'Alita: Battle Angel' cast give their verdict on the Time's Up 4% Challenge (exclusive)

Hanna Flint

At Sundance Film Festival, Time’s Up launched a new initiative to improve opportunities for female directors after dismal statistics showed just how few had made big studio films.

Just 4% of the top 1200 studio films released between 2017-2018 were directed by women and so the 4% Challenge was created in order to improve those numbers.

Tessa Thompson, Chris Pratt, Jordan Peele and JJ Abrams all pledged their support to work with a female director over the next 18 months so Yahoo Movies UK put the question to the cast of Alita: Battle Angel.

Lead actress Rosa Salazar, whose short film was selected for Sundance, was eager to sign up.

“I love this pledge,” she said. “I’m sad that it has come to that, that we have to get people to. There are so many brilliant female directors, writers and producers so yeah I would like to be a part of this. I would like to be the female director.”

Keean Johnson, who plays Hugo in the Robert Rodriguez-directed film said he didn’t want to join the pledge “just to say I am a part of it.”

“I wouldn’t just sign on because she’s a woman I would sign on because the project is good and she has passion for the role so I think it is more about if the role is right,” he said. “Of course, I don’t think for me it’s about just joining something to be a part of it, just to say I am a part of it.

“When I work with a director I give them everything and I give them my full trust so I would love to work with anyone who brings that same passion to the table.”

Jennifer Connelly, who plays Chiren, just wants to work with “great filmmakers.”

“No matter where they come from or what their backgrounds are,” she explained. “I’m open to working with any kind of filmmaker I’ve always felt that way.”

Christoph Waltz, who plays Dr. Ido, said he doesn’t “watch movies under the criteria of what gender the director is.”

Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Keean Johnson and Jennifer Connelly say whether they’ll pledge to work with more female directors.

“I hope I won’t get punished, I don’t care either way. If it’s a good story it’s a good story and I’m happy if a woman makes it,” he said. “I’m happy if a man makes it and I think until we reach that level of equality we will always have a problem.”

When we suggested the initiative is there to help get equality, Waltz replied, “You have a point but let me hand it over to them.”

Producer Jon Landau said that “there needs to be a long-term commitment” to improving opportunities for female directors “not a short term answer to any of these diversity problem questions that we’re facing today.”

He refers to his and James Cameron’s studio Lightstorm Entertainment and their high-ranking female employees.

‘Alita: Battle Angel’ is directed by Robert Rodriguez and produced by Jon Landau

“If you look at the number of movies Lightstorm has produced there aren’t that many,” Landau said. “But in that mix is Kathryn Bigelow directing Strange Days for us. Jim and I are the only two male senior executives at the company. You know, we have our CFO, we have our president of franchise development, you know, on and on and on, all females.

“That comes from Jim’s philosophy in his scripts that you see,” he continued. “So I think it comes out of creating an openness and a dialogue where you speak to people like Kathryn Bigelow, you talk to some of these other incredible women directors who are perceived as up and coming and, and give them an opportunity.

“I don’t think you can ascribe a number to it because that, that numbers a false number but it’s the commitment that we need as an industry to pursue that as a goal.”

Alita: Battle Angel is in U.K. cinemas from Wednesday, 6 February.

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