Ava DuVernay on ‘A Wrinkle in Time’, ‘Intelligent Life’, & Why Non-White Blockbuster Directors Are Important

     October 2, 2016

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Selma director Ava DuVernay flew out from California to Manhattan to premiere her Netflix documentary 13th for the first time at the New York Film Festival, but she’ll soon have to return to the West Coast to continue work on her Disney epic, A Wrinkle In Time. In fact, her trip fell in the middle of her pre-production meetings on the blockbuster that marks the first time an African-American woman will helm a $100 million studio film.

Casting is already underway with Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, and the young talent Storm Reid on board. When asked during an interview with Collider for the 13th press day about the film, DuVernay said she couldn’t reveal much, but she’s excited to bring her own personal spin to it.

“Gosh. I can’t talk a lot about it. You know what, I’m bringing myself to it and I know that who I am has not been brought to studio films before of this size because no one’s done who looks like me, who is like me, who has my perspective as a black woman filmmaker. Whatever filmmaker you wanna name. I’ll name my good friend J.J. Abrams. The way he’s gonna shoot the very same script and I’m gonna shoot the script are gonna be different because we come from different places and we’re interested in maybe the same thing but our eyes are different. Our memories in our own head are different, and so, I think it’s fantastic to have a different set of eyes on this stuff, and I just want there to be more and more and more. Don’t we want different kinds of films? Don’t we wanna see them from different angles?”

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Image via Paramount

Last year, DuVernay was in talks with Marvel to make Black Panther with Chadwick Boseman her big studio film, but she ultimately turned it down over creative differences. Still, she says she’s excited to see a superhero story as told by Creed director Ryan Coogler.

“I love the fact that Ryan Coogler’s doing Black Panther. I wanna see one of those Marvel movies from his mind. Right? I wanna see [The Flash director] Rick Famuyiwa make one of those DC Comics, but I also wanna see [Belle director] Amma Asante tackle a big, sweeping historical drama. And so it’s just about getting more kinds, colors, and creeds of people out there. You get better stories. Not better stories — more.”

Before she ultimately landed on the adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, DuVernay was also considering helming the sci-fi film Intelligent Life, starring Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o with a script by Jurassic World co-writer/helmer Colin Trevorrow. She explained:

“They were going at the same time. A Wrinkle in Time and Intelligent Life, they were both — preproduction had to start at the same time. They were just on top of each other. I thought they were gonna be staggered…I was attached to them both at the same time. I was attached to both, but one was supposed to go before the other, then they started to go at the same time. So, one had to be chosen because I can’t split myself in half. So, yeah, I chose Wrinkle. It’s a great script by Colin Trevorrow [for Intelligent Life].”

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Image via Paramount Pictures

What ultimately drew her to the story of A Wrinkle in Time were the cinematic possibilities of the story.

“It’s just a classic story, the kind of legacy of the book, and fans who love it and when you hear about why for such personal reasons. It’s a story with a girl at the center — a girl who time travels, travels the universe in search of someone she loves, her father, and in the process she finds herself. Kids fly and to ask Disney, ‘Could these be brown kids?’ and for them to say yes I was like, ‘Let’s do it.’ There are creatures, there are different planets. To think about, ‘Wow, I could design those planets, what those planets look like. I get to do that?’ That stuff is rare air, and so all that stuff immediately I was like, ‘I’m in. I’m so in.’ And it’s fun every single day.”

Disney has yet to announce a release date for A Wrinkle in Time, but you can catch DuVernay’s latest, 13th, on Netflix beginning October 7th. Look for my full interview with DuVernay on Collider soon, as well as our review of 13th by Chris Cabin.

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