Nineteen years after The First Wives club became a cult classic, one of its stars has finally revealed why a proposed sequel was scrapped. Goldie Hawn, who played washed-up Oscar winner Elise Elliot Atchison, explains that "the big money goes to kids and young men." That means the comedy's principal trio—Hawn, Diane Keaton and Bette Midler—would have been underpaid had they each reprised their roles.
"We were all women of a certain age, and everyone took a cut in salary to do it so the studio could make what it needed. We all took a smaller back end than usual and a much smaller front end. And we ended up doing incredibly well. The movie was hugely successful. It made a lot of money. We were on the cover of Time magazine," the 69-year-old actress recalls in Harvard Business Review's March 2015 issue.
"But two years later, when the studio came back with a sequel, they wanted to offer us exactly the same deal. We went back to ground zero. Had three men come in there, they would have upped their salaries without even thinking about it," she says. "But the fear of women's movies is embedded in the culture."
The First Wives Club earned $181,490,000 worldwide on a reported $30 million budget.
Directed by Hugh Wilson and produced by Scott Rudin, The First Wives Club featured an all-star cast that included Elizabeth Berkley, Stockard Channing, Stephen Collins, Jennifer Dundas, Victor Garber, Marcia Gay Harden, Dan Hedaya, Sarah Jessica Parker and Maggie Smith. Kathie Lee Gifford, Ed Koch, Heather Locklear, Gloria Steinem, James Naughtonand Ivana Trump also made special appearances.
Hawn appeared in four movies after The First Wives Club: 1996's Everyone Says I Love You, 1999's The Out-of-Towners, 2001's Town & Country and 2002's The Banger Sisters. Though she voiced Peggy McGee in a 2013 episode of Disney Channel's Phineas and Ferb, the actress has been focused on her MindUP program and spending time with her longtime love, Kurt Russell, plus their three kids and five grand kids.
The actress was once attached to star in a pilot for HBO, but that fell through. Might she return to acting full-time? According to Hawn, she is "looking at a potential television series that's in its nascent stages."
Why has Hawn become so selective about her TV and movie roles? "It's important, at least for me, that while we're entertaining there's also something substantive to talk about," the Private Benjamin actress says. "Whether you're an actor, producer, writer, or director, it's all about the story you're going to tell."