Magazine article Screen International

Judy Cairo

Magazine article Screen International

Judy Cairo

Article excerpt

US producer Judy Cairo talks to Screen about her latest project, Hysteria, a romantic comedy about the invention of the vibrator in Victorian London starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Hugh Dancy.

Crazy Heart producer Judy Cairo has just wrapped her latest project, Hysteria, for her LA based production company Informant Media.

The film chronicles the invention of the vibrator in Victorian England, when it was originally used by doctors to cure the medical condition "hysteria" in women. The film, which is directed by Tanya Wexler from a script by Stepyhen Dyer and Jonah Lisa Dyer, stars Maggie Gyllenhaal, Hugh Dancy, Jonathan Pryce, Rupert Everett, Ashley Jensen and Anna Chancellor.

Cairo is one of three female producers on the film, along with Forthcoming Films' Sarah Curtis and Beachfront Films' Tracey Becker. Elle Driver is handling international sales and Tom Ortenberg's One Way Out Media is representing North American rights.

How did you get involved with the project?

I had just produced Crazy Heart. Tracey [Becker] knew it was a similar kind of project. They had been trying to fund Hysteria for years and we had a similar thing with Crazy Heart, because it was a serious drama with country music. It had large stars, but at the time, before his Oscar win, Jeff Bridges was still, believe it or not, not enough to get the movie financed.

So she sent me an email. It actually went into my spam catcher and I always without fail erase them all, because I get deluged with scripts. But for some reason, I don't know why, I let that one through. I started reading the script and on page one I knew. I just couldn't stop reading it. That was summer 2009.

What was it about the script that grabbed you?

You don't often find scripts that are as smartly crafted, funny, touching, moving, and dare I say it, important. It's not just a love story, it's not just a romantic comedy, it deals with women's' liberation in the 1880s, it deals with women's sexuality, which is so rare. When was the last time you saw a movie which allowed women to express anything about their sexuality?

I think putting it in the context of a rom com and putting it in Victorian England, somehow makes it more accessible to talk about the issues that are still current. Did you know that even as late as the 1950s, the vibrator was still listed in the "medical" section of catalogues?

Is it going to be graphic?!

Not at all! It is actually very sweet and romantic. Although..remember the scene in When Harry Met Sally with Meg Ryan in the café? Well, we are going to replace that in people's memories..But it's all done under the don't see anything!

How did you go about financing the film?

Through my company, Informant, we raised all the private equity and re structured. And we also made the decision that we needed to shoot in more than just the UK to take advantage of the largest tax incentives that we could. So we are shooting half in the UK, half in Luxembourg.

All of our private equity investors are first time investors in film. But they were encouraged by our success with Crazy Heart..which was a $7m dollar movie that took $47m at the box office.. And the subject matter didn't put them off at all. It actually attracted them. It is such an intriguing fresh new idea that it is drawing attention. And it's not often you find a story that has not been told.

Most of our investors have come over to the set and seen the process. …

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