“It’s an economic rule that is broken over and over and over again and still it seems as though nobody pays attention to it,” Hanks, 59, passionately told PEOPLE at the N.Y.C. premiere of My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, which he and his wife, Rita Wilson, co-produced. “They write it off as a fluke, as an odd thing … and the fact is, there’s no reason for them not to exist.”
This is precisely why Hanks and Wilson love the franchise Nia Vardalos has created.
“Isn’t that extraordinary? I mean she’s breaking the mold in Hollywood,” Wilson said excitedly. “When you look at all the movies that are out there, where are the women and where are women of all ages?”
They’re in this movie. Vardalos told the Los Angeles Times in January she wrote the sequel because “there is so little out there” for actresses of a certain age. “We have to write for each other.”
“If you look at the Annenberg report from USC, it’s demoralizing,” Wilson, who has a role in the film, said while referencing the study that found diversity lacking in 2014’s films. In fact, in the 100 top-grossing films of 2014, less than one-third of all speaking characters were female.
“So, I think it’s empowering to have women in such major roles and also women who aren’t just teenagers,” she adds, referring to the cast of My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.
As actors and producers, Hanks and Wilson said they work hard to fix this problem.
“Sometimes we actually go specifically, ‘let’s change the roles of this thing so it works that way,’ ” the Bridge of Spies star said of creating more female roles. “But also it’s being open to material that is about something other than the norm.”
Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson
Theo Wargo / Getty
“Women are the holders of all the disposable income and yet nobody is marketing to us or giving us that power in terms of financing movies,” Wilson added. “I think that there’s a whole audience being ignored.”
Of course, the pair won’t just produce a movie simply to put women in the spotlight.
“They’ve got to be good movies, at the same time,” Hanks clarified. “If you leave it up to the bean counter by and large and say, ‘look, just slap some women in a movie, it doesn’t matter if it’s good or not, get it out there,’ then when it doesn’t do well, they’ll say, ‘see?!’
“The rule that says there’s only so much room for women in movies is untrue, but I think everybody forgets that,” he added.
This isn’t the only thing the couple agree on. The couple finished each other’s sentences at the premiere, and Wilson said producing these two films together (they also co-produced the original My Big Fat Greek Wedding) was “so much fun.”
And for them, art does imitate life. “It’s just like this family is together – with the cast on screen. The family is together behind the screen too.”
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 opens in theaters March 25.