American actress Sharon Stone (Basic Instinct, Casino, Total Recall) has revealed that she tried to pitch a Barbie movie to Hollywood back in the 1990s.
The acclaimed star says that she was laughed out of the studio after sharing her idea with head honchos in the movie business.
“I was laughed out [of] the studio when I came [with] the Barbie idea in the ’90s [with] the support of the head of Barbie,” Stone commented on America Ferrara’s Instagram, after she shared her acceptance speech at the Critics Choice Awards. “How far we’ve come. Thank you ladies for your courage and endurance.”
Endurance is an apt word for it, given the extensive campaigning that went into getting the Barbie movie off the ground nearly three decades later.
Director Greta Gerwig and producer Margot Robbie have talked at length about the hoops they needed to jump through to get the movie, as Gerwig wrote it, approved – both from movie bosses who worried that the female-only slant could reduce box-office outcomes, and from the PR fears of Barbie toymakers, Mattel.
Gerwig told The Guardian about her first thoughts when the idea was placed on her desk. “I kind of had two thoughts: I love this and I can’t bear it if anyone else makes it. And: they’ll never let us make this movie.”
She wrote the script in the isolation of the pandemic with her husband Noah Baumbach, attempting to make a “bananas” script that would make its mark when the public finally returned to cinemas.
Interestingly, Margot Robbie’s response reading the script was the same. “The first time I read the ‘Barbie’ script, my reaction was, ‘Ah! This is so good. What a shame it will never see the light of day,’” Robbie told BAFTA.
The original Barbie toy set a singular, narrow blueprint of the ‘ideal woman’, and it’s a typecast that toymaker Mattel have been trying to remedy over the years, diversifying what ‘Barbie’ really means. Gerwig and Robbie had to convince the company that their Barbie movie was the next big step in that plan, even if it seemed like it would be a colossal branding error.
“I would say what we did is, if there were rules, I think we broke all of them. That was part of the fun of it in a way. Tell me what your sacred things are and I will do something naughty with it,” Gerwig told a press conference in Sydney.
They also needed to prove to showrunners that Barbie could be a ‘four quadrant’ film, meaning males and females above and below the age of 25 would enjoy it. They elaborated on this at the same press conference:
“You should watch this movie because it’s a fun movie. And it is SO much fun,” Robbie said. “If you love Barbie, you’re going to love it, if you hate Barbie, you’re going to love it, but if you just love a good movie you’re going to love it.”
The pair were right to suspect they were onto something golden. Barbie ended up becoming Warner Bros. highest-grossing global release ever. It moved the dial on conversations about women, particularly America Ferreira’s viral speech, but it also proved that if you make a movie on topics that have to do with women, it can still draw huge crowds.
It’s not surprising that Sharon Stone felt the need to note “how far we’ve come”. From being laughed out of a conference room to being one of the most successful films of 2023, Barbie has captured a whole new wave of girl power that is not letting up any time soon.