Washington Life talks shop with The September Issue director R.J. Cutler, who captures the making of Vogue’s September 2007 issue and the reign of editor-in-chief Anna Wintour
WL: When did you first get the idea for The September Issue?
RC: I read an article about Anna Wintour and the Met Ball in 2005, which originally gave me the idea, but it was Anna who suggested we do the film around the September issue instead.
WL: How have those outside the fashion industry reacted to the film?
RC: I’ve been surprised by the number of people from outside the industry who have told me that they love the film. It’s about much more than fashion; it’s a movie about the relationship between two remarkable women.
WL: What would change if The September Issue were shot now?
RC: Everything. The collapse of the global economy happened as we finished shooting. It glows in its place in time. You want a movie to feel like it’s in a distinct moment.
WL: What’s the biggest misconception about Anna Wintour?
RC: What’s surprising is that she is a human being and you’re in the presence of a complex, dynamic person. The caricature of “Anna Wintour” is a culturally pervasive presence. Even Ugly Betty has an Anna Wintour figure.
WL: What will happen to Vogue when Wintour steps down?
RC: Her shoes are almost impossible to fill. You can’t succeed in the fashion industry without her blessing. Even Spielberg and Gates don’t control their industries like she does.
WL: What about the force around her at Vogue?
RC: She is surrounded by remarkable figures – it’s like the Yankees in the ’20s.
WL: Grace Coddington, creative director of Vogue, is a major force in the film. What is your relationship with her like?
RC: The first time I met her she said “go away.” The second time we met she yelled at me about how rude my sound guys were at the Chanel couture show. You’ll see if I won her over.