Thursday, October 6, 2022

‘A Wrinkle in Time’: Ava, Oprah and the ‘Disney Machine’ Create #BlackGirlMagic [EUR Exclusive]

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*Director Ava DuVernay’s adaptation of the classic children’s book A Wrinkle in Time is visually arresting, but not a lot of fun to watch if you’re over the age of 14-years-old.

Sure, the colorful fantasy feature certainly tickles the child-like imagination inside all of us, but it will leave you feeling like something is missing… and perhaps that something can be found in the pages of the book. 

“A Wrinkle in Time” is based on the beloved 1962 novel by the late Madeleine L’Engle, and centers on Meg Murry (Storm Reid) and her little brother, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), who have been without their scientist father, Mr. Murry (Chris Pine), for five years, ever since he discovered a new planet and used the concept known as a tesseract to travel there. Joined by Meg’s classmate Calvin O’Keefe (Levi Miller) and guided by the three mysterious astral travelers known as Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling), Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey) and Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), the children brave a dangerous journey to a planet that possesses all of the evil in the universe.

The movie also stars Zach GalifianakisGugu Mbatha-Raw, and Michael Peña.

“This is a film for young people and people who are young at heart,” Ava said during the Los Angeles press junket. “For me, I have to ask myself, do I still have a heart? Is there an inner child still in me? Can I tap into the 11-year-old, the 12-year-old, the 13-year-old in me — find that light that I used to have, that dreamer. I got to do that for 2 years. I got to really get in touch with all that I thought I would be when I was young and really tap into that and try to create some magic with this great group of people.”

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LA press junket
“A Wrinkle in Time” LA Press Junket. Photo Credit: (Ny MaGee)

DuVernay is the first black female director to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award, and for her critically acclaimed film “Selma,” she was also the first black female director to have a film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. In 2017, she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature for her film “13th.”

If that’s not impressive enough, Ms. Ava is also the first woman of color to direct a $100 million feature. For “A Wrinkle in Time,” DuVernay said she “gave everything I had to a film again,” adding: “There’s love in every frame of this movie.”

“There’s love in every frame in everything I do. I don’t have children. I won’t have children, by choice. These films are my children. They’re what I leave behind. They have my name on them and my blood in them and so, with that, you offer it up to the world and hope that they can see our intention,” Ava explained during the junket. “This was an extraordinary experience for me. It’s emotional for me to sit here with all of them because we really held hands on this and became a family and tried to give a little bit of sweetness to the world in these dark times. It’s a tough time right now and so this film really saved me in a lot of ways, from going down dark holes. It kept me in a really, light-filled place. So I’m grateful for the past two years working on A Wrinkle in Time.”

LA press junket
“A Wrinkle in Time” LA Press Junket. (Photo Credit: Ny MaGee)

And for kids, Ava believes now more than ever is vital for them to see the light.

“They’re living in a chaotic time. We’re living in a chaotic time as adults so imagine if you’ve only been on the Earth for 10 years and the tension that you feel. So to be able to just give a little breather and to say who you are is enough and this is how you’re going to make it through by finding something in yourself that guides you. We all have that little voice inside of us and a lot of times we don’t listen to it,” she said.

“A friend of mine had a tremendous episode of peer pressure of gigantic proportions that I’d never experienced or seen, just a couple of weeks ago when the whole country was saying “You should run for president.” And she said, “The voice inside of me says: ‘I am not your president. I can do good in the world in a different way.’ That’s what we need more people to tap into, your OWN voice.”

Ava and Oprah are repping “Strong Black Female Magic” in this film, and when asked what makes this project different from their previous work together, Ms. Winfrey quickly replies: “Disney money!”

“What’s different is, Selma, in the end, we’re like, “Do we have enough money? How much do I have… let me try to help you out.”

Oprah said the “Disney Machine” is “one of the reasons why this is so exciting.”

“Ava DuVernay is at the helm of that,” Oprah adds. “It fills my heart every time I think about Ava and her dreads and her sneakers and these big cranes and all of these men running around taking direction from her. To see her be the master of that, to orchestrate all of that, was powerful and inspiring and it touches the part of us that recognizes, “Oh, yeah… we can do that. We’ve always been able to do that.” I was just so proud to be associated with her and her ability to make this film possible.

Winfrey, in a role that was perfectly tailored for the queen of all media, says she “absolutely” felt like this filming experience was “art imitating life.”

