Chilean Actress Lorenza Izzo is perhaps best known for her role as Francesca Cappuci in Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Now, Izzo stars in the SXSW 2021 breakout hit Women Is Losers. Aside from leading the film on-screen, she partnered with director/writer Lissette Feliciano as a first-time producer. Set in San Francisco during the 60s, we follow young Catholic schoolgirl Celina as she navigates through a system that is pitted against her. “Women Is Losers is poetry in motion and handles its subject matter with such intricacy.” A triumph thanks to a dedicated cast featuring the likes of Chrissie Fit and Simu Liu, all following Lorenza Izzo’s lead.
It’s not often that artists take the time to be so open and honest when discussing their work, making it a real pleasure to sit down with Lorenza Izzo for an exclusive interview. We explore the importance of Women Is Losers and what it means to be a woman in the modern film industry. When speaking on her dual role as lead actress and producer, we get a candid look into the making of this delightful festival gem.
To start, I just wanted to say that you’re so fantastic as Celina and really are the heart of this film. It’s so important for women like myself in film to see these kinds of stories, so thank you for that.
Lorenza Izzo: Oh, that means the world to me. Thank you so much for your words, I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate that.
Can you tell me a bit about how you got involved with the project?
Lorenza Izzo: Lisette came to me with this script, I want to say around two years ago. I remember that before meeting with her, I read the script and I just had this very clear want from my entire body, my soul, and spiritually – everything that makes me who I am was telling me, “You need to do this.” It was just so clear to me, like how you just said about how necessary it was for this story to be on screen for so many perspectives.
I am, of course, a Latina woman and my mother raised me as a single mom. So there were so many parallels between my personal life and this story set in the 60s that tells the struggle of a woman having agency over her own life. It’s such a basic thing, and to me that just cut right through and also tells such an ambitious story with all the constraints of being a first-time director for Lisette and a first-time producer myself. Having to go against all these obstacles to bring this story to the screen was quite a challenge and also a parallel to the story itself, so it’s all quite meta – the challenges on set every day versus the story you’re trying to tell.
On that note, with more conversations stirring around the ideas of reproductive and women’s rights, do you think a story like this is more relevant than ever?
Lorenza Izzo: 100% I do. We just got over a presidency where that was in danger – the power of deciding over your own body and having agency over that decision. I am Chilean and I come from that country where we don’t have that right, we don’t have a right over our bodies and for me to stand by that regardless of your religion or your beliefs – you know, I’m very accepting and try to be as respectful as possible when I try to understand where people come from with their ideals, but to me, that is such a basic right.
I believe in choice and I come from a country where that is not a possibility. So for me, doing this film was quite cathartic. That entire theme, we tried to cover it with as much brutal honesty as we could. We tried to really portray the way it happened in the 60s and the way it still happens today. It was really important to let this story be out there because I just can’t believe I am talking to you now in 2021 and not even a year ago, I was a little bit concerned and it’s still even tricky now. It’s crazy to me that we’re still having this conversation.
There are some heavy, yet really important topics discussed in Women Is Losers, such as abortion and issues with women’s financial rights. How did you go about researching these aspects and tapping into the intense emotions that come with them?
Lorenza Izzo: I mean, you just nailed it. A really important thing for me was that Lisette and I, we really collaborated on this film. Half of my research just came from speaking with her and understanding the story that this was loosely based on, and also researching the time period. And in United States of America, for someone to be successful, it’s all about economic success, right? And in order for that to happen, you have to own property. In order to gain property, you have to have access to information, education, and all these resources that if you are a person of color, that is much more difficult.
For us, it was really important to show how agency of your own life in terms of access to wealth, healthcare, medicine, and education – that’s something that is impossible. So in that sense, we ask how are we supposed to make informed decisions in terms of our bodies and our future if we don’t have the resources? That was massively important and was something I learned while doing my research.
It’s not that often that we actually talk about how mis-educated we can be at times, not by our own doing but at the hands of the system.
Lorenza Izzo: Yes, Exactly! Listen, I could not stop talking about the fact that, Lisette and I, we’re both Latina. We grew up with a cultural understanding, because I was raised by my mom it was like, you work hard and then work harder. That’s what you’re taught in the Latin community, because you come here with the American dream. But there comes a point where all of your work goes nowhere, because you are in a system that was set up for you to not succeed. Once you hit that wall of reality, you’re like, “Oh so I have to figure out a way to get through the system that is actively trying to put me down.” That was a really harsh reality that you often had to face, and it’s hard to process that it is still happening today.
