When directors have a reputation for loving the ladies, it's usually because they’re wearing a hole in the casting couch. But Nigel Cole loves women in the truest, purest way.
After putting the fairer sex proudly and un-exploitatively at the center of his previous films, "Saving Grace" and "Calendar Girls," his latest project, "Made in Dagenham," combines the verve of "The Full Monty" with a "Norma Rae" sense of impassioned activism.
Set in 1968, Oscar-nominee Sally Hawkins ("Happy Go Lucky") stars in this remarkable true story of a group of female factory workers in Ford's Dagenham England plant who unwittingly sparked the movement to create an equal pay act for women.
Sitting down with the director and his star on a balmy autumn day in Los Angeles, Hawkins describes Cole uncomplicatedly.
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"Nigel? He's a feminist," Hawkins says with pride and a grin.
"I like to do different films and if you make movies about women, automatically you're different because there are so few of them," Cole offers with a laugh, adding, "I'm clearly fascinated by women and enjoy their company."
The director says he has no interest in filming car chases or shoot outs, finding such fare to be dull to watch, let alone capture on celluloid. He admits he doesn't set out to make films that center on female protagonists, but realizes he's drawn to similar fare time and again.
"I always look for scripts that have comedy, humor and warmth, but are about things and have strong emotional beats," Cole explains. "I have to have both. I'd never do a straight comedy and I'd get too flippant if I did a straight drama. I choose the best scripts and then halfway through, it's like, 'It's about women again. '"
For Hawkins, arriving on the female-dominated set, which also stars such outstanding actresses as Rosemund Pike and Miranda Richardson, to tell the story of women who changed the course of history, was a thrill. "There were moments during filming that I'd stop and think, 'Gosh, isn't this wonderful that there are all these amazing actresses and it's a female led production?' It's so rare and there was so much passion behind it. I was incredibly proud to be part of it."
"The great gift of making this movie was not only the story, but the sense being the guy who's able to tell it first. That seemed pretty cool to me," Cole smiles. "Why it's been so ignored so long, I don't know. I think women's role in history is often ignored, maybe something to do with the fact that men often write history down."
"Made in Dagenham" opens Nov. 19.