‘Widows’ Breakout Cynthia Erivo On The ‘Harriet’ Casting Backlash: “Hopefully Some Minds Will Change”

Steve McQueen’s female-centric heist movie Widows might be packed with familiar and accomplished women like Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki and Michelle Rodriguez, but magnetic breakout Cynthia Erivo still jumped off the screen in her first ever feature…

Steve McQueen's female-centric heist movie Widows might be packed with familiar and accomplished women like Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki and Michelle Rodriguez, but magnetic breakout Cynthia Erivo still jumped off the screen in her first ever feature. Erivo is a storied stage actress, and has already won an Emmy, a Grammy and a Tony for her turn as Celie in the Broadway musical of The Color Purple. With Bad Times at the El Royale also on release this year, and with the…

SFFILM Boosts Local Hero Boots Riley, Amy Adams and Steve McQueen with Awards

San Francisco is an awards stop on the road to the Oscars.

SFFILM executive director Noah Cowan knows how to play awards season. He moved the San Francisco Film Society’s annual awards fundraising night from April to December — in the awards corridor — knowing he could lure some awards players to San Francisco. What’s in it for them? Bay Area Academy members, who showed up for a Monday night pre-event cocktail party at The Palace of Fine Arts, including documentary filmmakers, costume designers, sound editors, animators, and visual effects artists. With both Pixar and Lucasfilm based in San Francisco, it’s a crafts mecca.

This awards night belonged to Oakland filmmaker made good, Boots Riley, whose father beamed with pride along with novelist Ishmael Reed, who presented the Kanbar Award for Storytelling to the rookie director. Riley thanked SFFILM for making him a filmmaker in residence in 2014 and helping him to develop Sundance breakout “Sorry to Bother You,” which Annapurna turned into a summer hit. “That made this able to happen. It made it real.”

Michelle Rodriguez at SFFILM Awards

Anne Thompson

The film society gave out $1 million last year to develop emerging features.

“I’m not getting an award for style,” said Riley, who quit film school to pursue the music boom and then returned to his first love, film. He complained that too many people write movies based on things they’ve seen in other movies, not real life. “I want something new that talks about how people can change the world.” “Sorry to Bother You” was “crazy,” he said, “Because it was new.”

The fundraiser raised over $250,000 from the assembled guests in a little over ten minutes from donors like Adam McKay, Dawn Porter, Alice Waters and more.

On Sunday night at the Castro, McKay submitted to an interview with “The Big Short” writer Michael Lewis, who reminded him that he dropped out of college. (During my interview with him and his “Vice” star Amy Adams the next day, they both remembered money being in short supply during their school days.) On Monday, McKay presented the Acting Award to Adams, thanking her for choosing the “more difficult road of “artist and an actress.” He needed her to play Machiavellian wife Lynne Cheney in “Vice” because he hinged the entire movie on her performance. Adams said she was glad she didn’t know that while she was making the movie. “I am someone who has a close relationship with fear,” Adams admitted.

Michelle Rodriguez presented the Directing Award to her “Widows” director Steve McQueen, who reminded the crowd that making movies is a family affair, he said. “It’s not me, it’s we.” But in the end, “the only thing worth living for and dying for is love.”

See How ‘Widows’ Captured Chicago Through Its Use of Color

In exclusive before and after images, go behind the scenes of cinematographer Sean Bobbitt’s collaboration with Steve McQueen and his colorist Tom Poole.

Widows” director Steve McQueen and cinematographer Sean Bobbitt have been working together for 18 years. It’s a collaboration that spawned from a friendship based on talking about art, photography, and politics. According to both men, with “Widows” they reached a point in their creative marriage where they barely talk about the look of the film.

“Sean is gorgeous in how he looks at things and what we don’t want to do is something decorative – not interested, we’re interested in getting something much more textural, that you can actually feel it in your hands,” said McQueen in a recent interview with IndieWire. “It gets under your skin, because unfortunately we don’t have smell, but we do have color grading, which is very important.”

"Widows" director Steve McQueen and DP Sean Bobbitt

“Widows” director Steve McQueen and DP Sean Bobbitt

Merrick Morton

One of the things that is important to both Bobbitt and McQueen, who have shot all of McQueen’s films on 35mm film stock, is this work is captured in-camera. It’s rare in a digital age, where so many films’ color story and overall look is manufactured in the post-production color grading process. And yet Bobbitt has an equally close collaboration with his longtime colorist Tom Poole, one of the most well-respected color graders working in movies, which begs the question: What is the role of the rigorous color grading for a DP who creates the look of his film in-camera?

Read More: In ‘Widows,’ Steve McQueen Does More with One Shot Than Most Directors Do with a Scene

IndieWire recently visited Poole at his Company 3 office in New York to look at some images from “Widows,” and spoke to both McQueen and Bobbitt to discuss their collaboration, in an effort to answer this question.

Widows Sean Bobbitt shooting Viola Davis in her character's apartment

Sean Bobbitt shooting Viola Davis in her character’s apartment

Merrick Morton

McQueen and Bobbitt are careful not to approach a film with a predetermined look, but rather one that emanates from the soul of the story itself. With “Widows,” that means the city of Chicago itself.

“One is not trying to say anything other than portraying the city as it is,” said McQueen. “Chicago, what’s so beautiful is it’s very gothic, at the same time it’s very modern, and then you have these areas that are very derelict, the southside which is decaying… The palette is such, it’s how do you differentiate, but at the same time merge these environments.”

For Bobbitt, ground zero of figuring this out was Veronica’s (Viola Davis) apartment. The location itself was the personal penthouse of one of the pioneers of modernist architecture, Mies van der Rohe, in one of the last skyscrapers he built (and in which his grandson still lives) along Lake Shore Drive.

“You have the blue of the lake and sky, and it’s all completely surrounded by glass, the interior has a unique sort of blue feel,” said Bobbitt. “All the walls are white and take on the color of everything else that goes on around, and that had a great impact upon me visually the more time I spent there. There’s a lot of very, very cold moments in the apartment, particularly when Viola has been left bereaved, and then the coldness of the apartment was there to reflect that literally. But then there are other times in the evening where there’s the incandescent light is on and the white walls are taking on that warmth, so the apartment had its own life within which she existed.”

While Bobbitt will capture that feel in-camera, he likes to give freedom to the colorist digitizing the dailies and then to Poole in the final grade to interpret his work. Poole will take a first pass on the film, which serves as a starting point for his 12-hour-a-day sessions with Bobbitt.

"Widows": Before and after the final color grade

“Widows”: Before and after the final color grade

Courtesy of Company 3/Fox

“We never like anything to look like it’s too heavily graded, it has to look like it could be ambient,” said Poole. “Even when there is a very strong look to a scene, we talk about making sure the grade emulates that photochemical look in a world, unlike what you are seeing so much of today where heavily graded films push the hyper-reality of things. That self-conscience look, for me, pulls you right out of the movie.”

Poole’s first pass often opens up elements of a scene or the location for Bobbitt by teasing out what was already there. Looking at the above still, Bobbitt marvels at how the early morning shot of Davis overlooking the lake, Poole was able to pull out the natural blue of the scene and then to contrast it with the distant orange. Poole said his initial pass was more neutral.

“Sean will be like, ‘Okay, this is a really nice somber moment, so let’s dial it back. This feels a bit too sunny, let’s just go a little bit cooler on it,’” said Poole. “And especially in this film. I mean, you’re playing up a lot of the sort of isolation that Viola has in this apartment. Liam’s character’s [has just died] and she’s in this beautiful apartment, but it’s sterile and cold and lonely, so we played the cooler element up. And that was all Sean’s direction.”

The lighting and color of the space reflects Davis’ character’s emotions, but it also served as a palate cleanser according to Poole and Bobbitt. Davis’ protagonist anchors a multi-character story which forces her from the clean, luxurious lifestyle of the apartment and pulls her into the darker, grittier parts of the city. Bobbitt’s visual design for the film was guided by using the apartment as a counter to define the look of the film’s other, more seedy worlds.

