‘Promising Young Woman’: Emerald Fennell, Margot Robbie, Josey McNamara on Oscars and if There’s a #FennellCut

Clayton Davis
·6-min read

“Promising Young Woman” producers Margot Robbie and Josey McNamara believe that writer and director Emerald Fennell “can do it all.”

“The great thing about Emerald as a filmmaker [is] from that very first moment she pitched us when she delivered the script, she knew the movie in her head instantly,” McNamara tells Variety’s Awards Circuit podcast. “She could talk about it so clearly.”

More from Variety

In this week’s episode, McNamara and Robbie talk about recognizing the talents of Emerald Fennell and the brilliance of stars Carey Mulligan and Bo Burnham in “Promising Young Woman.” The two also discuss some of the challenges of making the film, from quick pivots and random trains crashing the shots. Listen below!

Also in this edition, we sit down with Fennell and talk about her first day of shooting, what’s coming next in her directorial career and the giddiness of being nominated for three Oscars, just the third woman ever to do so.

“Promising Young Woman” tells the story of Cassandra (Mulligan), a woman who dropped out of medical school following a personal tragedy and who goes to bars pretending to be drunk to expose the bad behaviors of the male species.

Mulligan has been nominated for best actress at the Oscars and netting the second most critics’ prizes this awards season for her stunning portrayal. It’s her first nomination since Lone Scherfig’s “An Education” (2009), with many snubs in between, particularly “Shame” (2011), “Inside Llewyn Davis” (2013) and “Wildlife” (2018). Robbie recognizes her talent and absence on the awards scene in the last decade, sharing, “For me, Carey is like a ‘Meryl [Streep]’ and she should just be nominated. You don’t even need to see the film. Just rest assured, it’s going to be absolutely impeccable and brilliant.”

For Oscar-nominated producer Josey McNamara, who co-founded the production company LuckyChap Entertainment with Robbie, Tom Ackerley and Sophia Kerr, the two have been in a bubble on various projects, which speaks their strong professional relationship and deep friendship. “We always, as a company, look at things that are maybe slightly subversive,” he says. “We ask ourselves, is it truly surprising? Is it going to give people something they haven’t experienced before, which I think “Promising” did with its tonal shifts and the subject matter.”

Academy rules limit the number of nominated producers for best picture. Unfortunately, Robbie has yet to gain the same distinction as Barbra Streisand, Oprah Winfrey and Frances McDormand as the only women to be nominated for producing and acting. She’s been close with her first Oscar nomination for “I, Tonya” (2017) though the film came up just short in picture. She followed up that acting nomination with “Bombshell” (2019) in supporting actress at last year’s ceremony. Taking everything in stride, even when her gorgeous pitbull Belle crashes our interview for some snuggles. She just wrapped up shooting on David O. Russell’s next project featuring an all-star cast including Christian Bale, Robert DeNiro, Zoe Saldana and John David Washington and is gearing up to begin work on Oscar-winner Damien Chazelle’s next film, “Babylon” with Brad Pitt and Jovan Adepo.

With the buzz of “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” debuting on HBO Max in March after the hashtag #ReleaseTheSnyderCut went viral, there is internet chatter about wanting to see a longer version of David Ayer’s “Suicide Squad” (2016). Asking if there is a “#AyerCut” Robbie jokingly responds, “for personal reasons, I’d love to watch the five-hour cut of every movie I’ve ever done.” She adds, “There’s a 20-hour cut of “Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood” that would…there’s so much more that you didn’t get to see, that we shot that was amazing, and for a million reasons obviously, can’t make the cut. Not to my knowledge, there is not a David Ayer cut that is in the works or going to be released.”

If there’s a “Promising Young Woman” four-cut in existence, the natural question came up with triple-nominated filmmaker Emerald Fennell and if one could be curated for future audiences. “I love the idea,” Fennell says. “Honestly, we used every second of footage we had. We shot the film in 23 days and were moving locations often a few times a day. The dream of having excess footage that could go into my incredibly mega maniacal cut.”

Joining a list that only includes Sofia Coppola (“Lost in Translation”) and Fran Walsh (“The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”), she and fellow nominee Chloe Zhao (“Nomadland”) have garnered multiple nominations for women at the Academy Awards. Coppola and Walsh both won their respective screenplay categories in 2004. If Fennell and Zhao were to win original and adapted at this year’s ceremony, it would mark the first time two female solo writers would win the two Oscar screenplay categories.

It was recently announced that Fennell would be writing “Zatanna” for the DCEU. The character, which is a similar version to Marvel’s Scarlet Witch, has yet to announce a director, which many are speculating if she will take the reigns for the film. We asked if she was interested in that job, answering, “It’s so exciting. That’s not a conversation that’s happened at all, so I have no insight, and also, we’re still in the early days. It’s something that we’ve been working on for a while. I’ve been speaking to Bad Robot [Productions], who are amazing. You want to get the first bit right, which is the script, before you think of anything else. It’s a very specific thing – the world of superhero movies is incredibly exciting, but it’s also a new different challenge. The main thing for me is making sure that it’s really, really good. I’m such a genre fan. I’m a fan of witchcraft, magic, and comic books, and this is scary and intense.”

Before the interviews, the Awards Circuit roundtable reveals our final predictions for the Screen Actors Guild Awards this weekend, where we expect big wins for Chadwick Boseman and Carey Mulligan on the film side and Netflix’s “The Crown” and Pop TV’s “Schitt’s Creek” in television.

Variety’s “Awards Circuit” podcast, hosted by Clayton Davis, Jenelle Riley, Jazz Tangcay and Michael Schneider (who produces), is your one-stop listen for lively conversations about the best in film and television. Each week “Awards Circuit” features interviews with top film and TV talent and creatives; discussions and debates about awards races and industry headlines; and much, much more. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post every Thursday.

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.