__MAIN_TEXT__

Page 1

FEBRUARY 3, 2021 | OSCAR PREVIEW

THE LOCKDOWN KIDS

HOW ZENDAYA , JOHN DAVID WASHINGTON AND DIRECTOR SAM LEVINSON MOUNTED MALCOLM & MARIE IN CHALLENGING TIMES, WEAVED THEIR CASSAVETES-STYLE CHARACTER DRAMA, AND TURNED AN INSTANT PROFIT FOR THEIR CREW

CHADWICK BOSEMAN FRIENDS AND COLLEAGUES CELEBRATE THE LATE STAR

AS MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM AND DA 5 BLOODS BRING HIM INTO THE AWARDS RACE

ELLEN BURSTYN LOOKS BACK OVER AN EXTRAORDINARY CAREER MARIA BAKALOVA PLANS HER FUTURE IN HOLLYWOOD PLUS:

CHLOÉ ZHAO + AARON SORKIN + REGINA KING + GEORGE C. WOLFE + FLORIAN ZELLER + SHAKA KING


“An acting tour de force for Zendaya DE ADL I NE

“Superbly directed.” VARI ETY

F

O

R

Y

O

U

R

BEST Kevin Turen, p.g.a. Ashley Zendaya, p.g.a.

BEST Sam


and John David Washington.” “Utterly gripping.” LON D O N EV EN I N G STA N DA R D

C O N S I D E R AT I O N

PICTURE Levinson, p.g.a. Sam Levinson, p.g.a. John David Washington, p.g.a.

DIRECTOR Levinson

Written and Directed By

Sam Levinson

FILM.NETFLIXAWARDS.COM


D EAD L I NE .CO M

Breaking News

Follow Deadline.com 24/7 for the latest breaking news in entertainment.

Sign up for Alerts & Newsletters

Sign up for breaking news alerts and other Deadline newsletters at: deadline.com/newsletters

G E NERAL MANAGER & C HIEF REVENUE OFFICER

CO- EDITORS- IN-CHIEF

Stacey Farish

Nellie Andreeva (Television) Mike Fleming Jr. (Film)

E DI TOR

AWARDS COLUMNIST/CHIEF FILM CRITIC

C REATIVE DIRECTOR

EDI TOR-AT- L ARGE

DE PUTY EDITOR

EXECU TI VE ED ITOR

VI D EO SE R I ES

SEN IOR EDI TOR, LEGAL/TV CRITIC

The Actor’s Side with Pete Hammond

Joe Utichi Craig Edwards Antonia Blyth

AS SISTANT EDITOR

Matt Grobar

S O CIAL MEDIA DIRECTOR

Scott Shilstone

EDI TORIAL DI R ECTOR

Anthony D’Alessandro

S E NIOR EVENTS MANAGER

EXECU TI VE M ANAGING EDITOR

V I DEO PRODUCERS

DEPU TY M AN AGING EDITOR

Sophie Hertz

David Janove Andrew Merrill Shane Whitaker

E DI TORIAL & MARKETING DESI GN ER

Michael Luong

S E NIOR VICE PRESIDEN T, AS SOCIATE PUB LISHER

Patrick Hipes Tom Tapp

SEN IOR M AN AGING EDITOR

Denise Petski

SEN IOR F I L M EDITOR

Justin Kroll

TEL EVI SION E DITOR

Peter White

Kasey Champion

F I N AN CE EDITOR

S E NIOR VICE PRESIDEN T, G LOBAL B USINESS DEVELOPM EN T A ND STRATEGIC PARTNERSH I PS

BU SI N ESS EDITOR

Céline Rotterman

V I C E PRESIDENT, ENTERTAI N M EN T

Caren Gibbens

DI R ECTORS, ENTERTAIN M EN T

Brianna Corrado London Sanders

DI G ITAL SALES PLANNERS

Jessica Cole Katya Libizova

A D SALES COORDINATOR

Malik Simmons

ACCOUNT MANAGER

Lauren Pollock

Dade Hayes

Jill Goldsmith L ABOR EDI TOR

David Robb

I N TERN ATI ON AL EDITOR

Andreas Wiseman

I N TERN ATI ON AL TELEVISION EDITOR

Jake Kanter

I N TERN ATI ON AL BOX OFFICE EDITOR/ SEN IOR CON TR IBUTOR

Nancy Tartaglione

Natalie Longman

DI STRIB UTION DIRECTOR

Michael Petre

P RODUCTION MANAGER

Andrea Wynnyk

CHIE F ACCO UNTING O FFICE R

Sarlina See

CHIE F D IGITAL O FFICE R

Craig Perreault

EXECUTIVE VICE PRESID E NT, BUSINESS AFFAIRS & CHIE F LEGAL O FFICE R

Todd Greene

CHIE F ADVE RTISING AND PARTNE RSHIPS O FFICE R

Meet some of the biggest and hardest working actors of today, who discuss life, upcoming projects, and their passion for film and television. deadline.com/vcategory/ the-actors-side/

Behind the Lens with Pete Hammond

Explore the art and craft of directors from firsttimers to veterans, and take a unique look into the world of filmmakers, from their own perspectives. deadline.com/vcategory/ behind-the-lens/

EXECUTIVE VICE PRESID E NT, O PE RATIO NS & FINANCE

Tom Finn

M ANAGING D IRECTO R, INTE RNATIO NAL M ARKE TS

Debashish Ghosh

SE NIO R VICE PRESID E NT, PRO D UCT & TECHNO LO GY

Jenny Connelly

SE NIO R VICE PRESID E NT, D E PUTY GE NE RAL CO UNSE L

Judith R. Margolin

SE NIO R VICE PRESID E NT, FINANCE

Ken DelAlcazar

SE NIO R VICE PRESID E NT, HUM AN RESO URCES

Lauren Utecht

SE NIO R VICE PRESID E NT, CREATIVE

Nelson Anderson

VICE PRESID E NT, LICE NSING & BRAND D EVE LO PM E NT

Rachel Terrace

VICE PRESID E NT AND ASSO CIATE GE NE RAL CO UNSE L

Abby Kagle

VICE PRESID E NT AND ASSO CIATE GE NE RAL CO UNSE L

Adrian White

VICE PRESID E NT, HUM AN RESO URCES

Anne Doyle

VICE PRESID E NT, REVE NUE O PE RATIO NS

Brian Levine

HEAD O F PUBLIC AFFAIRS & CO M M UNICATIO NS

Production Value

Go behind the scenes with the talented craftsmen and women behind some of this year’s acclaimed films and television series. deadline.com/vcategory/ production-value/

Brooke Jaffe

VICE PRESID E NT, TECHNICAL O PE RATIO NS

Christina Yeoh

VICE PRESID E NT, SEO

Constance Ejuma

VICE PRESID E NT AND ASSO CIATE GE NE RAL CO UNSE L

Dan Feinberg

VICE PRESID E NT, GLO BAL TAX

Frank McCallick

VICE PRESID E NT, TECHNO LO GY

Gabriel Koen

VICE PRESID E NT, PO RTFO LIO SALES

Erik Pedersen

Alexandra Del Rosario Greg Evans Bruce Haring Dino-Ray Ramos F I L M REPORTER

Amanda N’Duka I N TERN ATI ON AL FILM REPORTER

Thomas Grater

Brandon Choe

NEWS: editors@deadline.com ADVERTISING: sfarish@pmc.com

George Grobar

M AN AGIN G ED ITOR

PH OTO EDI TOR

EMAIL US

CHIE F O PE RATING O FFICE R

VICE PRESID E NT, PM C D IGITAL ACQ UISITIO N

Ted Johnson

Facebook.com/Deadline Instagram.com/Deadline Twitter.com/Deadline YouTube.com/Deadline

Gerry Byrne

Todd McCarthy

WASH IN GTON CORRESPONDENT

FOLLOW DEADLINE

VICE CHAIRM AN

Paul Rainey

F I L M CRITIC & COLUMNIST

ASSOCIATE EDITORS P RODUCTION DIRECTOR

Jay Penske

EXECUTIVE VICE PRESID E NT, O PE RATIO NS & FINANCE

Peter Bart

Dominic Patten

CHAIRM AN & CEO

Mark Howard

Pete Hammond

Michael Cieply

DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD IS OWNED AND PUBLISHED BY PENSKE MEDIA CORPORATION

CONTACT PMC LOS ANGELES 11175 Santa Monica Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90025 +1 323-617-9100 NEW YORK 475 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10017 +1 212-213-1900

Gerard Brancato

P O D CASTS

Crew Call

Deadline’s editorial director Anthony D’Alessandro focuses on below-the-line nominees. deadline.com/tag/crewcall-podcast/

New Hollywood

A platform for people of color, LGBTQ members, women, and other underrepresented voices in entertainment. deadline.com/tag/newhollywood-podcast/

Jacie Brandes

VICE PRESID E NT, ACQ UISITIO NS AND O PE RATIO NS

Jerry Ruiz

VICE PRESID E NT, PRO D UCTIO N O PE RATIO NS

Joni Antonacci

VICE PRESID E NT, BUSINESS D EVE LO PM E NT

Marissa O’Hare

CM O, HEAD O F PM C STUD IO S

Mike Monroe

VICE PRESID E NT, STRATEGIC PLANNING & ACQ UISITIO NS

Mike Ye

VICE PRESID E NT, PRO D UCT D E LIVE RY

Nici Catton

VICE PRESID E NT, CUSTO M E R EXPE RIE NCE AND M ARKE TING O PE RATIO NS

Noemi Lazo

VICE PRESID E NT, FINANCE

Young Ko

ASSO CIATE VICE PRESID E NT, TALE NT & RECRUITING

Andy Limpus

ASSO CIATE VICE PRESID E NT, HUM AN RESO URCES

Brian Garcia

ASSO CIATE VICE PRESID E NT, CO NTE NT

Karl Walter

SE NIO R D IRECTO R, D EVE LO PM E NT

Amit Sannad

SE NIO R D IRECTO R, ADVE RTISING O PE RATIO NS

Eddie Ko

SE NIO R D IRECTO R, INTE RNATIO NAL M ARKE TS

Gurjeet Chima

D IRECTO R, PRO D UCT M ANAGE M E NT

Derek Ramsay

E D ITO RIAL & BRAND D IRECTO R, INTE RNATIO NAL

Laura Ongaro


“ POWERFUL. IT SPEAKS SO ELOQUENTLY TO OUR TIME. George C. Wolfe directed, subtly and astutely, from Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s screen adaptation – a film based on a 38-year-old play that is of the immediate moment.” THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

FO R

YO U R

CO N S I D ER ATI O N

BEST PICTURE OUTSTANDING DIRECTORIAL ACHIEVEMENT IN THEATRICAL FEATURE FILM GEORGE C. WOLFE

SCREENPLAY BY

RUBEN SANTIAGO-HUDSON

DIRECTED BY

GEORGE C. WOLFE

FILM.NETFLIXAWARDS.COM


8-29

FIRST TAKE Ellen Burstyn reflects on the storied career that led to Pieces of a Woman On My Screen: Tom Holland recalls his film and television favorites Chadwick Boseman: colleagues fondly remember a muchmissed talent Art of Craft: Designing a Western set for News of the World

30

ON THE COVER How Sam Levinson, Zendaya and John David Washington cooked up a movie in a lockdown vacuum with Malcolm & Marie

40

FEATURE Maria Bakalova had all but given up on her dreams of Hollywood success... But then Borat came to call

44

DIALOGUE: DIRECTORS ChloĂŠ Zhao Aaron Sorkin Regina King George C. Wolfe Florian Zeller Shaka King ON THE COVER Zendaya, Sam Levinson and John David Washington photographed by Rahim Fortune and Matt Sayles ON THIS PAGE Maria Bakalova photographed by Michael Buckner


FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

BEST PICTURE BEST DIRECTOR AARON SORKIN

“POWERFUL AND TIMELY.

AARON SORKIN HAS MADE A MOVIE THAT’S GRIPPING, ILLUMINATING AND TRENCHANT.” “AARON SORKIN UPS HIS DIRECTING GAME IN

ONE OF THE YEAR’S BEST PICTURES.”

COU RT ESY OF N E TF L IX

“AARON SORKIN EMERGES AS AN ASSURED FILMMAKER WHOSE STYLE CAN BE AS PROPULSIVE AS HIS WORDS.”

T H E W H O L E W O R L D I S W AT C H I N G FILM.NETFLIXAWARDS.COM


WINNER

WINNER

WINNER

TOP 10

2020 TOP FILM

TOP 10 FILM

MOTION PICTURES OF THE YEAR

BLACK FILM CRITICS CIRCLE


BEST PICTURE RYAN COOGLER, p.g.a. CHARLES D. KING, p.g.a. SHAKA KING, p.g.a.

BEST DIRECTOR

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

BEST ACTOR

SHAKA KING

SCREENPLAY BY

LAKEITH STANFIELD

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR DANIEL KALUUYA JESSE PLEMONS

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS DOMINIQUE FISHBACK

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY SEAN BOBBITT, BSC

WILL BERSON & SHAKA KING STORY BY

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

WILL BERSON & SHAKA KING AND KENNY LUCAS & KEITH LUCAS

MAKE-UP DEPARTMENT HEAD/ PROSTHETIC MAKE-UP DESIGNER

BEST FILM EDITING

REBECCA WOODFORK

SIAN RICHARDS HAIR DEPARTMENT HEAD

KRISTAN SPRAGUE

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

CHARLESE ANTOINETTE JONES

“FIGHT FOR YOU”

PRODUCTION SOUND MIXER MARLOWE TAYLOR, CAS SUPERVISING SOUND EDITOR

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

BEST SOUND

WRITTEN BY

RICH BOLOGNA

SAM LISENCO

H.E.R. DERNST EMILE II AND TIARA THOMAS

RE-RECORDING MIXER

SET DECORATOR

PERFORMED BY

SKIP LIEVSAY

REBECCA BROWN

H.E.R.

F O R

Y O U R

PRODUCTION DESIGNER

C O N S I D E R A T I O N

W W W. W B A W A R D S . C O M


p. 16

| The animation race p. 20 | Remembering Chadwick Boseman p. 24

FORCE OF NATURE In Pieces of a Woman, Ellen Burstyn is a mother powering through life’s heartbreaks and disappointments. It’s a role that echoes the actress’ own indomitable spirit as she returns to the Oscar conversation once more. BY ANTONIA BLYTH

8

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

COU RT ESY OF N E TF L IX

Tom Holland’s onscreen favorites


“‘THE WAY BACK’ IS AFFLECK’S SHOW ALL THE WAY –

HE’S COMMANDING AND COMMITTED.” Stephen Schaefer,

“AFFLECK OWNS THE ROLE. HE PLAYS IT WITH THE SUBTLETY OF A CHARACTER ACTOR AND THE COILED FEROCITY OF THE STAR HE HAS ALWAYS BEEN.” Joe Morgenstern,

“BEN AFFLECK TRIUMPHS.” Kenneth Turan,

“AFFLECK DELIVERS JACK’S PAIN AND REMORSE

BEAUTIFULLY.” Ian Freer,

BEST ACTOR

BEN AFFLECK F

O

R

Y

O

U

W W W. W B AWA R DS . COM

R

C

O

N

S

I

D

E

R

A T

I

O

N


TRAGEDY STRIKES Burstyn as Elizabeth in Pieces of a Woman, dealing with the aftermath of her baby grandchild’s death at birth.