"Widows": Before and after the final color grade

“Widows”: Before and after the final color grade

Courtesy of Company 3/Fox

“That coldness and all the warmth, I think, led directly to the lighting concepts of the location where all the widows meet, which used to be where her husband would meet to plan their robberies,” said Bobbitt. “You have a total contrast, where Viola’s house has that uniformity of either the cold or the warmth, the husbands’ liar had a total mix of lighting – fluorescent hues, daylight and tungsten with varying degrees of green within them, but also incandescent lighting and sort of classical theatrical tungsten lighting as well. So that kind of mix created a world that emphasized that chaos of the world the widows had found themselves thrown into and which they were having to embrace.”

Bobbitt builds his lighting around making sure he gets the actors’ skin tones right, as the characters’ faces are the most important part of the frame. The husbands’ hideout presents specific challenges along these lines. It is where the widows – whose skin tone ranges from the alabaster skin of Elizabeth Debicki to the varying dark skin tones of Davis and Cynthia Erivo – meet and share the frame.

“You can’t mess around with the skin tone too much, especially African-American skin tones, which we had a lot of experience working with on ’12 Years a Slave,’” said Poole. “There was a very broad spectrum of skin tones, if you add too much warmth the skin can go very red. If you cool it down, it can go gray and look very ashen, so there’s such a fine line, so we tend to sort of dial the skin tone in the grade first and shape the environment around that.”

While having to create a grade that works for each of the women, Poole is also looking to pull out more of the gritty texture Bobbitt and McQueen want.

“I remember when we watched the dailies, initially the dailies colorist had gone cooler, so it was almost like an ultramarine blue that they were editing with, which looked icy,” said Poole. “Sean and I talked and instantly when I put more warmth back into the skin, the blues go that more kind of aqua-green color and just looks a bit dirtier and dingy. We both instinctively responded to that.”

Poole used power windows to isolate parts of the frame to enhance the color contrast. While introducing overall warmth to the frame, which can seen in the highlights in Debicki’s hair, Poole dialed into bluer, cooler parts of frame, like parts of the wood backdrop, to emphasize the warm-to-cool and dark-to-light transitions in the lighting design.

“We went quite dense, so we just had to lift a few things up by bringing it down just to get that mood and texture in there,” said Poole. “By putting that the contrast in there, you see all that texture in the walls right, so it’s dirty and has the feel Steve and Sean wanted. I did some work on Viola. She’s in the falloff of the frame, so we just gave her a bit of luminance and put a bit more warmth on her.”

"Widows": Before and after the final color grade

“Widows”: Before and after the final color grade

Courtesy of Company 3/Fox

According to Poole, the key is that Bobbitt takes this into account and properly exposes each character – controlling how the light’s color and reflection interact with the different surfaces and skin tones.

“I shoot as much as I can interior and exterior with a polarizing filter and by using the polarizer I can affect the amount of reflection off of any surface, but particularly faces so that I can use it to enhance say the reflection of another color of light on the flesh,” said Bobbitt. “And so I’ve enhanced the sort of warmer tones coming in onto the right hand side of her face which gives sort of a separation of the image in the background, but also shows the effect of the location on the person themselves.”

This image of Davis in the lair is a good example, as it shows how the light is actually playing on her skin with different colors giving different colored highlights. Poole then went in with a power window to bring out more of the coolness on her skin.

“Whenever I have a scene that has fluorescent light and tungsten light mixed together the trick is to find other nuance of color which you can see,” said Poole. “We desaturated some of this green so that it wasn’t this sort of teal and orange kind-of-obvious-wash look. The wardrobe is amazing, because you throw in this purple and there’s such a nuance of color, orange and purple are complementary. That’s what [McQueen’s whole team] is so good at, there’s a lot of that throughout the film where my job is made easy just because you have these beautiful offsetting colors.”

"Widows": Before and after the final color grade

“Widows”: Before and after the final color grade

Courtesy of Company 3/Fox

For Bobbitt, who has shot digitally on non-McQueen projects, the debate over digital versus film is boring. He sees the two as entirely different entities. For the type of work being done on “Widows,” film is what makes the nuance possible.

“For me, the beauty of the film is simply the fact that it is made of a multitude of layers, and that there are three separate individual color layers, the red, blue, and the green which are doing nothing but taking information for those colors,” said Bobbitt. “Whereas, the pixels are slightly different. You have no depth to a chip. It’s simply one surface and so the information that’s coming in is simply not three-dimensional.”

The ability to get that latitude in the image, but then having all that detail digitized to work with it, is the best of both worlds. Poole doesn’t disagree, but adds this only works if the film is exposed correctly.

“There is more latitude with film, sure, but it can be tough if it’s under-exposed,” said Poole. “Digital is very forgiving now. People are using at these crazy ISOs and there’s a lot of recovery in the low end. Film has to be exposed properly. You can’t undersell how much Sean is controlling this nuance of exposure and color in-camera.”

Both men point to scene at the gym, where a menacing Jatemme Manning (Daniel Kaluuya) confronts two men he believes have crossed him and his brother (Brian Tyree Henry). The scene ends in surprising violence.

“Although the events there are ultimately horrific, the build up is unexpected and we didn’t want to foretell what was going to happen by making it overly dark and sinister,” said Bobbitt. “I lit the gym completely with daylight coming through the windows. It’s trying to keep an honesty, a truthfulness to the scene that could be beyond believable to an audience. It needed that reality. But what I think is interesting is to see just how filmic this frame is. It’s just quite clean in the white, but yet still holds all the darkness of the scene and hopefully holds all the different flesh tones correctly as well.”

Poole was able to dig into this image by once again working with the images’ natural contrast to make it even denser and richer in detail, but not in the way you might imagine.

“Sometimes when people like contrast they just lift their whites, crush their blacks,” said Poole. “I tend to like to do my contrast, and a lot of feature guys do as well, with steeper curves, and it gives you a lot of the density, but still preserves detail in your highlights and shadows. You’re sort of setting the mid-tones down, keeping the texture in the blacks and in the highlights. I never like anything to be crushed or clipped.”

"Widows": Before and after the final color grade

“Widows”: Before and after the final color grade

Courtesy of Company 3/Fox

One thing Poole does in the gym shot, that he also does with the image above, is add a layer of silver.

“Sean and I have these tricks we play, [using] highlight keys and luminance keys to really run this nice silver aspect through the skin,” said Poole. “There’s a very specific way that Sean and I do it, we call it our secret sauce, which works very well with his aesthetic and how he shoots.”

The above image highlights how important Poole’s black and white photography background is to their collaboration. Specifically, the concept of “dodging and burning,” exposing different parts of the frame differently to create the perfect contrast. “Then he brings out that blue,” said Bobbitt, admiring the image. “He’s a real artist.”

‘Widows’ Editor Layers Suspense Into Steve McQueen’s Crime Thriller

More than five years ago, while finishing the Academy Award-winning “12 Years a Slave, ” director Steve McQueen told editor Joe Walker about a different project he had in mind: an adaptation of the hit ’80s British television drama “Widows” from crime …

More than five years ago, while finishing the Academy Award-winning “12 Years a Slave, ” director Steve McQueen told editor Joe Walker about a different project he had in mind: an adaptation of the hit ’80s British television drama “Widows” from crime writer Lynda La Plante. The movie adaptation, co-written by McQueen and Gillian Flynn […]

In ‘Widows,’ Steve McQueen Does More with One Shot Than Most Directors Do with a Scene

Toolkit Podcast Ep. 67: “I wanted this canvas where you touched upon icebergs, where you saw the tip of it, but you knew the depth of it.”

There has always been an efficiency to filmmaker Steve McQueen’s visual storytelling, but the multi-layered and complex narrative of his new film “Widows” puts the director’s ability to quickly translate complex emotional and dramatic situations to the test. Beyond the effortless way McQueen rips through exposition to ground his film in a story with 81 speaking parts as it weaves through different socio-economic, political, and criminal worlds, “Widows” relies on the audience grasping the emotional and psychological depth of 14 principal characters.

“I wanted to have this canvas where you touched upon things like icebergs,” said McQueen when he was guest on IndieWire’s Toolkit podcast. “Where you saw the tip of it, but you knew the depth of it.”

Subscribe via Apple Podcasts to the Filmmaker Toolkit Podcast

As an example, McQueen points to the introduction of Elizabeth Debicki’s character Alice, whose husband will die in the film’s opening heist. The audience must understand, through a single exchange the morning of the crime, that she is a victim of domestic violence. McQueen offers little in the way of details, but the audience instantly grasps an essential element of the Alice character, both psychologically and in terms of backstory, which proves to be key to how her character arcs through the film.

