It’s been six years since director David O. Russell‘s 2015 film Joy, starring frequent collaborator Jennifer Lawrence, hit theaters. It’s been an even longer time since actor and screenwriter Annie Mumolo submitted her version of the true story of Miracle Mop inventor Joy Mangano to 20th Century Studios and Russell. Some time between submitting her script and the movie wrapping filming, Mumolo’s original script underwent changes. Following a period of arbitration, Mumolo received a “story by” credit and Russell getting the sole “screenplay by” credit.
Mumolo opened up about this event recently to Variety while promoting her new Lionsgate comedy Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar with co-star, writing partner, and longtime friend Kristen Wiig. When Variety initially opened up the topic for discussion, Mumolo began by saying, “Oh boy. That was a toughie. It’s a tough business. Kristen and I have learned that if you can get in the position where you can produce your own stuff and have a voice…Everything that happened with Joy and the making of the actual movie is a movie in itself. I don’t know what I’m allowed to say.”
It was at this point Wiig jumped in to offer context for Mumolo, telling Variety, in part, “A lot of times when you write something, or you’re writing for a producer or for a studio, it is that sort of writer-for-hire. You get your notes and you write and basically you are writing what they want. They want A, B, and C, and then you write it and you give it to them. And when it’s your project, you’re kind of dictating the A, B, and C and you hand it in and say, ‘This is what we want to make,’ and they’re very different.”
Mumolo then picked it up by recounting about the experience of what it was like for the situation on Joy to change and what it was like to weather that shift. As Mumolo described it:
“In that case, it was more than that. Having worn both hats, the writer’s hat and the actor’s hat, they are such night and day experiences. As a writer, you’re treated very differently than you are as an actor, in almost every way. I feel like it’s exponentially harder for that reason alone. The ‘Joy’ movie was a very heartbreaking experience for me, and I had to just sort of separate because of that aspect of things. When it was going in one direction, we got a phone call overnight that there’s a change happening. And then I was asked to do things that were against my morality, and it was very difficult. When I didn’t feel comfortable doing those things that were against my values, I was lambasted. I can’t say too much. I guess probably because I was living in fear. It’s sort of a testament to the power of how in show business, people have a tremendous amount of power and what they can do with it and how they wield that power. Sometimes, the people who have so much power are people who shouldn’t, and in the normal world, they wouldn’t have that much power they’re being given. Judd Apatow told me, ‘Certain names, if they are studios, if it’s money and numbers, they don’t care what the behavior is. They just don’t.’ And he said that’s a hard thing. He was a very big advocate for me back then. It was tremendously scary and a life lesson. It was a lot of upheavals, and it was just very strange. It’s something I never saw coming.”
Mumolo also opened up about the emotional side of the whole Joy experience, telling Variety,
“You almost can’t talk about certain things, which is sad as a writer because anytime you speak up for yourself, people warn you, ‘You better not do that, fake people won’t want to work with you,’ and you’re just defending your basic human rights. I had many people approaching me at the time to come out and say things or talk about it. But then it was,’Oh no, you can’t because you won’t get hired. You might not get hired again because you’ll be perceived as being ‘difficult,'” and continued, “I just kind of had to swallow it. It’s just one of those things about the writer’s position.”
At one point during Mumolo and Wiig’s chat about this particular topic, Mumolo did offer a lovely, optimistic sentiment about her part in the creation of Joy: “I have such a love for Joy Mangano, the woman that the movie was about, so that still shines through for me. I just think she’s a tremendous human being, and she’s an inspiration. That’s what I took away from meeting her.”
Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar arrives the weekend of February 14. Check out the trailer for Mumolo and Wiig’s new comedy before you go.
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