Wrinkle in Time: Interview with Director Ava DuVernay

Director Ava DuVernay talks about her new film, Wrinkle in Time, her career as as a black woman, and personal life.

Purpose in Life:

Ava DuVernay: It happened for me really late in life.  Most filmmakers go to film school and they are in their 20s, and I didn’t pick up a camera until I was 32 years old. I hadn’t gone to film school, I had full time job, and I didn’t have any money to do it.  But when I picked up a camera and started making things, I thought this is what I want to do in life and I found my place in the universe.


Casting Deric McCabe

AD: We did a worldwide search for Charles Wallace, you needed a boy who was six years old and could be a sweet boy at the top, and turn into the bad seed and evil at the end.  All over the world, we had 19 local casting directors, all reporting to Aisha Coley, my main casting director.  Any place where people spoke English we looked, and we ended up finding him in Burbank.  He lived by the Ikea, three minutes from Disney.  This kid came in, and you see him in the movie, he is something else. He really is a find.  The fact that he was a Filipino-American boy, first Disney was like, how is this going to fit in?  And I said, I really want him in the family, this is the boy.  So let’s expand the boundaries even more and figure out how he could be in this family.  And so we started to play with the idea of can we make this family not only interracial, but also a family with an adopted boy?  It made it even more emotional when Meg says I will not leave my brother.  Two different journalists today came up to me and said that they burst into tears there because they were adopted and to have someone fight for them in the family like they were blood, really was moving to them.


Deric’s Performance

AD: His performance is very muscular for a little boy.  He literally is seven years old, who was such a light to us on set, and he’s very funny and he loves show tunes, I mean these kids now, they memorize, he knows the lyrics to every song on the radio and he has jokes, and he has just so much energy.  And so for us, we were making a kids movie, this is a kids movie.  And so to have his kid energy there, really lifted us up.  But also, Deric is mischievous, he is a mischievous guy, so he had a harder time playing like sweet Charles Wallace, (laughter) I would be like, be the sweetest boy in the world, and he would be like okay.  And then I would say, be the baddest boy in the world, and he loved that.  He really loved to say those things and had a great time.  I don’t have children, so it was really a joy to work with him.  He’s a good boy.

Warrior Filmmaker

AD: I started in independent films, so I didn’t really have to ask people for permission to let me tell stories.  I was a publicist at first, so I knew that there was no easy place for me in Hollywood and no one wanted to hear stories about a black woman’s inner feelings.  I didn’t even waste my time asking, I just made films independently and then one of the films that I made got into Sundance, won at Sundance and from there Shonda Rhimes invited me to direct an episode of “Scandal,” and then I got asked to do “Selma,” and then it happened from there.  It was progressive, I think sometimes there aren’t just those moments of impact, I learned step by step and it’s okay for something to kind of take time and progress and mature and blossom, and that’s how I feel it happened.  Along the way, I just felt confident enough as an outsider, to make more radical decisions than I would have made if I was an insider.  Like to have all women direct “Queen Sugar,” I am not inside of television, it was my first show, so I thought, let’s try it, and if people laugh at it then okay, I will go back on the outside.  There is something freeing about being an outsider and it allowed me to be a little bit more rebellious.


Big Budget Movie Directed by Black Woman

AD: I think it’s a big jump, but it’s also a genre jump. I look at Michael Mann and Ridley Scott and Spielberg and Mike Nichols, all these men, have very long careers and they have created canons of work.  And it’s because they were allowed to jump from budget price points, they were allowed to jump in genre, to go from “Selma” and “13th” to “A Wrinkle in Time,” is me saying I want to do what Ang Lee did when he made “The Hulk,” I want to do what Alfonso Cuaron did when he made “Harry Potter,” I want to do what Spielberg did when he made “E.T.,” jumping from genres.  It’s possible, but we don’t see women get the chance to do that, particularly black women, because there are so few making films.  I wanted to tell the story, it’s a leap, it’s a big swing to make a kid’s movie at this point in my career, but it was really to say that there are some things that I believe in in this film, if the jump was possible for me because Disney was inviting me to do it, so I was going to make that leap from 20 million to 120 million right, I was going to do it, and see if I could make it. I am running and I jump and can I get to the other side?  So it feels good to be here on this day, because I feel like okay, we did it.


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