“There’s a metaphorical understanding of what that is and just by certain things, what her partner says, and you can see the dynamic of that relationship,” said McQueen. “A lot of it has to do with the audience’s history, our communal history. In our own everyday lives, we have an idea of a person, in our daily lives we have glimpses of other people’s lives, an idea, an understanding, a metaphorical sort of nuance look. It’s Tai chi filmmaking – using the audience to help me finish that narrative because they know often what that’s about.”

McQueen would rather give a sharp glance at a situation that stimulates the viewer’s ability to comprehend and fill in the missing pieces, rather than ever have to explain or show the whole. While McQueen enters each film with a clear visual plan, aided by working with longtime collaborators like cinematographer Sean Bobbitt, production designer Adam Stockhausen, and editor Joe Walker, finding his compositions or determining how the camera will interact with the actors is something he leaves until the very end of the process.

Instead, he puts the emphasis of finding the exactness of the scene and expressive staging during early rehearsals with his actors.

Elizabeth Debicki in "Widows"

Elizabeth Debicki in “Widows”

Screenshot

“We never have a shooting list,” said McQueen. “I don’t want to have a situation where I’m bringing my stencil, imposing myself on a scene or location. It’s all about embracing the situation in front of you and have a conversation with the actors. It liberates you, it liberates your camera and sometimes limiting whatever it is gives you a freedom.”

While McQueen and Bobbitt search for the most direct use of the camera to get to the heart of a moment, they often achieve complexity with stripped down simplicity. In one scene from “Widows,” Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell), who is running for his father’s (Robert Duvall) city council seat, is rushed into the back seat of his town car after dodging questions from a dogged reporter at an event where was he promoting a minority empowerment initiative.

“There’s a sort of momentum and momentum of narrative because also there’s movement, but also you get five different levels of information from that one shot,” said McQueen in describing the decision to shoot the scene in one shot.

The location itself was incredibly important to McQueen and, once his team, after a great deal of initial struggle, found one that would work, he and Bobbitt knew that the camera should be mounted on the hood of the car. It’s an unorthodox shot, where the audience can hear but not see Mulligan and his staffer Siobhan’s (Molly Kunz) frank dialogue in the back seat. What the audiences ends up seeing is their driver and the neighborhoods they drive through as the car takes the politician home.

Steve McQueen, Director/Writer/Producer,

Steve McQueen at the “Widows” premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival

Dale Wilcox

“You see the landscape changing from a predominantly African-American neighborhood, which is disheveled, and we move to a sort more affluent area which is predominantly white,” said McQueen. “[In] that journey we understand this particular person doesn’t really care about the people he spoke about. He’d rather not be in politics. He’s his mother’s son, as he says, and that Siobhan, this lady who doesn’t hardly say a word in the whole movie, is an instigator that pushes him because she wants to push him to become mayor. … There’s another aspect of the person who is driving the car, who is an African-American, and they are saying certain things in the back of the car which he doesn’t react to, because whose going to pay more than Jack Mulligan?”

He continued, “There’s all these layers of information which the audience, we’re not suckers, we understand what people say in private and public, and we don’t need the Access Hollywood tapes to understand, so it’s interesting how you move narrative along and have these layers.”

The Filmmaker Toolkit podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, OvercastStitcherSoundCloud and Google Play Music. Previous episodes include:

The music used in this podcast is from the “Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present” score, courtesy of composer Nathan Halpern.

‘Widows’ and ‘The Chi’ Found the Secrets of Chicago, Hiding in Plain Sight

Steve McQueen, Gillian Flynn, and Lena Waithe credit the real Chicago for shaping their stories.

Even though Lynda La Plante’s original “Widows” TV show was set in London, Steve McQueen knew he needed Chicago to bring his 2018 adaptation to life. “London wasn’t it. London had moved on,” McQueen said. “I wanted a contemporary place, a modern city, and Chicago seemed to be that place. Politics, race, corruption, policing, gender, all those things, it was all there, in Chicago.”

Between McQueen’s new film and “The Chi,” Lena Waithe’s award-winning Showtime drama, the Windy City is having a moment. Both utilize the city’s history and personality in ways that speak directly to its struggles and distinctions, and remind us just how relevant Chicago is to the country and beyond.

“From microscope to telescope,” McQueen said. “You’re focusing on Chicago, but really, you’re telling a story about where we are in the world. You could be talking about, to a certain extent, what’s going on in London, Munich, Paris, New York, and other places in the world. That’s what it is: It’s a reflection of how we live today.”

Widows Viola Davis Colin Farrell

“Widows”

20th Century Fox

“It was real. That happens in Chicago, [and] it’s crazy.”

A British miniseries adapted by a London-born director doesn’t seem like an obvious vessel for portraying Chicago’s political and racial divisions. But McQueen first came to the city in 1996, when Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art displayed his video installation “Five Easy Pieces.” At the same time, his future wife Bianca Stigter covered the 1996 Democratic National Convention as a reporter, “so my very first footprint in Chicago has always been art and politics — always,” he said.

McQueen immediately noticed the city’s “odd” racial divide, and Chicago remains one of the country’s most segregated cities. “Widows” exemplifies that separation through its women: Veronica (Viola Davis) is a wealthy philanthropist suffering from great losses; Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) is a struggling small business owner; Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) is an abused Polish immigrant, and Belle (Cynthia Erivo) works multiple jobs on the South Side to support her kid. Despite being tied together by their husbands and the city they share, the characters never met until circumstance forced their hands.

“We’re in this city of fantastic, amazing cultures and backgrounds, but also, at the same time, extremely divided by race,” said Gillian Flynn, a Chicago resident and McQueen’s co-writer. “And that’s part of what ‘Widows’ is about — the idea you can live in the same city your whole life and never meet someone who’s different than you, unless you try really hard — or lose your husbands in a fiery crash and become forced to [come together].”

Still, the most striking visualization of Chicago’s segregation is shown in real time during a car ride, as McQueen’s camera moves from a poverty-stricken campaign stop to the luxurious headquarters and home of a prospective city alderman. Captured in one, uninterrupted long take, the audience listens to Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell) scream at his assistant Siobhan (Molly Kunz) while they watch the neighborhood change outside the car.

“What [was important] for me was seeing that landscape shift, from a sort of vacant lot in a decrepit area populated by black people, into a much more leafy, upper-middle-class, if not upper-class, neighborhood. And it was real. That happens in Chicago. It’s crazy,” McQueen said.

Daniel Kaluuya and Brian Tyree Henry in Twentieth Century Fox’s WIDOWS. Photo Credit: Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox.

Daniel Kaluuya and Brian Tyree Henry in “Widows”

Photo Credit: Courtesy Twentieth

“I got a guy”

Flynn said they both did “tons” of research and spoke to everyone from local community leaders and cops to the FBI and a professor who helped get Laquan McDonald’s videotape released. Through it all, Flynn remembered McQueen getting hung up on an important local colloquialism.

“[People kept saying] ‘I got a guy,'” she said. “That’s just what you say in Chicago. ‘I got a guy.’ And Steve was like, ‘Excuse me sir, but what does that mean? ‘You got a guy?'” He’s got this ex-con who was explaining it [to him], and the other thing he kept saying to me was, ‘Gillian, what was just being described to me is criminal activity.‘ He kept saying that, and you become so inured to it. The simple, transactional things in Chicago, you just come to take for granted — like, ‘I got a guy.'”

That attitude helped the writers understand Chicago’s ingrained corruption. The film’s central political family, the Mulligans, is modeled in part after the Daleys, a Chicago political dynasty from the early ’80s through today. Richard J. Daley (1955 – 1976) and his son, Richard M. Daley (1989 – 2011), served as mayor for more than four decades combined. They become infamous for taking care of their own at great cost to the rest of Chicago, nearly bankrupting the city.

“Mayor Daley was kind of [the model], but not just him,” McQueen said. “You go back to people like Al Capone and their infiltration of the political system with organized crime. It’s been going on forever and a day, as far as Chicago’s concerned. From day one, these areas were basically gangs which turned into social clubs, which got legitimized. A lot of America is legitimized crime. It’s the foundation of this country. If it’s killing Native Americans or slavery, it’s legitimizing crime.”

