Writer/director discusses her crime comedy-drama about a group of strippers who scam Wall Street bankers
Writer/director Lorene Scafaria hand-picked the bulk of songs to which the women in her film strut, strip and con Wall Street men out of huge amounts of money. From Jennifer Lopez's entrancing grand entrance to Fiona Apple's 'Criminal' to her showing co-star Constance Wu how to pole dance to Chopin's Etudes, the music choices are inspired. Scafaria's outrageously funny and hugely entertaining real-crime caper is based on Jessica Pressler's viral New York Magazine article about a group of former strippers who broke the law to stay in business. It's a film that boasts a cast of stellar names including Cardi B, Lizzo, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Madeline Brewer, Mette Towley, Trace Lysette and Julie Stiles.
On the cast, Scafaria exclaims, 'I'm a huge fan of all of them so it was dream come true! I had written that part for Cardi and that part for Lizzo … and Jennifer is the only person on earth that could have played Ramona.' Once Lopez had signed on. all the pieces seemed to fall into place. 'When you get Jennifer Lopez attached to a movie it becomes a lot easier to get people like Lizzo. I had been trying to get her to be a part of it for a year and I had been sending her messages on Instagram. I think the big miracle was her schedule because she was touring during that time so we just got lucky enough that she had a window that was exactly when we needed her. She brought her flute and she called me Madame Director!'
Scafaria approached the film as comment on capitalism and it possesses a similar swagger to mob films like Goodfellas. Martin Scorsese was originally asked to direct but when he declined Scafaria was prepared with a screenplay intent on tackling the story from the female perspective. 'I don't feel like women and money and money as it relates to gender has been talked about a lot. They're more often seen spending and shopping than earning and providing. I really wanted to tell a story about how capitalism affects women.'
Scafaria did not have contact with any of the women involved in the scheme of drugging men with a cocktail of Ketamine and MDMA as a way to max their credit cards. She instead took her lead from Pressler who she spoke with, and spent time in strip clubs talking to people involved in the industry. She credits Jacqueline Francis, aka Jacq the Stripper, as her stripper consultant who was on set every day, saying, 'She was a really important part of capturing the authenticity of the world. I feel like people look at strippers and don't often think of their work as work and view what they're doing as earning a living. Obviously, these women crossed a line and turn criminal at some point but they're earning an honest living at the beginning of the film. I wanted to show how capitalism had an effect on the women who were directly impacted by the financial crash in Wall Street's backyard. I wanted to show how we're all navigating this broken system.'
Cast: Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Lizzo, Cardi B
UK release: 13 September 2019
Destiny (Wu) and Ramona (Lopez) are strippers who, with their friends, devise a way of getting more cash out of their clients. Wu gives a sophisticated performance and her dynamic with Lopez pops with convincing intensity, making for a raucous crime story that’s by turns gorgeous, funny and surprisingly moving.