How One 'Princess Diaries' Star Moved Past Being Told She Was Hollywood 'Unf--kable'

We chatted with Heather Matarazzo about fighting Hollywood sexism -- and winning.

For a whole myriad of reasons, June has been an eventful month for '90s icon Heather Matarazzo.

First and foremost (in the eyes of pop culture, anyway) is due to the unfortunately false rumor that "The Princess Diaries" is filming a second sequel, which undoubtedly sent numerous fans of the series to her Twitter page. Those same fans -- if they stuck around after the rumors were shut down -- were later treated to reason number two, which is Matarazzo's brilliant commentary on feminist and social justice issues. Those issues came to a head -- again -- late last week when Matarazzo came out in support of fellow '90s queen Rose McGowan, who was reportedly fired by her agent after she spoke out against a sexist casting call for an Adam Sandler movie.

And finally, to end on a somewhat sour note, Matarazzo's name made the rounds last week when news began to spread that her most famous film, "Welcome to the Dollhouse" was getting a sequel -- without Matarazzo in the lead.

MTV News caught up with Matarazzo over the phone on Friday afternoon, to pick her brain about Hollywood sexism, being told she's "unf--kable," and of course, those "Princess Diaries 3" rumors.

MTV: You've been very vocal on Twitter lately about sexism in Hollywood. Is this something you've been shouting to the void about all along, or have you felt more comfortable speaking out lately because it's now a topic of conversation?

Heather Matarazzo: I always have; I’ve been fighting for equal rights amongst the gay and lesbian community and women’s rights [for years]. It seems as though it's starting, finally, to get more attention, so I feel people are noticing more. Things that I’ve been saying for a while are starting to get more attention.

MTV: Do you feel like there's been any real positive change since you sort of took on this issue?

Matarazzo: Absolutely, for me its been nothing but positive attention. I’m very, very grateful for, and looking for [more] people like Lexi Alexander and Rose [McGowan] -- and Jessica Chastain, who just came out in support of [Rose]. Theres a growing number of us. Lexi's been talking about a growing equality in this industry for as long as I can remember, but getting to see more women that are of a higher visibility like Jessica Chastain -- it's really, really encouraging.

MTV: You wrote a very powerful blog earlier this year, in which you said you were told at a young age that Hollywood wouldn't want you because you're "unf--kable." I'm curious what the response was to that, and if anything has changed for you in the years since that happened?

Matarazzo: Truth be told that was one specific incident, and the response that I got was nothing but positive. But the bigger point that I was making in that blog was the perception that I have about myself, and how easy it is to advocate one's own power based off what other people say. You’re saying I’m not f--kable; then that must be true.

Getting to the other side of that and saying "oh, that’s a lie, that’s actually not true"... that's when my perception changed about myself. Everything else changed; the roles that I started going out for changed, the description of the characters changed. It doesn’t negate the fact that, of course, there are people that are sexist, that are shallow, that are only looking at the outside in terms of what woman can bring to a screen. But that’s always been the case. For me, [it's about] personally not believing the hype and the lie, and then getting to see actual change in the opportunities that I’ve been given once I stopped believing that lie that I wasn’t f--kable.


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MTV: How do you stop believing that lie? How do you mentally safeguard yourself from that, especially when you see sexist casting calls like the one Rose posted, which call for huge boobs and dumb girls?

Matarazzo: I look to women like Mindy Kaling and Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Amy Schumer, Rose McGowan -- speaking up about the insanity of it all. And also, we do have a choice at the end of the day to say yes or to say no... there have been things that I have passed on where agents at the time were like, "you’re crazy, why would you pass on this," because it wasn’t something that I personally wanted to be a part of. I’m not going to let fear rule my life; I’d rather be able to... know that I’ve made a choice that’s right for me, [rather] than saying yes because I don’t want my agents to be upset with me.

MTV: What kind of impact do you think powerful women like Rose, Mindy, etc. speaking out could have?

Matarazzo: I feel that Rose was incredibly courageous, and that she opened Pandora’s Box for other women that are high profile to come out and support [equality] that might not have done it before. Frustration can either be an negative thing or a positive thing, and I feel as though people are becoming more vocal because they’re becoming more frustrated. That causes people to wake up from their sleep that nothing’s wrong and everything’s fine -- what is everyone complaining about? You know, we’re not asking for rose petals to be like, laid out as we walk. We’re just asking for equality and equal opportunity.

MTV: We've been doing a lot of coverage on the ACLU's decision to go after the lack of female directors in Hollywood. As an actor, I'm curious to hear your thoughts on how important it is for a performer to have women behind the scenes.