Another distinctly American problem is gun violence, which has reached “epidemic” levels in Chicago. McQueen examines it to frightening extremes through Jamal Manning (Daniel Kaluuya) and his brother Jatemme (Brian Tyree Henry), two gang members who challenge the Mulligans for the alderman seat.

“Violence makes violence, unfortunately,” McQueen said. “Take the example of Jatemme. His life has been about violence, but at some point he gets numb to the violence, gets bored with the violence, so then he gets perverse with violence. […] At a certain point, he gets so bored with it that he doesn’t even participate. So that’s how it is, and it happens to a lot of young black men in Chicago and elsewhere — not just black men elsewhere. But you’re numbed by it, and it has an effect on you in a real way.”

While America regularly reels from mass shootings, Chicago is still trying to correct an unprecedented spike in gun violence. Multiple reports have linked Chicago’s racial segregation and income inequality to the violence in its poverty-stricken neighborhoods, and political corruption lies at the root of both issues. “Widows” manages to incorporate all of these topics into a thriller ostensibly about a heist.

But if “Widows” focuses on the darkness, then “The Chi” strives to find the light.

The Chi Season 1

Michael Epps, Alex Hibbert, and Vonzell Scott in “The Chi”

Matt Dinerstein / Showtime

“This is where I’m from, and this is the story I wanted to tell.”

Created by Lena Waithe, “The Chi” features an expansive, predominantly black cast and focusing on how a fateful tragedy affects the surrounding community. However, Waithe didn’t want the show to be another sad story about poverty, pain, and oppression.

“The thing is, it’s not all darkness,” Waithe said. “Every city has its own personality, so you go to any city and there’s darkness and there’s light. For me, [‘The Chi’] is about capturing both. The reason I’m telling the story is it’s about where I’m from, so it’s really about trying to shed light on the darkness and the positivity in the city.”

Waithe contends that a lot of Chicago-set TV shows and movies are told from an outsiders’ perspective. Amidst the divisions, corruption, and violence, Waithe sees people going about their lives.

“You see stories of people in Chicago, and it’s a perspective from people who aren’t brown or haven’t lived there,” Waithe said. “I think Chicago is really commodified, particularly by major networks and certain TV shows because it’s just a backdrop. I think they try to use it as a way to be important, or tell a story that needs to be told. For me, I just want to tell a story of the people that live there. Not the people that police them, not the dark stories all the time — just the human stories. That’s my goal.”

Waithe even holds herself accountable for not going far enough in Season 1 to capture the city in full. “I felt like it could’ve been more authentic, it could’ve been more rooted,” she said. “But we kind of had to figure our shit out, and we tried to figure it out for Season 2 by being more authentic and actually shooting on the South Side of Chicago and not being afraid of going into certain areas.”

Just as it’s important for the people of Chicago to have a voice outside the city’s issues, Waithe said it means a lot to show real locations on screen. She hires directors who are eager to seek out new spots in Chicago, especially in neighborhoods that might intimidate.

“They get to see themselves,” she said. “They get to see places they recognize, they understand, and they’re familiar with. That’s why it’s important for us not to be afraid to go to certain places that most white people are afraid to go to in the South Side of Chicago.”

“I think Chicago has a very cool, dual vantage point,” Flynn said. “One, it’s a lot like all American cities: It has the same sort of baked-in problems, like race, corruption, and education. At the same time, Chicago is so incredibly unique and is one of the most visually fascinating cities in the world. And it’s so underused. It’s criminally underused.”

McQueen agreed, saying “I think it’s always important to tell Chicago stories. I’m surprised there’s not been more. […] It’s indicative of what’s going on in the world at large. You’re taking a local and making it global.”

‘Fantastic Beasts’ Sequel Conjures $9.1 Million at Thursday Box Office

“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” Warner Bros.’ second film in the spinoff from the Harry Potter movies, earned $9.1 million at the box office from Thursday previews on. It will open wide on over 4,000 screens this weekend.

The sequel is currently projected to open in the high $60 million range, with estimates topping out at $73 million from independent trackers, but it beat the Thursday total of the first film, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” from 2016, which earned $8.75 million in Thursday previews on its way to earning $74.4 million in its opening weekend.

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling wrote the original story that’s part of a five-film prequel in the magical universe. Eddie Redmayne stars alongside Katherine Waterston, Jude Law and Johnny Depp as the film’s villain. “The Crimes of Grindelwald” has just a 49 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, so unlike the original film, it will be working to overcome tepid reviews.

Also Read: ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’ – The Big Twist Ending and That Lestrange Family Drama, Explained

Both Paramount’s “Instant Family,” starring Mark Wahlberg, and Fox’s thriller “Widows,” starring Viola Davis, are also opening wide this weekend.

“Instant Family” brought in $550,000 on Thursday night. Paramount is projecting an opening in the mid-teens to as high as $20 million when it opens on approximately 3,258 screens domestically. Comparatively, Wahlberg’s “Daddy’s Home 2,” which also opened in early November last year, earned $1.5 million in Thursday previews and would open to $29.6 million.

In the family comedy starring Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne and directed by Sean Anders, the two play a couple of new parents of three adopted children. The film has a 70 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

More to come…

Related stories from TheWrap:

‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’ Film Review: J.K. Rowling Conjures More Magic and Messiness

Will ‘Fantastic Beasts’ Sequel Be Critic-Proof at the Box Office?

Ezra Miller’s Out-There ‘Fantastic Beasts’ Premiere Look: ‘Human Duvet’ or ‘Sassy Sleeping Bag’?

“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” Warner Bros.’ second film in the spinoff from the Harry Potter movies, earned $9.1 million at the box office from Thursday previews on. It will open wide on over 4,000 screens this weekend.

The sequel is currently projected to open in the high $60 million range, with estimates topping out at $73 million from independent trackers, but it beat the Thursday total of the first film, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” from 2016, which earned $8.75 million in Thursday previews on its way to earning $74.4 million in its opening weekend.

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling wrote the original story that’s part of a five-film prequel in the magical universe. Eddie Redmayne stars alongside Katherine Waterston, Jude Law and Johnny Depp as the film’s villain. “The Crimes of Grindelwald” has just a 49 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, so unlike the original film, it will be working to overcome tepid reviews.

Both Paramount’s “Instant Family,” starring Mark Wahlberg, and Fox’s thriller “Widows,” starring Viola Davis, are also opening wide this weekend.

“Instant Family” brought in $550,000 on Thursday night. Paramount is projecting an opening in the mid-teens to as high as $20 million when it opens on approximately 3,258 screens domestically. Comparatively, Wahlberg’s “Daddy’s Home 2,” which also opened in early November last year, earned $1.5 million in Thursday previews and would open to $29.6 million.

In the family comedy starring Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne and directed by Sean Anders, the two play a couple of new parents of three adopted children. The film has a 70 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

More to come…

Related stories from TheWrap:

'Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald' Film Review: J.K. Rowling Conjures More Magic and Messiness

Will 'Fantastic Beasts' Sequel Be Critic-Proof at the Box Office?

Ezra Miller's Out-There 'Fantastic Beasts' Premiere Look: 'Human Duvet' or 'Sassy Sleeping Bag'?

High Risk, High Reward: ‘Widows’ Will Be a Defining Studio Release of 2018

Steve McQueen made an unusual choice for his first post-Oscar feature, but in success it could be a groundbreaker.

Today, 20th Century Fox opens Steve McQueen’s “Widows.” Budgeted at $40 million, its first-weekend projection is $20 million. That suggests a performance similar to several recent mid-budget studio releases like “Outlander” or “The Girl In The Spider’s Web,” most of which failed to make a significant dent (only “Night School” grossed over $50 million).

However, “Widows” stands apart: The director won Best Picture with “12 Years a Slave,” and star Viola Davis won Best Supporting Actress for “Fences.” It also has terrific advance reviews, prime festival placement, real awards possibilities — and its box office success would have a much greater impact on upcoming production decisions.

With roots in fine art, McQueen has made a big impact in a short time. His 2008 debut “Hunger” about IRA member Bobby Sands was a breakout role for Michael Fasssbender (though it did little domestic business). His sex addict drama “Shame,” again with Fassbender, did better but still very niche business. “12 Years a Slave” propelled him to a much higher level, even as it struggled to gross $60 million (with more than double that in the rest of the world).

