Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett had not acted together before co-starring in “Ocean’s 8,” along with the six other women — Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Rihanna, and Awkwafina — who make up the gang of eight jewel thieves in this “Ocean’s” spinoff film. But Bullock, who plays career criminal Debbie, and Blanchett, as her supposedly gone-straight co-conspirator Lou, come across as two peas in a pod. That isn’t just screen chemistry. The two women also seem genuinely close and friendly in real life. The two Oscar winners (Bullock for “The Blind Side,” Blanchett for “Blue Jasmine”) sat next to each other at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York — the setting of the fictional heist — last week to talk about the film.
Q: When did you first hear of plans to follow up the George Clooney “Ocean’s” movies with an all-female cast?
Bullock: Jerry Weintraub, who produced the earlier films, and who’s no longer with us, called and said, “I got this idea I gotta present to ya.” I thought it was a fun idea, but I honestly didn’t think it would work or get made. It was like a year and a half-ish later that the script did appear.
Blanchett: Isn’t it interesting that two or three years ago this seemed like an impossibility, like how could you possibly get this made? And it’s so great that it’s being released now, when so much (concerning women) has shifted.
Q: What are your recollections of initially paging through the script?
Blanchett: You don’t read the script cold; you read the script with the pedigree and the legacy of the (“Ocean’s”) movies, which (director) Gary Ross knew absolutely inside out. I already had a working relationship with (producer) Steven Soderbergh, and knowing that Sandy was in it, I could sort of see the tone. So, my first question was who are the other ladies going to be? Gary sort of laid forth his A team, which he got. But the script is a malleable thing. A lot of changes were being made on it, which happens every time, not just with this movie. So, in the end, it’s about the ensemble. Once I knew who the other women were, I just felt it would be a great, fun thing to do. It was also a risk, but I thought it was a risk worth taking.
Q: With all of the leads being played by women, was there a palpable sense of bonding on the set?
Bullock: We were able to bond and connect in the way that we could, in that we were working crazy, long days, and we were draped all over each other on a couch at midnight. But once we let our guard down and we realized we were in the company of safe people, I think we all sort of began to connect. You know, there are really only five roles for women, and we’re all looking for them and they’re all lone little islands. But here we were. I feel really lucky because there are no more stones I need to turn over, and on this one I feel that I came out with so much more than I ever imagined.
Q: Do you feel that that comes across in the story, too?
Bullock: It’s about women taking care of each other, women being good to each other, women stepping back and letting the more gifted step forward in the heist, recognizing talent and saying, “Go out and shine, I’ve got your back.” I didn’t care about the heist as much as I cared about how (the characters) treated each other and how they lifted each other up.
Q. There was “Ghostbusters” and now there’s this. What do you think of the Hollywood trend of reviving male ensemble films, but putting women in them, compared to making brand new films with women?
Blanchett: What was great about this film is yes, you’ve got the history of the “Ocean’s” franchise behind it, but we wanted to make it its own stand-alone thing. So, it’s got an echo of what came before, but it’s not a remake. I think remakes are great, but if there were only remakes, and there were no original stories ... it’s like any sense of homogeneity in the film industry produces boring results, whether it’s with cast or story. It’s not saying you must do it this way or that way. I think it’s a bit of both.
“Ocean’s 8” opens on June 8.
— Ed Symkus writes about movies for More Content Now. He can be reached at email@example.com.