckleberry Finn and The Three Musketeers.
17. You’d see a sequel to Fried Green Tomatoes.
18. Action movies would be so out that Joel Silver would be the curator of the Frank Lloyd Wright Museum. This would also give him plenty of time to work out with his daily trainer, has-been star Steven Seagal.
19. Penelope Spheeris, who directed the $120 million-grossing Wayne’s World, would be hired for the next Batman sequel: Catwoman Returns.
20. Penny Marshall, Randa Haines, and Barbra Streisand would finally get Best Director Oscars.
21. As a director, Penny Marshall (A League of Their Own, Big) wouldn’t have to deprecate herself to death to get away with being successful.
22. There would be a man-in-jeopardy project in the works at every studio.
23. Fired Tonight Show producer Helen Kushnick would be considered just another hard-driving success story.
24. Donna Karan and Jil Sander would replace Giorgio Armani and Gianni Versace as Hollywood’s favorite designers.
25. Baby moguls would have car seats in their Beamers so they could bring their babies to studio day-care centers. Studio stores would stock Tampax and Pampers.
26. Oprah Winfrey would start a fifth network.
27. Lakers games, card tables, and golf courses would be replaced as power networking centers by baby showers, Jennifer’s Nails, and Beverly Hot Springs.
28. The Range Rover would finally be seen for what it is: an Iron John fantasy.
29. Male executives wouldn’t refer routinely to their body parts in story meetings.
30. Demi Moore would earn more than her husband.
31. Lili Fini Zanuck wouldn’t have had to marry Richard Zanuck to direct a film.
32. TriStar chairman Mike Medavoy would follow his Democratic bigwig wife Patricia Duff Medavoy to Washington.
33. As many writers would be dreaming up roles for Meryl Streep as for Jack Nicholson — and they’d be as meaty.
34. Streep and Glenn Close wouldn’t be costarring in a film (The House of the Spirits) for the first time.
35. Author Camille Paglia would get a development deal.
36. After a first offense, a sexual harasser would lose his (or her) coveted studio-lot parking space for a week.
37. After a second offense, the harasser would lose the parking space, be docked two weeks pay, and be publicly flogged in Army Archerd’s column.
38. After a third offense, the harasser would be forced to do an interview with Howard Stern on E!, and be blackballed from the industry.
39. Judy Davis and Amanda Donohoe would be major stars.
40. There would be a female Spike Lee; she’d out-rate Madonna on Nightline.
41. Shirley MacLaine would be as big a star as her brother Warren, and Luke Perry would be her romantic costar.
42. V.I. Warshawski would have been a better movie, a big hit, and spawned a new franchise.
43. Older male stars would be cast opposite women their own age.
44. Julie Christie, Jacqueline Bisset, Helen Mirren, and Faye Dunaway would be allowed to be middle-aged sex symbols. (And they wouldn’t, like Dunaway, have to make a comeback. Or a music video.)
45. Women in Film would be disbanded after too many angry men applied for membership.
46. While men remake ’60s television shows into movies, women would find inspiration in the films of such legendary actresses as Bette Davis, Carole Lombard, Barbara Stanwyck, and Katharine Hepburn. Remakes would be filmed of Ball of Fire, Stage Door, Marked Woman, The Lady Eve, and Adam’s Rib.
47. Linda Hamilton would nab $10 million for a Terminator sequel: Woman Warrior. As for Arnold: Hasta la vista, baby.
48. Pauline Kael would be president of the Motion Picture Academy.
49. Producer Don Simpson would have a tougher time getting dates.
50. Julia Phillips would eat lunch in this town again.
— With reporting byJulia Philips, Gregg Kilday, and Jeffrey Wells and contributions by Gail Block, Ann Busby, David Debin, Zanne Devine, Ilene Feldman, Naomi Foner, Terry Curtis Fox, Elaine Goldsmith, Rosilyn Heller, Lisa Henson, Joan Hyler, Nina Jacobson, Amy Holden Jones, Andrea King, Mary Lambert, Boni Lee, Laurence Mark, Wallis Nicita, Sara Risher, Lauren Shuler-Donner, Joel Silver, Bobbo Thompson, James Tobak, Paula Wagner, Janet Yang, Lili Fini Zanuck, and Laura Ziskin.