Specialized directors moving into the mainstream isn’t unusual, but “Widows” seemed an unlikely choice for his first post-Oscar film. A remake of a British 1980s criminal heist TV series, now set in Chicago? It’s clearly a case of going beyond his perceived comfort zone (at least from a studio’s perspective) and not pursuing the audience that embraced “12 Years.”

The production system encourages creativity, within a narrow range. It’s easier for financiers to visualize a final product if the director does something similar to past work. (See: Kathryn Bigelow following “The Hurt Locker” with “Zero Dark Thirty.”) If “Widows” succeeds, it should strengthen the hands of directors who want to do films outside the box others might lock them in.

Viola Davis in "Suicide Squad."

Viola Davis in “Suicide Squad”

Clay Enos/DC Comics

Last month saw Jamie Lee Curtis set the record for biggest opening weekend for a film with a lead actress over 50 — by a big margin. But that was a pre-sold sequel with a release date guaranteed to succeed. Not that Curtis wasn’t a big plus for the film, but the degree of difficulty wasn’t high.

“Widows” marks the first time Viola Davis, at 53, has been top billed in a wide release (she was co-lead in “Fences,” despite Supporting Actress categorization). That’s an achievement that comes from theincredible work that has raised her to a level of respect equal to Meryl Streep. And if this reaches $20 million for its debut, it would treble the openings for Streep’s “Florence Foster Jenkins,” “Ricki and the Flash” and “Hope Springs.”

But what also makes that potential success important is, like her director, this is a different kind of role for her. The storyline — three women who work to locate money that their crime-boss husbands were killed trying to collect — is centered on women who take charge and find strength in working together. The audience makeup remains to be seen, but it could turn out to be as a diverse as the film McQueen made.

Women of all backgrounds seem to be more open to diversity; “Crazy Rich Asians” became a smash because of massive interest from women in general. A strong response for “Widows” would suggest studios should expand their interest in projects that appeal to a wide variety of Americans, particularly adult women. And not just the sorts of projects that seem automatically female-friendly, or led by much younger actresses.

These days, top film creatives often look to Netflix or Amazon for their upcoming projects. The deep-pocketed media giants want to burnish their prestige factor, and are often willing to back less-commercial projects. McQueen has wanted to make “Widows” for many years. It originated in 1983 on Britain’s ITV broadcast network, with 12 episodes over two seasons. With some action, a complex plot, intriguing characters, and a darker vision, “Widows” seems tailor made for streaming. However, McQueen wanted a wide-release theatrical feature.

There’s a rich history for films like his: While based in genre, “Widows” is grounded in the characters’ need to defend their lives. This captures the spirit of a Hitchcock thriller, or of titles like “In the Heat of the Night” and “The French Connection” — and more recently, “Gone Girl” or “Get Out.” Still, a film like this is rare, which means it matters: Studios will track its success like a canary in a coal mine. If this clicks, there will be more.

“Widows”

screencap

The studio that made “Widows” is about to be swallowed by Disney, which has thrived with Marvel, Pixar, and the Star Wars franchise. Their homegrown films are largely family oriented: “Beauty and the Beast,” “A Wrinkle in Time,” and the upcoming “Mary Poppins Returns.” What they don’t make are films like “Widows.” Fox has presented a much more diverse release schedule, with variable success, but standalone films like “The Greatest Showman,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Murder on the Orient Express,” and “Hidden Figures” all passed $100 million.

The Disney takeover includes some suggestion that the Fox production apparatus will be used in part to feed the studio’s upcoming streaming service. If “Widows” clicks, it would be a shot in the arm for those who hope projects like this will join an expanded Disney theatrical slate.

Steve McQueen Read ‘Widows’ Reviews and Detected a Racism Problem

The Oscar winner noticed something problematic while reading the reviews for his new heist-thriller.

Steve McQueen is once again earning acclaim from film critics, this time for his Viola Davis-starring heist drama “Widows.” The film currently boasts an impressive 95% on Rotten Tomatoes from over 130 reviews, and it turns out McQueen has been reading what critics have to say about his latest directorial offering. The director recently told BuzzFeed that in paying close attention to “Widows” reviews he’s noticed film criticism has a problem with inherent racism and sexism.

“Through the critique of this movie, I’ve seen sexism in a way and racism in a way, which is interesting, even if it’s a positive review,” McQueen said. “People don’t even notice that, but when you’ve got 90% of the critics are white males, that’s what happens.”

“Widows” features a cast dominated by women and actors and actresses of color, which has made it clear to McQueen while reading reviews of the film that subtle racism and sexism is very much a real problem film critics needs to be aware of and correct. McQueen said the problem should be a rallying call for a more inclusive field of film reviewers.

“We need more women directors. We need more black directors,” McQueen said. “We need more of a diversity across the board of representations within movies as well as critics.”

McQueen’s comment is just the latest example of a high-profile industry voice championing more inclusive film criticism this year. Brie Larson made headlines over the summer for a speech she gave at the Crystal + Lucy Awards in which she pointed out how most of the reviews for Ava DuVernay’s “A Wrinkle in Time” were written by older white men, a perspective she personally didn’t care for in regards to the respective title.

“Widows” begins with the image of Viola Davis and Liam Neeson in bed together sharing an onscreen kiss. McQueen told Buzzfeed the scene is important as it tries to “amplify a mixed-race couple kissing in a way that their tongues onscreen is the first image. If you saw it in the street you wouldn’t think twice of it but somehow on the big screen it sort of amplifies and magnetizes what that is.”

Racially charged moments like these in “Widows” benefit from having an inherent perspective that, as McQueen alluded to in his comments, a majority of white male critics lack. “Widows” opens in theaters nationwide November 16 from 20th Century Fox.

Unexpected Hopefuls Enliven This Year’s Oscar Race for Director Gold

The Oscar buzz surrounding “Green Book” has been a revelation for Peter Farrelly, directing solo without brother Bobby this time around. “I have a very thick skin, but I didn’t realize we were so looked-down-on,” Farrelly says with a laugh. “I thought …

The Oscar buzz surrounding “Green Book” has been a revelation for Peter Farrelly, directing solo without brother Bobby this time around. “I have a very thick skin, but I didn’t realize we were so looked-down-on,” Farrelly says with a laugh. “I thought we were highly regarded.” Critics have marveled that the director, who created a […]

SFFILM Awards Night Led by Amy Adams, Steve McQueen, and Boots Riley

San Francisco joins the awards conversation every year with a star-studded SFFILM awards night.

This year, the San Francisco Film Society’s (SFFILM) annual awards night will unfold December 3 at San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts Exhibition Center with honorees including Oscar hopefuls Amy Adams (Annapurna’s “Vice”), Steve McQueen (Fox’s “Widows”) and Bay area rising star Boots Riley (Annapurna’s “Sorry to Bother You”). The annual celebration honors achievement in filmmaking craft – it’s also a fundraiser that benefits SFFILM’s youth education programs.

Amy Adams will be on hand to accept the Peter J. Owens Award for Acting; Steve McQueen will receive the Irving M. Levin Award for Film Direction; and emerging breakthrough talent Boots Riley will take home the Kanbar Award for Storytelling.

“These artists were selected because their work embodies the values of the Bay Area,” stated SFFILM Executive Director Noah Cowan, “in particular their role in championing innovative cinema, making the industry more diverse and inclusive, and actively participating in the social dialogue that is so desperately needed today.”

SFFILM moved its awards night from April’s film festival to the height of awards season in order to have some impact on the awards race. Public screenings and onstage talks will accompany SFFILM Awards Night.

Past recipients of the Peter J. Owens Award for Acting, which honors an actor whose work exemplifies brilliance, independence and integrity, include Kate Winslet (2017), Ellen Burstyn (2016), Richard Gere (2015), Jeremy Irons (2014), Harrison Ford (2013), Judy Davis (2012), Terence Stamp (2011), Robert Duvall (2010), Robert Redford (2009), Maria Bello (2008), and Robin Williams (2007).