An inspiring and indomitable spirit

of screenwriter Kata Wéber and her

with this situation, and you don’t allow it

partner, director Kornél Mundruczó, the

to just send you into the darkness.’”

film stars Burstyn in a supporting role

Acting was, Burstyn says, “always

as Elizabeth, mother to Vanessa Kirby’s

something that I could do.” But,

Martha, who has lost her baby in child-

although she was involved in her high

birth. Elizabeth wants Martha to sue her

school drama club, producing and

midwife for negligence, in a move she

performing in the senior musical, and

sees as a refusal to submit to despair,

was a cheerleader and class president,

but Martha is too mired in grief to know

she was not a good student in other

what she wants. Then, in a single, blister-

respects. “I was skipping classes all the

ing scene, we’re slapped in the face with

time, and I was failing everything. I was

Burstyn’s towering talent. As Elizabeth

much more interested in the extracur-

rages at her daughter for succumbing to

ricular activities than I was in going to

her sadness, she tells the story of herself

geometry,” she says.

as a sickly Holocaust survivor baby that

It was only years later, in the ’80s,

flatly refused to die. Thus, the film asks,

when she was chairing a meeting one

Exorcist, to her shattering portrayal of a

what is it that drives us to carry on?

day as President of the Actors’ Equity,

isn’t confined to Burstyn’s work though;

hallucinating addict in Darren Aronof-

How do we choose to survive?

that Burstyn realized how that high

it seems inherent to who she is. As an

sky’s Requiem for a Dream, through six

up-and-coming actress, before she

Oscar nominations and one win, two

person, and cripple them, or it can steel

future. “All of a sudden I flashed on

made her name on the stage and in

Emmys and a Tony, and a list of projects

them to inner strengths,” Burstyn muses.

the fact that I was President of the

television, before the big film roles came

as long as a phone book, her drive and

“And I think that’s what happened

junior class [back then], and now I’m

in, she never thought of quitting. “Hon-

talent appears unstoppable. And now,

with Elizabeth and what she wants her

President of the Actors Studio, and I’m

estly, I don’t remember ever considering

aged 88, though she hasn’t been in

daughter to do. From her daughter’s

President of the Actors’ Equity. And I

giving in. I just don’t remember saying,

Academy contention for 20 years, she

point of view, it’s, ‘I’ll grieve my way, not

thought, ‘I was getting the education

‘Well, maybe I should just give up,’” she

is very much back in that conversation

your way.’ But from Elizabeth’s point of

I needed. I just didn’t know it.’ I was

says. Through her turn in perhaps the

with Pieces of a Woman.

view, it’s, ‘You’ve got to state your truth,

getting prepared for the life that I was

and there has to be justice. You move on

going to lead.”

premier horror movie of all time, The

10

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

Loosely based on the experiences

“Trauma can stay with someone, a

school experience had reflected her

COU RT ESY OF N E T FL I X

BACK IN 1971, WHEN ELLEN BURSTYN WAS FIRST CATAPULTED TO MOVIE STARDOM WITH THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, SHE RECEIVED A LETTER. “It was from a young man in Texas who told me that he was suicidal,” she says. The man wrote that he’d decided to see one final movie before he killed himself: The Last Picture Show. And that her performance had changed his mind. “He came out of there feeling, ‘Well, if she can make it through life,’ meaning the character I played, ‘if she can make it, I guess I can too.’” He thanked Burstyn for saving his life.


it was going to come out of me. But when it did, it surprised me. “One of the important qualities for a director,” she says, “is to appreciate what he’s being given, and understand what it is. Darren [Aronofsky] has that quality. He knows when what you’re giving is your best, or he can feel that maybe there’s another possibility that you haven’t come up with yet. One time [shooting Requiem for a Dream] we did a difficult scene. I was already crazy [in the context of the story], and we shot it four times, and they were all good. And then Darren said to me, ‘OK, we’ve got it. It’s in the can. Let’s just do another one, and do whatever you want.’ And we did another one, and that’s the one that’s in the movie.” With Pieces of a Woman that Scorsese relationship came full circle. “I never worked with him again. I’ve always hoped that I would,” Burstyn says. “He saw Pieces of a Woman, because the composer of Pieces is the composer that does Marty’s films. And he suggested Marty look at it. And he did. And FAMILY TIES From above: Elizabeth pleads with her grieving daughter Martha (Vanessa Kirby); with Kirby and director Kornél Mundruczó.

he liked it so much that he volunteered to be executive producer, so that it would be seen by the right people and gotten to the right places, which was, of course, ecstatic for Kornél and Kata and

TRAUMA CAN STAY WITH SOMEONE, A PERSON, AND CRIPPLE THEM, OR IT CAN STEEL THEM TO INNER STRENGTHS. I THINK THAT’S WHAT HAPPENED WITH ELIZABETH.” —ELLEN BURSTYN

Nixon was in trouble and everything,

the set, you’re in this creative, energetic,

we were in Washington shooting The

alive space. And some kind of reality

Exorcist,” she says. “So, I think about it.

emerges out of it, some kind of realness

ing the oldest ever Academy nominee

I can feel myself in the makeup chair,

that we strive for all the time, actually,

for acting, she’s focused on how she

reading the Washington Post about

and when we’re doing our best work and

might affect people with her art. And so,

the latest new developments, and

we’ve achieved it, it’s an energy field,

we return to the story of that suicidal,

was Nixon going to be impeached or

and you get in it and sparks start flying

young Texan man.

what. All of the talk was about Wash-

between the actors.”

ington and politics and Nixon and the

past in some other ways too. Burstyn is relieved by Joe Biden’s new Presidency—

Now, on the eve of possibly becom-

One Christmas some years ago, she found herself at a loose end in

Watergate thing. And here we were,

Burstyn and Kirby on Pieces of a Woman,

LA. “I decided to go to a hospital to

performing exorcisms. I wonder if, as we

a situation partly down to the close

visit people who were in there for the

were performing exorcisms, we were

relationship they’d built off camera—

holiday,” she says. “I was in the ward, and

cleansing Washington of some of its

”We love each other. I feel very maternal

this man came up to me. And he said, ‘I

demons at the time.” Recently, reading

toward Vanessa”—and partly down

can’t believe I’m seeing you.’ He told me

Bag Man, Rachel Maddow’s book about

to the freedom and security of Mun-

that he was the man and I had saved his

Vice President Spiro Agnew, she says

druczó’s set.

life. And now he was in the hospital with

she thought, “Maybe we should be Today’s world weirdly mirrors the

Those sparks certainly flew between

the rest of us.”

“I always felt safe with Kornél and

AIDS and dying. So, I saw him at the end

doing some exorcisms in Washington at

assured that I could just allow what

of his life, isn’t that incredible?” It turned

this time too.”

wants to come out to come out, and he

out he had left Texas and come to

would be an appreciator,” Burstyn says.

Hollywood to work in the industry before becoming sick.

When Burstyn won her Best Actress

“It’s like a dark cloud has lifted off the

Oscar for Alice Doesn’t Live Here

“I mean, I don’t always know what’s

whole country; I feel like we’ve all been

Anymore, the directing gig was originally

going to come out. I surprise myself

living through a nightmare”—but our

meant to be hers, but she handed it

sometimes. That scene with Vanessa,

have affected people’s lives,” Burstyn

current political turmoil also keeps

to a then relatively unknown Martin

that surprised me. At that moment

says. “And that pleases me more than

reminding her of the ’70s, the era in

Scorsese, so she could focus on her

when I described my birth, it came out

anything. If I can be helpful in some way

which she shot The Exorcist.

performance. That working relationship

with a force beyond what I had ever

through my art, to help someone deal

paid off. “Marty has an energy, that’s all

experienced when I ran it for myself. I

with their own life, that’s the best thing

I can say,” she says. “When you enter on

didn’t have a specific way that I thought

anybody can say to me.” ★

“During that whole Watergate time, when all of that was unraveling and

“I know that performances I’ve given

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

11


CHARTED TERRITORY At press time, here is how Gold Derby’s experts ranked the Oscar chances in the Director and Animated Feature races. Get up-to-date rankings and make your own predictions at GoldDerby.com

BEST DIRECTOR

Battle Stations How Greyhound’s VFX supervisors brought the titular World War II destroyer to the screen

ON GREYHOUND, visual effects supervisors Nathan McGuinness and Pete Bebb had less than four months to bring a dramatic passage of the Battle of the Atlantic to life. Directed by Aaron Schneider, the World War II drama follows Navy commander Captain Krause (Tom Hanks) as he leads a destroyer across the ocean, protecting merchant ships from the attacks of German U-boats. For McGuinness and Bebb, creating the Greyhound from scratch was just one of many challenges, on the path to immersing viewers in the authentic details of war. After taking the VFX team to an existing destroyer known as the HMS Belfast, to get their minds around the amount of detail at hand, on a ship of this sort, the pair looked to model the Greyhound off of reference footage and photography. “I don’t think there was a piece of footage anywhere that we didn’t have,” McGuinness says. “That was the guide on the amount of rust, the amount of texture, and what type of weathering [ships] would have.” With a foundation forged in research, the supervisors then engaged in a 3D modeling process that felt old school. “It’s quite similar to how we used to do [it], back in the day, prior to getting lidar scans, and the rest of it,” notes Bebb. “You research this stuff. You try to locate blueprints; you try to get displacement charts for the weight, and how they sit in the water. It was actually very exciting, on that side of things.” —Matt Grobar

The Prom cinematographer Matthew Libatique on his free-flowing approach to the screen musical

1

Chloé Zhao Nomadland

17/5

2

David Fincher Mank

9/2

3

Aaron Sorkin The Trial of the Chicago 7

6/1

4

Regina King One Night in Miami

6/1

5

Lee Isaac Chung Minari

7/1

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

ODDS

1

Soul

82/25

2

Wolfwalkers

37/10

3

Over the Moon

9/2

4

Onward

11/2

5

Earwig and the Witch

12/1

number, “Changing Lives”. By building incandescent globes into dazzling marquees, which illuminated the massive set in Downtown LA, he says he and his team were able to bring

Marking Matthew Libatique’s entrée

choreograph specifically,” he says,

“this old school feel of a Broadway

into the world of musicals, The Prom

of the Ryan Murphy comedy. “So,

street” to life. “[We] found a way to

required the cinematographer to

each lighting scenario was designed

circuit it, in a way that I had complete

engage in constant improvisation, with

to give maximum flexibility, to react

control,” he adds. “So, that was a bit of

regard to both camera movement

to how the blocking turned out.” For

a win and an effort. It was a melding of

and lighting. “I didn’t have the

Libatique, one notable coup in lighting

old technology and new.”

benefit of rehearsals where we could

pertained to Broadway-set opening

—Matt Grobar

12

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

SING IT Meryl Streep and James Corden let loose in Ryan Murphy musical The Prom.

COU RT ESY OF A P P LE T V + /N E T FL I X

BREAKING A LEG

ODDS


“A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE ACHIEVEMENT. Director John Lee Hancock has crafted an extraordinary thriller that is as unexpected as it is accomplished.” Pete Hammond

F O R YO U R C O N S I D E R AT I O N I N A L L C AT E G O R I E S I N C L U D I N G

BEST PICTURE MARK JOHNSON, p.g.a. JOHN LEE HANCOCK

BEST DIRECTOR JOHN LEE HANCOCK

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY JOHN LEE HANCOCK

BEST ACTOR DENZEL WASHINGTON

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR W W W. W B AWA R DS . COM

RAMI MALEK | JARED LETO


WINNER

OFFICIAL SELECTION

TORONTO INT’L FILM FESTIVAL AMPLIFY VOICES AWARD 2020

VENICE INT’L FILM FESTIVAL 2020

OFFICIAL SELECTION

OFFICIAL SELECTION

NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL 2020

SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2021

B E S T I N T E R N AT I O N A L F I L M NOMINEE

FILM INDEPENDENT SPIRIT AWARDS

O N E O F T H E TO P F O R E I G N LANGUAGE FILMS OF THE YEAR N AT I O N A L B O A R D O F R E V I E W

A FILM BY PHILIPPE LACÔTE


On My Screen: Tom Holland

The Cherry and Spider-Man star on his film memories, first lessons, and the co-star he’s annoyed the most BY JOE UTICHI

since Tom Holland made his West End theatre debut as Billy Elliot in the musical adaptation of Stephen Daldry’s modern classic film; a half lifetime for the 24-year-old actor who has spent the time since forging a career as a major star. Of course, his trajectory was helped along by his casting in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War, but it was his spirit and energy that breathed new life into a superhero who had already weathered two big-screen adaptations. He reunites with directors Anthony and Joe Russo this year for Cherry, which, in Holland’s own words, represents the greatest challenge of his career to date. What better opportunity to dive into his film and television favorites?

THE PART I ALWAYS WANTED Nobody ever believes me when I say this, but it really is Spider-Man. As a young kid, I watched Tobey Maguire’s movies, and then Andrew Garfield’s movies, and then the cartoons and the comics. People are drawn to characters they feel they have something in common with, and Peter Parker was that kid who didn’t quite fit in, so I saw myself in him. For me, my dreams have come true. I always wanted to play Spider-Man, and now I’m shooting my third movie. If I wanted to be really selfish, I would add James Bond to that list, but I think I’ve been lucky enough as it is, so I won’t be too offended if they never call.

MY FIRST ACTING LESSON I was in Billy Elliot on stage in London. I was maybe 12 or 13 years old, and at the Victoria Palace Theatre there were three tiers— stalls, dress circle and the Gods. Sometimes at the beginning of the year, after Christmas or on a Monday, the Gods wouldn’t be open because they couldn’t fill the theatre. It used to really affect the show. You wouldn’t get the same reaction from the audience. I remember when it first happened to me, I did a kind of half-assed show. I didn’t try very hard, and I remember the director, Nick Evans, who I didn’t know was watching, came over and told me off. It was a vital lesson to me. I was thinking, Bollocks to this, I’m not going to get massive applause. But what I learnt was that doing something for someone’s reaction isn’t enough; you have to do it for yourself and be the best every time. I thank Nick for that lesson. THE BEST ADVICE I EVER RECEIVED It also came from Nick Evans, and I’ve taken it with me my entire career and passed it on. I’ve even had people say to me, “I used that piece of advice and it changed the way I look at things.” Basically, it’s this: if you think about the physical feeling of being nervous, it’s the same feeling as being excited. Think of how you feel when you’re queuing up for a rollercoaster, where you don’t know if you’re excited or shitting your pants. So, convince yourself to turn your nerves into excitement. Doing that just makes you enjoy everything a lot more. I use it all the time, particularly with things like chat shows, which are quite scary things to do. Those butterflies in your stomach are the same either way, so it’s just about whether, mentally, you let them take control. > Continued on p. 18.

16

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

A P P LE T V + /E V E RE T T CO LL ECT IO N /M EGA AG E N CY/ WORK I N G TI T LE

IT HAS BEEN MORE THAN 12 YEARS


FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION IN ALL CATEGORIES INCLUDING

BEST DIRECTOR

LEE DANIELS

FEBRUARY 26


MY BIGGEST CHALLENGE Cherry is easily the hardest role I’ve ever had to take on, for loads of reasons. The amount of life that we cover throughout the film for a start—this is 18 years of someone’s life. Trying to convey that in two-and-a-half hours is quite a daunting task, and then you throw in love, despair, PTSD, substance abuse, bank robbery and prison. It’s the golden ticket for an actor, because it’s a role that keeps on giving, and there was never a dull moment on set. There was no limit to how far we could push ourselves. Although sometimes I might have pushed too far. The scene in the car where I’m going crazy; I’m pretty sure I gave myself a concussion in that scene because I was just banging my head so hard on the seat. We had the wrap party that night and I was not at all with it. Everyone’s dancing around and I’m like, “Guys, I’ve only had three beers, but I think I have to go lay down…” THE FILMS THAT MAKE ME CRY I’m so lucky in my life to have my dad. My dad is such an important part of the way I behave, and the decisions I make. And there’s a Richard Curtis film called About Time that’s all about father-son relationships. There’s a scene where he goes back in time to see his dad for the last time, and they walk on the beach. And my dad and I never walk on the beach together, but that scene just kills me because I love my dad so much and I’m proud of him, and I look up to him. Of course, he annoys me all the time and sometimes I can’t be around him, but that’s because he’s my dad, you know? I love that about him. So, without fail, About Time makes me cry every damn time. THE MOST FUN I’VE HAD ON SET That’s a hard one. I’m so lucky that I love what I do, and I love the people I get to do it with. But whenever I’m with Zendaya and Jacob Batalon on Spider-Man, we always have so much fun. Poor Jon Watts, because trying to direct the three of us together is like pulling teeth. If Jacob’s not joking around, Zendaya is. If she’s not making a joke, I am. We’re shooting the third film now, and being back together with the gang is just amazing.

MY MOST TORTURED CO-STAR I annoy a lot of people, to be fair. I’m quite annoying. But I remember once being told off by Benjamin Walker. We were doing a film together called In the Heart of the Sea. We’re all in these boats together, and we were all starving hungry, and… I don’t know why I was doing this, but I was a child. I was about 16 at the time. I kept throwing pieces of fruit at him. I was throwing limes and stuff. At one point I hit him square in the face, and he gave me, let’s say, a stern talking to. We’re really great mates, and we had a lovely time together, but I would say I might have crossed a line by chucking a lime at his face. OK, definitely crossed a line. It wasn’t even a very ripe lime, either. It was hard as shit. Bless him. MY GUILTY PLEASURE Well, Modern Family is the go-to, for me. If I’ve got nothing to do and I want to sit down and just have a good old giggle, I’ll watch that. It’s just such a good show. So wellwritten and clever and nuanced. Plus, Phil Dunphy might be the best TV character of all time. If they published that book, Phil’s-osophy, I would absolutely buy it and live by every teaching that was in the book.

18

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

THE LINE PEOPLE QUOTE AT ME “I don’t want to go,” is the one I get all the time, from that scene in Avengers: Infinity War. It’s amazing when people think it’s some mindblowing piece of improv, because I just say the same line five times in a row. People make out like it’s this beautifully eloquent sentence. But I look back on that scene so fondly. We had so much fun on those sets, but when we got into the emotion of that moment, we really dived into it. People tell me they imagine that scene must have been horrendous to shoot, but I look back on it with nothing but happiness. It was amazing. I loved it. I got to hug Robert Downey Jr., like, 60 times, and cry on his shoulder. What’s not to love? THE ACTOR WHO’D PLAY ME IN MY LIFE STORY Probably someone like Brad Pitt, maybe. I reckon he’d be a good one. We’ve got the same body type. He’s a little bit taller than me, but that’s all right [laughs]. I’m not even joking, by the way. Brad Pitt is sort of the apex of what being a movie star is. If you look at his career and the work he’s done… I mean he’s number one for me.


FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION IN ALL CATEGORIES INCLUDING

BEST PICTURE BEST ACTOR

BEST ACTRESS

Andy Samberg

Cristin Milioti

F I L M I N D E P E N D E N T S P I R I T AWA R D S N O M I N E E

BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY Andy Siara

ONE OF THE BEST FILMS OF THE YEAR “A gloriously meta commentary on our ongoing lockdown existence.

HITS JUST THE RIGHT SWEET NOTES in its meditation on how to find meaning when everyday life starts feeling (literally) the same.”

Andy

Cristin

J.K.

SAMBERG

MILIOTI

SIMMONS


TROLLS WORLD TOUR

Drawing Battle Lines

OVER THE MOON

hails from director Don Scanlon

night. Reflecting Moore and Stewart’s

(Monsters University). Premiering in

love of carefully crafted 2D animation,

Berlin and debuting theatrically in

the film hails from Irish animation studio

March prior to Covid shutdowns, the

Cartoon Saloon, which has been nomi-

adventure pic draws on Scanlon’s

nated for four Oscars since 1999, and

CAN AN INTERNATIONAL STUDIO OR AN AMBITIOUS STREAMER

experience of loss, as a child, following

may be on the cusp of a breakthrough.

TOPPLE THE HOUSE OF MOUSE IN THE BEST ANIMATED

elven brothers Ian (Tom Holland) and

FEATURE RACE? BY MATT GROBAR

SINCE THE INCEPTION OF THE OSCARS’ BEST ANIMATED FEATURE CATEGORY IN 2001, the race has been utterly dominated by powerhouse American studios—the most notable examples being Walt Disney Studios and its Emeryville subsidiary, Pixar. Having claimed eight Oscars over the last decade, and 13 overall, these studios have become almost insurmountable over time.

Notching its first pair of Oscar

Barley Lightfoot (Chris Pratt), as they

nominations in 2019, Netflix returns to

quest after a magical artifact that will

competition this year in search of its

bring their father back to life for one

first win, its strongest contender being

day. Bolstered by a score from Jeff and

original musical, Over the Moon. Marking

Mychael Danna, the film’s voice cast

the long-awaited feature debut of

also features Octavia Spencer and Julia

pioneering animator Glen Keane—who

Louis-Dreyfus.

illustrated many of the most iconic

While this pair of titles makes Disney

characters in the history of Walt Disney

a lock for at least one Oscars slot, a

Animation Studios—the film centers

number of smaller titles and studios

on Fei Fei, a Chinese teenager, who

newer to the race are giving them a

grew up being told the legend of Moon

run for their money. Directed by Tomm

goddess Chang’e. Struggling to cope,

Moore and Ross Stewart, Wolfwalkers

following the loss of her mother, the

places Apple TV+ in the competition for

young woman builds a rocket and heads

the first time. Recognized as Best Ani-

out into space, in order to prove that

mated Film by the Los Angeles and New

the immortal being is real. Produced

This year, they once again pose

character finds that his only way back

York Film Critics Associations, the third

by Pearl Studio, and scripted by the

fierce competition with two titles, the

from the celestial realm known as The

and final installment in Moore’s ‘Irish

late Audrey Wells, the film stars Cathy

clear frontrunner being Pete Docter

Great Before is to mentor a stubborn,

Folklore Trilogy’ features the voices of

Ang, Phillipa Soo, Ken Jeong, John Cho,

and Kemp Powers’ Soul. Meditating on

fledgling soul known as 22 (Tina Fey).

Honor Kneafsey, Eva Whittaker, Simon

Ruthie Ann Miles, Margaret Cho, and

the origins of the human personality,

Gorgeously animated, and bolstered by

McBurney and Sean Bean. Set in 1650s

Sandra Oh. It’s original songs were

Docter’s follow-up to Oscar winners Up

original jazz tunes from Jon Batiste, Soul

Ireland, it tells the story of an apprentice

written by Christopher Curtis, Marjorie

and Inside Out centers on Joe (Jamie

is a history-making title, as the first Pixar

hunter who journeys with her father

Duffield and Helen Park.

Foxx), a frustrated middle-school band

film to center on a Black character, its

from England to take out a pack of

teacher, who seeks to return to Earth,

first to call upon the talents of a Black

wolves. Raised in a Puritanical society,

Gitanjali Rao, Bombay Rose is a painterly

after a sudden accident separates

co-director, and the first to debut on

Robyn experiences true freedom for the

romantic drama that was brought to

him from his body. Striving to return

the Disney+ streaming service, amidst

first time only when she befriends a girl

fruition over the course of six years.

to New York City to realize his dreams

the coronavirus pandemic.

from a mysterious tribe, which is said

Centered on a young Hindu woman

to transform into a pack of wolves by

whose difficult existence, as a flower

of performing as a jazz musician, the

20

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

Pixar’s other contender, Onward

The debut feature of award-winner

COU RT ESY OF P I XA R/ D R EA M WOR KS AN I M AT I ON / NE T FL I X

SOUL


SCOOB!

LUPIN III: THE FIRST

seller and nightclub dancer, is changed

home before she’s discovered by forces

they move into the residence of a

when she strikes up a romance with a

that would cause her harm. Paying

clan that claims to be more evolved,

young man, the film powerfully brings to

homage to a range of sci-fi classics—

contemplating the meaning of home, as

Yuasa’s Ride Your Wave, the story of

life both the chaos and beauty of life in

everything from 2001: A Space Odyssey

well as their future as a pack. Marking

the romance that develops between

Bombay, premiering in 2019, as part of

to The Jetsons—this high-concept

the debut feature of Joel Crawford,

a surfer and a firefighter. And then

the Venice Film Festival’s International

sequel to 2015’s Oscar nominated

the comedy sees Nicolas Cage, Emma

there’s Kenji Iwaisawa’s debut feature,

Critics’ Week.

Shaun the Sheep Movie was nominated

Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener,

On-Gaku: Our Sound, a dry comedy

for Best Animated Featured at the

Clark Duke, and Cloris Leachman, who

based on comics by Hiroyuki Ohashi,

BAFTA Awards, among other accolades.

has sadly since passed, reprising their

which follows a group of delinquent

voice roles, with Peter Dinklage, Leslie

schoolkids that set out to form a band.

The streamer’s third entry, The Willoughbys, adapts a book of the same name by Lois Lowry. Kris Pearn’s

Up next in contention are two

Third up for GKIDS is Masaaki

follow-up to Cloudy With a Chance of

sequels produced by 12-time nominee

Meatballs 2 centers on the Willoughby

DreamWorks Animation and distrib-

children, who grew up with parents

uted by Universal Pictures. Following

international titles from New York-

rounds out a stellar slate of studio

who could not be more disinterested in

up 2016’s Trolls, which garnered a

based distributor GKIDS—which last

pictures. At the same time, there are

them. Exploring the sometimes-wide

nomination for Best Original Song, Walt

contended with 2018’s Mirai—including

a number of other notable contend-

gap between the families we’re born

Dohrn’s jukebox musical Trolls World

Gorô Miyazaki’s Earwig and the Witch.

ers, including Rémi Chayé’s Calamity,

into and those we choose, it watches as

Tour will look to break into Animated

Produced by Studio Ghibli—which

a Childhood of Martha Jane Cannary

the kids send their selfish guardians on

Feature, while contending once again

is vying for its seventh nomina-

(Agora Films) and Mariusz Wilczyn-

vacation, and, forging new connections,

in the former category. Starring Justin

tion—Miyazaki’s film tells the story of a

ski’s award winner, Kill It and Leave

set off on a globetrotting adventure.

Timberlake and Anna Kendrick, the

10-year-old orphan girl in England, who

This Town (Outsider Pictures).

Featuring the original song “I Choose”,

infectious celebration of diversity and

is adopted by a witch, coming to learn

performed by pop star Alessia Cara, the

inclusivity follows trolls Poppy and

about a world of magic, with which

by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Oscar

film’s cast includes Ricky Gervais, Will

Branch as they learn of six tribes within

her mother was involved. Based on a

Shortlists will be announced on

Forte, Maya Rudolph, Cara and more.

their world, each representing a specific

novel by Diana Wynne Jones, the official

February 9, with the Academy Award

musical genre. When the fuzzy friends

Cannes selection was Ghibli’s first to be

nominations following on March 15.

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmaged-

discover a plot by the Queen of the

fully realized in 3D CG.

With a slew of strong independent

don hails from Aardman Animations,

Hard Rock trolls to take over all of the

Also embracing this medium,

a British stop-motion studio that has

kingdoms and eliminate other kinds of

Takashi Yamazaki’s Lupin III: The First

looking to fortify their positions in

crafted a legion of beloved characters,

music, they set off on a journey to stop

brings a classic manga character into a

the world of animation, it’s difficult

over the course of decades. The first

her from pulling it off.

3D computer generated world for the

to decisively forecast a winner in

first time. Based on a character created

the feature category. To see if the

The final title distributed by Netflix,

feature from Will Becher and Richard

Following up 2013’s The Croods,

Mann, and Kelly Marie Tran.

mysterious artifact.

Then, there are a range of acclaimed

A Scooby Doo origin story directed by Tony Cervone, Warner Bros.’ Scoob!

After an awards season protracted

films contending, and newer studios

Phelan picks up with Shaun the Sheep—

which secured a nomination for Best

by the late artist Monkey Punch, the

behemoth that is Disney prevails

a character first introduced in 1995—as

Animated Feature, The Croods: A New

first Lupin film to be made in over 20

once again, we’ll have to wait until the

he and his farmyard pals encounter an

Age picks up with a family of prehistoric

years follows the charismatic thief, as

virtual Oscars ceremony, scheduled

alien named Lu-La, looking to get her

cavemen known as the Croods, as

he battles with Nazis over control of a

for Sunday, April 25. ★

22

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

COU RT ESY OF A P P LE T V + /WA RN E R B ROS ./G K IDS

WOLFWALKERS


Remembering Chadwick MORE THAN FIVE MONTHS ON FROM CHADWICK BOSEMAN’S PASSING, AS HIS FINAL PERFORMANCES CONTINUE TO GENERATE OSCAR TALK, FRIENDS AND COLLEAGUES REFLECT ON THE LOSS OF A TRUE ARTIST BY MI K E F LE M I N G J R.

C H A DW I C K B O S E M A N ’ S D E AT H I N AUGU S T, at the age of 43, shocked his friends and colleagues who made recent films with him as much as it did fans around the world, who mourned the passing of the actor who in a relatively short time played Black Panther, James Brown, Jackie Robinson and Thurgood Marshall.

Chad did not want any director to think,

affect his experience off-set, either.

‘I can’t push him as hard, because he’s

When Lindo’s son, 17 at the time, visited

sick.’ He did not want to be treated

the set, he joined them for dinner.

differently. He wanted me to tell him to

“He was very, very gracious and open

run as fast as the rest of them.”

towards my son,” says Lindo. “He was

Says co-star Norm Lewis: “The truth is, we were trying to keep up with him.”

with his energy, and with himself. I will

Lee sought Boseman because of the His colleagues still shake their

just very, very generous—with his time, always remember and value that, in

is gone. But his work will live on, forever.”

aura he knew he would bring with him.

terms of who Chadwick Boseman was

heads in disbelief at the craft of his

As well as Ma Rainey, Boseman’s

“He was already mythical,” the director

as a person.”

performances in two Oscar season

ethereal supporting turn in Spike Lee’s

explains, “So, when people see him in

Lindo adds: “He spoke openly about

movies, delivered while he was in the

Da 5 Bloods suggests a second nomina-

Da 5 Bloods, they’ve already seen him

the whole aspect of mega stardom. He

final throes of his fight against cancer. “I

tion is possible also. And Lee marvels

as Jackie Robinson, as James Brown,

didn’t refer to it as mega stardom—I’m

celebrate the man,” says Denzel Wash-

in retrospect at Boseman’s resilience in

as Thurgood Marshall, and as Black

saying that—and I just got the impres-

ington, who produced Ma Rainey’s Black

the face of the oppressive heat of the

Panther. The audience didn’t have to

sion that what mattered to him was

Bottom, George C. Wolfe’s adaptation

shoot in Vietnam and Thailand, and his

do a lot of work to believe who Stormin’

the work. And that also endeared me

of the August Wilson play that has put

willingness to shoot demanding scenes

Norman is.”

to him. He was probably one of the

Boseman in prime contention for a rare

that required much physicality.

posthumous Oscar, like those trophies

An especially challenging scene to

Delroy Lindo, who shares a most

biggest movie stars on the planet after

pivotal scene late in the film with Bose-

the success of Black Panther, but he

awarded to Peter Finch for Network and

shoot involved the Bloods’ helicopter

man, felt similarly. “Chadwick came on

was also an actor who was very, very

Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight.

being shot down, and the group running

set probably five or six weeks after we

serious about the work of acting. I really

through the jungle trying to take out the

had all been in Thailand working,” he

admired and really respected that

is visited on the living,” Washington

enemy before they are gunned down.

remembers. “And the very first scene

about him.”

continues. “So, my prayers are for his

“I understood why Chad would not

that Chadwick and I did together—his

wife, and his family. Chad is at peace.

tell me,” says Lee of his star’s decision

very first day of work—was the scene at

Lindo’s character’s son in the movie,

And Chad has left seven examples of

not to disclose his diagnosis. “Because

the end of the film, when Norm comes

working with Boseman was an

his great talent and commitment to the

of this particular scene: it was hot as

to visit Paul. And he was just ready. I

education that proved valuable as his

work. He has left that with us. Chad had

hell, the guys had equipment and had

was ready, he was ready.”

own star rises. After a standout turn in

a concentrated dose of life and now he

to run. There was more than one take.

“The tragedy and the pain of death

24

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

Boseman didn’t let his condition

For Jonathan Majors, who played

Lovecraft Country, Majors is soon to join

PHOTOGRAPH BY

Michael Buckner


For many audiences, Boseman’s long association with Black Panther in the MCU makes it the role most indelibly linked with the late actor. Joe and Anthony Russo made four films in seven years with Boseman and watched him develop the character from his first appearance in Captain America: Civil War through his last in Avengers: Endgame. When Boseman’s family announced his passing, the Russos say they were as stunned as anyone else. “There

RARE TALENT Boseman in character on the set of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

were moments, once or twice, when I remember noticing he was surprisingly thin,” says Anthony. “You thought maybe something was going on, but it wasn’t anything beyond that. And

the Marvel Cinematic Universe himself

“It was the experience of working

insistence he learn the fingering of

even though he was a warm, generous

as Kang the Conqueror in Ant-Man and

with a true artist, which you only find

the horn for the music scenes. And

and very present person, and likeable

the Wasp: Quantumania. Observing

a few times in your career,” Davis says.

his strength manifested literally when

to work with, his personal life did seem

Boseman taught him to never wear star

“That’s what it felt like to work with

he was charged with breaking down

quiet and guarded. He had something

stature on your sleeve.

Chadwick. I always say that he was

a door in a moment of frustration for

so complicated going on that it created

a character actor in a leading man’s

his character. “He kicked it in so hard

a bit of a shroud over his personal life.

mind,” says Majors. “There are the inner

body. He wasn’t interested in the last

the first time, the whole door almost

At the time, I looked it as, some people

workings of how films are made. It is

film making a billion dollars; he was

literally fell apart,” says Wolfe. “I talked

are private people, and that’s perfectly

on the call sheet. As a young actor, that

interested in what he had in front of

about him doing it less ferociously.

fine. I thought that was just how he was

is the hierarchy of the game. You’re

him right then and there, and making it

We repaired the door, and he kicked

built, but in retrospect I think there was

one, two, three, four, five, down to nine.

as honest and as truthful as possible.

it just as ferociously the second time.

more behind it than that.”

