‘The 40-Year-Old Version’: What Radha Blank Really Thinks of ‘The 40-Year-Old Virgin’
Netflix viewers are discovering Radha Blank’s debut movie The 40-Year-Old Version. Blank plays Radha, a struggling playwright who reinvents herself as a rap artist as she approaches 40. It’s a very personal story and it’s been connecting with viewers.
Blank spoke at a Sundance Film Festival screening of her film on Feb 1. Showbiz Cheat Sheet was there to ask her about the resemblance of her title to the comedy The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Blank explained why she chose the title, and offered more encouragement from her own inspirational story.
Radha Blank had a body of work before ‘The 40-Year-Old Version’
Blank made a big splash at Sundance with The 40-Year-Old Version. She understood why critics may have felt they just discovered her, but it was important for her that viewers know this is the culmination of her body of work so far.
“I do know that for some reason, especially where women are concerned, age is so important,” Blank said. “Even now people keep asking me how old I am because I think there’s a certain value given to certain people’s experience by a certain age. Variety called me a late bloomer. I’m like f*ck y’all. Y’all late, not me. Just keep telling your stories and don’t wait for permission or anybody else’s ideal as to what is success for you and when to make something. Just make the story.”
A Dora Milaje supported Radha Blank
The rejection Radha faces in The 40-Year-Old Version reflects some real life disappointments. In real life, Blank is friends with Danai Gurira, who helped support her when theater companies would try to kick her down.
“There was a theater that the Crescent is based on and I’ve been in there, been a part of that theater family for quite some time and had gone in with my third play to be rejected by this home theater,” Blank said. “I called her and I was in tears. She was like, ‘Go where the love is.’ So that’s my advice. Find people who love you now, who are not waiting for you to be hot or popular or wanted, and develop something with them now.”
The fictional Radha really is Radha Blank
Blank wrote, directed and starred in The 40-Year-Old Version. Asked about directing herself, Blank said there wasn’t much directing required.
I didn’t direct myself. I’m playing myself so I just wanted to make sure I was as present as possible for my scene partner. As a writer, I’m always writing from the place of character. I’m playing a heightened version of myself so I just try to remember what is the journey of the character. When we were shooting out of sequence, I was shooting every scene like a mini play. I know there has to be some kind of rise and fall. It was always a conversation between me and the other actor in the scene because I can’t direct myself.Radha Blank, Sundance Film Festival Q&A, 2/1/2020
About the title, ‘The 40-Year-Old Version’
Showbiz Cheat Sheet asked Blank if she ever had a backup title, just in case Universal tried to stop her from using The 40-Year-Old Version. Obviously they didn’t and Netflix is streaming the movie under its original title.
“I don’t know, people have been appropriating Black culture for so long, I figure I’d appropriate Judd Apatow’s title,” Blank said. “Why not? But it also has another name, FYOV just in case because one time I was flipping through the guide and I saw 40-Year-Old Virgin and I was like I don’t know, somebody might skip over our film thinking it was that film. If people think that this is a sequel and they want to give us some opportunities, then yes, it’s 40-Year-Old Virgin Part 2.”
Radha Blank is not going back to theater
The 40-Year-Old Version is a scathing attack on the theater community. “Woke” White theater companies want Radha to exploit the old stereotypes. Blank expects her theater career is now behind her.
“I think after this movie, theater’s probably not going to want to f*ck with me again,” Blank said. “That’s okay because I’m a filmmaker now. No, having all that adversity in theater gave me a story to tell and I hope that maybe some of the gatekeepers see themselves and maybe are open to conversation. Not with me because they had their chance.”