A five-time Academy Award nominee and two-time Golden Globe winner, Amy Adams was most recently seen in HBO’s drama series “Sharp Objects,” in which she starred and executive produced with director Jean-Marc Vallée. She also stars in Adam McKay’s upcoming film “Vice” as Lynne Cheney alongside Christian Bale and Steve Carell. She recently wrapped production on “Woman in the Window,” alongside Gary Oldman and Julianne Moore. Adams’ additional film credits include Denis Villeneuve’s “Arrival,” for which she was named Best Actress by the National Board of Review; Zack Snyder’s “Justice League” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”; Tom Ford’s “Nocturnal Animals”; Tim Burton’s “Big Eyes” and David O. Russell’s “American Hustle;” Spike Jonze’s “Her; Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master”; Nora Ephron’s “Julie and Julia”; John Patrick Shanley’s “Doubt”; Kevin Lima’s “Enchanted”; and Phil Morrison’s “Junebug”, among many others.

The Irving M. Levin Award for Film Direction is presented each year to one of the masters of world cinema. Past recipients include Kathryn Bigelow (2017), Mira Nair (2016), Guillermo del Toro (2015), Richard Linklater (2014) Philip Kaufman (2013), Kenneth Branagh (2012), Oliver Stone (2011), Walter Salles (2010), Francis Ford Coppola (2009), Mike Leigh (2008), Spike Lee (2007), and Werner Herzog (2006).

British artist and Academy Award-winner Steve McQueen is the recipient of an OBE (2002) and a CBE (2011) from Queen Elizabeth II. In 2013, McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave,” won multiple awards including the Best Picture Oscar. His second feature, “Shame” (2011), starring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan, received numerous awards and nominations. In 2008, McQueen’s critically-hailed first feature, “Hunger,” won the Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.  His latest film “Widows,” (November 16), is a modern-day thriller about four women (Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo) who take their fate into their own hands after being left in debt from their dead husbands’ criminal activities. McQueen resides in Amsterdam and London.

The Kanbar Award for Storytelling acknowledges the critical importance that storytelling plays in the creation of outstanding films. Past recipients include Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani (2017), Tom McCarthy (2016), Paul Schrader (2015), Stephen Gaghan (2014), Eric Roth (2013), David Webb Peoples (2012), Frank Pierson (2011), and James Schamus (2010).

Activist, filmmaker, and musician, former FilmHouse resident and SFFILM grantee Boots Riley studied film at San Francisco State University before rising to prominence as the front man of hip-hop groups The Coup and Street Sweeper Social Club. His debut feature film “Sorry to Bother You” premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, was acquired by Annapurna Pictures, and became a summer hit. His book of lyrics and anecdotes, “Tell Homeland Security- We Are The Bomb,” is out on Haymarket Press.

‘Widows’ Might Be Something Truly Rare: An Oscar-Winning Action Film

Steve McQueen told IndieWire that he turned to Ornette Colman — and star Viola Davis — for inspiration in crafting a thriller that’s equal parts smart and fun.

Plenty of posh European directors make a breakout movie but fail the transition to a commercial Hollywood picture. Oscar-winning British filmmaker Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”) is defying the odds by fashioning a smart hybrid genre movie that combines his sophisticated sensibility with an accessible, aspirational story that’s enriching and fun. What’s harder to gauge: Where does “Widows” fall on the awards spectrum?

The Fox movie wowed critics and audiences at its Toronto debut and played the international fall festival circuit, winding up at AFI FEST before it opens wide November 16. Impeccably crafted by such Oscar perennials as McQueen and Denis Villeneuve’s go-to editor Joe Walker, composer Hans Zimmer, production designer Adam Stockhausen, and lead actress Viola Davis, the ensemble movie is a crowdpleaser nourished by its provocative gender-bending plot and social realism. It could be a factor in several Oscar categories.

Back in 1983, McQueen was 13 years old and he adored a Lynda La Plante (“Prime Suspect”) TV series, “Widows,” in which four criminals die and their last job is carried out by the women they leave behind. While everyone underestimates the widows, they prove to be more than capable of pulling off a complicated heist. “It left an impression,” he said, “following these women and how they overcame their hurdles and the assault-course of the every day to achieve what they did. It was heartening to me as a black boy in London.”

Steve McQueen'Widows' film premiere, Chicago, USA - 13 Oct 2018

Steve McQueen

Cindy Barrymore/REX/Shutterstock

Some 35 years later, McQueen updated the series to contemporary Chicago, collaborating with American novelist/screenwriter Gillian Flynn (“Sharp Objects”), who impressed him with her adaptation of her page-turning dark thriller “Gone Girl.” “We took the A to Z narrative of Lynda La Plante and steeped it in the reality of modern contemporary Chicago,” said McQueen.

The filmmaker never forgot a story his father told him about jazz great Ornette Coleman. While walking down the street in Harlem, someone told him: “I don’t understand what you are doing.” Coleman responded, “Let me think about that. How can I bring people in?”

“You can have your cake and eat it too,” said McQueen. “Have an elevated intellectual discussion about it and drag the audience with you. It can be gritty and at the same time affluent.”

“There’s no use talking about important things if no one goes to see the movie,” said Flynn. “I don’t want to make a movie that’s pure guilty pleasure.”

“Widows”

screencap

Flynn and McQueen spent weeks in Chicago researching the FBI, organized crime, and the city’s disparate neighborhoods, adding multiple new characters and layered subplots, including the rivalry between corrupt racist politician Tom Mulligan (Robert Duvall) and his rising-star son Jack (Colin Farrell) and equally ruthless gangsters the Mannings (Brian Tyree Henry and Daniel Kaluuya), who run their side of town.

“We stuck the fiction onto Chicago,” said McQueen. “Everything crisscrosses: politics, gun crime, policing. You’ll notice in the picture the police aren’t really present. The catchphrase of Chicago is, ‘I’ve got a guy.’ Someone is always doing something dodgy. That’s how it is.”

Pages flew back and forth between McQueen’s home in Amsterdam and New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. “We surprised ourselves with what interested us,” said Flynn, “grabbing back and forth from each other.”

“It’s like writing music,” said McQueen. “You know when it’s right and when it’s wrong.”

“Widows”

The script attracted a superb cast, led by Davis, who met McQueen on the 2013-14 Oscar circuit. As she rose to TV stardom, Davis was so dismayed by the scripts presented to her that she launched her own production company to develop projects about the likes of Shirley Chisholm, Barbara Jordan, and Harriet Tubman. With “Widows,” however, she was delighted to sign on. The “Fences” Oscar-winner was eager to dig into Veronica, a beautiful and powerful middle-aged woman who surprises herself as she does what she needs to survive.

In a central scene, grieving Veronica stands alone in the deluxe apartment that she does not own, listening to music and staring out the rain-soaked window, conjuring up the ghost of her lost husband (Liam Neeson). “At the core of the story is this love she has for this man,” said Davis. “That spoke to me. Liam comes up from behind and I’m imagining him just holding me. That cost me something — at first I tried to suppress it, then I tried to use it. There’s a certain woman who gets relegated to love scenes and that’s not me. I am a woman in love with a beautiful man. Why would she be with a man who lives a life of criminality? She probably felt like, ‘Wow, here’s someone who loved me.'”

Davis had one note for her director: “I felt this movie was rooted in drama. Why would these seemingly normal women pull off a heist? I have to believe there’s a reason why.”

“Widows”

Fox

The propulsive narrative is driven by three disparate women (Elizabeth Debicki, Michelle Rodriguez, and Cynthia Erivo) who are pushed into action by Veronica, a ringleader who is more fragile than she appears. All the characters juggle public and private personae. “That’s what we do in life,” Davis said. “We put the mask on. Alice, Linda and Belle are being liberated from the confines that kept them from living their full life and take ownership and pride from tapping into their intelligence.”

Before the director juggled a massive ensemble (81 speaking roles, 75 locations, 150 shot scenes), he mounted rehearsals. He was “an actor whisperer,” said Davis. “Those elements in yourself that you feel shy or insecure or feel a little shame about, he coaxes out of you, gives you permission to just be, to dare to fail. His famous mantra is ‘Leave it all on the floor,’ meaning, ‘Just put it out there.’ And it was the ride of a lifetime.”

Chicago was a prime character, Davis said: when they filmed over the 2017 July 4th weekend, there were over 100 shootings and 14 gunshot deaths. “Why is that?” she asked. “With any Ibsen or Shakespeare story, it’s born from what is happening in the culture.”

Daniel Kaluuya and Brian Tyree Henry in Twentieth Century Fox’s WIDOWS. Photo Credit: Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox.

