On Oct. 17, Director of Pollock Theater Matt Ryan interviewed screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna in Script-to-Screen, a series that examines the creative processes of film directing, screenwriting and acting through moderated discussion with the artists themselves. In this latest installation, the screenwriter for the hit movies “Laws of Attraction,” “27 Dresses,” “Morning Glory,” “We Bought a Zoo,” and the upcoming live-action Cinderella Disney movie spoke about her breakout film adaptation “The Devil Wears Prada.” Exuding a beautiful aura of intelligence and poise, McKenna explored the film that made her an overnight success after 15 years of hard work and patience.
As the fifth screenwriter hired to undertake adapting the best-selling novel The Devil Wears Prada, McKenna owes her success to her ability to identify with both the protagonist, Andy Sachs, and the antagonist, Miranda Priestly. Like Andy, McKenna moved to New York City after college and strove to make it as a freelance writer. In her demanding working hours and ambitious drive, McKenna also relates to the shrewd chief editor of Runway magazine Miranda who she defines as “career woman trying to balance out work and personal life.”
The screenwriter analyzed the actors’ performances with experienced judgment and high praise. About Anne Hathaway’s representation of the eager Andy Sachs, McKenna remarked that she loved that “she’s not that innocent. She has high self-regard; she’s a good person, young and naïve, but she has the strength to go up against [Miranda Priestly].”McKenna described Andy’s struggle with her devilish boss as a portrayal of “that phase in your life when you realize how little you know.”
Regarding Meryl Streep’s rendition of the monstrous Miranda Priestly, McKenna called her acting idol Streep an “insult comic” whose bullying of Hathaway’s character was endlessly enjoyable. Streep’s interpretation of Miranda humanized the character as a woman whose cruel insensitivity is “not coming from vanity,” but rather from her absolute devotion to her work. In a moment of reflection, McKenna warned audience members against becoming like Miranda: “someone so focused on their goals, they don’t care about how people feel.”
Screenwriter McKenna wore a fashionable outfit straight out of the movie — a grey peasant blouse, a delicate gold fish charm necklace, fitted olive green skinny pants, a gold bangle with matching hoop earrings, and dark brown high heels with three strips of elegant buckles. McKenna recognized the appeal of the luxurious, materialistic lifestyle depicted in the film as she admitted, “the swag [in the film] is always very popular. It’s very seductive.” Although McKenna appreciates the artistic beauty of fashion, she said that she hopes the movie does not endorse the unhealthy body image prevalent in the fashion magazine domain.
McKenna also addressed the differences between Hollywood, where she works, and New York, where the movie takes place. “Hollywood people are phony. Nobody ever wants to confront anyone, people in California just want to be nice. [Contrastingly] fashion people in New York are catty … there are less politics involved.”
On a humorous note, McKenna divulged that if she could give her college self some advice, she would say: “You can’t eat ice cream every night and expect nothing to happen … It was so strange that I believed I could when I was in college.” After a bout of laughter, McKenna advised in earnest, “What I maybe didn’t realize at your age … I thought you had to be lucky [to become successful]. But you just have to be a good person and work hard. Be a nice person, don’t be a dick and work really hard — that’s what works. People think that they’re good, but those things need to be demonstrated. Be that collaborative, helpful, nice person that people want to be around.”
Script-to-Screen is sponsored by the department of Film & Media Studies, produced by Joe Palladino and hosted by Matt Ryan. In the next event, Script-to-Screen will celebrate the 30th anniversary of “Risky Business” featuring an interview with the writer-director after the show on Nov. 14, only $5 at our own Pollock Theater.