Everybody has their place. Chadwick…

He was not a vanity guy at all. And the

He would do that aria where he curses

Adds Joe: “Chadwick was an

he was Black Panther. He was the man.

reason I mention that, too, is that he

God and attacks Cutler with the knife,

extremely intelligent person and he

James Brown. Jackie Robinson. I never

could easily have been that vanity guy.

and he would go out to the steps just

certainly appreciated the meaning of

heard of anyone doing this before, but

But he wasn’t. He was the real deal; one

outside the set and collapse. I would

what [Black Panther] was on every

[on our movie], he took himself down

of those people that comes along once

walk toward him and say, ‘Are you

level. He approached it with a lot of

on the call sheet. He was high up…”

in a lifetime.”

ready to do it again?’ I would give him a

respect, he knew the responsibility that

note, and in 15 or 20 minutes, he came

came along with it, but he was never

Boseman handled the intensity of key

back, ready. He would give the same

intimidated by the enormity of it. He

scenes, concealing his own pain. “I

performance, just as emotionally raw,

always stayed so focused on the craft

adds Majors. “For me, as a young actor,

think of every step of the journey on

with the adjustment.”

and that led him through everything; a

watching him and working with him,

this film I spent with this incredibly

to see him do that… for him, it was the

intense, smart, dynamic and sweet

experienced a second poignant final

complicated if you let it. He poured

story, first and foremost. Chad, in all his

guy,” Wolfe says. “We went through

collaboration with someone he didn’t

everything into his discovery and craft-

glory, stardom and power, was humble

this two-week rehearsal period and

know was dying. He had directed

ing of the character.”

and aware and noble enough to say,

the breakthroughs—like one of Levee’s

Nora Ephron’s play Lucky Guy, which

this is how it should go. That was a huge

big arias about what happened to his

premiered on Broadway not long after

due to Boseman’s reverence for the

lesson for me.”

parents—and the emotions took him,

Ephron had died. “She was very sick

character, and for what Ryan Coogler’s

and he just went there.”

at the time and she had come to my

history-making solo film Black Panther

house three times a week,” says Wolfe.

had established in the minds of audi-

“He was number one,” Lindo points out. “And he took himself down to five,”

As Levee in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Boseman saved perhaps

Wolfe still marvels at the way

Wolfe says Boseman was making

In hindsight, Wolfe realized he has

process that could have become overly

The Russo brothers suspect it was

the best performance of his career

plans, even then. “I had no sense there

“I would give her notes and she would

ences, that he kept his diagnosis pri-

for last. Levee is a horn player whose

was anything wrong,” he recalls. “He

go away, and I found out that when she

vate. “I think he wanted the significance

ambition is tempered by the bitter

sent me a script he wanted me to direct,

wasn’t there, she was on chemo. By the

and historical event that was Black

memories of racism. The character

and I sent him a script I’d written that I

time I found out she was very ill, it was

Panther—the Black-cast-led superhero

is at times seductive, charming, and

wanted him to be in. We talked about

too late for me to say anything to her.”

film that was a global sensation—to

burning with shame and rage. And

doing a play. Everything was about mov-

while it was clear to them that he

ing forward. The shock was the shock,

fascinated by this impulse that is inside

tremendous respect for him for that

was losing weight, his co-star Viola

but the full journey of working on that

these ferocious human beings who

reason and that being his motivation.

Davis and the film’s director George

film was working with somebody who

are driven to do their jobs,” says Wolfe,

Certainly, we can only guess at that, but

C. Wolfe say that he showed no other

was so vibrant and strong.”

punctuating these three final words:

knowing him the way we did, I think we

Do. Their. Jobs. “And to do it with every

can say unequivocally that is the reason

single thing that they have.”

he did not express his illness.” ★

signs of suffering from his diagnosis. Boseman brought it, every day.

26

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

Boseman’s attention to detail bordered on obsessive, including an

It has caused him to reflect. “I’m just

be the story,” says Anthony. “We have

COU RT ESY OF N E T FL I X

“Noble is the word that comes to


VIDEO SERIES

P R ES E N T E D BY

Go behind the scenes with the talented people who work on the most critically acclaimed television shows and films

WATC H N OW AT

DEADLINE.COM/VIDEO


The Art of Craft News of the World’s production designer maps out the 300-mile journey at the film’s center BY MATT GROBAR IL LUSTRATI ON BY DAVID C RANK

“I think often what can happen with Westerns is, they just get kind of fancy—and sometimes, it works for the story. But when you look at pictures from the time period… things were rough. No one was worrying about having the perfect-colored front door.”

-DAVID CRANK

28

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E


While the story spanned over 300 miles, the film was shot within a 30mile radius of Santa Fe. On Bonanza Creek Ranch, Crank reconstructed parts of Wichita Falls, Red River Station and Dallas. To preserve the illusion of separate cities, this set was turned over every four to six days, repainted and shot at different angles.

For Wichita Falls, one key set was what Crank calls an “impersonal” wool barn, where lonely traveler Captain Kidd (Tom Hanks) gives his first reading in the film.

For the cattle crossing Red River Station, meanwhile, Crank built out a section of the largest military outpost in Northern Texas.

One of the larger cities Crank tackled, Dallas was augmented with visual effects. Key set pieces were a hotel, dining room and Masonic Hall.

The film’s only fictional town, Durand, was a chaotic fiefdom brought to life on Eaves Ranch, its notable features including a deserted military camp and a “dangerous and uncontrollable” town square.

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

29


AT A TIME IN WHICH FILM AND TELEVISION PRODUCTION WAS ON LOCKDOWN DUE TO THE EMERGING CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC, Malcolm & Marie WAS THE RARE PROJECT HEADING INTO PRODUCTION. THE $2.5 MILLION INDIE ABOUT A LATE-NIGHT DEBATE BETWEEN A YOUNG COUPLE GOT MADE BECAUSE WRITER/ DIRECTOR SAM LEVINSON ANSWERED ZENDAYA’S CALL TO WRITE A CONTAINED DRAMA THAT MIGHT KEEP THEM AND THEIR EUPHORIA CREW EMPLOYED AFTER THE HBO DRAMA WAS SHUTTERED DAYS BEFORE SHOOTING A NEW SEASON. THEY ENLISTED JOHN DAVID WASHINGTON TO CO-STAR AND GOT HIM AND OTHERS TO INVEST IN A PROJECT THAT HAS GONE ON TO GENERATE MUCH AWARDS BUZZ FOR ALL THREE. MIKE FLEMING JR. MEETS THE SMALL TEAM THAT CAME TOGETHER TO OVERCOME THE ODDS.

30 D E A D L I N E . C O M / A W A R D S L I N E


D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

31


HOUSEBOUND Zendaya, John David Washington and writer/director Sam Levinson prep for a night shoot on Malcolm & Marie.

32

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E


I

t was macaroni and cheese that convinced Sam Levinson Malcolm & Marie was on the right track. With his actors and a small crew, Levinson was ensconced in a stylish glass house in Carmel, California— a movie-ready location, but also one of the only places in the state that allowed for the requisite lodging to form a Covid-safe bubble—watching his screenplay, about an insecure writer/director too wrapped up in the afterglow of a rhapsodic premiere to realize how much he has hurt his partner, come to life. As the night drags on, Malcolm waits patiently for the effusive reviews to roll in. But for Marie, the fact that he forgot to thank her in his speech, despite the inspiration her own path out of drug addiction provided to the story, clearly stings. A long clash between them ensues, and never was there a more contentious preparation of a late-night snack. “I was shooting the mac and cheese scene, and there was this

watch, fast-rising actors raise their game with Levinson’s crackling dialogue

Oh, this is lightning in a bottle with these two. And then I got out of

elevates the drama above its pigeonholing as a movie about Hollywood.

the way and made sure I bottled up as much of that lightning as possible for the screen.” Indeed, it’s one thing to overcome the massive hurdles faced

That it worked out so well and came together in such a short period of time is just as remarkable. “This started as, how can we get back to work,” Levinson says. “I talked

when mounting a project during a global pandemic. But Oscar

to HBO and said, ‘Maybe we can do a Covid episode [of Euphoria],’ and they

season is about quality storytelling that is brought to life by actors

said, ‘Sam, just go home, and be safe.’ That made perfect sense, but I had

at the top of their game. And it is just these two actors filling the

been talking to Z a lot when we were gearing up to do this pretty intense

screen for the entire movie, each revealing themselves in emotion-

season of Euphoria, and it grew from there.”

ally charged monologue scenes, tearing down the relationship they

Zendaya is the central figure in Euphoria, which tells of teens navigating

hope they might be able to salvage, baring their souls and insecuri-

sex and drugs and dysfunctional upbringings. When a six-week shutdown

ties in the process. in John Cassavetes-style scenes, down to the

became open ended, Zendaya implored Levinson to write a contained

black-and-white footage.

film she might fit in before starting her next Spider-Man film.

“This is a rare experience,” adds Levinson, “to have two people

“Over the course of those conversations, it got around to,

able to hold their own in such different and unique ways, and who

‘Hey Sam, what if we were to shoot something in my house?

are both so good with dialogue and so captivating and so fucking

Make it just us. We could write something,’” Zendaya

charismatic. It’s like a jolt of excitement.”

remembers. “We had no expectation of what that would

Malcolm & Marie became one of a handful of films able to find a

be, or what it would look like. Then it was like, would this

way around the daunting obstacles presented by the pandemic. It

even be possible? Some very strange ideas started

began when Zendaya—who had just recently become the young-

floating around and some concepts that definitely

est actress to win the Drama Series Best Actress Emmy—implored

didn’t make it.”

Levinson to write something that could keep them busy. Adhering

“I was pitching Z horror films and psychological

to strict protocols in compliance with WGA, DGA and SAG-AFTRA,

thrillers and all that,” adds Levinson. “And then at some

the film shot in a little over two weeks in late June at the environ-

point I thought, Well, what if it’s just a relationship

mentally-conscious glass architectural Caterpillar House in Carmel,

piece that plays out in real time, and what might kick

one of the few places in the state where production was possible,

that off? And I remember the time I forgot to thank my

and which was conducive to building a protective bubble that no

wife at the premiere of the movie…”

one could leave. It became the first post-pandemic film to wrap,

Levinson’s wife, Ashley, is a producer on Malcolm &

and no one got sick. As importantly, Euphoria crew and producers,

Marie, and was an associate producer on his previous fea-

who would have otherwise been unemployed, worked for owner-

ture, Assassination Nation. It was during that film’s premiere in

ship alongside the filmmakers and stars, who invested their money

Los Angeles at the Cinerama Dome where her director husband

to make possible the $2.5 million film.

forgot to thank her. The personal incident between filmmaker and

About 20 minutes of footage from Malcolm & Marie was

wife proved the key that unlocked Malcolm & Marie, even if the actual

screened for buyers in late August as the virtual Toronto Film

drama between the Levinsons over the slight wasn’t as traumatic as what we

Festival market ramped up. A bidding battle between eight bidders

see onscreen.

ensued, before Netflix won with a $30 million bid. COU RT ESY OF N E TF L IX

to be witnessing incredibly private moments. Seeing such gorgeous-to-

electricity between them,” Levinson recalls. “It was then I realized,

It is easy to see why buyers flipped for it, given it features two

“Sam and I have such open communication, and the basis of the relationship has always been friendship, trust and respect,” Ashley Levinson says. “I

of the hottest young stars in Hollywood, in a contained relation-

think it’s a very human thing to do when you’re anxious and excited, to forget

ship drama that at times feels like watching two prize fighters trade

someone. In the moment it wasn’t overwhelming. Then at the after party,

punches. In fact, Levinson used the back-and-forth exchanges of

people approached me and said, ‘You are so important to his work,’ and there

the Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fights as inspiration. This couple’s

it bothered me a little more. So, I talked to him about it on the drive home.

exchanges are so honest, it will remind viewers of their own regretful

But it was just human error, and I didn’t take it that personally.”

arguments with a partner, and almost make viewers embarrassed

They laughed, she says, when he told her this moment had unlocked

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

33


the door on Malcolm & Marie. “I felt an enormous

and I’m always trying to cut the dialogue I write.

Levinson recalls. Scrappy. He put $80,000 of

amount of gratitude I had a partner that cared that

Euphoria is about young people who aren’t able

black-and-white film stock on his credit card

much about acknowledgement that it had both-

to really articulate themselves, and so the camera

when they had to press the button on shooting in

ered him enough that he had shifted and grown.

and the music and lighting and mood does it for

Carmel. “It was like, ‘I’ve got to make this fucking

The beautiful irony was, a year later, in the same

them. I was interested in going in the complete

movie now, or else I’m going to be in real trouble,’”

theater at a premiere for Euphoria, he gave this

opposite direction and doing something that was

he laughs. “Ash comes in day five and says, ‘I’ve

wonderful speech about my role in who he is as a

just character, just dialogue, and finding a way to

found this hotel, can I put it on the credit card?’

person and an artist. I actually remember a friend

make that cinematic.”

I said, ‘Please don’t put it on the credit card,’ and

That was most conducive to their plan to

she says, ‘I actually just put it on the credit card.’

attempt to shoot the film despite the pandemic,

Some of this is scary to think about even in retro-

because it could be a single location, with two

spect because I was still writing. But it made me

Marie following the snub is so lacerating one is left

actors and a small crew, everybody sequestered

write fast and get it done.”

to wonder if such a re-do would even be possible;

away after being quarantined.

How lucky is that?’” The back and forth between Malcolm and

Malcolm’s insecurity about how hard it is for a

“Sam calls one day and says, ‘Yo, Z, I think I got

For his part, Washington says he felt more or less committed on that first call. “We met through

Black filmmaker to be accepted as a true artist

one,” Zendaya remembers. He gave her the eleva-

Katia at Sundance when I had Monsters and Men

would leave him feeling that crediting his partner

tor pitch and she said, “Go for it.” As he wrote, he

there and he had Assassination Nation. I was blown

might marginalize his accomplishment and would

would send Zendaya 10 or 15 pages at a time, “And

away by that film, thinking there’s nobody doing

be a blow to his manhood.

we would talk for hours. And we both thought the

anything like this. It’s crazy to hear him say [that I

only person who could ever be Malcolm would

was a question mark] because I felt like, if he calls

thing he can’t easily shake off. “[Assassination

be John David Washington. But there wasn’t

me, it’s a yes. It’s not, ‘What are we doing?’”

Nation] was a brutal process,” Levinson recalls. The

much there yet for John David to make a decision

film was a huge acquisition out of Sundance, but

whether or not he wanted to do it.”

For his part, Levinson’s omission is still some-

its complex themes made it difficult for market-

Even idled by Covid, like everyone else in Hol-

Of course, the change happening in the world didn’t hurt. “I thought I had my year mapped out, selling the film I was in with Christopher Nolan,

ers to find its audience. “I cut that movie for a year,

lywood, Washington’s star has ascended with the

traveling the world. And then everything came

hundreds of different cuts to take a four-hour film

same dizzying trajectory as Zendaya’s, following a

to a halt and I was in this dire, desperate need to

down to an hour and 45 minutes,” he says. “It took

breakout performance in Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlans-

perform. Badly. When this came about, I felt like it

a toll on both of us. I sat down after my speech and

man, and a blockbuster turn in the Christopher

was a godsend, because I’d never read anything

I remember walking to the car, knowing I forgot to

Nolan-directed Tenet. “Who’s going to go toe to

this powerful before.”

thank her, and I just felt so guilty. I couldn’t stop

toe with Z, who’s a true heavyweight?” Levinson

thinking about what might happen when you for-

recalls thinking. “We needed a great actor and

and crew mostly stayed outside; only a hand-

get to acknowledge the contribution of someone

someone who would challenge her, but who was

ful came inside the house where they filmed.

so integral to the process.”

also a kind actor. And John David was the only one

Not having routine positions like script supervi-

I could think of.”

sor made continuity a challenge, but if anything,

It was from there that Levinson fictionalized this debate taken to its extreme. “What happens if

Levinson got his number from the actor’s sister

Production jumped through every PPE hurdle,

the bubble increased the intensity of the scenes

we then find out that the movie is actually based

Katia, a producer on Assassination Nation, but he

somewhat on his wife?” he says. “How can I make

knew it would not be an easy call. “I knew him well

the problem worse and allow it just to peel back

enough to cold call him, but I was very nervous

when many people were unable to work, and that

layers of their relationship?”

because I was asking him to go from literally the

added to the grateful feeling and the fact we were

biggest film of the year to the smallest, and I also

sharing that bubble with people who were also

Times review, and how the reviewer didn’t get him.

knew that I was going to ask him if he wanted to

financially able to benefit from our film,” Zendaya

Meanwhile, he is oblivious to the fact that his part-

put money into this movie.”

says. “For me, I hadn’t been able to act in pretty

Malcolm gets existential in dissecting a rave LA

ner, Marie, is the one whose life is being dissected,

He called, and Washington told him to send

between Zendaya and Washington. “We were all cognizant of this being a time

much that whole year. I just was so grateful to be

since it is the plot of the movie. But no one knows

over the script. “I said, ‘Well, do you mind if I just

amongst these people and create with something

her difficult life experiences helped inform the film

read it to you, because it’s very rough?’” Levinson

that was written specifically for us. But it was also

because the aspiring actress was given no real

says. “I did, he was interested, and he said, ‘Well,

my dream role. I couldn’t believe I was able to

shot at the starring role by her partner. And even

just keep calling me and reading it I guess.’”

make it the way I wanted, and not have anybody to

the seemingly minor validation of a thank you for

“Sam just started reading the characters,” says

answer to, except the people around me I admire

her role in his movie was denied her. While Malcolm

Washington, picking up the story of that first call.

tells Marie he loves the way she sees the world, it

“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. He has great

turns out that maybe he doesn’t really see her, and

timing and really understands performance. He is a

beyond the above-the-line triumvirate. “There

her own ambition, at all.

great actor himself in my opinion, and I was sold on

was the sense that we were in it together,” she

everything he was saying, everything these charac-

says. “Anybody who didn’t want to follow the strict

the layers of this relationship,” Levinson says. “I

ters were talking about, in this short excerpt. Then

protocols didn’t have to be there. Everybody there

started in theater and I love dialogue; it’s my favor-

he said, ‘I gotta keep writing, I’ll call you back.’”

was responsible and safe, and we got to stay in

ite thing to write. The director in me hates dialogue

The process was like this the whole way,

this place in Carmel, the middle of nowhere. Yes,

“It became an opportunity to strip back all of

34

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

and was working with every day.” That sense of camaraderie extended well

COU RT ESY O F N E T FL I X

of mine saying, ‘When in life do you get a re-do?