There are really good moments that represent that kind of feeling in the film where you break the fourth wall and suddenly, it’s not a story and you’re in reality.
Lorenza Izzo: Exactly. The breaking of the fourth wall, I thought was one of the most attractive things about the script. It was such a good tool to be able to get away with having such little resources. We said at the beginning, like you guys are going have to forgive us for being resourceful because that is how you work when making a low-budget movie. But for me, the breaking of the fourth wall was a way to level with the audience, a way to say what goes unsaid in society, a way to say what people are afraid to say. There’s a moment I love that me and Simu Liu have, where he says someday women will get paid the same, and then we both just stare at the camera. That’s what we’re facing today, there is still a disparity in gender and it just makes absolutely no sense
It’s kind of crazy how relevant this film is, you sometimes forget that it’s a period piece in a way.
Lorenza Izzo: That’s on purpose as well, that line being a bit blurrier. We’re wearing 60s clothes and maybe some cars in the background are modern, and some of them are the cars we could afford from the era, that’s all on purpose. We wanted to blur that line of period, because on the one hand we had to because we had no more resources, and on the other hand, it’s a visual representation of how it’s still blurred because there’s so many issues specifically for women and for people of color where no progress has been made.
You were on board very early on and this was your first time as a producer. Now, producers are kind of the unsung heroes of film production. What was it like taking on that role for the very first time?
Lorenza Izzo: It’s honestly such a special thing that happened between me and Lisette because it became such a partnership. It’s interesting what happens when women work together. I grew up in a culture where you felt that you had to compete with women a little bit, like really old school. There’s something so beautiful that’s happened to me through the personal growth of discovering sisterhood and what happens when you collaborate with another woman. There was just there’s so much respect and admiration between us two.
I’m thankful to her for the opportunity because this is her baby, she wrote and she directed it. She could have easily said no to me, but she was so open and willing, and I do believe that it’s something that really highlights one of the qualities of being a woman. Having the empathy and nurturing aspect that we naturally have. I think because we had that nurturing empathy and the ‘fight for it all’ spirit, we just aligned.
I’m not gonna lie to you, it felt impossible and it was so difficult. Every day felt like you had to climb a freaking mountain, but whenever we wrapped that day, I mean the satisfaction of solving problems is something that’s really great. I really loved it and I definitely see myself as a producer and continuing that line of work. There’s something really magical about being the person that helps it all come together, the person that has everyone’s back. I feel like it’s the mom job, but in a very active way where you have to be on your feet. You have to be willing to adapt and willing to think outside the box. Those are really challenging things that I really loved embracing and getting through.
I couldn’t agree more. There is also an incredible cast featuring Chrissie Fit, Simu Liu and Bryan Craig, what was it like to work alongside them?
Lorenza Izzo: I loved everyone on it. I mean, Chrissie is just incredible, she really gives such an incredible performance. She has such levity, comedy, and lightness all at the same time. I really enjoyed my time with her because I was a big fan of her previous work. Bryan was cast literally days away from shooting, he showed up and we just got into the meatiness of it right away. One of our first scenes was that opening scene, and we were staging that with very little time to rehearse which was really tricky.
We were just crossing our fingers that it would work, and it just wouldn’t have been possible without our cast. It was such an awesome experience when all of these incredible actors show up and bring it all to the table. That was certainly the case with this film and we’re so lucky. Having a Latin-heavy cast is just such a special thing. Alejandra Miranda who plays my mother is an incredible actress, but I truly think she brought something so raw, vulnerable, and real. Cranston Johnson plays Calvin, my business partner, also showed up on the day and blew us away. Of course, Steven Bauer, was also brilliant. I am super proud of what we achieved.
To wrap up, could you tell us in a few words why audiences should watch Women Is Losers when it comes out?
Lorenza Izzo: This is a story of hope, it’s a real important story about the journey of a woman trying to figure out a system that was set up against her. I think it’s an important watch, but it also has comedy and raw drama. It’s a story for everyone, it has a really nice message and I just hope people can take that with them and laugh and cry a little.