Daniel Kaluuya and Brian Tyree Henry in “Widows”

Photo Credit: Courtesy Twentieth

On the set, McQueen sees himself as a Tai Chi master who works without a shot list and confers with cinematographer Sean Bobbitt to figure out “what the scene wants to be.” In one stunning long take (invisibly trimmed by editor Walker), McQueen and Bobbitt mount the camera on the hood of Jack Mulligan’s town car as he traverses Chicago from the Mannings’ rough-and-tumble 18th ward to the leafy suburban neighborhood where Barack Obama used to live. We hear Farrell in voiceover, but never cut inside the car. “You see the journey visually,” said McQueen. “You have the audio of what he is saying in the car, the public and the private.”

“It’s painting a picture of Chicago,” said Walker. A trained musician who cuts without temp tracks, he tries to make a rhythmic edit with dialogue and sound effects that works on its own before composer Hans Zimmer applies his aural magic. “It gives the film a tough workout, massive liposuction,” Walker said. “We’re on a planet; Hans has to land the spacecraft at the right angle and provide music at exactly the right temperature.”

Davis’s character provided the editorial spine as the editor built up the tension toward the heist. “I always concentrate on the eyes when I’m cutting,” said Walker, “the dance between the actors’ eyes. Viola’s real on every take. With only a few actors I’ve worked with is every single take authentic and heartfelt and on the money. She lives every emotion.”

Steve McQueen Admits He’s ‘Disappointed’ With Kanye West, But He Still Loves Him

The “Widows” director opens up about his controversial friend.

Like a lot of people, Steve McQueen is conflicted about Kanye West. The “Widows” director was asked about his friend by IndieWire’s Eric Kohn as part of an upcoming interview, and admitted that, though he’s been “disappointed with his actions recently,” he still loves him.

West most recently made headlines by ramping up his vocal support for Donald Trump, including wearing a Make America Great Again hat while performing on “Saturday Night Live” and even meeting with him in the Oval Office. In 2015, McQueen directed the musician’s nine-minute “All Day / I Feel Like That” video.

“First of all, I love Kanye. There’s no doubt about that. This is a situation where I can’t answer certain questions, I can’t answer to certain things because I don’t agree with them,” McQueen said. “I can’t answer questions about him, for him. That’s not doable. I’ve been disappointed with his actions recently, but at the same time, I love him. It’s very difficult sometimes to witness. But people go through certain situations, phases, and that’s about as much as I can say about it, really.”

Can he still listen to Kanye’s music, though? “Well, I would hope so,” he responded. “It’s one of those things where it’s a journey and it’s not over yet. We’ll see what happens.”

McQueen feels that “everything is political,” which isn’t to say that he doesn’t think Trump supporters can’t enjoy “Widows.” “I think they might be surprised by the movie. Well, great. For me, my biggest wish for this movie is that it distracts people for at least 50 seconds from being on their phone,” he said.

“If that happens, I think I’ve won. Once they leave the movie theater, one ponders for a moment or two — or maybe it comes at them later in the day. That’s as much as an artist can hope for.”

Additional reporting by Eric Kohn.

Steve McQueen is tired of gloomy movies, wants to try making a musical

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’12 Years A Slave’ Director Steve McQueen Eyes Musical As One Of His Next Projects

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The director, who is promoting Viola Davis-fronted crime drama Widows, which opens this month, told British current affairs series The Andrew Marr Show, “I want to…

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Jim Carrey Steals Britannia Awards With Blistering Political Comments: “We Can Do Better Than This”

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“For one night let’s make America great Britain again,”  said BAFTA -LA CEO Chantal Rickards in coming closest to any political statement in the opening to Friday night’s annual Britannia Awards, put on by the British Academy of Arts & Sciences , Los Angeles branch.  That is until Jim Carrey was awarded the Charlie Chaplin Award for Excellence In Comedy toward the end of the night. The comedian won two rip roaring standing ovations , one at the start and one at the finish…

Steve McQueen Does Not Like TV One Bit, and He’d Never Make His 2015 HBO Pilot Today

The “Widows” director is no fan of “Ozark,” either.

Anyone wondering why Steve McQueen adapted an ’80s British TV series “Widows” for America’s increasingly desolate multiplexes instead of its vast landscape of serialized remakes … well, let him tell you.

“The first series was it,” McQueen told IndieWire, implying that Lynda La Plante’s 12-episode series told that story as well as possible for TV, before adding his second reason: “I’m not so keen on TV.”

McQueen may be the last man standing when it comes to filmmakers who find themselves seduced by serialized storytelling. He’s not having it, arguing that the rising demand for content has oversaturated the TV market and driven quality down.

“TV had its moment,” McQueen said. “It’s fodder now, isn’t it? It’s fodder. […] There was a moment in the ’90s or early 2000s when it was amazing. And now it’s just, ‘Get stuff done. We need stuff.’ I don’t know what’s happening now, but obviously the quality has gone down a little bit. There’s more of it, but less quality.”

Later, he added, “I don’t like TV. […] There was some great stuff, [but] it’s just bad [now].”

McQueen’s experience making television is limited to the axed HBO pilot, “Codes of Conduct.” The first episode was shot in late 2014, shortly after McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave” cleaned up at the Academy Awards, and HBO officially picked up the limited series in March 2015. However, following the very expensive flop of “Vinyl,” the premium network cut back on its slate and canceled it in early 2016, before it aired.

Though McQueen said HBO was “scared” of Netflix at the time — “They were in direct competition with Netflix and they thought, ‘We’ve got to fix this, we’ve got to do something about this'” — he doesn’t believe that experience was what turned him away from television altogether. The network was just playing it safe at a time when emerging competitors were attracting more and more viewers.

“Widows”

Fox

“I think basically I got into bed with [HBO] just at that turning point — just before the turning point because I was with them, and then things started to shift,” he said. “When I was with HBO, Netflix wasn’t Netflix then.”

Yet even now, with Netflix taking on another $2 billion in debt in a bid to win the serial-TV arms race, HBO working to expand its own originals slate, and more television being produced across Hollywood, McQueen said he would not revisit the project.

“I would never do it now,” McQueen said. “There’s too much! You can’t see the books from the trees. You need a situation where there’s a little bit of curating going on.”

McQueen also lamented the work of a TV critic — “How do you watch so much TV? Your head must be dead.” — while praising their curatorial role as “very important.”

“[It must be] like, ‘Oh, I’ve got to watch this?'” he said. “When you get ‘Breaking Bad,’ it’s amazing, but then you get ‘Ozark,’ which is a rip-off of that. […] It’s unfortunate, right now, there’s so much money, and so little ideas. The problem is when you have no money, you’ve got to think.”

McQueen also argued film allows for more time, nuance, and range.

“Writing is one thing, [but] I don’t think TV does what cinema can do. I just don’t think that that’s possible,” he said. “This is not to sort of say one is better than the other, but I know what I prefer. I prefer cinema. Silence is a very, very big factor. Scope is another factor, which is more familiar to me, as far as being a human being is concerned. We don’t talk all the time. We think a lot as well.”

20th Century Fox will release “Widows” nationwide November 16.

Viola Davis on Interracial Kiss With Liam Neeson in ‘Widows’: ‘Elusive to Me Because of the Way I Look’

(Warning: A very light spoiler is discussed)

A deep, passionate kiss is shared by Viola Davis and Liam Neeson in the opening frames of “Widows,” immediately keying audiences into the fact that they’re not watching an ordinary crime thriller. This is a Steve McQueen crime thriller, by the director who won the Best Picture Oscar for “12 Years a Slave” and who also earned raves for his groundbreaking sex addiction drama “Shame,” starring Michael Fassbender.

“You will not see that,” Davis said of the intimate bedroom kiss between a black woman and white man depicted in the film. “I don’t care how much people say they’re committed to inclusivity — they’re not committed to that,” said the Oscar winner at a screening on the 20th Century Fox lot in Los Angeles on Tuesday night, attended by McQueen and other cast members.

It’s an opening scene that arguably hasn’t been done in film. As Davis put it, to have “the opening shot in this movie where you have a dark-skinned woman with a big nose and wide lips and all of that and her natural hair kissing — romantically kissing a white man onscreen.”