I would never say that, or go there, but that’s the point of doing it. I’m existing through this character. - ZENDAYA D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

35


Oh, this is lightning in a bottle with these two. And then I got out of the way and made sure I bottled up as much of that lightning as possible for the screen.” - SAM LEVINSON there were days that were emotionally exhausting and hard. I slept all day

one-upping each other while staying true to character. But I wanted there to

until we had to go to work the next night. But there was such a love and sup-

be a joy to the fight.”

It encouraged a level of vulnerability that shows on screen, she says. “We

Perhaps in contrast to his character, Washington came in feeling squarely like the underdog in this emotionally bruising match. After all, Zendaya and

were dealing in such rough emotional spaces and it was so important that

Levinson had spent so many hours of talk time working out the beats of the

we were able to do that in a space that felt safe. After John David would do

story and the characters even before this was an actual movie. “We had 12

his monologue or I would do mine, or he would cry or I would cry, there was

days of prep where ideas were exchanged and we were in the think tank

a check-in, a support system with everyone there. That is how you’re able to

discussing stuff,” Washington says. “I was trying to catch up and I would hear

do your best work. I was grateful we were able to create that space where we

her say words and think, Well who wrote this, did she or did he? Because

could just let it all out. It was therapeutic in some instances as well.”

they are so fluid and simpatico together. I had no idea how I was going to do

The exchanges between characters grow more intense, taking on that Ali-

this. I never felt this way before that moment. No way in; I was playing with

Frazier aspect. Each character gets their shots, and after a retreat inside the

accents, doing all kinds of weird stuff. I think even Sam admitted to me he

fishbowl-like, glass-encased house, the other comes back and gives as good

wasn’t sure. I wasn’t reading right, I couldn’t read aloud, because the text was

as they got in the previous round. As they do, they reveal two very likeable

so deep and I was connecting with it so much that there was stuff happening

but damaged people who very likely belong together, but who maybe won’t

emotionally to me, even before I could get the words out.”

survive this night. “I wanted Malcolm to be more in line with Stanley Kowalski in Streetcar

But just as Levinson had rolled the dice on last-minute gambles to nudge the shoot past the point of no return, so Washington

Named Desire, where he’s screaming and using the space,” says Levinson.

too found his in at the very last minute. “I was working on it

“And I wanted Marie to start out more reserved so you’re not quite sure, and

hard, believe me, until that first night,” he says. “And then

then over time you realize what a force she is. As we shot, I tried to leave

it clicked, and Sam yelled, ‘Action.’ It felt crazy, and I’m

it at a moment where I knew the other actor was going to go back to their

not sure I want to do that again. I would like to know,

hotel room, and go to sleep thinking, I can’t let her win, so I have to bring it

before I get in there. But this was so unique, and I

tomorrow. Both of them have this competitive edge to them, but they also

didn’t know.”

root for one another, so I wanted them to have to constantly feel like they’re

36

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

He found ways to place himself into the

COU RTESY OF N E T F LI X

port built there.”


scenes. A standout running back at Morehouse, with a brief stint with the

were so many words, the pages kept building,” says Washington, who says he

Rams, Washington displayed some of those moves as he scampered along

found it intimidating. “And then add the movement… In an early monologue, I

a windowsill and moved gracefully from room to room, and he channeled his

am circling and doing all these things. But as an actor, this is what I wanted. It

famous family into one of the film’s most touching scenes.

is what I needed. It is how I would love to work. When you get to say words like

“The bathtub sequence,” he says. “I don’t like to push for emotion, and I didn’t have to because the words had me under a spell. A quiet moment, and

this, the pressure is on you to trust it.” As much as Washington wondered if he would ever get the right handle

I wasn’t myself, I felt like I was representing people related to me. I was rep-

on his character, Levinson went through his own crisis of conscience as the

resenting the love and bond of my parents, in that poetic moment where he

footage started coming back. After rehearsal, as cameras started rolling on

confesses his love to her, and I tapped into the true, unconditional love I saw

the first of 10 planned shooting days, he and cinematographer Marcell Rév

in my grandparents. I would love to be able to say those words to somebody I

had an approach. “Marcell and I wanted to go into this movie with a slightly

love someday. But I don’t have the penmanship that Sam has.”

more formal idea in terms of how we would approach it. All dolly work. We

While Zendaya has shown her range in her series and the Spider-Man films, she breaks new ground here in a very adult role. She said she was most gratified by not just being the actress, but being able to help shape the char-

had certain references in mind like Bunny Lake Is Missing, by [Otto] Preminger. That very well-choreographed look.” They shot all day, with no AD or script supervisor in the pared-down crew. At the end of the day, they looked at what they’d shot; some 30 takes. “I’m

acter and the whole film. “What was cool about my relationship with Sam is, he wrote it with me as

looking at Marcell and I can tell we’re both not feeling great,” Levinson recalls.

the woman he’s grown to know, in front of his eyes, but still I’m very differ-

He told Rév he felt the whole thing looked like a whiskey commercial. “It was

ent from Marie and don’t handle things the way she does,” she notes. “Sam

too clean, not enough life in it.” So, they threw it all away.

writes female characters that are so layered and flawed and conflicted,

“The biggest challenge was how to shoot a film that was very dialogue

but who have such depth to them. I might say, ‘Well I would never do that, I

heavy, very emotional, and make sure there was a progression to it dramati-

would never say that, or go there,’ but that’s the point of doing it. I’m existing

cally, and that it didn’t just end up being two people screaming at each other,”

through this character. Also, it’s fun to have a character you can dig into and

Levinson says. “How do you shoot in a way where the house doesn’t begin to

the more you dig, the more layers you find.”

feel tired, and it doesn’t just feel like two heads in a room? We had to figure

She cares for Malcolm and Marie. “I liked that they had the relationship

out how to block it in a way that allowed us to highlight the performances,

they do, even though even now, I am still conflicted over whether they should

and to allow for a minute and-a-half stretch without a cut, and be moving

be together or not,” she says. “I see a romance and a beauty to their relationship, but it can also be so dark and awful, happening back and forth the way that probably a lot of people watching it will recognize. I felt that way when we were shooting, and it was hard for me, that conflict, that indecisiveness, the, ‘I don’t know how I feel about this.’ Ironically, these characters are the opposite of black and white.” The scenes between them sometimes encompass pages of dialogue that were accomplished in single long takes. “There

and dancing with them.” On the second day of shooting, they decided to try shooting again handheld. “We wanted everything to be messy, to have a certain life to it.” This meant leveling with the actors that all their work of the previous day would be thrown away. “They got on board, and we shot the whole day handheld. That whole opening scene.” By the end of the day, dread was setting in. “An hour before we’re supposed to wrap, I’m looking at Marcell and he’s got a 1000-foot mag on his shoulder, he’s drenched in sweat, he’s lost 10 pounds and I’m shaking my head and so is he. We get to the car and I say, ‘Marcell, there’s no design

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

37


Rév told him he completely agreed but wasn’t sure what they should do. “We couldn’t

dancing, and that shot continues and then

their blood, sweat and tears into making these

she’s outside smoking, and it’s all one scene.”

films—don’t really see this level of compensa-

That style lends the film cinematic gravitas,

tion and ownership in something they put so

just move on because we were shooting every-

a jazzy cool feel that plays to the power of its

much into. They took a risk being there with us

thing in order,” says Levinson. The realization of

leads. You understand how difficult Washington

and we all felt they should be compensated

another wasted day of shooting hit hard.

would have been to tackle when he wore shoul-

in such a way. Hopefully, maybe this can help

der pads as the former running back leaps cat-

change the model a little bit in the future. I was

the house to be the third character in the two-

like atop a windowsill, or dances in the kitchen,

grateful to be a part of that. It has been a tough

hander. The style asserts itself in the opening

giving Malcolm a physical aura to offset that of

time for so many people and we were also

moments. When the couple returns from the

Zendaya’s Marie, whose character reveals her-

able to carve out points that went to Feeding

movie premiere, she fixes him some instant

self over the course of the drama and the brutal

America, which was huge. We put this movie

macaroni and cheese, and she becomes frosty

emotional revelations to come.

together out of our pockets and were able to do

The eureka moment that followed allowed

as he tucks into his victory meal. “We set up

Levinson credits Zendaya and Washington

pretty well with it. And we were able to look out

outside the next day, for that tracking shot from

with allowing him to find that look, even if it

for other people who haven’t been as fortunate

the bathroom as he’s coming in, dancing to the

took scrapping one-fifth of the original planned

as we are. I’m proud of the movie, but especially

music,” Levinson continues. “It was supposed

10-day shoot (they found the extra cash to

the way it was made. You often don’t get to say

to be a connective piece. I realized that in that

shoot four more days). “This was not normal,”

something like that.”

moment, you can see the world of the house

he says. “If this was a regular production, I most

and that Malcolm is in one universe and Marie

likely would have been fired. But because every-

result. “The quality of this film speaks to how

is in another universe and there’s this separa-

one was putting their own money into it, there

it was made, and how so many in the business

tion. Clearly, she’s not having the night that he’s

was even then a certain amount of trust we had

contributed,” he says. “I was proud to see an

having. I said to Marcell, ‘This is it. This is how

in one another. We were figuring this out as we

African-American stills photographer there; I

we should shoot this whole scene.’ He said, ‘I

went along. Throughout the piece, that became

think I’ve seen maybe two in the history of my

don’t disagree, but we have an hour before the

the nature of it. We’d shoot a scene and if

short career. Ashley Levinson, Katia Washing-

sun comes up.’”

things weren’t clicking, we’d come back and

ton, Zendaya, the producers, it was diverse,

Washington felt the same about the end

reshoot it the next day. It was a ton of dialogue,

and everybody’s ideas counted. This was proof

they stole in that final hour of their second day.

a lot on the performers just on an emotional

positive that you can pick the right people, get

With a single key grip, Jeff Kunkel, and with the

level. We just had to figure it out together and

along and make something viable, and that can

help of Katia Washington and Ashley Levinson,

we were always mindful of trying to understand

appeal to the masses. That’s very encouraging

the director and cinematographer laid down a

how the movie would fit together.”

moving forward.”

The shot that now opens the film is the shot

dolly track. Levinson explained the choreogra-

All three—Levinson, Zendaya and Wash-

He remembers watching Zendaya deliver a

phy of the scene to Zendaya and John David,

ington—say they felt the effort was validated

thank you speech in the movie. “I was just sit-

and they rolled camera. “The last take, we had

by the auction last fall, which made the film

ting there watching this performance from this

one foot in the mag, and I’m going, ‘Grab the

immediately profitable and brought owner-

person and it was so impactful,” says Washing-

macaroni!’ She does, and we roll out from there

ship checks to all involved. “It’s crazy that

ton. “I think people will not be ready when they

and that’s how that seven-minute take ended

more films aren’t made this way,” Zendaya

see Zendaya this way, in those moments. Those

up in the piece. She’s in the bathroom and JD’s

says. “Crews—all the people who literally put

moments really hit home.” ★

38

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

COU RT ESY OF N E TF L IX

here, it’s a mess. This isn’t working either.’”


People will not be ready when they see Zendaya this way, in those moments. Those moments really hit home. - JOHN DAVID WASHINGTON

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

39


BULGARIA, A SMALL EASTERN EUROPEAN COUNTRY OF 7 MILLION, IS HAVING A MOMENT. For only the second time, Bulgarian is a main spoken language in a big Hollywood film. Joining 2004’s The Terminal is Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm, and Bulgarian is the language spoken by Borat’s daughter Tutar, played by Maria Bakalova in one of the breakout performances of 2020. The comedy has catapulted the unknown Bulgarian actress into global superstardom and major awards contention, with a slew of year-end awards to her name already. Bakalova, 24, also has a small part in the Bulgarian Oscar entry, The Father, giving a visibility boost to the Karlovy Vary-winning title. What’s more, The Father and its directors contributed to Bakalova’s big break in Borat 2. In a Zoom chat conducted in their native tongue, Bakalova (whose last name is pronounced bah-KAH-loh-vah) shares her Cinderella story with Deadline’s Co-Editorin-Chief, Nellie Andreeva, as well as the best, hardest, and scariest moments from her work on Borat. 40

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

PHOTOGRAPH BY

Michael Buckner


“I want more.”

“Because it tackles a global problem; the problem of communication in the

That was the theme of Maria Bakalova’s monologue in her 2019 graduate

age of mobile devices that have become handy during the Covid quarantine,

Film Arts. Just weeks later, she would self-tape an audition for a mystery casting call that would change her life.

but that have also destroyed our ability to have a real conversation.” The Father has won a number of national and international awards, including the Crystal Globe at the Karlovy Vary film festival. Nancy Bishop, the

Growing up in the town of Burgas on the Black Sea, Bakalova’s first love

casting director for Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm, saw the movie and noticed

was music, and she took singing and flute lessons. By the time she was around

Bakalova. As she sought a performer to play Borat’s daughter, Tutar, she had

12 or 13, that was no longer enough, and she expanded into acting.

already reached out to Shadow and Bone star Julian Kostov, a Bulgarian actor

At the performing arts high school in her hometown, where she majored

who has achieved success in the U.K. and the U.S., and had asked him to

in acting and minored in flute, she started doodling the Hollywood sign on her

assist in finding young Bulgarian actresses to audition. Bakalova didn’t know

desk, and jotted down thoughts about moving to LA in her notebooks.

Kostov then, but they became friends and are now producing partners.

“I started dreaming that I was arriving in Los Angeles, rolling my suitcase

Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm was, at that time, a project shrouded in

down those iconic palm tree-lined streets, with the Hollywood sign in the

secrecy. The casting call for the mysterious comedy movie was the talk of the

background, and I was telling myself, ‘I’m going to be a great movie star

party at the graduation bash for the Class of 2019 at the Bulgarian Academy.

someday,’” recalls Bakalova, quoting Marilyn Monroe.

