STEVE MCQUEEN (WIDOWS)
Steve McQueen’s ‘Widows’ is a female-led film that reinvents the heist genre,
“Widows”isbilled as a heist movie, but its showcase of female strength and initiative seems to speak directly to the reinvigorated movement for female empowerment.
The film, set in Chicago and starring Oscar winner Viola Davis, follows four women left in debt by their criminal husbands who decide to turn to robbery to get back on their feet.
It chronicles their journey from wives who were primarily supported by their husbands but who overcome the trauma from past abuse and neglect to develop creative ways to survive.
“It wasn’t any gimmickry heist movie. It was women empowering themselves in their lives and confronting each other and having to work together,” Davis said. “What better metaphor is there for women today?” she added.
The women are also played by Michelle Rodriguez, Cynthia Erivo and Elizabeth Debicki in a multiethnic cast directed by Briton Steve McQueen, whose powerful historical race drama “12 Years a Slave” won best picture at the 2014 Oscars.
“It’s a film about women, about women learning who they are and becoming independent. It’s about empowerment, it’s a film about corruption and racism and violence, and it’s a heist film,” Debicki said.
McQueen said he was inspired to make the film after watching the 1980’s British television series of the same name when he was a teenager. The movie’s arrival at a time when women are demanding more representation and respect in Hollywood and beyond is mere coincidence, he said.
“It just sort of spoke to me as a 13-year-old black boy in London,” McQueen said. There were “these four women who were being sort of judged in the way that they can achieve, and judged by their appearance rather than their character.”
“Widows,” which also stars Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya and Robert Duvall, won strong reviews and is already creating Oscar buzz as Hollywood’s long awards season gets under way.
“The men are fighting for scraps. The women are fighting for their souls,” said Farrell, who plays the deeply flawed and conflicted politician Tom Mulligan.
JAKE COYLE TALKS TO FILMMAKER STEVE MCQUEEN
For one of the foremost makers of what could be called art films, “Widows,” with a script Steve McQueen penned with Gillian Flynn (“Gone Girl’), is an unexpected turn into genre filmmaking. Before the film, which 20th Century Fox will release on Nov. 16, made its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, McQueen spoke about the ambitions behind “Widows.”
AP: “WIDOWS” MIGHT APPEAR LIKE A HEIST MOVIE, BUT THE GENRE SEEMS LIKE A MECHANISM FOR A COMPLEX INVESTIGATION INTO GENDER, RACE AND POLITICS.
McQUEEN: It’s a roller coaster ride but it brings to the surface things that are very much there. It’s what we know. When you think of the ‘70s, you think of “Chinatown” and “The Godfather” — I’m not comparing my picture to those pictures at all — but these were real, gritty movies within a genre, and these were the biggest movies of their time. They brought the audience with them, as well as brought the sophistication. They catered to the high and to the low. I don’t think there’s any high and low. I think there are just good movies and bad movies, and that’s it.
I wanted to channel Chicago in all its complexities. Chicago is such a rich environment. The whole cross section of that political base, it all fascinated me. I’m surprised there aren’t much more movies made about it because it’s there for the taking. It’s like New York in the ‘70s. I love that wonderful phrase, which is very Chicagoan and which might go back to Al Capone: “I gotta guy.” It’s all about getting something in a crafty way. “I gotta guy.” Fantastic!
The world in your films, from “Hunger” to “12 Years a Slave” to “Widows,” seems a mean and nasty place, where it takes just about killing yourself to keep your integrity.
They all deal with trying to defy one’s environment that the characters find themselves in, and how do we transcend that environment. And right now the world is a bit of a dark place. It is a bit of a difficult environment to exist in. It takes little sparks for us to keep our head above water.
WOULD YOU HAVE WANTED YOUR NEXT FILM AFTER “12 YEARS A SLAVE” TO COME SOONER THAN FIVE YEARS LATER?
You mustn’t forget, I did three films in five years. I was a little bit of a factory. The fact that I had this project with HBO that didn’t work out was a bit of a shame. For me, it was a big shame. I was doing art projects in that time as well. It was a bit of a break for sure. But I had been on a treadmill and it was good to have that time to reflect. It was imposed on me, in a way, because of what happened at HBO. But at the same time, you embrace the possibilities of a situation.
No, it’s not. Well, it’s a studio film but I could do what I wanted. When I think of studio films I think of something else. I don’t know what that means. Basically, the studio gave me the money to make what I wanted to make. If that makes it a studio film, then so be it. I was the instigator of “Widows.” The fact that they wanted to put money into it, great.
Your camera movement seems a blend of coolly observant and frighteningly intimate. There are shots you hold and hold.
I always feel like I’m a kind of Tai chi director. The environment or the location has to tell me what it wants. I don’t like to put my stencil on anything. I don’t like to dictate before I get to a situation. It’s very much a collaboration with the environment, with the actors, with what’s going on. Then we proceed in sort of translating the scene or the event. My dear friend Robby Muller, who passed away this year, said to me that a camera move should be as much effort as a cat jumping on the table. Just enough effort.