Movies AND TRAILER: Amy Schumer on I Feel Pretty

Amy Schumer in I Feel Pretty.
Amy Schumer in I Feel Pretty.

After a meteoric rise to fame, Amy Schumer has faced more than her fair share of criticism. The actress tells Laura Harding why it doesn't bother her, how she feels about modern feminism and her hopes of empowering other women.

Amy Schumer may be funny, but she's not messing around.

Right now, she's deep in thought, trying to recall a quote from American feminist Gloria Steinem.

"I'm going to butcher it," she agonises. "But it's like, 'Any woman that chooses to live a full life will be treated as a cruel joke'."

The actual quote is "Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke" - but you get her point.

This seems fitting for Schumer, 36, who is a comedy juggernaut thanks to her stand-up specials on HBO and Netflix, and her box-office success with films such as Trainwreck, but has been on the receiving end of more than her fair share of misogynistic abuse.

"We were raised under the illusion of equality," Schumer adds, "and until this next generation dies out, women are not treated or spoken to equally.

"We were lied to about it, because you don't want to tell a little girl, 'You are going to make 80 cents on the dollar for the same job'.

"And then I feel selfish even saying that, because of how much worse it is for people of colour, but we all need to be helping each other to achieve that.

"For so long, I feel like a big part of our jobs was to comfort and calm down older white men, so they don't get threatened."

Definitely not messing around.

She is now so successful that people pay attention when she talks, and she's anxious to use her voice to speak her mind and advocate for women.

Predictably, that has provoked ire among some of her detractors, both in the dark corners of the internet and in the media.

"I definitely think we like to build up women and then tear them down," she says.

"We demand such perfection, and that's harmful to people who all have the same common goal. But people can get easily angered, especially by women, and are looking to burn them at the stake.

"I don't take any of that personally, though; people don't know me, and I'm just going to keep working really hard to do the best I can. I'm not going anywhere."

Her new film, I Feel Pretty, focuses specifically on confidence and self-belief.

She plays Renee Bennett, a woman who struggles with low self-esteem, until a major head injury makes her believe she is gorgeous.

Her new-found confidence empowers her to live life fearlessly, even though her appearance, which she felt was holding her back, has not changed at all.

"My whole goal is to empower women," she says. "And the reason for that is selfish - it's because we need everybody right now, we need everybody to be living up to their full potential.

"You can't do that if you're afraid somebody is going to insult you; you're less likely to raise your hand in class, you're less likely to be active through that fear.

"This movie isn't the answer, but I think it's a step in the right direction and, if you're open to it, I think people have had a good time.

"In talking about body image, I've seen the most gorgeous people walk in the room and they look like anime models - and feel just as self-conscious. It's all about the confidence that people walk in the room with.

"You can say. 'I don't believe the world would be different with me - or that I would be treated differently - if I felt better about myself', but I know that it's true.

"There is this resistance, but I fully believe it."

She has learned not to let her detractors bother her, but she recognises something familiar in the criticism currently being leveraged against another female comedian, Michelle Wolf, who has just addressed the White House Correspondents' Dinner and whose comments about Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, have led to much hand-wringing and pearl-clutching from both Republicans and members of the US media.

"She did such an amazing job, she just blew me away, she killed," Schumer enthuses. "And I said to my husband as we were watching it: 'Watch, as soon as she's done, they will go to these panellists and deliberate about how well she did'.

"And it's these people who have never written a joke. So to put any sort of importance on reviews, or whatever is written about something, I just don't trust it anymore.

"I will watch and, did I laugh? Did I think it was great and gutsy and strong? Yeah, so that's it, I don't need a review to tell me how I felt about it."

I Feel Pretty is in UK cinemas now.