Virtually all the girls in Bakalova’s class had sent in audition tapes—along with

But as she entered her late teens, reality set in. “I told myself, these are

the required NDAs—and were awaiting a response. But not Bakalova. She was

just childhood dreams. There haven’t been any big Hollywood stars from

skeptical about the project, and

Eastern Europe.” She tore off the pages with her Hollywood plans, and erased

suspected something nefarious,

the drawings from her desk. She shifted focus to European cinema, where a

like human trafficking.

successful career seemed more attainable, and became a fan, particularly, of Danish films. While the big screen had always been Bakalova’s goal, acting training in

Mostly out of peer pressure— “Well, I’m not going to be the only one who didn’t audition,”—

Bulgaria is traditionally geared heavily towards theater. A lot of what she did

Bakalova recorded herself when

learn about movie acting, that helped her give the performance in Borat, she

she got home from the party at

owes to The Father’s directors Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov, two

around 5AM. On call for a movie

of the top Bulgarian filmmakers of the past decade. They taught the only

shoot later that morning, she

film acting class at the Academy, and Bakalova loved it so much that she

had time to do only two takes.

volunteered to help Grozeva and Valchanov with scheduling and other tasks

It was a challenge for her to

so that she could attend each week, not only when it was her turn to perform.

overcome her fear of speaking

She even travelled with them to the set of a film the pair were directing and

in English, and the feelings of

rendered PA services for free just so she could watch and learn.

insecurity about her Bulgarian

So, when one of the directors called her in her third year at the Academy to

accent, something at the time

invite her to audition for a very small part in their new movie, The Father, about

she considered an insurmount-

a grieving patriarch reconnecting with his son after the sudden death of his

able obstacle to a Hollywood

wife, Bakalova was ecstatic.

acting career. She would stay up

She landed the part and filmed her brief scene as the wife in a flashback as a young TV actress. Bakalova wants people to watch The Father, she says,

42

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

all night watching the Oscars live every year, telling herself, “God,

M A RI A BA KA LOVA P E RSO NA L COL LECTI O N /A M AZON ST UD I OS

performance showcase at the Bulgarian National Academy for Theater and


subsequent—in-person auditions, in which she was asked to improvise discovering all sorts of modern civilization amenities; seeing an AC unit, a door, a ceiling for the first time; trying to use a sink as a toilet; splashing her face with water from the toilet; eating fish from an aquarium. There was one serendipitous moment from the first meeting. Bakalova, who had not seen the original Borat movie, was asked to act out having “a string in her brain that strains and pops”, a line Baron Cohen’s Borat uses in the movie’s babysitter scene. She belted out the song “Ederlezi” to everyone’s surprise; she had no idea that the popular Balkan Romani folk song had served as the love theme in the first movie. While she admits that she did a “a lot of crazy things” during the auditions and in the movie, she says, “I was ready to do anything. Even now I am ready to do anything, and maybe that comes out of my desire to be an actress. There were many risky moments during production, but we are actors, and art is above all.” Those risky moments included filming at the pro-gun March for Our Rights, where Baron Cohen was chased off the stage after leading attendees in a racist singalong. Bakalova was at the rally as a TV news reporter interviewing participants, and Baron Cohen’s lyrics actually referenced her and pinpointed her location in the crowd. “It was pretty scary,” Bakalova says of their swift getaway in the news van. She admits, too, to feeling pressure heading into the interview with Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, recognizing the importance of the scene for the movie, which had a limited time to shoot a finale because Baron Cohen was determined to release the movie on October 23, before the Presidential election in November. Her preparation including researching, in great detail, Giuliani’s career, but it also involved coming up with plans for what to do if Baron Cohen couldn’t emerge from his hiding place in the closet; she studied exit routes and memorized the locations of the production’s security guards. Acting out outrageous stunts in unpredictable situations with unsuspecting regular people was not easy; Bakalova recalled a panic attack she had FIRST DAUGHTER Left: Maria Bakalova by the Black Sea in her hometown of Burgas, Bulgaria, circa 2014-15. This page: Bakalova as Tutar with Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat in Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm.

before her first big solo scene without Baron Cohen by her side when she, as Tutar, had to give a speech about masturbation at the Hillsborough Republican Women’s Club Meeting. Also challenging were her multi-language dialogues with Baron Cohen. In the movie, Bakalova speaks in her native Bulgarian, while he speaks Hebrew and a little bit of Polish. Neither of them understood a word the other was saying. And yet, they had meaningful conversations not only when alone but

why wasn’t I born in an English-speaking country so I could have a shot at being there?” She has since accepted speaking with an accent. “It’s part of who you are,” she says now. “Part of your ethnic background, and not something to be ashamed of.” A year later, and Bakalova marked the anniversary of her audition with an

also in front of other people. The key was having a lot of rehearsals in English, so when they did a scene, she says, “You know what the conversation is about; I don’t understand what he is saying but I have the script playing in my head.” It was a line by Bakalova—“Glytnah bebeto” (I swallowed the baby)—which became emblematic of the movie and memorized by fans across the globe.

Instagram post from the house in Los Angeles where she was quarantining

In addition to being part of a funny gag, Bakalova attributes the catchphrase’s

while filming Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm. Just as she’d dreamed, it had a view

popularity to what happens after Tutar swallows the plastic baby, “the very

of the Hollywood sign. In a post written in Bulgarian, Bakalova chronicled her

important issue about a woman’s right to choose.”

journey from making the tape as a joke, through the “scary” trip to London

That scene was part of the film’s female empowerment storyline, and its

for the in-person audition, to working on what she called, “The greatest and

surprisingly emotional punch that was delivered by Bakalova, showing the

funniest movie. EVER.” She included a video (with no sound) of that fateful

range of her acting abilities, as well as unsuspecting contributors like holo-

first audition.

caust survivor Judith Dim Evans and babysitter Janice Jones, who were part of

What made her trip to London scary were her lingering fears about trafficking. Because there was such deep secrecy surrounding the movie, she

Bakalova’s favorite moments in the movie. Working with CAA, Bakalova is now plotting her Borat follow-up. Her “Dan-

was so afraid she could be raped, killed, or have her organs harvested that she

ish dream” is still very much alive, so she could head to the land of Hamlet

concocted a plan, asking Kostov to wait outside when she walked into the first

next. But as Bakalova is adjusting to the limelight, the biggest gift for her

audition with Sacha Baron Cohen and his team, telling him that she would be

has been opening the door for Balkan and other underrepresented Eastern

recording the encounter on her phone and, if things got hairy, she would slide

European actors in Hollywood, she says.

it under the door for him to use it as evidence. Of course, none of that happened, and she aced her first—and

“That has been the most gratifying thing, giving people hope that it is possible. That if you give it your all, it could happen to you. Why not?” ★

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

43


The B est O f 2020 | D irectors

Chloé Zhao With Nomadland, the spirited director works with professional actors for the first time, but finds just as much human truth B Y J O E U T I C H I

Chloé Zhao has made three feature films to date, each of them blending narrative storytelling with non-fiction. Her debut, Songs My Brothers Taught Me, told the story of Native American siblings struggling to find their place in a changing world. The Rider cast cowboy Brady Jandreau as a version of himself, reliving the true story of his near-fatal head injury. And while her new film, Nomadland, casts professional actors like Frances McDormand and David Strathairn for the first time, it rounds out its ensemble with real ‘Nomads’; people who have taken to living in camper vans in what would be their retirement, forced instead to seek itinerant labor around the country to make ends meet. All three films deal with survival and identity, and each of them packs an emotional punch that hits with greater fervor because of the lines Zhao blurs between fact and fiction. Based on Jessica Bruder’s non-fiction book about the Nomads, and the changing face of the America that they inhabit, Nomadland confirms Zhao as one of modern cinema’s most exciting new voices. 44 6 D DE EAADDLLI INNEE. .CCOO MM // AA W WAARRDDSSLLI INNEE

S E ARC H LI G H T P I CT U RES


At the Indie Spirits a few years

away, like the town of Empire. Maybe

nation that only opened its doors

ago, you and Frances McDormand

that’s where the romanticism comes

recently because it was so very self-

referenced one another in your

in, because I don’t go in thinking I

sustaining. I always joke that I’m a

speeches; how deep into this pro-

want to examine an issue or make a

descendent of rice farmers—and in

cess were you at that point?

statement; I’m always trying to look

rice farming, you cultivate the land

We’d met right before that. We

through the perspective of someone

over and over in one place—and then

knew we wanted to work together,

who loves a place like this, and this

I found myself making films about

and emotions were high, so we just

way of life. It was the same with Brady

people that prefer to be hunter-

decided to give one another a shout-

with the horses and being a cowboy

gatherers or ranchers and move a lot.

out [laughs]. I’d read the book by then.

in The Rider.

In America, thanks to the highway

What grabbed you about it?

Your films blend narrative fiction

ment. And I think it’s just something

Initially it was the world that Jes-

with real people, real worlds, in

that you didn’t experience when you

sica had captured. It was a time in

a fascinating way. How does the

were young that you want to try to

America when a way of life was fast

script come together when you’re

understand. It’s a curiosity.

disappearing, and she had captured

folding so many of these real ele-

that with a chapter on Empire,

ments together?

As an outsider in America myself,

Nevada, a chapter on quartzite, a

At the same time that I’m trying to

I wonder if you feel that coming to

chapter on the Amazon warehouse.

figure out who Fern is, based on the

America from a different culture

She really managed to capture a

stories in the book, we’re also trying

gives you a particular viewpoint

time. So, the worldbuilding of her

to work out which of the Nomads

that allows you to examine it in a

book was attractive to me. Thinking

can be in the film, who wants to be

fresh way.

about these unique characters within

in the film, and what that will do for

I think it’s how you make films. You

that visual world, I realized I had never

the locations. Everything happens

can make films from inside yourself

really explored the world through

simultaneously, because once we

and put that out there or go out into

an older person’s perspective. And

meet someone like Swankie, we real-

the world and bring it to you. So, out

I felt the urgency of it, too. It said a

ize she has to be in the film, and that

of necessity, yes, I’m coming into a

lot about a time in this country that I

informs the journey that Fern is going

community that’s not my own. And

felt I wanted to capture before it was

to take. Eventually I drew a map of

you have to try harder to put yourself

gone. Before it was too late.

Fern’s journey, which the producers

in their shoes and figure out… how do

system, the society is built on move-

could use to work on the film; the

they see a sunset? Because how I see

That sense of a disappearing way

locations we’ll travel to, the towns

a sunset is very different. The choices

of life has run through your work.

Fern will visit. So, we knew we wanted

you make—in the script, in the editing,

You balance a real melancholic

to cover almost all of the landscapes

in the music—have to be informed by

truth, though, with a certain

in the American West. The only ones

trying to capture an authentic, emo-

sense of romance for the worlds

that we didn’t really cover were the

tional truth that these people feel in

you capture. It strikes me that you

canyons and maybe the Rockies.

these moments in their lives. And I

feel simpatico with the kind of

ROAMING Chloé Zhao, right, and Frances McDormand on the set of Nomadland.

think you’re right; because it’s not my

resolve it takes for people to per-

You’ve made three feature films

own truth, maybe just instinctually

severe with their way of life while

that all explore aspects of Ameri-

I start with more of a reverence for

the odds get stacked against

cana. What did America mean to

understanding a person in that world,

them. Is that a fair assessment?

you, growing up in China?

that rather than imposing myself on

I think so. I think it comes instinctually

I moved to America for senior year of

what a character should be.

to all of us who want to tell stories

high school, and when I arrived, it was

Identity fascinates me. When you

for a living. I think there’s a gut feeling

the pop culture, because that’s what I

look at young people in America, you

towards the kind of stories that draw

was exposed to in China. It was music

see them taking up these cultural

us. I’ll pass through a small town in

more than movies, really. It was musi-

identities. A cowboy. A gang mem-

Nebraska that has a population of

cians. I landed in Downtown LA in

ber. And especially with kids in the

18 people, which used to be a popu-

1999 with very little understanding of

heartland, I think there’s a fishbowl

lar railroad town until the railroad

how America worked, and I definitely

situation there that I felt when I was

stopped, and all I want to do is try

got a handful; more than I could han-

young as well, growing up in China. I

to figure out from those people how

dle [laughs]. I just didn’t understand

knew what was outside, but I couldn’t

they would want to be remembered if

the relationships between people,

quite leave. So, when the fishbowl is

their town were to disappear entirely.

race, identity, class. So many things.

covered, that’s one story, but when

That impulse still drives me.

So, then I dived in real hard for my

you lift it up—when the internet and

senior year of high school, and then

social media move in—something

ness, anyway, of recording things;

four years in college studying Ameri-

happens to the younger generation

of recording time and recording

can politics. That was my focus.

where they have to define them-

I come from a people that

selves beyond, “I’m a coal miner’s

As storytellers, we’re in the busi-

people. And, for me, I’m interested in those things that are about to go

were very stationary and built a

son.” It’s not enough anymore, and

DL L II N S LS ILNI EN E45 DDEE AA D N EE . .CCOOMM/ /AAWWAAR RD D 6


they start questioning who they are.

I read that Warren Buffett still lives

I also think all countries around the

online and find minimalist living shop-

in the house he bought for $31,500

ping websites. It becomes a trend; the

world are becoming more nationalistic

in 1958. The reason I mention it is

eco trend. Capitalism’s arms then just

as the world shrinks. It’s important to

because I don’t believe the capitalist

reach into everything.

hold onto some kind of identity, especially for a young country like America. That need to feel American is very strong for a lot of folks. What’s the future for towns like Empire, Nevada? Well, actually, Empire is coming back. Even when we were shooting there it was tough because everything was back up and running. A more innovative company, doing a different kind of mining, took over. And it’s not a big national like United States Gypsum. You see that in small towns all over. A lot of business died. I travel to tiny little towns in Colorado, and all of a sudden there’s like a hipster glutenfree artisan bakery that pops up in the middle of nowhere. Or a little gallery or something. It’s really interesting. Even after everything that has happened since 2008, it’s hard to completely kill off a way of life. People do persevere. It’s interesting to wonder how they fit into a world that seems determined to

It really is about training your mind to want less. That’s the only way to happiness. It’s the same with success in any industry. You have to train your mind not to enjoy success, because if you start enjoying it, it's over for you.

economy can slow down, because if

That’s the same in van life. You

it goes the way it is, it needs people

don’t even need a big trailer for half

to want things to keep going. And the

a million dollars. You can find a small

moment that people stop wanting

Mercedes van that’s still got everything

things it’s going to collapse, and then

packed inside. Tesla’s probably making

everyone’s going to freak out. “I’m

them right now; self-driving vans. But

going to starve to death,” right?

what do you do when it breaks down?

But the truth is, you can never really

It really is about trying to train our

be happy, because happiness is not

minds to want less. That’s the only way

an ultimate thing. Happiness is when

to happiness. I know it’s such a para-

your expectations are met with reality.

dox, and it’s depressing to acknowl-

If your expectation is constantly fed

edge it. But it’s the same with success

by the capitalist economy for its own

in any industry. You have to train your

survival, that you always need more,

mind not to enjoy success, because if

then you can never be as satisfied as

you start enjoying it, it’s over for you.

the medieval farmer was satisfied with

I’m training myself every day as we

his piece of bread.

speak [laughs].

So, what these young kids and the Nomads are exploring is the idea of

Speaking of feeding the capitalist

making their satisfaction level with

beast, you open the film with Fern

their expectation of what they need to

going to work inside the Amazon

be happy at a minimal level. So that no

factory. And while it’s not a hyper-

matter what happens with the outside

critical view, you do acknowledge

world, or how much gets taken from

that it’s hard work. How did you get

them, they will be happy with that

them on board to allow you inside?

piece of bread.

Well, two things. One, we got in because

We went so far, so quick, that I think

Fran wrote a letter and asked, and they

it did make everyone go, “Wait, we’re

said yes. And it’s pretty shocking they

not happy. We’re killing ourselves.” So,

said yes, because they didn’t really

people are starting to drop out and go,

stop me from doing anything when I

“That doesn’t work, what if I…” Warren

was there. I was shooting it and I could

Buffett lives like that; it doesn’t mat-

have edited it in whichever way I chose;

ter if he loses everything tomorrow,

included a voiceover and some scary

there some problem with what we’re

he is already happy with that $31,500

music. I could have done whatever

doing and how we live?

reject them. I think, actually, the even bigger question is, what are they trying to fit into? If the thing they’re trying to fit into is us—how we live in the big cities—is

house. And this may be a bit stoic or

I wanted. But I shot and treated the

I think we all need to come back

Buddist, but that’s kind of the way it

scenes at Amazon no differently from

into the middle, and not just politically,

is now. The people who define their

how I shot and treated the scenes

because we’ve been going way too

happiness based on things that aren’t

when she’s shoveling beets in Nebraska.

fast, with what we’re doing to animals,

really real are lost in the middle of this

In fact, she’d have been making less

to our planet, and to ourselves. There

pandemic, as opposed to the people

money, working longer hours, in consid-

are more suicides in big cities than

who are happy with what they have.

erably more dangerous and cold condi-

there have ever been in the history of

tions than she does at Amazon.

humanity. The most technologically

In Nomadland, you have a scene

developed countries usually have the

where Fern and the Nomads look

esting how we don’t talk about it, is

least happy people. And I think the

at those ultra-luxury RVs. So, even

the real problem is elder care. Why are

answer might not be them just fit-

for them, those capitalist norms

people of Fern’s generation going to

ting into this speed we’re all going at,

are still buried somewhere.

work at Amazon, or shoveling beets,

but for us all to slow down a bit. Now,

Well, that’s the thing about the capi-

or scrubbing toilets in national parks?

because I’m pessimistic about it, I

talist economy, is that it’ll always find

This is working class, manual labor.

don’t think we can slow down. But we

a way into your ideologies. Look, with

Back then it was agricultural, and now

should try to think about that at least.

minimalism, and van life, that lifestyle

it’s manufacturing. And for younger

can very easily go from trying to have

people, you get it; it’s the modern real-

Perhaps the Nomads know

less—to be frugal—to ultimately pur-

ity of working-class life. But the bigger

what’s up.

chasing the most expensive minimal-

question is why an elder has to be

Right. And young people are turning to

istic thing you can because you think

doing something like that. To me, that’s

this life, too. Millennials.

it’s going to last longer. You can go

something less sexy to talk about.