Matarazzo: Historically, we have been told that women don’t have the same [directing] sensibility, and I look at someone like Jill Soloway when she made that great commencement speech -- she had been told... "don’t bring your tears to work." And she said, "no, if you’re not able to have emotion and cry, then you better not be holding my camera."

The whole entire reason that people go to the movies... I want to be transported somewhere for two hours, and if the project is great, it means that I’ve been emotionally touched in some way. When you have a majority or individuals that are saying women are "too sensitive"... it’s not alright. It's disrespectful and wrong. I feel as though they're missing the whole entire f--king point of cinema.

MTV: Is there also a noticeable difference in the day-to-day, working with a female director?

Matarazzo: Absolutely... Dorie Barton, who I just worked with on a film called "Girl Flu" with me and Katee Sackhoff, was brilliant. I have to say, next to Garry Marshall who’s just the best, she’s the best director I’ve ever worked with.. the freedom with which she gave us, the ability to play and trust that we knew our characters, was astounding. And I’ve never, ever had the experience before where the director actually thanks the actors. At the end of every day we would shoot, I would get a hug from her and a "thank you so much for helping my dreams come true. What you’re doing is incredible; I’m in awe."

And to me, that’s invaluable. I don’t feel like a human prop. You know, I feel like my work is being valued. I’ve had experiences where I feel as though what I have to say doesn’t matter, and essentially it’s "stand on your mark and hit your line." Like, that’s it. "I don’t care what you have to say." That can feel really degrading.

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MTV: Sounds nice. Too bad none of us are getting big movies!

Matarazzo: There’s a disconnect -- there’s a major, major disconnect. When you are privileged, there are a lot more opportunities that you don’t have to work as hard for. If you’re doing one of those major comic book franchises and you spend between 100,000-500,000 dollars on your concept to show a studio, it’s much easier for a man to get that money than a woman. So women don’t even have an opportunity to have a chance. Slowly but surely... I’m seeing that new [Looking For] "Alaska" film, that I think Paramount is doing, they just hired a female director. And I really do believe -- and maybe I’m just a big optimist -- that once the ball starts rolling, there’s kind of no stopping it. I feel really hopeful. I don’t feel disillusioned, and I’m so grateful for that.

MTV: How? How do you not get depressed when the numbers are so, so bad?

Matarazzo: When you’re busy taking action, you’re not sitting on the sidelines lamenting on the state of the nation. Like, I’m busy taking action... I hope that more women [will] get to come together and really unite in this industry; that really is my hope. I’m busy working my butt off. So is Lexi. So is Marie [Giese]. There are so many of us, but we need more. Because the few of us... there’s so much more we could do together as opposed to just a select few.

I see there’s a lot of fear in terms of "if I say something I might not get a job, I might be blacklisted -- which means I might not have any money coming in," [and] it’s a fear spiral that keeps people from taking action. But at some point, we have to say "enough is enough." I get to see it on a daily basis via my Twitter feed... and I really do feel that within the next year there’s going to be a lot more change. Cause it’s either I believe that or I’m just going to kill myself.

I look at black Twitter and how much sh-t they've gotten done. So much... [if] especially women and minorities would band together for equality in this industry... we could really create some change."

MTV: Yeah, people like to hate on Twitter's so-called "outrage culture," but I feel like it's important to realize that a lot of the outrage people like you have is totally validated.

Matarazzo: Yeah, there’s that line about, "God grant me the serenity for the things that I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference," and I love the spin on it about how "I’m going to change the things I cannot accept."

In my experience, when you are raised in chaos, chaos becomes the norm until you have an outsider say "that’s crazy, that’s chaotic." You have that "ah ha" moment... I feel as though we’ve been so conditioned to believe this is how things are, and there’s nothing we can to do to change it. Like, it’s a form of insanity. The status quo as it is right now is a form of insanity.

MTV: Finally, I just have to ask -- those rumors about "Princess Diaries 3" spread like wildfire. It ended up not being true, but still: I'm curious if that's something you'd be down to revisit.

Matarazzo: Oh my God, stop. The fact that I still have people coming up to me about "The Princess Diaries," the fact that there are still so many fans out there, is always heartwarming. It was a movie that I was so grateful and excited to be a part of. Garry Marshall... he’s the director that will take an hour break so we could have a parade.

This movie is so special, you know? It was made in love. I’m so happy that people are tweeting me with the potential for a third one. It’s so great that people would love to see more.