We knew that filmmaker Ava DuVernay would be in-demand following her phenomenal work on the Martin Luther King drama Selma, and she has no doubt been in the mix for various projects, but it appears that the director is finally honing in on the film she’ll be tackling next—and it couldn’t come at a better time. Per Deadline, DuVernay is being courted to helm two big, very different projects from two different studios. Disney has offered the Middle of Nowhere director the fantasy A Wrinkle in Time, based on the classic 1963 Madeleine L’Engle novel of the same name, and Amblin wants DuVernay to helm Intelligent Life, which is a sci-fi thriller scripted by Jurassic World helmer Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly.
A Wrinkle in Time revolves around a young girl whose government scientist father goes missing after working on a mysterious project, and is the first in a series of novels in the vein of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. This would no doubt be a franchise starter for Disney, and the project has a script by Frozen co-writer/co-director Jennifer Lee.
Intelligent Life, meanwhile, is a project that Trevorrow has been working on for a while, and one that he seems to be ready to part with as director now that he’s busy in post-production on his small-scale drama The Book of Henry, prepping Jurassic World 2 as co-writer/producer, and preparing to direct Star Wars: Episode IX. The original screenplay is “a fable about a U.N worker in a department designed to represent mankind if there was ever contact with aliens, who falls for a mysterious woman who turns out to be an alien.”
So which will she choose? Well it’s no secret that DuVernay is good friends with Trevorrow, but it’s possible that project could come off a bit derivative seeing as though Sicario helmer Denis Villeneuve recently wrapped a similarly-plotted “first contact” drama called Story of Your Life, which is set for release later this year. On A Wrinkle in Time, however, DuVernay will be working on a bona fide studio picture for the biggest film studio in the world, which could mean a more limited scope of creative freedom.
After Selma, DuVernay entered early talks to helm Black Panther for Marvel, but amicably parted ways after the degree to which the film would be “Marvel’s” and not “Ava DuVernay’s” was made clear. She’s been careful in choosing a follow-up and has kept busy working on the upcoming television series Queen Sugar, but as a massive fan of her talent behind the camera, I’ve been eager to see her choose a new feature for a while now. Based on these two offers it’s clear DuVernay is interested in working on a larger canvas, and I am beyond excited to think about the possibilities of DuVernay working within the sci-fi or fantasy genre.
Moreover, I’d be remiss not to mention diversity here. The fact is, the lack of female and non-white directors helming these kinds of tentpole pictures these days is striking, and signing DuVernay onto either of these pictures not only brings a different perspective to the material creatively, but also marks a step forward for these studios to break with habit and make a different kind of decision for once. If DuVernay directs A Wrinkle in Time to success, studios can point to the film as reasoning to hire even more women and POC directors for big franchise properties, even though they shouldn’t need that kind of “evidence” in the first place. DuVernay, then, is not just weighing offers to direct studio films, she’s weighing the potential to pave the way for more people like her to direct the same kinds of movies.
Here’s hoping we hear word on which one she’ll tackle next soon. Regardless of gender or race, DuVernay is simply a fantastic filmmaker and I can’t wait to see what she brings to a film of this scale.