46 6 D DE EAADDLLI INNEE. .CCOO MM // AA W WAA RRDDSSLLI INNEE

The other thing, and it’s very inter-


It’s so simplistic to say, “Amazon is

How you treat elders shows how

the ultimate evil. If we get rid of Amazon, it will be great.” But if you get rid of Amazon, then they’ll have to shovel

plastic surgery if we stop thinking of

beets. They still don’t have enough

growing older as a problem. It’s actu-

that my first experience with a profes-

social security. Their pensions are

ally a path to wisdom that will make us

sional actor was with someone who

How does that manifest on set?

gone. And we still throw them away

human. In our own industry, we need to

was willing—whether it was difficult for

Given the emotion of some of the

during the pandemic and think their

look at how we contribute to that. And

her or not—to step out of her comfort

moments that go very, very deep

lives don’t matter. It’s not a sexy topic

in a country that lives and breathes this

zone and be completely open and

in this film, when you’re asking

to talk about.

kind of capitalistic individualism, we

vulnerable in those moments you see

for such personal truth, does that

really need to look at that.

on screen. It doesn’t matter how much

bleed offscreen sometimes?

training you have, or how exception-

It can be hard when we call cut. It is

So, that’s really what I wanted to

important. She’s a true artist in that

give themselves completely in front

your society is. Culturally, that has to

way. So, as producers, she and I have

of the camera in the same way non-

change. There’ll be fewer people getting

that understanding.

professional actors give themselves.

S E ARC H LI G H T P I CT U RES

focus on. And also, so many of them

As an actress, I feel incredibly lucky

And that’s what Fran did.

got started in this lifestyle, after 2008,

Frances McDormand has bucked

ally talented you are, or how much you

hard. I think for Fran it was very hard,

because of that Amazon opportunity.

those trends. As a woman in an

buy into the method. All that stuff is

because when you open yourself up

Without it, they couldn’t have got going.

industry that, as you say, empha-

incredible, and I respect the craft. But

like that, even when you call cut, life

There are just no job options for them.

sizes the pursuit of youth to an

the cinema that really draws me is the

is still happening. She wasn’t even

unhealthy extreme, she has led by

type where, in that moment on screen,

protected on Nomadland by trailers

Since it clearly needs stating, time

example and been unapologetic

none of that matters; that all has to

and assistants and all of that. She was

and again, what do you think the

about growing older and wearing

go. Are you truthful in that moment of

absorbing life at all times. That’s why

solutions are?

her wisdom on screen. This is the

connecting with another human being

we drank a lot of tequila and played

Well, look at other countries. It’s not

first time you’ve worked with pro-

on camera? And Fran, aided by every-

boardgames in motel lobbies every

impossible. Capitalist culture empha-

fessional actors. How would you

thing that she has experienced and

night [laughs].

sizes the importance of youth, of

describe the collaboration with

learned, is able to throw it all away in

excessive spending, of productivity.

her, as an actress and a producer?

the moment and just react.

And if you focus on that, then you will

There are two parts to that answer.

It sounds so obvious, but it’s so

think older people are less important

The first is, you mentioned women.

incredibly difficult to be vulnerable

It isn’t just about going out there and

than young people, even though in

I think where Fran and I connected

enough for it to be real, and to allow a

pretending. She wants to live it, to feel

many societies, elders are consid-

was on what I love about her, which

side of yourself to come out, because

it. She’s just that kind of actress. And

ered the most important members

is that she doesn’t just talk, she does

there are people that will hold them-

they’re exactly the kind I want to work

because they carry wisdom. They carry

the work. She does lead by example,

selves in so much. They don’t want to

with, because they live life with this

life lessons on how to be with others,

and that, to me, is so important. She

give you themselves. They will give you

vigor. They want to feel, they want to

on the mistakes they’ve learned from,

doesn’t let the talk influence her work.

their craft, but not themselves. And I

connect with others. I really hope I get

that they teach and pass down to

She’s true to her work as a person, and

can’t make films that way, I’ve learned.

a chance to work with more actors

younger people.

not just a woman, and that, to me, is

I need to work with actors who will

like that. ★

But again, and I think it’s why we connected in that way, that’s how she wants to live. She wants to live her art.

D LL II N S LS ILNI E DDEEAA D N EE ..CCOOMM//AAWWAAR RD D N E47 6


T h e B est O f 2 02 0 | D irectors

Aaron Sorkin With The Trial of the Chicago 7, the writer and director recreates a timely tale of protest amidst racial injustice and political corruption B Y A N T H O N Y D ’A L E S S A N D R O

If you want to speak truth to power, then write a story. That was Aaron Sorkin’s message at the 2017 WGA Awards when he picked up his Paddy Chayefsky honor. In his speech, he took aim at immigration and climate change policies, among other issues. So, it’s no shock to see him address our freedoms with his Netflix film, The Trial of the Chicago 7. The movie follows protestors, including Tom Hayden and Abbie Hoffman, who were charged with inciting a riot during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Steven Spielberg first assigned Sorkin to write the story, and the 2020 election hastened Sorkin to finally make the movie.

How does it feel to have this film

all, Donald Trump did exactly what

somewhere between 20 and 30

for a dramatist, an incredible secret

be be a part of the conversation

the Chicago 7 were on trial for. He

drafts of the script. At no point

to have in your pocket that you can

in the wake of everything that

incited a riot. Not just a riot, an

was I rewriting so that the script

release in the third act.

went on in January, including the

insurrection. Let’s be clear, this

would mirror what was going on in

swearing in of Joe Biden as our

wasn’t a protest that went wrong.

the world. The opposite was hap-

Abbie Hoffman was known for

new President?

It was an attack on the U.S. Capitol.

pening. The events were suddenly

his sarcasm and threatened to

I watched what happened on Janu-

They did what they went there to

mirroring what was going on in the

put LSD in Chicago’s water sup-

ary 6, horrified, like everyone else.

do. I was struck by that in terms of

script. I was just trying to make

ply to protest the Vietnam war.

Horrified by what I was seeing and

how this relates to the movie. I think

the screenplay better with each

The movie portrays him rather

how it was enabled by the President

that the obvious parallels remain of

pass and more focused. I’ll tell you

coherently and eloquently, espe-

and by powerful leaders like Ted

the protests of the last year, really

about an early eureka moment that

cially when he’s on the stand.

Cruz and Josh Hawley. Then the

since May. Legitimate protests and

never could have happened when

Tell us about that.

inauguration, it was just like a cool

protestors in cities across America

I started this. Tom Hayden was still

I was really struck by the very first

breeze. It was like just having a drink

being met by police violence, riot

alive. I got to spend time with him,

time I saw a piece of news footage

of water after being in a desert for

clubs, and how much it looked like

and there was important stuff I got

from a press conference that Abbie

four years. The sight and the sound

1968, and how much it felt like we

from Hayden that you would not

and Jerry [Rubin] gave early on in

of normalcy. Not just the inaugu-

had just kind of, like a rubber band,

be able to find in any of the many

the trial. They gave a lot of press

ration, but Jen Psaki’s first press

snapped right back to 1968.

books written about the Chicago

conferences, but this one we actu-

briefing; the sight and the sound of

7 or the 21,000-page trial tran-

ally see a moment of in the movie,

questions being answered as best

While the 2020 election was a

script. It was that personal tension

and it’s when Abbie is asked…it’s

they can. Listen, there's plenty of

catalyst to get this movie made,

between Tom and Abbie. But it was

after the whole, would you call

work to do, and there's a long way

what was the eureka moment in

also our that he told me: that he

the whole thing off for $100,000

to go. I love what Amanda Gorman,

your 14-year writing process?

meant to say, “If our blood is going

testimony, which Abbie was jok-

the poet, said: “We’re not broken,

It’s not like I went from a third draft

to spill, let it spill all over the city,”

ing about. “Give me $100,000 and

we’re unfinished.” That idea gives

that wasn’t working to a fourth

which is different from, “If blood is

I’ll call the whole thing off.” In this

you hope.

draft that was what you saw on

going to spill, let it spill all over the

press conference, a reporter kind

the screen. It was a slow pro-

city,” which does sound like a com-

of presses him on that and says

cess, a gradual process of writing

mand to start violence. That was,

“What’s your price?” Abbie asked,

So, what does this all have to do with Chicago 7? Well, first of

48

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E


ON THE STREET Sorkin, far right, directs his cast, including Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman and Jeremy Strong as jerry Rubin.

“To call off the revolution?” The

your decision to direct stem at

Being the Ricardos, again, I turned

reporter says, “Yeah.” Abbie says,

all from not wanting to be edited

in the draft and the producer, Todd

“My life.” OK. Watching that during

on this story?

Black and I started meeting with

the research phase for this whole

I’ve had great experiences with the

directors. And then Todd was able

directors that I’ve worked with. I

to see a cut of Chicago 7 and he

haven’t had that Barton Fink experi-

said, “Direct this.” My point is, no, I

ence that screenwriters are known

have not had the ‘director is ruining

for, and I’m not done wanting to

my baby’ experience. Just the oppo-

work with great directors, having

site. My experiences have been, look

that collaboration. With Molly’s

what Danny Boyle, look what Mike

Game, Chicago 7, and now with

Nichols, look what David Fincher,

Being the Ricardos, I still haven’t

look what Tommy Schlamme did

written a screenplay knowing that I

with this thing I wrote.

thing, I suddenly saw, because I had seen tons and tons of footage of Abbie the clown, in this moment, all the clownishness just in an instant, drained from his face and he said, “My life.” It was authentic and it was powerful, and I was very interested in that, interested in Abbie and those moments of transformation. Even in his big blow-up with Tom

was going to direct it. I became the director after I wrote it. It’s never

Do you think there’s a sequel in

been, “I need to protect this script

The Social Network, given every-

from a director.“ A director is my

thing that Mark Zuckerberg has

closest collaborator. With Chicago

experienced since?

7, Steven Spielberg basically threw

There’s no question that there is a

it at my head. He said, “The time

story. Whether you want to call it a

to make this movie is now.” He had

sequel or not, there’s a story there.

seen Molly’s Game, and said, “You

Whether I’m the guy to tell it or not,

should direct it.” And the thing that

I’m not sure. What I mean is right

had been the budget problem for 14

now, I would not be able to write it.

years, the two riot sequences were

I don’t know quite how to tell the

about screenwriters whose work

budget-busters, and he said, “Now

story, and I think it’s probably also

isn’t properly envisioned by the

the riot is your problem.” So, that’s

something I wouldn’t want to do

director who is overseeing it. Did

how that happened. Then with

without David Fincher.

Hayden when he tries to make him understand, “I’ve got to put on all these stunts because we don’t have any money and that’s what gets the cameras there,” I knew that the Abbie Hoffman that people were aware of was a lunatic. I thought COU RT ESY OF N E TF L IX

Obvious parallels remain... Legitimate protests and protesters in cities across America being met by police violence.

that there was a lot of value in showing the contrast. We often hear these stories

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

49


T h e B est O f 2 02 0 | D irectors

Regina King The Oscar-winning actress is a star behind the camera with One Night in Miami B Y N A D I A N E O P H Y T O U

The film opens not in Miami but

I really appreciated what he did, not

just a play on screen, partly

is color saturation. I love films where

at Wembley Stadium, for the

only because it opened the story up,

thanks to the choices of interiors

filmmakers choose to use palettes

bout with Henry Cooper. It’s how

but it also quickly humanized the

and colors you use. What guided

and tones that are more close to a

we are introduced to as Cassius

four legends. That's the thing that I

you in making these decisions?

time period, that are a little more

Clay, before meeting the others.

think is particularly special or what

A few things. One, the dialogue

muted. But in this case, having a

How did those scenes help you to

connects the audience is they’re

is the star of the film and just so

20-something-year-old [son], I do

begin telling this story?

going in thinking that they're going to

powerful. I felt these conversations

know that they have short atten-

The first draft that I read, that’s how

see a story that is maybe loose biog-

are conversations that we, as Black

tion spans and you have to get their

Kemp [Powers] introduced all of

raphies on the four men and then

people, have been having far before

attention quickly. And that was one

our legends. And it was one of the

they realize, as an audience member,

1964. And the thing that really struck

of the things that crossed my mind.

things that I immediately thought

that they are actually a fly on the wall

me is that the four legends on this

was clever. Before I actually met

for a private conversation between

night were just all so young. So, I

Love, that I just felt was so lush and

with Kemp, I bought the play. After, I

four men, outside of their titles.

really wanted it to appeal to the

so rich. I remember that I had to

younger generation. I felt like one of

go back to watch the film because

read the screenplay just to see what

There's a film, In the Mood for

things he took out, what things he

Kemp adapted his play for the

the things that was a really impor-

I couldn't remember what it was

put in, how he chose to open it up.

film, and it becomes more than

tant way to keep them in it, visually,

about. I remembered, obviously yes,

50

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

COU RT ESY OF A M AZO N ST U D I OS

Regina King has built her award-winning acting career on a rock-solid foundation of memorable roles, and, after a host of small screen directing gigs on shows like Southland, This Is Us and Insecure, her smash directorial feature debut, One Night in Miami—which made its virtual premiere on King’s 50th birthday—shows she’s building just as sturdy a big screen directing career too. The film, adapted from Kemp Powers' stage play, reimagines a night in which four icons meet—Cassius Clay, Jim Brown, Sam Cooke and Malcolm X—and discuss their roles in much-needed societal change.


movement. While we were in a room

particular, I was really lucky in the

for sometimes almost 20 minutes,

fact that [executive producers]

I still didn't want the camera to feel

Chris Chulack and John Wells, and

static, but I didn't want it to be a distraction. And when I explained this to my DP, Tami Reiker, she had the great idea of using jib arms to shoot everything so that we never have a moment where the camera is still, but we don't have that swimmy feeling that you can sometimes with the Steadicam. You also recreate the iconic underwater portrait of Muhammad Ali in color. Was this something you knew you were going to do from the beginning? Yeah, absolutely. We say at the beginning, ‘inspired by true events,’ and that was just an iconic photo. I don't really know many people who haven't seen it, but we always see it in black and white. And I just felt like, wow, this is a powerful way to jump off the story, because that moment comes once we land in Miami, and it's still one of my favorite shots in the film. There's something very soothing about it. In a way, it's the

The dialogue is the star of the film and just so powerful. I felt these conversations are conversations that we, as Black people, have been having far before 1964.

Jimmy Muro and Dana Gonzales, our DPs, were so excited about me wanting to add this hyphenate to my name. They really just opened their arms and their prep process up to me so that I was quickly able to pick up all of these great jewels from artists that I had been working with, and that I really respected... Nelson McCormick was also a director that was very much present in allowing me to see his process. You advocate for gender parity and racial equality in Hollywood. What have you learned there? Well, one, if we're continuing to only employ just a certain group of people, we're missing out on just so much talent. Two, that it's our responsibility to create pipelines. There are a lot of women that are builders and engineers and would be great in the construction department on films, but don't even know that exists. One of the things that I really took

calm before the storm. I say that,

away from the time that I made that

not saying that what comes next is

proclamation on that Golden Globes

dark in any way, but the audience

stage [in 2019] to now, one of the

doesn't know what it's in store for.

things that I realized that I was guilty

You kind of feel like you're going to

of, is that I was speaking of gender

see this film that's about Cassius.

parity and neglecting to acknowl-

And that's kind of the point, the Tro-

edge the fact that gender parity, if

jan horse, you come in thinking one

we are truly speaking about gender

it was a love story, but I remember

thing and you leave with something

parity, is not just male or female, and

the images, that's what stuck with

so much greater.

I'm learning, and I'm understand-

me. So, I felt we could capture the

ing that better now. On the film, if

same energy that I was left with,

When you look back to your first

we were not, as a filmmaking team,

in our film. It would make sense,

directing gig on Southland, what

actively trying to create gender par-

because Black people, we're so col-

did you carry from that? Was

ity, we would not have ended up with

orful. We laugh, we dance, we love,

there something there you were

a crew that predominantly identifies

we smile; even with all of the tragic

eager to learn that's now maybe

as a person of color, or that does

things and violations that have been

second nature to you?

not identify as cis white male. I don't

against us throughout history, we

I feel like I carry things with me from

think that I would have even consid-

still manage to do all those things.

every project that I do, whether it's

ered that I was not being inclusive of

Color also represents that. So that

as an actor or as a director, and in

everyone if I didn't challenge myself

was very clear to me.

the past 10 years or so I've been

to actually achieve gender parity. So,

able to consciously employ those

I understand now that gender parity

his paintings also were inspiration

things. It doesn't matter which one

means a different thing than what I

to capture that energy, and also

I'm doing. So with Southland in

said that night. ★

There's a man, Jacob Lawrence,

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

51


T h e B est O f 2 02 0 | D irectors

WITH THE BAND George C. Wolfe on set with Viola Davis as Ma Rainey and Chadwick Boseman as trumpet player Levee.

