How a determined director got ‘Hustlers’ to the big screen

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As Will Ferrell puts it, when you see “Hustlers” for the first time, “you go in expecting one thing and you get something else.”

That something else is why he became a producer on the film, Ferrell told CNN. The script, based on the bombshell 2015 New York Magazine article by Jessica Pressler, turned out to be more than just a tale about exotic dancers.

Ferrell saw director Lorene Scafaria’s vision, and after he heard a number of studios wanted to tinker with the plot too heavily, he teamed up with Jennifer Lopez and Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas and their production company, Nuyorican Productions, to get the movie made.

Yes, the film does follow a crew of savvy strip club employees who drug and rob their rich Wall Street clients after the financial collapse in 2008, but it’s much more than that. The women are multilayered characters who are moms, friends and co-conspirators trying to survive.

Ferrell hosted a special screening of the movie at MoMA in New York on December 1, at which Lopez reunited with co-stars Constance Wu, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Julia Stiles, along with Goldsmith-Thomas and Scarfaria, to talk about the film and the buzz surrounding it.

It all started with Scafaria penning the script and making a sizzle reel, Goldsmith-Thomas said during a panel talk following the screening.

“We went around town to everyone thinking we had this beautifully written script with such layered characters, beautifully layered characters, all of them, and a director sizzle reel that really showed you what Lorene wanted to do,” Goldsmith-Thomas said. “We went everywhere. We went to every major studio, we went to every streamer. We put it on our backs. We danced and we hustled.”

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