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Why thank you, Katniss!

After directing Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games, Gary Ross was eager to find another project that would shatter expectations while showcasing women kicking serious ass. What better than an all-female version of the popular Ocean’s franchise?

“When I did Hunger Games I had so many people warn me that it could never be successful, not because of the violence or anything like that but that no one would ever go to a movie with this kind of female protagonist,” Ross told EW. “I disagreed. I loved making that movie for that reason. I loved seeing Jennifer in that role and seeing her be empowered in that way and seeing boys and girls respond to it equally.”

“I just thought it was interesting to invade the terrain that always had an off-limits sign. That’s an important thing to do,” continues Ross, who directed Ocean’s 8 and also wrote the script with newcomer Olivia Milch. “And it would be great to see all these women do something that had always been the province of men.”

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Credit: Barry Wetcher/Warner Bros.

Coming up with a caper was easy — stealing into the exclusive Met Gala in New York City to snatch some high-priced jewels — as was getting the blessing of Ocean’s franchise director Steven Soderbergh (who, together with George Clooney, is also producing the movie). The real challenge came with assembling his gorgeous gang of eight. And why eight, anyway? “It was Soderbergh’s idea,” confesses Ross. “He said we can do eight, nine, and 10 — after that we’ll be sick of them.”

Though armchair casting directors would have pitched Melissa McCarthy or Amy Schumer as crooks, their presence would have screamed slapstick comedy – not the message Ross was looking to convey. “It isn’t just who is right for a part,” says Ross. “It’s what light radiates off the other characters and how it makes them seem.”

The star power doesn’t get any brighter than this: Rihanna’s a hacker; Helena Bonham Carter portrays a former fashion designer who’s down on her luck; Sarah Paulson’s a mom who runs a scaled-down version of her old fencing business out of her garage; Mindy Kaling’s a jewelry designer who still lives at home with her parents; the rapper Awkwafina plays a sleight-of-hand street con; Anne Hathaway is the celebrity co-chair of the Met Gala; and Cate Blanchett fulfills the sexy-smart Brad Pitt role — though its unclear whether she’ll eat in nearly every scene, as his character did. Leading the charge is Sandra Bullock as Debbie Ocean, Danny’s previously incarcerated sister who we’ll learn was actually present for that Bellagio heist back in 2012. (Ross will use old footage from the first movie.)

“Everyone has their specialty,” Bullock explains. “They haven’t been able to do what they’re brilliant at because the industry, if you can call it the industry, the industry of criminality hasn’t really allowed them to excel and to execute what they’re good at.”

Ocean’s 8 hits theaters on June 8.

With reporting from Nicole Sperling.

Ocean's 8
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