George C. Wolfe The renowned playwright and director of stage and screen hits a career breakthrough with Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom B Y S T E V I E W O N G

What was your first impression of August Wilson’s work? Well, it’s just his language and details about the culture. I saw the original stage version of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom back in 1984 and one of the things particularly joyful about his work is how actors are enacting it,

52

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

shout, to celebrate, to use language that is glorious and complicated. And as a result of that, all of the production sparkled in this really interesting play, not just because of the language that he wrote, but the relish that actors felt in saying that

COU RT ESY OF N E TF L IX

because they get to strut, they get to

George C. Wolfe has been celebrated for his groundbreaking work on stage as a playwright and director for decades. It was very much a natural shift when he made his way behind the camera on projects like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and Lackawanna Blues. But in his latest directorial endeavour Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Wolfe not only found joy in bringing the late playwright August Wilson’s work to screen, but he also discovered some new truths in collaborating with an exceptional cast to tell the story of a legendary singer and her band.


language. And that’s the thing that's

all that that entails. And from the

fascinating to me about his work.

abstraction of those early conversa-

ing. And you can’t search if you say

tions, you see that unbelievably bril-

you already know it. One of the

liantly manifested in her work.

things that [director of photography]

Everyone always talks about the language of August Wilson, how

Viola was also interested in the

would you describe it to someone

fact that the film is set in 1927 and

who’s never experienced it?

Ma Rainey never recorded after 1928.

You don’t describe it. You see it and

So, in essence, you see a person

find yourselves inside the language

who is realizing that the peak of her

and discover the truths inside of

career has passed, and the conse-

it. So, you don’t describe it, you

quences of that.

embody it so that everyone can feel

So, you have these conversations

free to connect to who they are and

with her, and she’s exploring these

find something exhilarating inside of

truths, and then you see it mani-

the storytelling.

fested in how she sits and talks and holds her head, how the philosophy

Does that feeling extend to

of one moment can give way to the

directing his work?

fragility of another one.

My job is not to be enthralled. My job is to animate a world and make

That must have really been a joy

it live. So, it’s just fun. It was fun

to observe.

just working with people who were

It’s just fascinating watching this

incredible craftspeople. We had a

consummate artist at work. You

two-week rehearsal in which we

can’t wear your accomplishments

would dig in and get at the mate-

when you’re doing a new role. All

rial, and the truth that was going on

you can do is try to make yourself as

inside of it, and try to animate it and

available as you possibly can to the

elevate it and excavate it, and try to

role, and part of that journey is the

find as much stuff that was inside.

not knowing. One of the most crucial

It’s great when there's wonderful

aspects of doing good work is giving

language and character and detail.

yourself permission to discover that which you don't know.

How did Viola Davis approach

All really good actors are search-

Viola is an extraordinary artist because she’s ferociously smart about text and about human behavior... Inside her is this deep, powerful, emotional reserve.

Tobias [Schliessler] said to me was, “The film takes place in that band room and I’m not sure how to shoot it.” And I said to him, “If you knew how to shoot it, then you shouldn't do the movie.” Doing any good project is confronting the things that you don't know how to do so that you can figure them out. What was it like to show this film to August's wife Constanza? Was that screening stressful? What you going to do? I mean, it’s done [laughs]. We did a screening in this beautiful deco theater in Atlanta. And she was very excited and happy. She said it felt like August and I were talking the entire time while I was directing it, which was a really sweet thing to say. I was really thrilled. Producers Denzel Washington and Todd Black want to make all of August Wilson's plays for the screen. Have you discussed directing any more with them? Denzel would love for me to do something else, but there are 10

this material?

Did you see that element in Chad-

plays and so maybe I’ll do number

Viola is an extraordinary artist

wick Boseman?

seven or eight or something like that.

because she’s ferociously smart.

Yeah. You can tell when it’s really

But anytime I do a project, I want to

She’s ferociously smart about text

glorious; when you are witnessing

do something very different next.

and about human behavior. There’s

something that is quite magical.

To me, the ambition is to perpetu-

a ferret in her who is just digging and

When Chad was doing the scene

ally put yourself in a state where you

digging and digging to get at what’s

where he cursed God, which was

have to be vulnerable to the material

underneath. Then add on that she’s

physically and emotionally monu-

and to dive in and do something that

an incredibly skilled actor who is

mental, once cut was called, he’d go

is completely and totally different

flawlessly trained. Inside her is this

out, and there were these stairs just

from the last thing that I’ve done. I

deep, powerful, emotional reserve.

outside of where the band was, and

am constantly having to evolve new

he’d just physically collapse. He’d see

muscles and new understanding,

and I talked about was the wear and

me approaching and I’d ask, “You

and digging into another time period

tear of having to perpetually fight for

have time for some notes?” And

or another series of truths, and to

your right to be an artist, to fight for

he'd gesture for me to come over

make myself available to that.

your right to be paid, to fight for your

and give him some notes and then

right to be respected. The physical,

20 minutes later for the next take, he

streaming on Netflix, I said, I’m ready

emotional, and spiritual wear and

would have fully incorporated it. In

to jump off a cliff and fall into deep

tear of having to be a warrior just to

addition to the brilliance of the work,

unknowing waters, and work on

make it through the day. That’s what

he was also on the perpetual journey

something new, because the fun is in

Ma has been doing from a very, very

of discovering and finding new truths

the not knowing and the discovery of

young age, being from the South and

to the material.

the journey. ★

One of the first things that she

The day after Ma Rainey started

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

53


T h e B est O f 2 02 0 | D irectors

DANGEROUS MIND Florian Zeller on set with Anthony Hopkins as the protagonist in The father.

The award-winning French playwright makes his feature directing debut with The Father B Y A N T O N I A B LY T H

film is Anthony and you had Anthony Hopkins in mind from early on. Is that a coincidence? It's true that when I started to dream about writing the script, the face I had in mind was Anthony's. It sounded a bit unrealistic at first,

Florian Zeller’s film directing debut, The Father, adapted from his Tony-nominated and Molière winning play Le Père, takes the inside perspective of Anthony (Anthony Hopkins)’s slow slide into dementia, as his daughter (Olivia Colman) attempts to care for him. We find ourselves in the hellish hall of mirrors of Anthony’s declining mind as Zeller repeatedly wrongfoots us—is the daughter playing tricks? How can this be a different apartment? How much time has passed?— and we experience his shattering loss of cognition again and again. Here Zeller explains why he always wanted to cast Hopkins, and how the medium of film added to the existing story. 54

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

and probably I made the decision to use the Anthony name to make it, at least for myself, a bit more real. It was a way to be absolutely connected to him and to write that script for him, and take into account who he is, because he's such a

COU RT ESY OF SO N Y P I CT UR ES CL ASS I CS

Florian Zeller

The protagonist’s name in the


special personality. I think I've grown

was not an easy task to take. Trying

day I received a call from someone

up with him in mind, as probably

to do something he hasn't done yet,

I didn't know, letting me know that

everyone has, as if we knew him as

trying to be pure emotion and this

Anthony wanted to meet with me. I

part of our family, somehow. It was

vulnerability, it was something that

took a plane to Los Angeles to have

meaningful to me, because I wanted

he hadn't explored yet, cinematically

the audience to experience what it

talking. I think it was a risky choice,

could mean to lose someone you are

and he's an artist still open to put

intimately related to.

himself at risk. This is something that

Also, he's so strong, so powerful, so this man was always in control. I

is, in my opinion, really daring and really admirable.

thought that it would be even more powerful and disturbing and sad to

Did you always plan to make the

see that man losing control. I wrote

play into a film?

the script with this character, this

I would say it was a profound

new character named Anthony, and

desire. That play has been staged

also, because I wanted him to know

in many countries, and I was sur-

that it was written for him, of course.

prised and profoundly moved to

I thought that maybe it could help

see the response of the audience

me to be more convincing.

everywhere, in spite of the local dif-

And I thought that it could help

ferences, the response of the audi-

There are so many films about dementia, and it’s always told the same way, from the outside. It could be very painful. It could be very moving...but in my opinion, it’s always a bit almost boring.

breakfast with him and it was an amazing meeting, because of course I was a bit impressed, because it was Anthony Hopkins and the stakes couldn't be higher for me. But to tell you the truth, after two minutes I knew that it would be almost easy to work with him, because of who he is, because he's humble. And humble for an actor means that he's not here to serve himself, he's here to serve the emotions that you want to share. He is here to serve the director's vision. I knew that he would give me the room to do the film I really wanted to make.

to do what I wanted to do—to play

ence was always the same, meaning

with what is real, and what is not

that they were always waiting for

real. A few days before we shot the

us after every performance, just to

film, Anthony came to me and told

share their own stories... I wanted

me, “Florian, are you certain about

to make that film because I had the

this name? My name, and his date

conviction that it could be some-

of birth is my real date of birth. Are

thing different. I profoundly thought

you certain that it is useful?” He was

that something could be done, only

doubting it. And I said, “Yes, I really

thanks to the cinema, something

want to keep it that way,” because I

that was not possible on stage. And

thought that it could be like a door.

it was to experience subjectively

It could open any time during the

what it means to lose your bearings.

shooting, and to let in his own very

I thought that thanks to the cinema,

personal emotions, and more pre-

to the language of the cinema, it

and so was I, and this is when this

cisely, his own personal feeling of

could be even more unique and even

process of putting the audience

mortality. The challenge was to try

more painful, even more emotion-

in his shoes started. There are so

to explore a new emotional territory.

ally challenging. That's the reason I

many plays or so many films about

I didn't come to him to ask him to

started to dream about making that

dementia, and it's always told in

do what he's known for, in a way. I

film. It was a plan and it was not an

the same way, from the outside. It

wanted him to go into the unknown

easy plan, because I made the deci-

could be very painful. It could be

with me, to explore this place where

sion to do it in English.

very moving. I can quote some films

he is only fragility and insecurity.

You take such a unique approach to representing his confusion, even changing the actors around, so at one point his daughter is played by Olivia Williams. How did you fix on that idea? It came to me when I wrote the play. Actually, I remember that moment. It was more than 10 years ago. Suddenly I had this idea, if it was another actress, what would happen? And suddenly he was absolutely lost

that are very good at that, but in my And then you visualized Hopkins.

opinion, it's always a bit almost bor-

I interviewed him recently and

I remember a friend of mine, when

ing. Meaning that you know where

he said it really did make him

I was sharing my ideas, they were

you are, and you know where you're

address his own mortality.

laughing at me, because it's Sir

going, and that's it. And in the mean-

It's true that, in the end, he was

Anthony Hopkins, it's not an easy

time, you could have an extremely

amazingly generous to the project.

dream to fulfill, but my intuition

convincing performance, but that's

He did his job, but he did more than

was that until someone comes

not enough, in my opinion. I wanted

his job. He gave himself entirely to

and tells you, “It's not possible,” it

this film to be not only a story, I

the story, in my opinion, in a very

means that potentially it is. Most of

wanted this film to be an experience.

generous and uncommon way. I

the time, we are the ones who just

I think that the film adaptation was

admire him a lot, but also because

close the doors of what is possible

the opportunity to try to find a trans-

I think he's really brave, humble and

and what is not possible. I sent the

lation of this confusion, but in a very

brave. He's 83 now. He knew that it

script to Anthony's agent, and one

cinematic way. ★

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

55


T h e B est O f 2 02 0 | D irectors

VITAL HISTORY Shaka King with Daniel Kaluuya as Fred Hampton on the set of Judas and the Black Messiah.

Shaka King With Judas and the Black Messiah, Shaka King tackles a dramatic and unsettling part of American history

ous attempts to tell his story have stalled in the past. What did it mean for you personally to see

My first compelling reason for wanting to make the movie was that it was an opportunity to correct the

Seven years ago, writer, director and producer Shaka King accepted the Film Independent Someone to Watch Award for his quirky comedic debut, Newlyweeds. After years directing shorts and episodes of TV shows Shrill, High Maintenance and People of Earth, the 40-year-old filmmaker returns to the big screen. Collaborating with producers Ryan Coogler and Charles D. King, he tackles the compelling story of how FBI informant William O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) infiltrated the Black Panther party and befriended Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya), leading to the deputy chairman’s death in a police raid in 1969. 56

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

record in terms of the misinformation that's been put forth about the Black Panther party, in terms of them being terrorists and focusing on the militancy of their politics, as opposed to focusing on this more holistic vision that they had for bettering the world, through free

COU RT ESY OF WAR N ER BROS .

Hampton was killed, and previ-

this film all the way through?

BY NADIA NEOPHY TOU

It’s been over 50 years since Fred


healthcare and free breakfast and

address. So ultimately, the process

meeting him. And when I met him, I

access to livable, decent housing,

of collaborating on this with all of

observed those qualities. But I think

and just the number of causes they

these different voices made me, I

in addition to that, you see it in his

championed. So being able to put

feel, a better artist.

other performances, the commit-

forth some of their politics, which are incredibly relevant today obvi-

Your research must have been

ously, was the reason that anytime I

quite extensive? What did you

had my doubts, whether they were

rely on?

related to creative difficulties or

A million books, articles, interviews,

things of that nature, the priority,

books that were out of print. The

the importance—especially after

several hundred dollars [worth of]

having met Fred Hampton Jr. and

books that I bought, just because

having met Akua Njeri—there was

this history isn't widely covered, it's

no option for this not happening. We

intentionally kept from us. But also,

just had too unique and important

you have to understand that you're

an opportunity.

talking about a community that was traumatized, and just quite simply

How did you work with the fam-

traumatized by the U.S. government,

ily’s involvement in the film?

not just the events of Fred Hamp-

It all happened on a case by case

ton's assassination, but the war that

basis. Fred Hampton Jr. was on set

the FBI waged with the COINTEL-

nearly 90% of the time. He joined

PRO [Counterintelligence Program],

the production officially a week

imprisoning so many Panthers, a

into shooting, and from that day

good amount of whom are still in

on, he was on set. I think maybe he

prison now, all these years later.

It was an opportunity to correct the record in terms of the misinformation that’s been put forth about the Black Panther party, in terms of them being terrorists.

ment to the material and his seriousness. I think that is a big part of the reason why. He did the preparation. It's a very hard dialect to nail. We talked exhaustively about it, because it was a fine line to ride. If you listened to his actual speeches, he spoke so fast and there's a Southern inflection in his words, there’s a bit of Chicago too. And then there's also, I suspect... I could be wrong, but I have a number of friends with deviated septums. So they have a very nasal tonality to their voice as well, which he had, which gives it a muffled tonality. So it was like, how do we find that tone where you can understand clearly what he's saying, because it's so important that these words are clearly understood, but

missed two days, tops. He had read

As the film highlights, counter-

the script a million times, many ver-

intelligence in the form of utilizing

sions of the script, and the final one

informants was rampant in terms

he read many, many times. But it's

of what the Bureau was doing. So,

very different reading something

as a result, they're pretty rightfully

for so long, come away from it say-

and then being on set watching it

mistrustful of outsiders, and so there

ing, “Yeah, this guy nailed it”? It was

unfold. There would be things in the

just isn't that much written about

a real, real difficult thing to pull off,

moment that he hadn't considered

this history. It took a lot of research

and I think Daniel did.

that he would now be confronted

on my part and on Will Berson, my

with and it would really push us to

co-writer's part, to get to the truth

How did you finish the film during

change course. Sometimes we could

on this stuff.

the pandemic?

do that, and there were instances

also that you sound enough like Fred so people who know his voice and love this man, and have been waiting for a movie to be made about him

We were able to get a cut together

when we weren't able to do that

From the video footage of Hamp-

before New York shut down... and

because of something, for example,

ton that exists, it’s evident Daniel

then eventually we started working

that we shot prior. If it was going

Kaluuya captures his magnetism.

together remotely.

to affect something that was to be

How did you know he could do it?

shot later, we would always try to

I just knew. I knew intuitively that he

And now maybe more people can

consider it. Sometimes we could

was the guy. And when I met him, he

see it virtually.

accommodate. Sometimes we

possessed just certain qualities that

Look, I think about it like this, the

couldn’t. Sometimes it just made

people who knew Fred Hampton

Black Panther party was all about

scenes better.

would talk about—how mature he

getting what they felt the people

was, but also how charismatic. And

needed, to the people, as free and

opportunity to learn how to make

you hear the youthful charisma in

as easy as possible. And so, in the

sideways moves, which wasn't

the way he presents his ideas, less

middle of the pandemic, there’s no

something that I had to do just to

so in the ideas themselves. He was

justification for denying people. As

satisfy Fred Hampton Jr.'s desires. It

very funny. He was profane. And

a person who really needed TV and

was something I had to do to satisfy

Daniel is the same, just that mix of

movies at different points during this

studio and producer notes, that I

gravitas and youthful charisma. It's

year after a hard day, it’s the only

might not necessarily agree with, but

rare that you find that in one person.

way. In some ways it’s the right thing

that they thought were important to

I was writing this for Daniel prior to

to do for people. ★

For me as a director, it was an

D E A D L I N E .C O M / AWA R D S L I N E

57


B E S T A N I M AT E D F E AT U R E BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Profile for Deadline Hollywood

Deadline Hollywood - AwardsLine - 02/03/21 - Oscar Preview/Directors  

Deadline Hollywood - AwardsLine - 02/03/21 - Oscar Preview/Directors