“Ava and I are talking on the phone, and she went to New Zealand and posted pictures of scouting for New Zealand. I have been in New Zealand before and did not get to the south island and I had wanted to do that. Everybody said if you didn’t get to the south island, you haven’t really seen New Zealand. So when I heard that she was going to be filming in New Zealand, I said (to Ava), “I’m going. I’m just going to hang out with you for however long it takes. I’m going to block it on my schedule. I’m going to watch you shoot and say “ACTION!” And she said, “Well, if you’re serious about that, why not take a look at the script. I’ve been wanting to ask you to do this but I didn’t wanna pressure you because of our friendship.” And I go, “Okay… I’ll do it.” I didn’t even know what it was. And then I thought, “Let me read the book, see what this is.” It wasn’t until the very first day I was called for the fitting for the costumes did I realize… “Whoa, this is some kind of movie.” The first day on the wires I went, “This is REALLY some kind of movie… what kind of movie is this?” When you look up the word “delight,” there is my picture for being in this film. The whole process has been one big delight.”

Reese Witherspoon said she was also “delighted” when she received a call from her agent saying that Ava wanted her to co-star in this film.

“I sat across from her and said, “Really, you want me?” It’s very flattering to be chosen to be part of Ava’s movies because she doesn’t just make a movie, she makes an experience for everyone,” said Witherspoon. “I feel like this was a masterclass in how to be a very thoughtful filmmaker and a real visionary. It was a privilege and an honor and I got to be this amazing, celestial person who hangs out with Oprah and Mindy all day.  And we get to talk about what would we impart to a young woman today, right now.”

Oprah Winfrey and Meg Murray star in Disney’s ‘A Wrinkle in Time’

With March being National Women’s Month, the female empowerment represented in “A Wrinkle in Time”–and the overall message of “love”–arrives right on time.

“It’s absolutely incredible,” says Mindy. “I can’t believe I was selected to do this. It’s such an honor and to be acting with all these incredible actors. I mean, I’m a sitcom actress and Ava saw something in me. We actually met at a party, it was for Malala, and Ava, Malala and I were the only three women of color at this big party. And after I finished talking to Malala, I was like, “I really want to talk to Ava.” And after I finished talking to her, we had a great conversation and I thought, our genres are so different, we’ll never cross paths and then this happened. So I feel blessed to be part of it.”

Continuing, “I love science fiction and fantasy growing up but it was a genre that largely did not love me back. I never saw any representation of like, a dark-skin Indian woman in anything. It’s a really peculiar thing when you grow up loving something that shows you no love back. It’s such a pure love ‘cause you’re not getting anything from it. And to be part of this movie, to be on a greenscreen stage in harnesses because you’re doing a science fiction fantasy movie it’s so fun because I finally feel welcomed with open arms from something that has ignored me completely. That is so profound and I think if that can be something that the miniature version of me could watch and be excited by, that’s such a huge thing.”

LA press junket
“A Wrinkle in Time” LA Press Junket. (Photo Credit: Ny MaGee)

“A Wrinkle in Time” is a “journey across the universe but at the heart of it is a family story.” And an unconventional family at that… an interracial couple played by Chris Pine and Gugu Mbatha-Raw.

For girls who watch this film, Ava wants you, especially girls of color, to see yourselves “as the hero” and the leader of your crew.

For boys who watch the film: “Boys need to be able to see themselves be vulnerable and themselves be able to follow a girl and just not always have to be macho,” says Ava, who previously noted the “powerful” imagery in the film of a little white boy “following” a black girl.

“That’s a powerful image for white boys to see. Hopefully, this will plant seeds with this generation,” she told NBCBLK.

“It’s nice for boys, young men even, to see that it is okay to have a sensitive side view,” said Zach Galifianakis during the press junket. “I think young boys of this climate, they’re seen as sensitive and they’re made fun of.” But Zach believes that sensitivity “means they’re stronger.”

“I wish we could change that. I come from a very masculine upbringing, a lot of people do, and I love the way I was raised but looking back, we need balance. It’s time for balance,” he added.

“A Wrinkle in Time” opens nationwide in theaters Friday, March 9.

Watch:

Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is an entertainment reporter with over 15 years of experience working in the film industry in areas including production and post-production, marketing, distribution, and acquisitions. She has worked for legendary film producer Roger Corman, Quentin Tarantino's production team at Miramax, the late Larry Flynt, MTV/ VH1, Hallmark Channel, Paramount, Jim Henson Co., Parade Magazine, and various LA-based companies representing above-the-line talent.

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