Also Read: Steve McQueen’s ‘Widows’ Leads MoMA’s ‘The Contenders’ Lineup of Year’s Finest Films

“Widows,” co-written by McQueen and “Gone Girl” writer Gillian Flynn, is a remake of a 1980s British TV show. The film version is set in Chicago. It revolves around the women left behind, mourning the deaths of their criminal husbands as they navigate survival in a crime world they’ve suddenly inherited. It also stars Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Colin Farrell, Carrie Coon and Robert Duvall.

Rodriguez, also at Tuesday’s screening Q&A, chimed in on Davis’ thoughts on interracial love in movies: “The reality of the truth of the fabric of this country is multiracial. I can’t tell you how many Irish last names are on yellow, mixed race, African humans,” she said. “This is just a man who sees truth and he’s putting it on the screen,” Rodriguez added of McQueen.

“That right there has been elusive to me because of the way I look,” added Davis of her kissing scene with Neeson. “I’m just going to say it,” she added as the audience — mostly Screen Actors Guild members — erupted into applause. “Steve [McQueen], he didn’t want to hear that… He saw me as this woman. I migrate toward people who actually see me. I actually do have a vagina,” she concluded as the crowd cheered and laughed.

“Widows” opens in theaters Nov. 16.

Related stories from TheWrap:

‘A Star Is Born’ Is a Legit Oscar Contender – And Here’s What Else Is

2018 Streamy Awards: Complete Winners List

‘Widows’ Film Review: Viola Davis, Steve McQueen Team Up for a Curious Heist Movie

Viola Davis Loads up in New Trailer for Steve McQueen’s ‘Widows’ (Video)

Viola Davis Is Out for Blood in Explosive ‘Widows’ Trailer (Video)

(Warning: A very light spoiler is discussed)

A deep, passionate kiss is shared by Viola Davis and Liam Neeson in the opening frames of “Widows,” immediately keying audiences into the fact that they’re not watching an ordinary crime thriller. This is a Steve McQueen crime thriller, by the director who won the Best Picture Oscar for “12 Years a Slave” and who also earned raves for his groundbreaking sex addiction drama “Shame,” starring Michael Fassbender.

“You will not see that,” Davis said of the intimate bedroom kiss between a black woman and white man depicted in the film. “I don’t care how much people say they’re committed to inclusivity — they’re not committed to that,” said the Oscar winner at a screening on the 20th Century Fox lot in Los Angeles on Tuesday night, attended by McQueen and other cast members.

It’s an opening scene that arguably hasn’t been done in film. As Davis put it, to have “the opening shot in this movie where you have a dark-skinned woman with a big nose and wide lips and all of that and her natural hair kissing — romantically kissing a white man onscreen.”

“Widows,” co-written by McQueen and “Gone Girl” writer Gillian Flynn, is a remake of a 1980s British TV show. The film version is set in Chicago. It revolves around the women left behind, mourning the deaths of their criminal husbands as they navigate survival in a crime world they’ve suddenly inherited. It also stars Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Colin Farrell, Carrie Coon and Robert Duvall.

Rodriguez, also at Tuesday’s screening Q&A, chimed in on Davis’ thoughts on interracial love in movies: “The reality of the truth of the fabric of this country is multiracial. I can’t tell you how many Irish last names are on yellow, mixed race, African humans,” she said. “This is just a man who sees truth and he’s putting it on the screen,” Rodriguez added of McQueen.

“That right there has been elusive to me because of the way I look,” added Davis of her kissing scene with Neeson. “I’m just going to say it,” she added as the audience — mostly Screen Actors Guild members — erupted into applause. “Steve [McQueen], he didn’t want to hear that… He saw me as this woman. I migrate toward people who actually see me. I actually do have a vagina,” she concluded as the crowd cheered and laughed.

“Widows” opens in theaters Nov. 16.

Related stories from TheWrap:

'A Star Is Born' Is a Legit Oscar Contender – And Here's What Else Is

2018 Streamy Awards: Complete Winners List

'Widows' Film Review: Viola Davis, Steve McQueen Team Up for a Curious Heist Movie

Viola Davis Loads up in New Trailer for Steve McQueen's 'Widows' (Video)

Viola Davis Is Out for Blood in Explosive 'Widows' Trailer (Video)

Steve McQueen’s ‘Widows’ Leads MoMA’s ‘The Contenders’ Line-Up of Year’s Finest Films

The Museum of Modern Art in New York unveiled its annual film series “The Contenders” on Tuesday, with Steve McQueen’s heist thriller “Widows” kicking off the opening night of screenings.
Running from Nov. 8 to Jan. 8 at T…

The Museum of Modern Art in New York unveiled its annual film series “The Contenders” on Tuesday, with Steve McQueen’s heist thriller “Widows” kicking off the opening night of screenings.

Running from Nov. 8 to Jan. 8 at The Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters at MoMA, the end-of-year series is entering into its 11th year and will feature a mix of blockbusters, documentaries, independent films, awards darlings and more, many accompanied by special presentations and post-screening conversations with the filmmakers.

McQueen and producer Iain Canning will be present on the series’ opening night for a post-screening discussion of the film starring Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki.

Today’s initial announcement of the 2018 line-up also includes spotlight screenings of critical darlings “BlacKkKlansman,” “Private Life,” the documentary “Free Solo” and even Marvel’s “Black Panther.”

A forthcoming announcement listing additional films in this year’s line-up will be made later this year.

“The 2018 Contenders line-up features a cross section of the best new cinema from around the world, from the best of Hollywood (and Wakanda!) to smaller films like Lucretia Martel’s ‘Zama’ and ‘Hale County This Morning, This Evening’ from RaMell Ross,” said Rajendra Roy, MoMA’s Celeste Bartos chief curator of film in a statement. “Steve McQueen returning to MoMA on opening night with ‘Widows’ will be a great moment for our enthusiastic audience, and having everyone from Paul Schrader to John Krasinski join us for discussions speaks to the breadth and depth of the program.”

Tickets for the MoMA screenings go on sale two weeks prior to each screening at 9:30 a.m. at The Museum of Modern Art and online at moma.org/contenders, where you can find a full list of screenings.

Steve McQueen’s ‘Widows,’ Barry Jenkins’ ‘Beale Street’ Highlight Smithsonian African American Film Festival

WASHINGTON — The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture kicks off its inaugural film festival on Wednesday, with Steve McQueen’s “Widows” as the opening selection and Barry Jenkins’ &#8…

WASHINGTON — The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture kicks off its inaugural film festival on Wednesday, with Steve McQueen’s “Widows” as the opening selection and Barry Jenkins’ “If Beale Street Could Talk” as the closing pic on Saturday. The Smithsonian African American Film Festival will screen about 80 movies over the […]

Steve McQueen Explains the Meaning Behind Kanye West’s Erratic Behavior: ‘He Wants to be a Free Black Man’

The “12 Years a Slave” and “Widows” director worked with Kanye West on his “All Day/ I Feel That” music video.

Kanye West’s polarizing behavior and love of Donald Trump has confounded many of his fans over the last several months, but at least one person understands where the rapper is coming from. Steve McQueen, the Oscar winner behind “12 Years a Slave” and the upcoming “Widows,” knows Kanye West after directing his “All Day/ I Feel That” video, and the director explained to Bossip his interpretation of the rapper’s recent trials and tribulations.

“Listen, I understand Kanye in a way. Well, I think I do, obviously, everyone thinks they understand people and don’t,” McQueen said. “What I’m trying to say is I understand it in a way that he wants to be a free Black man. He wants to be totally free. Free, free. He wants to be FREE.”

McQueen explained that West’s “idea of being free” manifests in “him having an idea of something that he believes in or him choosing against the majority of people.” West is doing whatever he wants to do, McQueen said, which is how the rapper is proving to the world he is “free of mental slavery, free from bondage.”

“As a Black man, I understand that in the western world,” McQueen said. “I don’t necessarily agree with how he is doing it but I know where it comes from. It comes from the idea of Black people being enslaved in one way, shape, form or the other and I totally get it. He wants to be liberated.”

McQueen stressed that he doesn’t agree with West’s actions, even if he can understand where they are coming from. “I spoke to him very briefly after the TMZ thing, I imagine a lot of people did,” the director said. “Obviously, I loved him but I didn’t think that was the platform to have that conversation. To say I was disappointed is an understatement of course, but its one of those things.”

McQueen returns to theaters with “Widows,” opening in theaters November 16 from 20th Century Fox.